Controlling Mental Disorder: Kant’s Account of Mental Illness in the Anthropology Writings

  • Nuria Sánchez MadridEmail author


The aim of this chapter is to cast light on the account of mental illness that Kant offers in Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View and in the Lectures on Anthropology. First, I argue that Kant’s analysis of mental disorders is part of a more general task—viz., strengthening human theoretical and practical faculties through knowledge about the sources of their own flaws. Thus, the examination of these mental pathologies fulfills a therapeutic role within the larger scope of pragmatic anthropology. Second, I give an overview of Kant’s account of mental illnesses, highlighting the guidance given by the psychological structure of human faculties for breaking down the typologies discovered in the entangled field of what the philosophical tradition considered madness. Finally, I argue that what is most significant about Kant’s examination of mental maladies is not its continuity with medical physiological enquiries, since Kant does not harbor any expectation about the possibility of diagnosing and healing mental diseases through medicaments and surgical interventions. Rather, he believes that social intercourse is the proper means for emancipating the insane subject from the illusions of his self-created world. Ultimately, I shall claim that even if Kant shares with Rousseau the idea that most forms of derangement stem from social life, he believes that the social realm itself might be decidedly improved if subjects take into account the point of view of others. In a nutshell, Kant’s map of mental illnesses does not announce a fruitful dialogue with physicians, rather it confirms that a popular audience might be largely benefited in Kant’s view if it receives a detailed diagnosis of the most common mental pathologies. This information will forestall the sources of deficiencies and pathologies, willing away their effects in human epistemic processes and practical reasoning.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain

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