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Encyclopedia > Wilfrid Sellars
Western Philosophers
20th-century philosophy
Cover of an introduction to Sellars' philosophy
Name: Wilfrid Stalker Sellars
Birth: May 20, 1912
Death: July 2, 1989
School/tradition: Analytic
Main interests: Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology, Meaning, Pragmatism, History of philosophy
Notable ideas: Myth of the Given, Behaviourism, Psychological nominalism
Influences: Gilbert Ryle, Charles Sanders Peirce, Vienna Circle, Rudolf Carnap, Immanuel Kant
Influenced: Robert Brandom, Paul Churchland, James Conant, John McDowell, Richard Rorty, Bas van Fraassen

Wilfrid Stalker Sellars (May 20, 1912 - July 2, 1989) was an American philosopher. His father was the noted Canadian-American philosopher Roy Wood Sellars. Wilfrid was educated at Michigan, the University of Buffalo, and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, obtaining his highest earned degree, an MA, in 1940. During WWII, he served in military intelligence. He then taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota, Yale University, and from 1963 until his death, at the University of Pittsburgh, whose philosophy department became, under his leadership, among the best in the world. Image File history File links Wilfrid_Sellars_Bio_Cover. ... May 20 is the 140th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (141st in leap years). ... 1912 (MCMXII) was a leap year starting on Monday in the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Tuesday in the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... July 2 is the 183rd day of the year (184th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 182 days remaining. ... 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to prominence during the 20th Century. ... A Phrenological mapping of the brain. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... For themes emphasized by Charles Peirce, see Pragmaticism. ... The history of philosophy is the study of philosophical ideas and concepts through time. ... Behaviorism (or behaviourism) is an approach to psychology based on the proposition that behavior is interesting and worthy of scientific research. ... Psychological nominalism is the view advanced in Wilfrid Sellars paper Empiricism and Philosophy of Mind (EPM) that explains psychological concepts in terms of public language use. ... Gilbert Ryle (1900–1976), was a philosopher, and a representative of the generation of British ordinary language philosophers influenced by Wittgensteins insights into language, and is principally known for his critique of Cartesian dualism, for which he coined the phrase the ghost in the machine. He referred to some... Charles Sanders Peirce Charles Sanders Peirce (September 10, 1839 – April 19, 1914) was an American logician, philosopher, scientist, and mathematician. ... Moritz Schlick around 1930 The Vienna Circle (in German: der Wiener Kreis) was a group of philosophers who gathered around Moritz Schlick when he was called to the Vienna University in 1922, organized in a philosophical association named Verein Ernst Mach (Ernst Mach Society). ... Rudolf Carnap Rudolf Carnap (May 18, 1891, Ronsdorf, Germany – September 14, 1970, Santa Monica, California) was an influential philosopher who was active in central Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter. ... Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804), was a German philosopher from Königsberg in East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). ... Robert Brandom (1950- ), nicknamed the Iron City Kant, is American philosopher who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. ... Paul Churchland (born 1942) is a philosopher working at the University of California, San Diego. ... James Bryant Conant (March 26, 1893 - February 11, 1978) was a chemist, educational administrator, and public servant. ... John Henry McDowell (born 1942) is a contemporary philosopher, formerly a fellow of University College, Oxford and now University Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. ... Richard McKay Rorty (born October 4, 1931 in New York City) is an American philosopher. ... Bastiaan Cornelis van Fraassen (born Goes, the Netherlands, 5 April 1941) is a member of the Princeton University Philosophy department, currently entering phased retirement. ... May 20 is the 140th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (141st in leap years). ... 1912 (MCMXII) was a leap year starting on Monday in the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Tuesday in the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... July 2 is the 183rd day of the year (184th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 182 days remaining. ... 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Roy Wood Sellars (1883-1973), was an American humanist philosopher. ... The University of Iowa, or Iowa for short, is a major national research university located on a 1,900-acre campus in Iowa City, Iowa, USA, on the Iowa River in East Central Iowa. ... Washington Avenue Bridge at night The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, almost always abbreviated U of M, and sometimes referred to as The U by locals, is the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system. ... Yale redirects here. ... The University of Pittsburgh is a state-related, doctoral/research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. ...


Sellars is best known as a critic of foundationalist epistemology, but his philosophical oeuvre is more generally directed toward the ultimate goal of reconciling intuitive ways of describing the world (both those of common sense and traditional philosophy) with a thoroughly naturalist, scientific account of reality. He is widely regarded both for great sophistication of argument and for his assimilation of many and diverse subjects in pursuit of a synoptic vision. He was perhaps the first philosopher to combine effectively elements of American Pragmatism with elements of British and American analytic philosophy and Austrian and German logical positivism. He worked on a broad range of topics in both philosophy and its history. Sellars's writings reputedly make for hard reading, perhaps because of his insistence on writing for the ages. He deemed the history of philosophy to be the lingua franca of philosophy; hence his writings engaged not only with the philosophy of his time, but also with that of the entire past. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... For themes emphasized by Charles Peirce, see Pragmaticism. ... Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to prominence during the 20th Century. ... Logical positivism (later referred to as logical empiricism, rational empiricism, or neo-positivism) is a school of philosophy that combines positivism—which states that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge—with a version of apriorism—the notion that some propositional knowledge can be had without, or prior to, experience. ... Lingua franca, literally Frankish language in Italian, was originally a mixed language consisting largely of Italian plus a vocabulary drawn from Turkish, Persian, French, Greek and Arabic and used for communication throughout the Middle East. ...


Robert Brandom named Sellars and Willard van Orman Quine as the two most profound and important philosophers of their generation. Sellars' goal of a synoptic philosophy that unites the everyday and scientific views of reality is the foundation and archetype of what is sometimes called the "Pittsburgh School", whose members include Brandom, John McDowell, and John Haugeland. Other philosophers strongly influenced by Sellars span the full spectrum of contemporary English-speaking philosophy, from neopragmatism (Richard Rorty) to eliminative materialism (Paul Churchland) to rationalism (Laurence BonJour). Sellars' philosophical heirs also include Hector-Neri Castaneda, Bruce Aune, Jay Rosenberg, Johanna Seibt, Andrew Chrucky, Jeffrey Sicha, Pedro Amaral, Thomas Vinci, Willem de Vries, and Timm Triplett. Robert Brandom (1950- ), nicknamed the Iron City Kant, is American philosopher who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... John Henry McDowell (born 1942) is a contemporary philosopher, formerly a fellow of University College, Oxford and now University Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. ... John Haugeland (born in 1945), is a philosopher and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. ... Categories: Possible copyright violations ... Richard McKay Rorty (born October 4, 1931 in New York City) is an American philosopher. ... Eliminativists argue that our modern belief in the existence of mental phenomena is analogous to our ancient belief in obsolete theories such as the geocentric model of the universe. ... Paul Churchland (born 1942) is a philosopher working at the University of California, San Diego. ... Laurence BonJour (Ph. ...

Contents

Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind

Sellars' most famous work is the lengthy and difficult paper, Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind, a sustained discussion of what he called "The Myth of the Given," which, roughly, consists in the claim, central to both phenomenology and sense-data theories of knowledge, that we can know things about our perceptual experiences independently of and in some important sense prior to the conceptual apparatus which we use to perceive objects. Sellars targets several theories at once, especially C.I. Lewis' Kantian pragmatism and Rudolf Carnap's positivism. Sellars then goes on to construct "The Myth of Jones," a philosophical parable to explain how thoughts, intelligent action, and even subjective inner experience can be attributed to people within a strict behaviorist worldview. Sellars calls his fictional tribe "Ryleans," named after Gilbert Ryle, whose The Concept of Mind he specifically wanted to address. Sellars' idea of "myth," heavily influenced by Ernst Cassirer, is by no means a necessarily negative one; a myth is something that can be useful or otherwise, rather than true or false. One of Sellars' biggest goals, which his later work described as Kantian, was reconciling the conceptual behavior of the "space of reasons" with the concept of a subjective sense experience. Some think this approach blurs the received empirical distinction between knower and known, subject and object, as well as entailing "linguistic idealism." This article is about the philosophical movement. ... The concept of sense data (singular: sense datum) is very influential and widely used in the philosophy of perception. ... Clarence Irving Lewis (April 12, 1883 - February 3, 1964) was a pragmatist philosopher. ... Rudolf Carnap Rudolf Carnap (May 18, 1891, Ronsdorf, Germany – September 14, 1970, Santa Monica, California) was an influential philosopher who was active in central Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter. ... Behaviorism (or behaviourism) is an approach to psychology based on the proposition that behavior is interesting and worthy of scientific research. ... Gilbert Ryle (1900–1976), was a philosopher, and a representative of the generation of British ordinary language philosophers influenced by Wittgensteins insights into language, and is principally known for his critique of Cartesian dualism, for which he coined the phrase the ghost in the machine. He referred to some... In his prominent work, The Concept of Mind (1949), the philosopher Gilbert Ryle describes the fundamental mistake made by Descartes dualism and much of western philosophy of the 17th and 18th centuries. ... Ernst Cassirer (July 28, 1874 – April 13, 1945) was a German philosopher. ... Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (April 22, 1724 – February 12, 1804) was a Prussian philosopher, generally regarded as one of Europes most influential thinkers and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment. ... Linguistic idealism is a phrase used by the philosopher Andrew Chrucky to characterize an interpretation of Wilfrid Sellars Myth of the Given -- notably by Richard Rorty and his students -- claiming that we are trapped in language. ...


Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man

In his Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man, Sellars distinguishes between the "manifest image" and the "scientific image" of the world. The manifest image describes the way the world stands according to the language we ordinarily use in interacting with it (which includes, for example, intentions, thoughts, and appearances). The scientific image describes the world in terms of the theoretical physical sciences, including notions such as causality and theories about particles and forces. While the two images sometimes complement one another (e.g., the manifest image includes practical or moral claims, whereas the scientific image does not), they sometimes conflict, as when physics tells us that apparently solid objects are mostly made of empty space. Sellars attempts to outline a synoptic vision, wherein the scientific image takes ultimate precedence in cases of irreconciliable conflict, at least with respect to empirical descriptions and explanations.


Contributions

Sellars coined certain now-common idioms in philosophy, such as the "space of reasons". This idiom refers to two things. It:

  1. Describes the conceptual and behavioral web of language that humans use to get intelligently around their world,
  2. Denotes the fact that talk of reasons, justification, and intention is not the same as, and cannot necessarily be mapped onto, talk of causes and effects in the sense that physical science speaks of them.

(2) corresponds in part to the Sellarsian distinction between the manifest image and the scientific image.


The Incompatible Food Triad puzzle has been attributed to Sellars. The Incompatible Food Triad is a puzzle that allegedly originated with the philosopher Wilfrid Sellars, and has been spread by some of his former colleagues and students, including Nuel Belnap and George Hart, who keeps a page on it at: http://www. ...


External links

  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Wilfrid Sellars -- Jay Rosenberg.
  • Wilfrid Sellars web site. Includes complete bibliography of his writings, some readable online, and a list of the Ph.Ds he supervised.
  • Autobiographical Reflections.
Academic Genealogy
Notable teachers Notable students
Roy Wood Sellars Paul Churchland, Robert Kane, Bas van Fraassen

  Results from FactBites:
 
Wilfrid Sellars - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (839 words)
One of Sellars' biggest goals, which his later work described as Kantian, was reconciling the conceptual behavior of the "space of reasons" with the concept of a subjective sense experience.
Sellars' problematic, that is, the exposed debate between those asserting the primacy of the manifest image versus those asserting that of the scientific image, illuminates and situates many previous philosophical arguments, and grounds further discussion of these images and their relative merits.
Sellars himself, it should be noted, asserted the primacy of the scientific image, also the preference of, among others, Dennett who, while maintaining the usefulness of the manifest image, fundamentally presupposes the primacy of the scientific image.
Encyclopedia: Wilfrid Sellars (4123 words)
Sellars thematized this contrast as a confrontation of two "images": the " manifest image " whose primary objects are persons, beings who can and do conceive of themselves as sentient perceivers, cognitive knowers, and deliberative agents, and the " scientific image ", whose primary entities are some sophisticated version of "atoms in the void".
Sellars' proposal that we can illuminate the epistemic status of mental concepts by an appeal to the contrast between theoretical and non-theoretical discourse makes sense only against the background of another central element of his philosophical thought, his comprehensive critique of the "myth of the given".
Sellars' (contrary) view is that perception of how things are requires both reliable differential responsive dispositions and the capacity to respond with a judgement, the endorsement of a claim, that is, by adopting a normative attitude toward an inferentially articulated claim.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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