This is in response to that query, which I missed.
I, and pragmatists in general, deny the “generally Kantian construal of the real as existing forever beyond human knowledge.” Let me summarize the Kantian problem to summarize the rejection. For Kant, the real is “out there,” while the meaningful is “in here,” and never shall the two meet. The external world is real independent of human experience, and the universal forms/rules/categories of human understanding are internal to human nature. Cross-reference the whole dance about space being empirically real and transcendentally ideal; we must experience the world that way and it is an a priori condition, but those conditions are internal to human and not attributable to supra-human nature. The problem with this account is that it places the categories of the understanding internal and relative to human nature as opposed to nature. Why is this a problem? Because it is both an unfounded and inadvisable assumption. Why radically oppose nature vs. nature? Or is human nature something over-and-against nature? It should not be construed as such, but that is precisely what modernist notions of human nature assume.
The universals are something basic to reality and not just to existent human nature. If we stop thinking that they are just in the head, or the body, but in nature itself, then we can begin to understand that human experience penetrates into nature, or that nature penetrates into us. However, this view also rejects any representationalist concept of experience. Meaning is not about reference or representation.
Matt asks “is it really sufficient to say that mind emerges from otherwise insensate matter simply because that matter is structurally organized in a new way?” Before I respond, I would insist that “insensate matter” is already loading the question, because it presumes an originary distinction between the sensate and insensate. Why does this matter? Because we need to avoid treating mind as a singular or complex potentiality of matter (existence) that is just waiting to be realized. Now to respond to the question, although I do not think structural organization is sufficient, my question is why not? If we accept structural causation as I do, then we are saying that existential structures can be generative of unforeseen potentialities. I would also add that potentiality simpliciter is integral; potentialities can combine to create novel potentialities given local conditions. Hence, it is no just structure, but the existential locale and cosmic epoch that matter. (The epoch matters because the natural laws are understood to be habits, law-like, and not absolute; nature and the cosmos evolves.) I have blog much on this topic.
I would agree with Matt that “thinking is an especially refined kind of feeling,” although I mean that in a Deweyan sense not reducible to Peirce or Whitehead. I could explain, but if asked I will first try to find a blog post. The model here diverges quite a bit. I would also agree with Matt that “consciousness” (awareness) is not foremost linguistic or cognitive, and that it stretches from sensuality and affectivity to conceptuality.
I have not fully answered the question here, as I have doen so elsewhere on my blog. At this point, I'd need to go back through and start linking. I am short on time atm.