Sellars, Price, and the Myth of the Given

Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 8 (7) (2020)
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Wilfrid Sellars's "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" begins with an argument against sense-datum epistemology. There is some question about the validity of this attack, stemming in part from the assumption that Sellars is concerned with epistemic foundationalism. This paper recontextualizes Sellars's argument in two ways: by showing how the argument of EPM relates to Sellars's 1940s work, which does not concern foundationalism at all; and by considering the view of H.H. Price, Sellars's teacher at Oxford and the only classical datum theorist to receive substantive comment in EPM. Timm Triplett has claimed that Sellars's discussion simply begs the question against Price, but this depends on the mistaken assumption that Sellars's concern is with foundationalism. On the contrary, Sellars's argument concerns the assumption that the innate capacity for sensory experience counts as "thinking in presence" in the way needed for empiricist accounts of content acquisition. Price's distinction between noticing universals and being aware of them encapsulates the tensions empiricists face here.

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Michael R. Hicks
Miami University, Ohio

Citations of this work

What is the myth of the given?James R. O’Shea - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):10543-10567.
The given and the hard problem of content.Pietro Salis - 2022 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-26.
Hicks on Sellars, Price, and the Myth of the Given.Timm Triplett - 2023 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 11 (1).

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References found in this work

Mind and World.John Henry McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
The problems of philosophy.Bertrand Russell - 1912 - New York: Barnes & Noble.
The content and epistemology of phenomenal belief.David Chalmers - 2003 - In Quentin Smith & Aleksandar Jokic (eds.), Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 220--72.
The Problems of Philosophy.Bertrand Russell - 1912 - Portland, OR: Home University Library.
Mind and World.John Mcdowell - 1996 - Philosophical Quarterly 46 (182):99-109.

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