Kant Lexicon

Receptivity: Receptivität (German)

Receptivity is a property of the human mind, which is, so to speak, “receptive” to the objects insofar as the objects interact with the mind to produce presentations of the objects. This interaction is what Kant calls “affection” of the mind by objects. The receptivity of the mind is in turn called “sensibility.” “Let us give the name sensibility to our mind’s receptivity, [i.e., to its ability] to receive presentations insofar as it is affected in some manner” Kant sometimes states the reception of presentations of objects as the objects’ being “given” to the mind. “Through receptivity, an object is given to us” (A50/B51).

It is crucial to Kant’s account of the human mind that receptivity is the only way in which objects can be presented to the mind. Our mind’s receptivity is that “under which alone the mind can receive presentations of objects” (A77/B102).

Receptivity is contrasted with the mind’s “spontaneity,” which is a defining feature of the understanding. Whereas in receptivity, the mind is affected by objects, in spontaneity, the mind by itself generates presentations of objects.

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