|Abstract||Wilfrid Sellars, in his essay “Being and Being Known,”1 sets out to explore “the profound truth contained in the Thomistic thesis that the senses in their way and the intellect in its way are informed by the natures of external objects and events” [§1]. Profound truth there may be, but Sellars also finds a profound error in the mediæval treatment of the intentionality of sensing on a par with the intentionality of thinking: There are many reasons for the plausibility of the idea that sense belongs to the intentional order. . . It is primarily due, however, to the fact that sensations have what I shall call a pseudo-intentionality which is easily mistaken for the genuine intentionality of the cognitive order. [§18] Sellars argues that thought is genuinely intentional, for it is (in good linguistic fashion) about the world, whereas sense merely seems to be about the world but in fact is not, although it is systematically correlated with the world—the ‘pseudo-intentionality’ he alludes to here. On Sellars’s reading, the ‘Thomistic’ view gets certain things right that the later Cartesian view gets wrong, such as distinguishing mental acts intrinsically rather than by their ‘content’, but it also gets some things wrong in its own right, notably in its claim that sensing has “genuine intentionality” the way thinking does, and so to take sensing as properly belonging to “the cognitive order” (i. e. to qualify as a kind of knowledge strictly speaking). Sellars is out to right the Thomistic wrongs, beginning with intentionality, where the mistake is easily made. For Sellars has his eye not only on intentionality, but on the consequent claim that episodes of (intentional) sensing play a foundationalist epistemological role, a view he elsewhere famously calls ‘The Myth of the Given’.2 There is no question that Sellars wants to make room for his own brand of social epistemology; his agenda is not historical but systematic. Yet in “Being and Being Known,” Sellars puts his case in historical rather than systematic terms..|
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