Das Ganze im Blick: Sellars über die Aufgabe der Philosophie

Studia Philosophica 66:47-60 (2007)

Stefan Heßbrüggen-Walter
National Research University Higher School of Economics
The paper discusses Sellars’s view of philosophy and its relation to the sciences. It argues for three interrelated theses. First, philosophy has no specifi c subject matter. Second, we ask ourselves questions which cannot be answered from a purely scientifi c point of view. Third, philosophical standards are contingent, but this does not mean that philosophy is to be abandoned. Pace Sellars, the specifi c achievement of philosophy consists in «a view of the whole», which enables us to «know our way around» with respect to the different domains of expertise we are familiar with. Philosophy thus refl ects a common sense perspective of ourselves and the world we live in, which rests on the assumption that we are obliged to regard ourselves, as well as those sharing our lives, as persons. This in turn implies that our most basic ways of relating to the world are governed by norms. Getting a view of the whole of man thus means that we must regard ourselves both as participants of a norm-governed «Lebensform» [life form] and as complex biological systems. Philosophy and the sciences complement one another. Science aims at knowledge. This aim cannot be properly understood within science itself, because science does not concern itself with the normative perspective inherent in the very concept of knowledge. Philosophy, in turn, cannot risk ignoring the results of the sciences, because their insights form an essential part of what we must take to be the whole of the world that philosophy has in view. Even though philosophy should not aspire to achieve a complete revolution of the norms and standards governing our attempts to make sense of this world, it is nevertheless indispensable because it shows that these norms themselves are always open to refl ection and revision
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