From Empiricism to Expressivism

From Empiricism to Expressivism

Robert B. Brandom
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    From Empiricism to Expressivism
    Book Description:

    Wilfrid Sellars ranks as one of the leading critics of empiricism—a philosophical approach to knowledge that seeks to ground it in human sense experience. Robert Brandom clarifies what Sellars had in mind when he talked about moving analytic philosophy from its Humean to its Kantian phase and why such a move might be of crucial importance today.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-73556-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Title Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-29)

    Wilfrid Stalker Sellars (1912–1989) was the greatest American philosopher of the middle years of the twentieth century. The depth, originality, and range of his philosophical thought earn him a place alongside Charles Sanders Peirce, the greatest American philosopher of an earlier generation. From the point of view of contemporary conventional opinion among Anglophone philosophers, this assessment is somewhat eccentric—though not quite idiosyncratic. There is no question that other American philosophers of the time were more influential than Sellars—of those with a large overlap of interests, W. V. O. Quine (1908–2000) being preeminent among them. But one...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Categories and Noumena: Two Kantian Axes of Sellars’s Thought
    (pp. 30-98)

    Several decades ago, Richard Rorty suggested that philosophical admirers of Wilfrid Sellars could be divided into two schools, defined by which of two famous passages from his masterworkEmpiricism and the Philosophy of Mindare taken to express his most important insight:

    In the dimension of describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not. (§ 41)


    [In] characterizing an episode or a state as that ofknowing,we are not giving an empirical description of that episode or state; we...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Centrality of Sellars’s Two-Ply Account of Observation to the Arguments of Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind
    (pp. 99-119)

    Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind (EPM) is one of the great works of twentieth-century philosophy. It is rich, deep, and revolutionary in its consequences. It cannot, however, be ranked among the mostperspicuousof philosophical writings. Although it is fairly easy to discern its general tenor and tendency, the convoluted and digressive order of exposition pursued in the essay has obscured for many readers the exact outlines of such a fundamental concept as givenness—with the result that few could at the end of their reading accurately trace its boundaries and say what all its species have in common,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Pragmatism, Inferentialism, and Modality in Sellars’s Arguments against Empiricism
    (pp. 120-144)

    In this chapter I want to place the arguments ofEmpiricism and the Philosophy of Mindinto the context of some of Sellars’s other, nearly contemporary articles, by tracing further, into those neighboring works, some strands of argumentation that intersect and are woven together in his critique of empiricism in its two principal then-extant forms: traditional and twentieth-century logical empiricism. Sellars always accepted that observation reports resulting noninferentially from the exercise of perceptual language-entry capacities play both the privileged epistemological role of being the ultimate court of appeal for the justification of empirical knowledge claims and therefore (given his inferentialist...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Modality and Normativity: From Hume and Quine to Kant and Sellars
    (pp. 145-173)

    The status and respectability of alethic modality was always a point of contention and divergence between naturalism and empiricism.¹ It poses no problems in principle fornaturalism,since modal vocabulary is an integral part of all the candidate naturalistic base vocabularies. Fundamental physics is above all a language oflaws;the special sciences distinguish between true and falsecounterfactual claims;and ordinary empirical talk is richlydispositional.By contrast, modality has been a stumbling-block for theempiricisttradition ever since Hume forcefully formulated his epistemological and ultimately semantic objections to the concepts of law and necessary connection.

    Those traditional reservations...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Modal Expressivism and Modal Realism: Together Again
    (pp. 174-215)

    1. Kant saw that in addition to concepts whose principal use is to make it possible for us to describe how things are, there are concepts that make explicit features of the metaconceptualframeworkthat makes such description possible. An important class of the framework-explicating concepts (arguably the one that motivated this entire line of thought) comprisesalethic modalconcepts, such as necessity and possibility. These express lawful relations between ground-level descriptive concepts and mark the special status of Newton’s laws, their lawfulness, by contrast to the status of merely contingent matters of fact, the role played by statements of...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Sortals, Identity, and Modality: The Metaphysical Significance of the Modal Kant-Sellars Thesis
    (pp. 216-235)

    Frege explicated the distinction between predicates, such as ‘red’ or ‘heavy’, which are characterized semantically by their associated circumstances and consequences of application, and sortalizing predicates or kind-terms, such as ‘dog’ or ‘electron’, which in addition have associated practices of identifying and individuating the things to which they apply. Sortals are expressions for which the question can arise whether or not the things they apply to are thesameK: the same dog, the same electron (direction, shape, number)—perhaps in different circumstances (such as times) or differently specified. Quine calls sortal expressions “count nouns,” because their associated criteria of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Sellars’s Metalinguistic Expressivist Nominalism
    (pp. 236-272)

    The five years from 1958 through 1962 were extraordinarily productive ones for Wilfrid Sellars. His monumental “Counterfactuals, Dispositions, and the Causal Modalities,” appearing in 1958, was a suitable follow-up toEmpiricism and the Philosophy of Mind(which had been delivered as three lectures at the University of London in 1956).¹ Sellars never further developed the expressivist approach to alethic modality that he sketched in that paper, apparently having taken the ideas there as far as he could.² In that same year, he delivered two lectures at Yale, under the title “Grammar and Existence: A Preface to Ontology,” which announced an...

  12. Credits
    (pp. 273-274)
  13. Index
    (pp. 275-289)