Kant and the myth of the given

Inquiry 51 (5):512 – 531 (2008)
Abstract
Sellars and McDowell, among others, attribute a prominent role to the Myth of the Given. In this paper, I suggest that they have in mind two different versions of the Myth of the Given and I argue that Kant is not the target of one version and, though explicitly under attack from the other, has resources sufficient to mount a satisfactory response. What is essential to this response is a proper understanding of (empirical) concepts as involving unifying functions that can take sensations as input and deliver normative representations as outputs. By understanding concepts in this way, one need not, as the second version of the Myth of the Given maintains, take sensations to be both natural and normative. Instead, they can be understood as the natural effects of external objects on us, but natural effects that can nonetheless play a role in a normative process because the concepts that are responsible for the normativity of the results can require that such natural effects be present as inputs into the process.
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