Psychological Nominalism and the Plausibility of Sellars's Myth of Jones

Southern Journal of Philosophy 45 (3):435-454 (2007)
Abstract
Part of Sellars’s general attack on the Myth of the Given is his endorsement of psychological nominalism, a view that implies that awareness of our own mental states is not given but must be earned. Sellars provides an account of how such awareness might have been earned with the Myth of Jones. Such an account is important for Sellars, for without it the Given can look necessary after all. But a problem with such accounts is that they can look extremely implausible. Sellars himself seems unconcerned to make his account plausible, and so others have stepped in here. But, I argue, they have done so in ways that fail to respect his psychological nominalism. This evinces, as well as reinforces, a lack of sensitivity to the scope of Sellars’s attack on the Given, the aim of which is the dismantling of “the entire framework of givenness.” In this essay, I show how one can make Sellars’s Myth of Jones plausible, while still respecting his psychological nominalism, by seeing how Jones’s thought is governed by the norms of rationality as interpretability
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