Why Is Sellars's Essay Called “<i>Empiricism</i> and the Philosophy of Mind”?

John McDowell

in Empiricism, Perceptual Knowledge, Normativity, and Realism

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199573301
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722172 | DOI:

Series: Mind Association Occasional Series

Why Is Sellars's Essay Called “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind”?

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‘Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind’ (EPM) is sometimes read as attacking empiricism in general. But Sellars's announced target is traditional empiricism. In traditional empiricism, experience yields knowledge in a way that does not presuppose other empirical knowledge, so that the knowledge provided by experience can serve as foundations, in a straightforward sense, for other empirical knowledge. To accept this conception is to fall into a form of the Myth of the Given. In EPM Sellars works out a different conception of experience, according to which it is a kind of inner episode that, in the best kind of case, yields knowledge, but in a way that presupposes other empirical knowledge. The knowledge provided by experience can still serve as foundations for other empirical knowledge, but now only in a nuanced sense. The chapter concludes that so far from rejecting empiricism altogether, EPM rehabilitates empiricism, but in a non-traditional form.

Keywords: empirical knowledge; empiricism; EPM; experience; foundations; inner episodes; Wilfrid Sellars; Myth of the Given

Chapter.  8150 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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