Kant and Sellars on the unity of apperception
Keywords:personal identity, practical reason, theoretical reason, transcendental deduction, synoptic image
That Wilfrid Sellars claims that the framework of persons is not a descriptive framework, but a normative one is about as well known as any claim that he makes. This claim is at the core of the famous demand for a synoptic image that closes, “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man,” makes its appearance at key moments in the grand argument of, “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind,” and is the capstone of Sellars’ engagement with Kant in Science and Metaphysics. Whereas mere things can be subject to ought-to-be rules – e.g. a clock ought to chime on the hour – to be a person, as Sellars understands it, is to be subject to ought-to-do rules – e.g. one ought to wind one’s clocks to chime on the hour. Prima facie, though, there is more to being a person than just being subject to ought-to-do rules. For example, on at least some common ways of using ‘person’ to be a person is to have a unified consciousness, i.e. to be a single subject of a manifold of experience persisting through time. Arguably, that is what Kant takes a person to be. What I hope to show here is that it is what Sellars takes a person to be too. I.e. the exciting twist here is that as Sellars sees it being a single subject of experience persisting through time is being subject to a particular kind of ought-to-do rules, namely, those concepts-qua-inferential-rules that are the means by which we represent the world of causally-related objects existing in space and persisting through time.
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