Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Sellars and Maimon on Intuition

Having begun to lay out both the views of Maimon and those of Sellars of the status of intuition I thought it possible to now pause and compare the two, at least in an initial way. Firstly, Maimon begins his discussion of space and time by arguing against a view of them as abstractions. In so doing he followed the logic of the arguments of the Metaphysical Exposition of space and time in the Transcendental Aesthetic. Sellars, by contrast, in his view of the dual status of intuition, comprehends the presence of intuitive individuals in cognition as a result of a form of abstraction. The difference between Maimon and Sellars here can be partially covered by attending to the point that Sellars' notion of abstraction is not from a passive manifold but rather from a synthesised one so the place of space and time in "sheer receptivity" would not be one that was a product of abstraction and the notion of abstraction he is working with is not in relation to the passive manifold but rather from the synthesised manifold.

When Maimon argues against conceiving of space and time as abstractions one of the reasons he presents is due to the claim that they are not parts of concepts of experience but are rather what gives unity to experience and, in being part of this unitary givenness, are related to the conditions of conceptuality as such. By contrast, Sellars lays stress on the immediacy of intuition which he connects to the model of intuition as a form of demonstrative "this". This difference can again be partially overcome by attending to the point that both Maimon and Sellars are stressing the sense in which space and time are conceptual though Sellars does not, just due to this, wish to abandon or leave as only "fictive" the status of space and time as intuitive.

The impact of Maimon's general account of space and time in the first chapter of his Essay appears to be that in experience there is no such thing as "pure intuition" but only what he terms "empirical intuition" which, I suggested, is as much as to say that we only experience "formal intuition" and not the "forms of intuition". I don't think there is a parallel to this argument in Sellars though his suggestion that there is a signal problem with thinking of space as the form of outer sense does begin to suggest a central difficulty with the very idea of "outer sense". Sellars' commitment to the notion of "sheer receptivity" seems to be a second element to his resistance to the reduction of space and time to being generically understood as conceptual with the the "intuitive" relegated to the status of illusion.

I have only as yet scratched the surface of Sellars' view and will return to it in more detail, also I will contrast the specific claims of Sellars with the interpretation of his claims by McDowell. The account so far given of space and time by Maimon has also, as yet, drawn only on the first chapter of the Essay and I will, in subsequent postings, move on to later chapters of it.

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