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Don't have an account? In Sellars's view, then, the ontological primacy of the scientific image is simply a consequence of commitments already present in the manifest image. Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
Wilfrid Stalker Sellars —89 was a systematic, original, and profound American philosopher. His father was a significant philosopher in his own right, a professor at the University of Michigan and a founder of American Critical Realism. Following his graduation in , the family returned to Paris. For a partial account of their philosophical connections, see F.
Gironi , Among other things, he studied the work of Russell and Moore, modal logic with Langford, and continued the dialogue with his father that had begun in Paris. At the height of the depression, Sellars was also involved in left-wing politics, campaigning for the socialist Norman Thomas.
He then enrolled at the University of Buffalo for an M. Sellars was a competitive athlete in college and won a Rhodes scholarship, which took him in the fall of to Oriel College at Oxford, where he enrolled in the PPE program. Maclagan was his tutor, and he came under the influence of H. Prichard and H. Price, and, through them, Cook Wilson. He took first class honors in and returned that fall for a D.
While at Oxford, he also met his first wife, Mary Sharp, who was born in Yorkshire and to whom he was married in Unable to articulate his new interpretation of Kant sufficiently well to complete the degree, Sellars returned to the U. The department there was small, and Sellars took charge of teaching the history of philosophy courses, working out the view of the history of philosophy that informed his work thereafter. But he never finished the dissertation at Harvard and was plagued for a number of years by an inability to get his thoughts down on paper.
World War II interrupted his career; he served in the Navy from — When the war ended, Sellars had no choice but to publish, and began a program of writing up to 10 hours a day, however much or little he produced.
Olen , In , Sellars moved to the University of Minnesota, where he rejoined Feigl. Together they published Readings in Philosophical Analysis , a classic early collection of analytical philosophy, and founded Philosophical Studies , a leading journal of analytic philosophy. With his colleague John Hospers, Sellars published Readings in Ethical Theory , which also became an industry standard.
Sellars chaired the department at Minnesota from —59, a time which also saw the flowering of the Minnesota Center for the Philosophy of Science. But Yale became factionalized, and Sellars thought the internal politics disrupted his ability to do philosophy. In he moved to the University of Pittsburgh, which was in the process of reconstructing its philosophy department, becoming a top-ranked department.
Sellars remained at Pittsburgh until his death in , though he visited and lectured at a number of other universities. He published many books and articles and also left his mark on the profession by training a large number of graduate students this author included.
He was productive into the early s, when a stroke slowed him down; he died 2 July Following a lull in interest in his philosophy in the late s and early s, his work has garnered steadily increasing attention in the U. Thus, philosophy is a reflectively conducted higher-order inquiry that is continuous with but distinguishable from any of the special disciplines, and the understanding it aims at must have practical force , guiding our activities, both theoretical and practical.
PSIM describes what Sellars sees as the major problem confronting philosophy today. The fundamental objects of the manifest image are persons and things, with emphasis on persons , which puts normativity and reason at center stage. In the manifest image persons are very different from mere things; things do not act rationally, in accordance with normative rules, but only in accord with laws or perhaps habits.
How and why normative concepts and assessments apply to things is an important and contentious question within the framework. The manifest image is not fixed or static; it can be refined both empirically and categorically. Empirical refinement by correlational induction results in ever better observation-level generalizations about the world.
Categorial refinement consists in adding, subtracting, or reconceptualizing the basic objects recognized in the image, e. Thus, the manifest image is neither unscientific nor anti-scientific. It is, however, methodologically more promiscuous and often less rigorous than institutionalized science. Traditional philosophy, philosophia perennis , endorses the manifest image as real and attempts to understand its structure. One kind of categorial change, however, is excluded from the manifest image by stipulation: the addition to the framework of new concepts of basic objects by means of theoretical postulation.
This is the move Sellars stipulates to be definitive of the scientific image. Science, by postulating new kinds of basic entities e. Is it possible to reconcile these two images? Could manifest objects reduce to systems of imperceptible scientific objects?
Are manifest objects ultimately real, scientific objects merely abstract constructions valuable for the prediction and control of manifest objects? Or are manifest objects appearances to human minds of a reality constituted by systems of imperceptible particles or something even more basic, such as absolute processes see FMPP? Sellars opts for the third alternative.
We will return to the question of norms later in this article. But understood in the context of his system, this is not the proclamation of a harsh, reductive scientific realism, for 1 he does not believe that describing and explaining are the only significant dimensions of human activity. In particular, he recognizes that prescription and proscription are a different from description and b indispensable to human activity. And 2 , his conception of ontology is object-oriented ; the presence of normative truths does not belie his fundamental naturalistic nominalism.
Sellars takes an unorthodox approach to language, but it is also crucial for his naturalistic metaphysics. The key to his view is that semantic terms and descriptions provide functional classifications of linguistic tokens.
His analysis of meaning statements such as. These meaning statements, however, do not explicitly say that the two expressions they each contain have the same usage. Rather, each sentence presupposes that the person it is directed at already understands the background language, in this case English, and uses the expression on the right-hand side as an illustrating sortal to form an indexical predicate forming a predicate by giving an example bearing the relevant property , which is then applied to the tokens picked out by the expression on the left-hand side of the sentence.
Sellars invented a device, dot-quotation, to express this formally. Dot quotation forms a common noun not a name that applies to every item in any language that functions in a relevantly similar way to the quoted expression. Reference is also given a functional analysis. Reference, unlike meaning, is extensional. While we can say that both. The idea of a reference relation is the heart of orthodox semantic theory in contemporary logic and the philosophy of language, but Sellars denies that reference is a relation, just as he denies that meaning is a relation.
The same goes for truth, which classical theories try to understand through some correspondence relation purported to hold between sentences and the world. Sellars endorses instead a pragmatist conception of truth:. This is a version of a use theory of meaning. Sellars distinguishes three different generic dimensions of usage: language-entry transitions, intralinguistic transitions, and language-exit transitions.
Some examples: Contexts of perception and observation are those in which one enters a language in response to some form of sensory stimulation. The announcement of a resolution followed by an action that attempts to carry it out is a case of exiting a language.
Intralinguistic transitions include inferences and responses of one kind or another. Sellars distinguishes formal inferences, which are a matter of the syntactic rules of the language, from material inferences, which are not a function of syntactic structure alone. Material inferences are not merely enthymemes ultimately to be made good by supplying an explicit principle: the web of material inferences an expression is involved in, especially the subjunctives it sustains, determines its core meaning.
Sellars has a complex view of what ties language to the world. Sellars does, however, single out for special attention a relation he calls picturing. The basic idea is that in any empirically meaningful language, the occurrences of a certain class of linguistic events namely, first-level, atomic, matter-of-factual statements playing roles in observational and volitional contexts have to constitute a map or picture of the surrounding environment in virtue of an isomorphism between the properties of worldly objects and counterpart properties of the linguistic events.
Sellars thinks this is a condition on any empirically meaningful language, but he also believes that one of the tasks of science is to improve the accuracy and refine the grain of such an isomorphism. If we understand how abstract singular terms function, the claims of the Platonist metaphysician seem an elaborate and perhaps misleading way to make a simpler, more pragmatic point.
First, Sellars argues that the then-prevalent standard of ontological commitment —being the value of a variable of quantification— is mistaken GE, NAO. Such a criterion makes the indeterminate reference of quantified variables more primitive than any form of determinate reference.
Sellars construes quantification substitutionally; see Lance Sellars proposes a different standard: we are committed to the kinds of things we can explicitly name and classify in the ground-level, empirical, object-language statements we take to be true. In ordinary language we often talk about meanings, properties, propositions, etc.
Sellars interprets such talk as material mode metalinguistic speech about the functional roles of expression-kinds. Thus, a sentence such as. Similarly, Sellars interprets fact-talk as material mode metalinguistic speech about truths.
The only things to which we are ontologically committed by the use of abstract singular terms are linguistic items: specifically, expression-tokens that participate in complex causal systems which involve, inter alia, normatively assessable interactions between language users and the world. Platonic realists are often moved by the belief that the most basic linguistic structure, predication itself, involves a commitment to abstracta, for common explications of predication make essential mention of properties, relations, and such.
Sellars argues that this gets the order of explication exactly wrong: apparently purely descriptive claims about property instantiation are, in fact, misleading ways of communicating norms of linguistic correctness. Sellars offers a different explication of predication, according to which the focus is not on any relation between an object and some abstract entity, but qualifying and arranging names to suit them for certain linguistic purposes.
Predication thus commits one only to natural objects potentially correlated with each other. NAO, chapter 3, contains the most complete statement of this view. Sellars gives a unified treatment of the alethic, causal, and deontic modalities as once again material mode metalinguistic speech expressing the inferential commitments and priorities embedded in the language.
Thus, using modal language in talking about the world and our agency in the world does not commit us to recognizing independent, metaphysically real necessary connections or the existence of moral facts independent of moral agents. It does commit us to prescribing and proscribing certain linguistic or conceptual transitions, including language-exit transitions that emerge in action.
In his theory of knowledge Sellars attempts to balance competing insights in several different dimensions — empiricist-rationalist, foundationalist-coherentist, externalist-internalist, realist-phenomenalist-idealist — while also keeping an eye on the deep connections between epistemology and the metaphysics of mind.
Sellars is anti-foundationalist in his theories of concepts, knowledge, and truth. Traditional epistemology assumed that knowledge is hierarchically structured. There must, it was believed, be some cognitive states in direct contact with reality that serve as a firm foundation on which the rest of our knowledge is built by various inferential methods.
It may indeed seem preposterous or audacious to propose an association of this nature, for in the minds of many, doubt is no longer permitted. Senseless dogmatism, verbose rambling of minds yielding to logical or onto-theological idols, or to fantasies of possible access to Reality, Truth, Knowledge: that is usually how we imagine metaphysics and ironize about its partisans, when there are any left. Who would dare go beyond phenomena? Reality is inaccessible to us, caught as we also are, in any case, in the snares of language. Assuming that the latter still had meaning, what bone would be left for it to chew? I could be tempted to say that, in the present instance, this is not such good news. I will therefore not endeavour to define it and even less so to defend it here 3.
Sellars developed an account of the intersubjective basis of our knowledge of the inner mental states of both self and others, an account which included the claim that such knowledge is in some sense theoretical knowledge. This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution. Rent this article via DeepDyve. Churchland , chapter 4 for an early conception of folk psychology as a theory of mind. Note that although Fodor, too, defends a conception of folk psychology as an implicit theory of mind, he rejects the holistic and inferentialist view of concepts that is embraced both by Sellars and by many contemporary theory theorists: see Fodor , p. See, for example, Gopnik , p. For further background, see Gopnik and Wellman
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Wilfrid Stalker Sellars May 20, — July 2, was an American philosopher and prominent developer of critical realism ,  who "revolutionized both the content and the method of philosophy in the United States". His father was the Canadian-American philosopher Roy Wood Sellars , a leading American philosophical naturalist in the first half of the twentieth-century. During World War II, he served in military intelligence. He then taught at the University of Iowa — , the University of Minnesota — , Yale University — , and from until his death, at the University of Pittsburgh. He was a founder of the journal Philosophical Studies. Sellars is well known as a critic of foundationalist epistemology —the " Myth of the Given " as he called it.
Wilfrid Stalker Sellars —89 was a systematic, original, and profound American philosopher. His father was a significant philosopher in his own right, a professor at the University of Michigan and a founder of American Critical Realism. Following his graduation in , the family returned to Paris. For a partial account of their philosophical connections, see F. Gironi ,
Wilfrid Sellars. Philosophical Perspectives. Philosophical Issues. North American Kant Society. Philosopher's Annual. How to Order.
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