Human and Non-Human Animals: Capacities and Selves in Descartes and Kant
My project is an historical investigation into the capacity that Descartes and Kant distinguish as specific to human, and not non-human, animals (i.e. rationality), and how this impacts their account of capacities we might have supposed shared among the animals (e.g. sense-perception and agency) – at least in contrast to the non-animate or vegetative life.
My diagnosis of what is going on is that both Descartes and Kant identify the metaphysical-Self with a capacity – the spontaneous activity of reason. My thesis ultimately argues that the metaphysical identification of the Self with a rational capacity—going beyond merely differentiating ourselves via that capacity—leads to a thesis that all of our faculties, including those we seem to share with the animals, are of a fundamentally different kind.