Sellars on Kantian Receptivity

The task of “transcendental logic” is to explicate the concept of a mind that gains knowledge of the world of which it is a part.  The acquisition of knowledge by such a mind involves its being acted upon or “affected” by the objects it knows.  There are, of course, any number of stages at which one can go wrong with respect to the structure of Kant’s thought–and Kant himself is not always a reliable guide–but the sooner one makes a wrong choice of roads, the more difficult it is to get back on the right track.  And the first major “choicepoint” concerns the concept of “receptivity”.  What is it, exactly, that is brought about when our “receptivity” (inner or outer) is “affected”?  It has always been easy to answer, “impressions of sense,” and to continue by construing these as nonconceptual states, states that belong to the same family as tickles and aches, but differ in that unlike the latter they are constituents of the perceptual experience of physical things.

Even though there is an element of truth in this interpretation, its total effect is to distort Kant’s thought in a way that obscures its most distinctive features…  “Some Remarks on Kant’s Theory of Experience”

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