The vegetative soul : from philosophy of nature to by Elaine P. Miller

By Elaine P. Miller

Rethinks the soul in plant-like phrases instead of animal, drawing from nineteenth-century philosophy of nature

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18 In “fic- The English Garden 37 tion,” in this very specific sense, our reason is unable to prove the objective reality of what it posits, but can only use what is posited regulatively for reflective judgment (KU 396). Kant gives, as an example of an ens rationis ratiocinantis, the notion of spirits that exist in the universe that think but have no bodies. The fiction we engage in if we try to think of such things (by taking away, in the spirit of Descartes, “everything material and yet suppos[ing] that it retains thought”), can never be established as objective reality (KU 468).

As soon as one attempts to make any claims about the whole, however, Kant maintains the absolute necessity of human cognition proceeding technically, making of nature an art in which organisms viewed purposively play a central part. Thus, although ultimately Kant’s conservatism and anthropocentrism will not allow him to transgress the boundaries of subjectivity understood as precise individuation, his critique of the science of his day would have a crucial influence on the Romantic and Idealist reconceptions of the organic understood as the relationship between humans and nature, and of Enlightenment descriptions of subjectivity.

Just as we cannot assign the purposiveness of nature an objective reality in analogy to art (as if God were a supreme craftsman with the intention of crafting the natural world), we also cannot assign it objective reality in analogy to the body of an organism. Indeed, the whole structure of the Analytic of Teleological Judgment suggests that, rather than projecting the fiction of the organism The English Garden 39 onto the natural world, the fiction of the natural world (the technic of nature) delimits the structure of the organism, and from this, the structure of the architectonic.

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