Kant’s Emergence and Sellarsian Cognitive Science


The paper argues, against current views that see Kant as giving abstract descriptions of cognitive mechanisms (after the fashion of functionalism in cognitive science), that Kant sees mental phenomena as akin to emergent phenomena in a sense traditionally opposed to mechanism. After distinguishing several relevant notions of emergence, the paper distinguishes several of Kant’s basic emergentist theses, including his emergent materialism in chemistry and a species of mental emergence modelled on that chemical emergence. However, Kant’s doctrine of the epigenesis of pure Reason is argued to be Kant’s most fundamental emergentist thesis. The paper argues that Kant’s notion of mental emergence sheds light on some very puzzling aspects of his remarks about the unity of intuition and concept emphasized by Wilfrid Sellars. The paper sketches some of the problems in contemporary cognitive science and shows how a Sellarsian emergentism inspired by Kant addresses some of these problems and provides an interesting alternative to the kind of mechanistic positions that have tended to dominate the field. Finally, the paper locates the present emergentist reading with respect to the perspectivist reading of Kant.

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McDonough, R. (2014) Kant’s Emergence and Sellarsian Cognitive Science. Open Journal of Philosophy, 4, 44-53. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2014.41007.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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