Mind and World

Philosophical Books 38 (3):169-181 (1997)
Abstract
How do rational minds make contact with the world? The empiricist tradition sees a gap between mind and world, and takes sensory experience, fallible as it is, to provide our only bridge across that gap. In its crudest form, for example, the traditional idea is that our minds consult an inner realm of sensory experience, which provides us with evidence about the nature of external reality. Notoriously, however, it turns out to be far from clear that there is any viable conception of experience which allows it to do the job. The original problem is to show that thought is rationally constrained by external reality. If sensory experience is to provide the solution--in particular, if it is to provide the answer to sceptical challenges--it must therefore meet two criteria. First, it must itself be `receptive'--i.e., appropriately constrained by external reality. Second, it must be the kind of thing that can enter into a logical or rational relationship with belief--it must already be `conceptual,' in other words. In arguing against the idea that anything could serve both roles, Wilfred Sellars termed this conception of experience "the Myth of the Given."
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