Kitcher, Patricia (1948–)

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Patricia Kitcher is widely known for her work on Kant and on philosophy of psychology. Born Patricia Williams, she attended Wellesley College and then graduate school in philosophy at Princeton where she studied with George Pitcher. Kitcher's interest in cognition manifested early and has continued to shape and inform her work throughout her career. Her doctoral dissertation de-fended a psychological continuity criterion for personal identity but extended the scope of the psychological criterion beyond that traditionally posited to include broader and more abstract cognitive characteristics, such as cognitive approach or cognitive style. Since then her work has ranged widely from traditional philosophy of psychology, to Freud, and ultimately to her greatest philosophical passion: Kant scholarship.

In her early work Kitcher wrote a number of papers in philosophy of psychology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. She argued for the viability of intentional psychology and the autonomy of functionalist psychology from neurophysiology. Later work predominantly concentrated on analysis of problems stemming from the interpretation of Kant's first Critique. Kitcher has written numerous articles on the forms of intuition, Kant's epistemology, self-consciousness, and on how transcendental arguments work.

Kitcher has written two books that also pursue psychological themes. Kant's Transcendental Psychology was a radical departure from most Kant exegesis. The book makes two main claims about the Critique of Pure Reason. First, contra Peter Frederick Strawson, Kitcher argues that to understand synthetic a priori knowledge, it is essential to consider transcendental psychology. Second, she explicates a Kantian argument for the necessity of an integrated thinking subject, which serves as a reply to David Hume's denial of the unity of the self. An expanded and amended version of this position is being fleshed out more fully in a book she is currently writing, Kant's Thinker, which also explores the question of how we are to understand the faculties, and how the Critique contributes to debates about conscious and unconscious ideas.

In Freud's Dream Kitcher argued that Freud was the first cognitive scientist: Psychoanalysis should be thought of as an exercise in interdisciplinary theory construction, and as such, it illuminates the pitfalls to which such interdisciplinary approaches are subject. (Kitcher jokes that her arguments managed to alienate all readers: Freudians, because she exposes the mistaken foundation of psychoanalysis, and anti-Freudians, because she portrays his program as scientifically legitimate.)

Around the turn of the new century, Kitcher's interests turned toward Kantian ethics. Her works from this period provide an account of Kantian maxims and an interpretation of Kant's argument for the Formulation of the Universal Law for the Categorical Imperative, a task that has led many other Kant experts to throw up their hands in perplexity.

Kitcher's prodigious published contributions to philosophy are matched by her contributions to the philosophical community. She has served as department chair in three different universities, on numerous academic committees (including being a founding chair of the UC committee on the status of women), as president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, as president of the North American Kant Society, and on the editorial board of Journal of Philosophy. Her philosophical integrity, her fiery lectures, and her incisive comments on student papers make her an inspiring teacher and mentor.

Patricia Kitcher has held faculty positions at the University of Vermont, the University of Minnesota, and University of California, San Diego, and a visiting position at University of Michigan. In 1998 she went to Columbia University where she became the Mark van Doren Professor of the Humanities and chair of the philosophy department. She lives in New York City with her husband, Philip, also a philosopher, with whom she has two sons, Andrew and Charles.

See also Ethics; Hume, David; Kant, Immanuel; Philosophy of Mind; Philosophy of Science, Problems of.

Selected Bibliography


"The Crucial Relation in Personal Identity." Canadian Journal of Philosophy 7 (1) (1978): 131145.

"Kant on Self-Identity." Philosophical Review 91 (1) (1982): 4172.

"Kant's Paralogisms." Philosophical Review 91 (4) (1982): 515547.

"In Defense of Intentional Psychology." Journal of Philosophy 81 (2) (1984): 89106.

"Narrow Taxonomy and Wide Functionalism." Philosophy of Science 52 (1) (1985): 7897.

"Discovering the Forms of Intuition." Philosophical Review 96 (1987): 205248.

Kant's Transcendental Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Freud's Dream: A Complete Interdisciplinary Science of Mind. Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books/M.I.T. Press, 1992.

"Revisiting Kant's Epistemology: Skepticism, Apriority, and Psychologism." Noûs 29 (3) (1995): 285315.

"Kant on Self-Consciousness." Philosophical Review 108 (1999): 345386.

"On Interpreting Kant's Thinker as Wittgenstein's 'I'." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (2000): 3363.

"Kant's Argument for the Categorical Imperative." Noûs 38 (4) (2004) 555584.

Adina L. Roskies (2005)