Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
  • Publication
    Inferentialism, Naturalism, and the Ought-To-Bes of Perceptual Cognition
    (Taylor & Francis, 2018-02-07)
    Any normative inferentialist view confronts a set of challenges in the form of how to account for the sort of ordinary empirical descriptive vocabulary that is involved, paradigmatically, in our noninferential perceptual responses and knowledge claims. This chapter lays out that challenge, and then argues that Sellars’ original multilayered account of such noninferential responses in the context of his normative inferentialist semantics and epistemology shows how the inferentialist can plausibly handle those sorts of cases without stretching the notion of inference beyond its standard uses. Finally, it is suggested that for Sellars there were deeply naturalistic motivations for his own normative inferentialism, though the latter raises further questions as to whether this really represents, as Sellars thought, a genuinely scientific naturalist outlook on meaning and conceptual cognition.
  • Publication
    How pragmatist was Sellars? Reflections on an analytic Pragmatism
    (Routledge, 2019-09-03)
    In this chapter I argue that Sellars’s philosophy was deeply pragmatist both in its motivation and in its content, whether considered conceptually, historically, or in his own estimation, and that this is the case even in the important respects in which his views differ from most pragmatists. However, this assessment has been rejected by many recent pragmatists, with “classicalist” pragmatists frequently objecting to Sellars’s analytic-pragmatist privileging of language at the alleged expense of experience, while many analytic pragmatists themselves emphasize that Sellars’s philosophy arguably runs against the grain of pragmatism in central respects, with Brandom for instance recently remarking that “Sellars never explicitly identified himself with pragmatism.” Part I explores the classical pragmatist influences on the development of Sellars’s philosophy, with reference to aspects of the intellectual background in which those views formed. Part II then outlines more abstractly some of the enduring pragmatist themes in Sellars’s philosophy, including his conceptions of the myth of the given, the space of reasons, and his normative-inferentialist theory of meaning. I conclude in Part III with Sellars’s views on truth and “picturing,” which present a complex case for the question of “how pragmatist” Sellars’s views both were and ought to be.
  • Publication
    Dennis Schulting (ed.), Kantian Nonconceptualism, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, 332pp., $109.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781137535160.
    (University of Notre Dame College of Arts and Letters, 2019-01-07)
    This is an outstanding collection of eleven newly commissioned articles by leading figures in the recent debates on nonconceptualist and conceptualist interpretations of Kant's theory of cognition, with applications also to his accounts of agency and aesthetics.
  • Publication
    Objective Truth and the Practice Relativity of Justification in the Pragmatic Turn
    (Associazione Pragma, 2011-12-29)
    In the beginning, as they say, was the ‘pragmatic maxim’ of Peirce and James. Peirce’s early formulation of the maxim in "How to Make Our Ideas Clear" ran as follows: Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object. (Peirce, 1878: 132; cf. Bernstein, 2010: 2-3, and O’Shea, 2008: 208-13) At its core, pragmatism thus originated as a method for clarifying the conceptual meaning or content of any term or idea. A common theme running throughout the subsequent attempted clarifications of this maxim or ‘principle of pragmatism’, by both Peirce and James (cf. James, 1898: 347-9, and 1907: 377-8),was the idea that, as Peirce puts it, "there is no distinction of meaning so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference of practice" (1992: 131). Of particular importance for determining the conceptual content of a given belief or assertion, on this pragmatist outlook, is the role that such beliefs and their constituent concepts play (Peirce emphasizes inference and James the "leadings" of ideas in experience and action) within what Sellars would later call the "logical space of reasons" (cf. Bernstein, 2010: 49).
  • Publication
    The Analytic Pragmatist Conception of the A Priori: C. I. Lewis and Wilfrid Sellars
    (Routledge, 2017-12-05)
    It is a familiar story that Kant's defense of our synthetic a priori cognition in the Critique of Pure Reason suffered sharp criticism throughout the extended philosophical revolutions that established analytic philosophy, the pragmatist tradition, and the phenomenological tradition as dominant philosophical movements in the fi rst half of the twentieth century. 1 One of the most important positive adaptations of Kant's outlook, however, was the combined analytic and pragmatist conceptions of the a priori that were developed by the American philosophers C. I. Lewis (1883'1964) and Wilfrid Sellars (1912'89), most notably in Lewis's 1929 classic, Mind and the World Order , followed by Sellars's critical reworking of Lewis's outlook in 'Is There a Synthetic A Priori?' ( 1953 ), and other mid-century articles. Both Lewis and Sellars defended central aspects of Kant's analysis of our a priori knowledge of mind-independent physical objects and necessary causal connections. But both also radically transformed Kant's view by defending the idea that there are alternative a priori conceptual frameworks that are subject to an ongoing process of reassessment and replacement on overall pragmatic and explanatory grounds. Furthermore, while Sellars's answer to his question, 'Is There a Synthetic A Priori?' thus represented a partial endorsement of Lewis's pragmatic relativization of the a priori, I argue that Sellars's account of meaning diverged from Lewis in ways that constituted a signifi cant improvement upon the previous 'analytic' defenses of the a priori, not only in Lewis but also in general. This arguably has implications for wider disputes concerning the nature and possibility of a priori knowledge in non-formal domains.
  • Publication
    After Kant, Sellars, and Meillassoux: Back to Empirical Realism?
    (Routledge, 2017-09-11)
    This chapter examines how Meillassoux's conception of correlationism in After Finitude relates firstly to Kant's transcendental idealist philosophy, and secondly to the analytic Kantianism of Wilfrid Sellars. I argue that central to the views of both Kant and Sellars is what might be called, with an ambivalent nod to Meillassoux, an objective correlationism. What emerges in the end as the recommended upshot of these analyses is a naturalistic Kantianism that takes the form of an empirical realism in roughly Kant's sense, but one that is happily wed with Sellars' scientific realism, once the latter is disentangled from two implausible commitments that made such a reconciliation seem impossible to Sellars himself.
  • Publication
    Sellars's interpretive variations on Kant's transcendental idealist themes
    (Taylor & Francis, 2018-06-19)
    Sellars’ career-long engagement with Kant’s philosophy involved both readings of Kant and appropriations of Kant that are nuanced, original, and related in complex ways to Sellars’ own philosophical views. In some ways similar to Strawson’s classic reading, Sellars defended Kant’s theory of experience and his analysis of human knowledge as essentially correct. This includes various views on the nature of conceptual cognition, the thinking self, practical reason, perceptual experience, and the lawfulness of nature. On the other hand, and again like Strawson, Sellars regarded Kant’s transcendental idealism as involving a strong ontological commitment to unknowable but thinkable (and non-spatiotemporal) ‘things in themselves’. However, whereas Strawson regarded such a position as deeply incoherent, Sellars argues that Kant’s theological conception of things in themselves can coherently be replaced with a scientific realist conception of things in themselves as theoretically postulated imperceptible processes, which play a structurally similar role for Sellars in grounding the Kantian-phenomenal ‘appearances’ in the ‘manifest image’ of the world. Sellars’ highly complex but sophisticated reading of Kant on sensibility and intuition, when combined with Sellars’ own idiosyncratic views on sensory qualia, render it even more difficult to come to terms with Sellars’ engagements with Kant’s idealism. This chapter attempts to provide a concise presentation and evaluation of certain central themes in Sellars’ complex philosophical dialogue with Kant.
  • Publication
    James on Percepts, Concepts, and the Function of Cognition
    (Oxford University Press, 2019-01-08)
    Central to both James’s earlier psychology and his later philosophical views was a recurring distinction between perceptsand concepts. The distinction evolved and remained fundamental to his thinking throughout his career as he sought to come to grips with its fundamental nature and significance. In this chapter, I focus initially on James’s early attempt to articulate the distinction in his 1885 article “The Function of Cognition.” This will highlight a key problem to which James continued to return throughout his later philosophical work on the nature ofour cognition, including in his famous “radical empiricist” metaphysics of “pure experience” around the turn of the century. We shall find that James grappled insightfully but ambivalently with the perceptual and conceptual dimensions of the “knowledge relation” or the “cognitive relation,” as he called it—or what, following Franz Brentano, philosophers would later call our object-directed thought or intentionalitymore generally. Some philosophers have once again returned to James’s work for crucial insights on this pivotal topic, while others continue to find certain aspects of his account to be problematic. What is beyond dispute is that James’s inquiries in this domain were both innovative and of lasting significance.
  • Publication
    On Sellars' exam question trilemma: are Kant's premises analytic, or synthetic a priori, or a posteriori?
    (Taylor & Francis, 2019-03-04)
    Wilfrid Sellars argued that Kant’s account of the conceptual structures involved in experience can be given a linguistic turn so as to provide an analytic account of the resources a language must have in order to be the bearer of empirical knowledge. In this paper I examine the methodological aspects of Kant’s transcendental philosophy that Sellars took to be fundamental to influential themes in his own philosophy. My first aim here is to clarify and argue for the plausibility of what I claim is Sellars’ interpretation of Kant’s ‘analytic’ transcendental method in the first Critique, based ultimately on non-trivial analytic truths concerning the concept of an object of our possible experience. Kant’s ‘transcendental proofs’ thereby avoid a certain methodological trilemma confronting the candidate premises of any such proof, taken from Sellars’ 1970s undergraduate exam question on Kant. In part II of the essay I conclude by highlighting in general terms how Kant’s method, as interpreted in the analytic manner explained in part I, was adapted by Sellars to produce some of the more influential aspects of his own philosophy, expressed in terms of what he contends is their sustainable reformulation in light of the so-called linguistic turn in twentieth-century philosophy.
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