Kant, Animal Minds, and Conceptualism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Kant holds that some nonhuman animals “are acquainted with” objects, despite lacking conceptual capacities (“understanding”). What does this tell us about his theory of human cognition? Numerous authors have argued that this is a significant point in favour of Nonconceptualism—the claim that, for Kant, sensible representations of objects do not depend on the understanding. Against this, I argue that Kant’s views about animal minds can readily be accommodated by a certain kind of Conceptualism. It remains viable to think that, for Kant, (i) humans’ sensible representations necessarily represent objects as temporally structured in ways that allow us to have thoughts about them, and (ii) such representations are produced, and could only be produced, by the understanding. This allows Conceptualists to maintain that humans’ sensible representations depend on the understanding, while accepting that animals have sensible representations of objects too. We must, therefore, reassess both the warrant for Nonconceptualism and the shape Conceptualist readings must take.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-998
Number of pages18
JournalCanadian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Kant, Animal Minds, and Conceptualism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this