Critique of Wilfrid Sellars' materialism

Andrew Chrucky, Fordham University


This dissertation is a critical assessment of Wilfrid Sellars' Scientific Realism. The dissertation has ten chapters, whose topics are as follows: (1) I classify Sellars' position as a variety of Non-Reductive Scientific Materialism. (2) I discuss the Manifest/Scientific Image distinction. I reject the identification of the Manifest Image with a Common Sense Image on the ground that the Common Sense Image recognizes the existence of irreducible absolute processes, while the Manifest Image does not. (3) I discuss the topic of ontological commitment. (4) I propose that we substitute for the Manifest Image a Common Sense Image which has a mixed ontology of events and substances. (5) I focus on the intentionality-body problem. I believe that a large portion of the polemics over intentionality can be accounted for by a failure to demarcate non-conceptual from conceptual intentionality. (6) I locate Sellars' position in current philosophical psychology. Sellars defends both functionalism and introspection. He tries to give a theoretical account of our introspective knowledge of thoughts and sensations on a behavioristic basis. My conclusions are that his argument does not go through, and that perhaps all non-overtly linguistic thoughts are non-conceptual. (7) I offer a transcendental argument for a version of epistemological foundationalism. (8) I clarify the concept of the Given in Sellars. I both defend and criticize his position on the Given. I defend Sellars' argument for the rejection of the Given from William Robinson's attack; but I defend C. I. Lewis' position on the Given from Sellars' attack. (9) I deal with the epistemological and the ontological problems of perception. The conclusion I reach on the epistemological problem is that sensa are given through a phenomenological reduction. The conclusion I reach on the ontological problem is that Sellars is correct in his view that sensa exist as causal mediatory absolute processes in perception. (10) I spell out the implications of my disagreement with Sellars on epistemology. The main implication is that in higher animals there is an evolutionarily endowed intractable representational system. I call this view Animal Realism.

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Recommended Citation

Chrucky, Andrew, "Critique of Wilfrid Sellars' materialism" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9020023.