The Epistemic Role of Kantian Intuitions

Dissertation, University of California, San Diego (1999)
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In this dissertation I defend a Kantian notion of the given. I show that something akin to Kant's theory of intuition is necessary to make sense of the normative role perception has in forming perceptual knowledge. ;Perceptual judgments require guidance from the objects they represent. I argue that this normative aspect of perception can be explained only by appeal to a non-conceptual content caused by the object perceived. But isn't this to appeal to the mythical given? I show that it is not by comparing it to the result of Sellars' famous Myth of the Given argument. Contrary to the generally accepted view, what follows from Sellars' argument is not that the given is a myth, but rather that what is immediately present to mind cannot be known. This result leaves an explanatory option which the Sellars' critique does not consider. The given might be a part of knowledge while not itself being independently knowable. ;However, because the possibility of an immediate cognitive content is thought to have been foreclosed by the Sellars argument, much subsequent epistemology has overlooked this alternative. One widespread response has been to embrace coherence theories according to which justification is regarded as a relation between beliefs. These theories regard perception as a thoroughly causal phenomenon and consequently allow no role for perception in the justification of perceptual or other beliefs. ;I argue that in perceptual contexts only perception can decide the case between equally coherent conceptual determinations. But according to the coherentist this kind of justificatory function could not involve perception since perception is a thoroughly causal phenomenon. Against this view, I argue that some notion of the given, one which circumvents Sellars' criticism, is necessary to account for the normative role perception plays in perceptual belief. I show that Kant's notion of sensible intuition circumvents the Sellars critique. The idea of the given is redeemed in Kant's account, since it makes possible a theory of the normative role that perception plays in knowledge



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Ian Eagleson
University of California, San Diego

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References found in this work

Mind and World.John McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Science, Perception and Reality.Wilfrid Sellars (ed.) - 1963 - New York,: Humanities Press.
An essay concerning human understanding.John Locke - 1689 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Pauline Phemister.
Critique of Pure Reason.Immanuel Kant - 1998 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Edited by J. M. D. Meiklejohn. Translated by Paul Guyer & Allen W. Wood.

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