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Sellars 1956_Empiricism and Philosophy of Mind

Sellars 1956_Empiricism and Philosophy of Mind

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Published by: vinodioperai on Dec 20, 2009
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Wilfrid Sellars
 Note: This paper was first presented as the University of London SpecialLectures on Philosophy for 1955-56, delivered on March 1, 8, and 15,1956, under the title "The Myth of the Given: Three Lectures onEmpiricism and the Philosophy of Mind."Edited in Hypertext by Andrew Chrucky, 1995.Reproduced with the permission of the University of Minnesota Pressfrom: Wilfrid Sellars, "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind," in HerbertFeigl and Michael Scriven, eds.,
Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume I: The Foundations of Science and the Concepts of  Psychology and Psychoanalysis
(University of Minnesota Press, 1956), pp.253-329. When the essay was reprinted in Wilfrid Sellars,
Science, Perception and Reality
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963), Sellarsadded a few notes which have been incorporated into the present version. Ishould also add that in the reprint British spelling was used. Republished asa separate book,
 Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind 
, with anintroduction by Richard Rorty and a study guide by Robert Brandom(Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1997). Republished inWillem deVries and Timm Triplett,
 Knowledge, Mind, and the Given: A Reading of Sellars' "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" 
(Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2000). French translation
 Empirisme et  philosophie de l'esprit 
(Combas (France): l'Eclat, 1992).
I PRESUME that no philosopher who has attacked the philosophical ideaof givenness or, to use the Hegelian term, immediacy has intended to denythat there is a difference between
that something is the case and,for example,
it to be the case. If the term "given" referred merely towhat is observed as being observed, or, perhaps, to a proper subset of thethings we are said to determine by observation, the existence of "data"would be as noncontroversial as the existence of philosophical perplexities.But, of course, this just is not so. The phrase "the given" as a piece of  professional -- epistemological -- shoptalk carries a substantial theoreticalcommitment, and one can deny that there are "data" or that anything is, inthis sense, "given" without flying in the face of reason.Many things have been said to be "given": sense contents, materialobjects, universals, propositions, real connections, first principles, evengivenness itself. And there is, indeed, a certain way of construing thesituations which philosophers analyze in these terms which can be said to be the framework of givenness. This framework has been a commonfeature of most of the major systems of philosophy, including, to use aKantian turn of phrase, both "dogmatic rationalism" and "skepticalempiricism". It has, indeed, been so pervasive that few, if any, philosophershave been altogether free of it; certainly not Kant, and, I would argue, noteven Hegel, that great foe of "immediacy". Often what is attacked under itsname are only specific varieties of "given." Intuited first principles andsynthetic necessary connections were the first to come under attack. Andmany who today attack "the whole idea of givenness" -- and they are anincreasing number -- are really only attacking sense data. For they transfer to other items, say physical objects or relations of appearing, thecharacteristic features of the "given." If, however, I begin my argumentwith an attack on sense-datum theories, it is only as a first step in a generalcritique of the entire framework of givenness.2. Sense-datum theories characteristically distinguish between an act of awareness and, for example, the color patch which is its
. The act is

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