Sellars claims completeness for both the “manifest” and the “scientific images” in a way that tempts one to assume that they are independent of each other, while, in fact, they must share at least one common element: the language of individual and community intentions. I argue that this significantly muddies the waters concerning his claim of ontological primacy for the scientific image, though not in favor of the ontological primacy of the manifest image. The lesson I draw is that we (...) need to reassess the aims of ontology. (shrink)
This essay is a response to Patrick Reider’s essay “Sellars on Perception, Science and Realism: A Critical Response.” Reider is correct that Sellars’s realism is in tension with his generally Kantian approach to issues of knowledge and mind, but I do not think Reider’s analysis correctly locates the sources of that tension or how Sellars himself hoped to be able to resolve it. Reider’s own account of idealism and the reasons supporting it are rooted in the epistemological tradition that informed (...) the British empiricists, rather than in the metaphysical reasons that ruled within the German tradition from Leibniz through Hegel that has much more in common with Sellars’s position. Thus, Reider takes Sellars’s notion of picturing to be just another version of the representationalism that has dominated the Anglo-American tradition since Locke, whereas, in my view, because picturing is a non-semantical relation, it is an important ingredient in naturalizing the coherentist theories of the idealists. (shrink)
I argue that John McDowell’s attempt to refute Wilfrid Sellars’s two-component analysis of perceptual experience and substitute for it a conception according to which perceptual experience is the “conceptual shaping of sensory consciousness” fails. McDowell does not recognize the subtle dialectic in Sellars’s thought between transcendental and empirical considerations in favor of a substantive conception of sense impressions, and McDowell’s own proposal seems to empty the notion of sensory consciousness of any real significance.
Sellars was committed to the irreducibility of the semantic, the intentional, and the normative. Nevertheless, he was also committed to naturalism, which is prima facie at odds with his other theses. This paper argues that Sellars maintained his naturalism by being linguistically pluralistic but ontologically monistic . There are irreducibly distinct forms of discourse, because there is an array of distinguishable functions that language and thought perform, but we are not ontologically committed to the array of apparently non-natural entities or (...) relations mentioned in the metalanguage. However, there is an underlying relation between language and world presupposed by all empirically meaningful language. In his early work Sellars sought to describe this relation in linguistic terms as a form of 'pure description', but inadequacies in that notion drove him towards the naturalistic relation between language and world that he came to call 'picturing'. (shrink)
This paper investigates Sellars's complex attitude towards idealism. It distinguishes between the epistemologically-based arguments that led many empiricists to idealism and a different set of more purely metaphysical arguments that came to dominate in German Idealism. Sellars resolutely rejects all of the epistemological arguments for idealism, but shows much greater sympathy with the metaphysical arguments. It is then argued that Sellars introduced his notion of picturing to avoid falling into such an idealism.
Robert Brandom makes several mistakes in his discussion of Sellars's "Two-Ply" account of observation. Brandom does not recognize the difference in "level" between observation reports concerning physical objects and 'looks'-statements. He also denies that 'looks'-statements are reports or even make claims. They then demonstrate a more correct reading of Sellars on 'looks'-statements.
This article shows how Hegel's 'Sense-Certainty' chapter fills in a gap in Kant's and Sellars's critique of empiricism by supplying an argument that even indexical reference presupposes and is mediated by a larger conceptual framework.
In the following dialogue between TT - a foundationalist - and WdeV - a Sellarsian, we offer our differing assessments of the principle for observational knowledge proposed in Wilfrid Sellars's 'Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind'. Sellars writes: 'For a Konstatierung "This is green" to "express observational knowledge", not only must it be a symptom or sign of the presence of a green object in standard conditions, but the perceiver must know that tokens of "This is green" are symptoms of (...) the presence of green objects in conditions which are standard for visual perception.' In the ensuing dialogue, TT argues that it sets the bar too high when knowledge about perceptual conditions is required for ordinary observational knowledge - that young children, for example, are implausibly excluded as knowers given Sellars's principle. WdeV defends Sellars's metaknowledge requirement against these charges. Results from developmental psychology are surveyed for what they show about the actual capabilities of young children. The implications of these results for the success of Sellars's principle are debated. (shrink)
This is a careful explication of and commentary on Wilfrid Sellars's classic essay "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" [EPM]. It is appropriate for upper-level undergraduates and beyond. The full text of EPM is included in the volume.
This paper shows that the resources mobilized by recent arguments against individualism in the philosophy of mind also suffice to construct a good argument against a Humean-style skepticism about our knowledge of extra-mental reality. The argument constructed, however, will not suffice to lay to rest the attacks of a truly global skeptic who rejects the idea that we usually know what our occurrent mental states are.