The of our psychological properties.” The idea of

The concept of the ‘self’ is regarded as an entity
which persists through time and change despite other variations, that occur in
a person. One’s self is alleged to be the backbone of “thinking, perceiving,
memory, and the like – the ultimate ‘bearers’ of our psychological properties.”
The idea of ‘self’ is a topic of significant philosophical debate, and one
which Kant and Hume skillfully engage themselves in. This essay will begin by
outlining Hume’s philosophical approach and his theory of self. Following that,
Kant’s theory of self will be analyzed.

Hume held the belief that all the contents of the
human mind were derived through experience only. He divided the mind’s
perceptions into two groups: impressions and ideas. He once stated that “the
difference betwixt these consists in the degrees of force and liveliness with
which they strike upon the mind”. Impressions are those perceptions which are
the strongest, which enter with most force and violence, while ideas are their
less forcible and lively counterpart. Impressions are directly experienced, resulting
from inward and outward feelings. Ideas, however, are coping mechanisms which
reproduce senses. They are formulated based upon the previously perceived
impressions.

Hume proposes that the notion of the self has no
empirical foundation. He speculates that all ideas are a result of a prior
impression. Following this, he assumed that since the idea of self relies on an
impression, this impression must in some way endure throughout a person’s whole
life, since an idea of self is meant to continue for the duration of someone’s
life. Yet, upon introspection, it is clear that there is not one impression
that a person consistently retains for the whole of their life. One’s
impressions are continuously fluctuating throughout each moment of the day,
from pleasure to pain. Therefore, according to Hume, if the concept of ‘self’
is dependent on a constant, everlasting impression, but there is not a single
impression that does persevere over the course of one’s life, there can then be
no true idea of self.

Fundamentally from this argument, what Hume is stating
is that there is not a persevering single thing that one can rightfully claim
to be a ‘self’. Hume argues that people are basically an assortment of various
perceptions, with each moment bearing a new experience and sensation. Hume uses
the analogy of the mind as a manner of theatre in which “…several perceptions
successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away, and mingle in an
infinite variety of postures and situations.” Essentially, Hume believes that
the ‘self’ only consists of this; one perception followed by another.

Hume explains his theory of self, which is referred to
as Bundle theory, by asserting that people are confusing the concepts of
identity and diversity. Identity consists of the notion of a thing continuing
over time without disturbance and remaining intact. Diversity is the idea of a
succession of related objects. He claims that people confuse identity with the
succession of related objects. To convey how one may confound identity with
relation, consider the following example. Imagine seeing a coin placed upon a
table. This can be observed for ten minutes. During this time the coin is not
moved, nor has anything been added or taken away from it. After the time is up,
it is evident there is a strict identity between the coin at T1 (when
observation commenced) and the coin at T2 (when observation ended). A different
type of example could be as follows. Suppose a tree is planted in someone’s
garden. Consider the tree being observed in growth from a young sapling (T1),
into a mature tree (T2), over many years. There is not the same type of strict
identity between the tree at T1 and T2, as with the coin, however there is a
relation of parts between the tree at T1 and T2. An identity is accredited to
the tree as a smooth change is observed over many years, thus it is said to be
the same tree. However, it should be said that it is a relation that exists,
rather than an identity. Hume proposes that this type of identity is the same
kind of identity associated with personal identity. He suggests that there is such
smooth of a progression from one idea to the next in one’s mind that this is
supposed to be an identity of a person. In other words, a sense of self is
attributed to a person’s capacity to trace and connect the changes that occur
within each day.

The difficulty with Hume’s theory is that in
presenting the succession of premises that argue against the presence of a
transcendent ego, he must refer to one. When he introspects that “I never catch
myself”, what precisely is it that recognizes these perceptions? Who is the “I”
which Hume refers to? It is Hume’s denial of a self which indicates its being.
His very thesis of a ‘bundle of perceptions’ requires there be some unit to tie
and connect all these things together, yet he repeatedly denies that such a
thing exists.

Kant’s theory of self was partly a response to Hume’s.
It is said that Hume’s denial of a unitary self woke Kant from a ‘dogmatic slumber’.
He concluded that the self that is a part of one’s awareness, and is built because
of the workings of the mind in its process of forming sensations and thoughts.
He used the term “the transcendental unit of apperception” in reference to
this. Three principles mark the basic structure of Kant’s model of the mind.
The first is that the mind is a complex set of functions. The second is that
“the functions crucial for mental, knowledge-generating activity are
spatio-temporal processing of, and application of concepts to, sensory inputs.
Cognition requires concepts as well as percepts.” (Brook, Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy) Kant claimed that these functions or abilities are forms of what
he terms synthesis. Kant’s outlook on the mind came from his general aims in
the Critique of Pure Reason, among which were the aims to substantiate the
belief that physics, like math, is a “body of universal and necessary truth.”
(Brook, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) Another aim was to protect
religion from the damaging effects of this science. By exploring the grounds
for physics as a science, he came to his view of how the mind works. He speculates
that for our experience, and therefore our minds to be the way that they are,
one’s experience must be connected in the same way that physics states things
in the world are bound together. Observing this connection illustrates greatly
how one’s mind must be. Kant’s consideration of the second aim led him to some
extremely enlightening ideas regarding ones consciousness of themselves.

In Kant’s view, there are two parts of the self: the
inner self and the outer self. He uses the term empirical self-consciousness
for the inner self, and transcendental apperception (TA) for the outer. TA is
used in two ways, for synthesis and in the use of “I think’, that is, one’s
consciousness of themselves as a subject. Logically, this function would occur
in inner sense. Kant attempts to explain this by stating that all
representational states are in inner sense, including all spatially localized
outer objects. The foundation for one’s representations, whether they are the
result of a priori or external objects, belong to the inner sense. He presents
apperception as a means of consciousness to one’s self.

Kant’s
proposition is that one’s minds are built in such a way that they inflict upon
sensory data that enters it. This change the said data into experience. All
experience is initially processed by one’s various sensory capacities, and
undertakes a spatial and temporal change due to this. Therefore, by the time
the raw data meets the concepts and is molded by them, they are already
arranged in space and time. Once brought into the mind, “we stamp the
‘categories’- the concepts which make experience possible by giving it its
objective and determinate character.”

Kant builds on Hume’s theory by insisting that the
possibility of experience demands that it be arranged and combined in the mind,
taking place under the category of time. In order for this synthesis to make
sense, these experiences must be in line with the subject undergoing them. He
recognizes the need for a continuing awareness whose experiences can all be
accredited to the same subject; this is the transcendental unity of perception
that grounds all of one’s experiences. Therefore, Kant’s technique is to state
that the synthetic unity of apperception is the foundation needed for a
synthesis of experience. He then concludes that the ‘I’ that goes with every
experience is the same all the time. He calls this the analytic unity of
apperception, and it depends completely on its synthetic counterpart. Kant’s
two main principles are that there must be a methodical and organized synthesis
of mental states if experience is even to be possible, and that a unitary
subject must be represented for the synthesis to be possible.

Kant refers to the crucial synthetic function of the
self of transcendental apperception; in doing this he pokes holes in Hume’s claim
against a continuant self. Transcendental unity is an essential state for the idea
of a continuous and integrated experiencing subject. In Hume’s appendix to his
Treatise of Human Nature, he admits the limitations of his strict empirical
style. He acknowledges, “I neither know how to correct my former opinions, nor
how to render them consistent”, and follows with the statement “If perceptions
are distinct existences, they form a whole only by being connected together.
But no connexons among distinct existences are ever discoverable by human
understanding.” (Hume, pg. 341)

Hume’s theory of self does work as a firmly empirical
viewpoint of self; however, he admits himself that it is flawed. Therefore, it
appears that Kant’s view of the self is better, as it stems from Hume’s and
makes two further necessary points. For experience to occur it must be
synthesized, and these experiences must be collected and unified as those of a
single subject.