Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Eric Entrican Wilson

Second Advisor

Jessica Berry


Understanding Kant’s account of desire is vital to the project of evaluating his views about moral psychology, as well as his account of freedom qua autonomy. In Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, Kant claims that “Desire (appetitio) is the self-determination of a subject's power through the representation of something in the future as an effect of this representation” (7:251). My goal is to clarify which of the subject’s specific capacities Kant means by the “subject's power,” and what role this capacity plays in desire. I argue that the subject's power cannot be her capacity to act. Rather, the subject's power is best understood as her capacity to generate the psychological states that cause action. I call these motivational states 'activation signals'. Desire consists in the self-determination of the subject’s capacity to generate activation signals by her representation of the object of desire together with an accompanying incentive.