January/February 2015

Our Minds are not Mirrors

Written by Patrick Cannon

For Kant, our minds are not passive receivers of representations like mirrors. A normal flat mirror reflects the image from an object as if it is the same except in a twodimensional way. It was a common attitude among philosophers before Kant to treat the mind like a mirror. The mirror does not change the form of the object. Likewise, the mind does not affect or change the form of the objects, it just receives them. However, Kant changed the whole picture. He treated minds as active filters. Whatever is reflected on it is shaped in a certain way.