Hicks on Sellars, Price, and the Myth of the Given
In a previous issue of this journal, Michael Hicks challenges my critique of Wilfrid Sellars’s arguments against the given and against the foundationalist epistemology that relies on the idea of a sensory given. I had argued that Sellars’s well-known claim that the given is a myth does not succeed because at a critical juncture he misconstrued sense-datum theorists such as Bertrand Russell and H. H. Price. In his response to my argument, Hicks makes the striking claim that Sellars was not targeting foundationalism at all in his discussion of the myth of the given. Hicks reconstructs a key argument in “Empiricism and the
Philosophy of Mind” (EPM) in a way intended both to avoid any reference to foundationalism and to do a more effective job than does Sellars’s original argument in uncovering a dilemma for traditional empiricism. The present paper challenges Hicks on two fronts. First, it argues that Hicks’s reconstruction is not more successful than Sellars’s original argument. Second, a review of relevant passages in makes clear that the critique of foundationalism is a prominent aspect of Sellars’s multi-faceted attack on the given. The conclusion reasserts the significance of Sellars’s place in the history of twentieth-century analytic philosophy.
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