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 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)
Robert B. Brandom’s From Empiricism to Expressivism ranges widely over fundamental issues in metaphysics, with occasional forays into epistemology as well. The centerpiece is what Brandom calls ‘the Kant-Sellars thesis about modality’. This is ‘[t]he claim that in being able to use ordinary empirical descriptive vocabulary, one already knows how to do everything that one needs to know how to do, in principle, to use alethic modal vocabulary – in particular subjunctive conditionals’. Despite claiming descent from Sellars, Brandom defends here (...) a version of modal realism and tries hard to limit Sellarsian nominalism, all in the service of elaborating Brandom’s own version of pragmatism. The range of issues Brandom addresses defies adequate consideration in a critical notice, so I confine myself here to a single issue: What is.. (shrink)
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.
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)
An analysis of Hegel's chapter on teleology in the Science of Logic. Hegel argues that the 'intentional model' of teleology assumed by Kant actually presupposes a natural or organic teleology more like along Aristotelian lines.
Though Wilfrid Sellars portrayed himself as a latter-day Kantian, I argue here that he was at least as much a Hegelian. Several themes Sellars shares with Hegel are investigated: the sociality and normativity of the intentional, categorial change, the rejection of the given, and especially their denial of an unknowable thing-in-itself. They are also united by an emphasis on the unity of things—the belief that things do “hang together.” Hegel’s unity is idealist; Sellars’ is physicalist; the differences are substantial, but (...) so are the resonances. (shrink)
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 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.
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 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.
"Sellars' s argument in EPM is enormously rich, subtle, and compelling. It is also, for the uninitiated, extraordinarily dense. Willem deVries and Timm Triplett’s comprehensive commentary _Knowledge, Mind, and the Given_ provides a much needed guide. Beginning with a general overview to introduce some main themes and difficulties, deVries and Triplett take the reader step by step through the sixteen parts of the essay, providing at each stage necessary background, illuminating connections, and insightful clarifications of the main lines of argument.... (...) deVries and Triplett have written a fine introduction to Sellars’s most important work." --Danielle Macbeth, _The Philosophical Review_. (shrink)