Kant and Darwin

Christopher U.M. Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The central theses of Kant's critical philosophy are sometimes said to have been overtaken by evolutionary biology. This paper considers how far this proposition can be sustained. I argue that the ‘architectonic’ or ‘system-building’ character of the mind, the categories and the forms of intuition, can indeed be seen as the outcome of a particular evolutionary lineage in a Darwinian world. I argue, further, that the principal motive energizing the critical philosophy is the 'nightmare' of physical determinism. An alternative escape route from this particular nightmare is rehearsed. If this route is taken, the intricate arguments of the Critiques are unnecessary to save moral action in a world of things. Nonetheless, insofar as 'first philosophy' necessarily starts from within the philosopher's own subjectivity, Kant's work retains its power. I suggest that the Kantian and the Darwinian interpretations are to an extent complementary. If this is so, some form of evolutionarily-informed dual-aspect psychoneural identity theory could combine the essence of the two interpretations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)35-50
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Social and Biological Structures
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1991


    • Kant
    • critical philosophy
    • evolutionary biology
    • character of the mind
    • intuition
    • evolutionary lineage
    • Darwin
    • physical determinism
    • psychoneural identity


    Dive into the research topics of 'Kant and Darwin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this