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. (shrink)
Critical attention to Wilfrid Sellars’s “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man” (PSIM) has focused on the dubious Peircean optimism about scientific convergence that underwrites Sellars’s talk of “the” scientific image. Sellars’s ultimate Peircean ontology has led Willem deVries, for instance, to accuse him of being a naturalistic “monistic visionary.” But this complaint of monism misplays the status of the ideal end of science in Sellars’s thinking. I propose a novel reading of PSIM, foregrounding its opening methodological reflections. On this (...) reading, the central point of the paper is to accuse figures like Wittgenstein and Strawson, whom I call “analytical quietists,” of taking the unity of intellectual endeavor as somehow given. Such unity as is forthcoming is, Sellars tells us, a task. I conclude by noting that a structurally similar accusation of too easily presumed unity emerges at the end of the paper, against a familiar sort of anti-relativistic moral theorizing. Thus, Sellars’s conception of the task of philosophy is, at least potentially, a point of surprising ethico-political significance as well. (shrink)
Thought about fictional characters is special, and needs to be distinguished from ordinary world-directed thought. On my interpretation, Kendall Walton and Gareth Evans have tried to show how this serious fiction-directed thought can arise from engagement with a kind of pretending. Many criticisms of their account have focused on the methodological presupposition, that fiction-directed thought is the appropriate explanandum. In the first part of this paper, I defend the methodological claim, and thus the existence of the problem to which pretense (...) is supposed to be a solution. In the second part, I elaborate and defend the pretense theory as a solution to this problem. (shrink)
Discussing Keith Donnellan's distinction between attributive and referential uses of descriptions, Gareth Evans considered a speaker he found it natural to describe as having “given expression to” a singular thought, though he insisted she was not referring to the person she has in mind. On accounts otherwise similar to Evans's, to express a singular thought just is to refer. Thus, as he does not explain why this speaker might speak this way, it is tempting to ignore this as a slip. (...) On the contrary, I shall argue, Evans has good reason to deny that picture of reference. My interest, though, is in the case itself. It turns out it is a presentational use of descriptions: it provides its audience a cognitive ability they would otherwise lack. This characterization raises deep theoretical questions which I only begin to address here. My goal is to show that we ought to address those questions, for there is no better way of understanding examples like Evans's than to see them as presentational. (shrink)
Both Wilfrid Sellars and John McDowell reject Kant’s conclusion that the world is fundamentally unknowable, and on similar grounds: each invokes conceptual change, what I call the diachronic instability of a conceptual scheme. The similarities end there, though. It is important to Sellars that the world is only knowable at “the end of inquiry” – he rejects a commonsense realism like McDowell’s for its inability to fully appreciate diachronic instability. To evaluate this disagreement, I consider Timothy Williamson’s argument that the (...) knowability thesis, as it rules out “elusive objects”, is problematically idealistic. I argue that McDowell’s insistence on diachronic instability suffices to address Williamson’s worry, and as such that his reply ought to be available to Sellars too. That Sellars would instead invoke the end of inquiry suggests it is he who underestimates the ineliminability of conceptual change. (shrink)
Luz Seiberth's interpretation of Sellars as a transcendental philosopher promises to change the way we read Sellars. Nonetheless, I dispute two of his central claims: that by depicting ”picturing” as as a transcendental imposition we can see it as addressing a ”vertical” constraint that Kant does not detect; and that Sellars's transcendental philosophy commits him to a Kantian ”necessitarianism” about categorical strucure. Ultimately, I conclude, Seiberth's focus on Sellars's relationship to Kant in particular distorts his understanding of Sellars's peculiar version (...) of a transcendental methodology. (shrink)
Lucy O'Brien has argued that defenders of the object-dependence of singular thought should attend to mental agency. A recent trend in action theory, towards what John Maier calls ‘agentive modality’, suggests that we conceive agency in terms of the exercise of abilities, and this is how I propose to approach O'Brien's challenge. For Gareth Evans, an early defender of object-dependence, maintained that thinking is the exercise of a complex of abilities. The debate about object-dependence gives way to the question whether (...) we have what I call dedicated singular mental abilities. In arguing that we do, I defend the thesis of object-dependence. (shrink)
The traditional distinction between Millian and Fregean theories of names presupposes that what Mill calls ‘connotation’ lines up with what Frege calls ‘sense.’ This presupposition is false. Mill’s talk of connotation is an attempt to bring into view the line of thought that crystallizes in Frege’s distinction between concept and object. This latter is the semantic dualism of my title.