Sellars, Truth Pluralism, and Truth Relativism

In Stefan Brandt & Anke Breunig (eds.), Wilfrid Sellars and Twentieth-Century Philosophy. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 174–206 (2020)
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Two currently much discussed views about truth, truth pluralism and truth relativism, are found in Sellars’s writings. I show that his motivations for adoping these views are interestingly different from those shared by most of their recent advocates. First, I explain how Sellars comes to embrace a version of truth pluralism. I argue that his version overcomes a difficulty confronting pluralists, albeit at a serious cost. Then I argue that Sellars’s truth pluralism isn’t motivated by his interest in domains of discourse beyond the “matter-of-factual.” Rather, the key to his truth pluralism, his analysis of truth as “semantical assertibility,” is motivated by the same consideration that leads him to adopt truth relativism. This is his interest in applying semantic notions to discourse that embodies conceptual structures other than ours. Despite their common motivation, I conclude that Sellars’s relativism is independent of, and indeed stands in tension with, the analysis of truth that underlies his pluralism.



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Lionel Shapiro
University of Connecticut

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