This relates to a previous question as to whether or not we are "born with" Kantian categories.

I had objected that this would imply that the categories in some manner depend upon or inhere in a physical process, while they are logically prior to any such physical process. I am not sure I'm correct about this or what sorts of interpretations Kant's categories might allow.

First, are there problems in thinking of the categories as "innate abilities" in the manner of instincts, neural constructs, language, or Chomskey's deep grammar? Do such interpretations contradict Kant's meaning and essential elements of his theory?

Second, how is the whole process of physical gestation and birth to be understood in terms of Kantian idealism? Does Kant anywhere discuss this? Do idealists generally discuss this developmental aspect of mind-body problems?

  • Lots of ideas emerging for me on this thread, most of them posted on the 2 prior Qs (one re: Kant's C.F., the other re: Chomsky's UG). But I like how your framing links them @NelsonAlexander .. looking forward to the responses.
    – sourcepov
    Dec 20, 2015 at 4:42

1 Answer 1


Kant does not link his categories to innate abilities. But evolutionary epistemology (EE) does. In plain terms, EE aims at explaining Kantian ontogenetic a priori categories as phylogenetical a posteriori. That's a naturalistic approach to epistemology. Note. Several philosophers objected to Vollmer's theory, accusing him to ignore the philosophical question why the categories are valid.

See Vollmer, Gerhard: Evolutionary epistemology (Originally German 1975).

I did not get what you mean by the "developmental aspect of mind-body problems". If you mean *developmental psychology", then the answer is "No": Kant did not consider the question how children develop their mental concepts or the mind-body scheme. Kant's focus was the educated, rational adult.

  • Yes, I was basically thinking of developmental psychology, in which body-mind evolve interdependently, and wondering if this is simply elided from most idealist philosophies. Or if some think in reverse of the inquiring mind "completing" its body. I simply don't know what they say, if anything, about child development. Dec 23, 2015 at 0:18

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