Sellars, Price, and the Myth of the Given




Wilfrid Sellars's "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" (EPM) begins with an argument against sense-datum epistemology. There is some question about the validity of this attack, stemming in part from the assumption that Sellars is concerned with epistemic foundationalism. This paper recontextualizes Sellars's argument in two ways: by showing how the argument of EPM relates to Sellars's 1940s work, which does not concern foundationalism at all; and by considering the view of H.H. Price, Sellars's teacher at Oxford and the only classical datum theorist to receive substantive comment in EPM. Timm Triplett has claimed that Sellars's discussion simply begs the question against Price, but this depends on the mistaken assumption that Sellars's concern is with foundationalism.  On the contrary, Sellars's argument concerns the assumption that the innate capacity for sensory experience counts as "thinking in presence" in the way needed for empiricist accounts of content acquisition. Price's distinction between noticing universals and being aware of them encapsulates the tensions empiricists face here.

Author Biography

Michael R. Hicks, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy


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