Sellars's Interpretive Variations on Kant's Transcendental Idealist Themes

In Luca Corti & Antonio Nunziante (eds.), Sellars and the History of Modern Philosophy. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 79-96 (2018)
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O'Shea concludes that Sellars's attempts to preserve the core truths in Kant's theory of experience and to integrate them with an overall scientific naturalist outlook can and should survive the rejection of several central components of Sellars's proposed adaptation of Kant's transcendental idealism: ABSTRACT: "Sellars’ career-long engagement with Kant’s philosophy involved both readings of Kant and appropriations of Kant that are nuanced, original, and related in complex ways to Sellars’ own philosophical views. In some ways similar to Strawson’s classic reading, Sellars defended Kant’s theory of experience and his analysis of human knowledge as essentially correct. This includes various views on the nature of conceptual cognition, the thinking self, practical reason, perceptual experience, and the lawfulness of nature. On the other hand, and again like Strawson, Sellars regarded Kant’s transcendental idealism as involving a strong ontological commitment to unknowable but thinkable (and non-spatiotemporal) ‘things in themselves’. However, whereas Strawson regarded such a position as deeply incoherent, Sellars argues that Kant’s theological conception of things in themselves can coherently be replaced with a scientific realist conception of things in themselves as theoretically postulated imperceptible processes, which play a structurally similar role for Sellars in grounding the Kantian-phenomenal ‘appearances’ in the ‘manifest image’ of the world. Sellars’ highly complex but sophisticated reading of Kant on sensibility and intuition, when combined with Sellars’ own idiosyncratic views on sensory qualia, render it even more difficult to come to terms with Sellars’ engagements with Kant’s idealism. This chapter attempts to provide a concise presentation and evaluation of certain central themes in Sellars’ complex philosophical dialogue with Kant."

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James O'Shea
University College Dublin


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