In the Space of Reasons: Selected Essays of Wilfrid Sellars

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Wilfrid Sellars (1912-1989) was, in the opinion of many, the most important American philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century. He was, Richard Rorty writes, "as original a mind as C. S. Peirce, and it has taken almost as long for the importance of his ideas to be appreciated." This collection, coedited by Sellars's chief interpreter and intellectual heir, should do much to elucidate and clearly establish the significance of this difficult thinker's vision for contemporary philosophy.

The volume presents the most readable of Sellars's essays in a sequence that illuminates what Robert Brandom calls the "inferentialist" conception of meaning at the heart of his work. This conception, laid out in the early essays, is deployed in various epistemological contexts throughout the book so that, upon arriving at the concluding papers on Kant, the reader has been given a tour d'horizon not only of the central topics of philosophy of mind and language, but of much of the history of philosophy as well--and, with this, a sense of what a shifting of analytic philosophy from its Humean into its Kantian stage would entail.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Rorty
Sellars was as original a mind as C.S. Peirce, and it has taken almost as long for the importance of his ideas to be appreciated. Once this collection appears in print, we shall see articles about Sellars popping up all over the journals, just as articles about Peirce began popping up after Hartshorne and Weiss had finished their editorial work. The editors of the collection have made very judicious choices about what to republish. They have arranged the essays in an illuminating sequence so as to make clear that the heart of Sellars's thought is what Brandom calls his "inferentialist" conception of meaning.
Inferentialism was shadowed forth darkly in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, but Sellars was the first to make it explicit and to grasp its full implications. It represents a radical break with the representationalist way of thinking of mental and linguistic items that has been dominant in Western philosophy since Descartes. The essays in this volume, if read in sequence, gradually unfold to the reader the implications of this non-Cartesian outlook.
As this collection goes along, the inferentialist position sketched in the first two essays is restated in various contexts so that, by the time the concluding papers on Kant are reached, the reader has been given a tour d'horizon not only of the central topics of philosophy of mind and language, but much of the history of philosophy as well.
If analytic philosophers were to come to accept inferentialism, they would have to rethink almost every topic that they have discussed, from intentionality to meaning-change to indeterminacy of reference to mind-body identity to Kant's transcendental ego. There would be a sea change in philosophy far more profound than that caused by Quine's "Two Dogmas." This book, for the first time, gives them the opportunity to study the case for bringing about this change, as that case was presented by the philosopher who first realized inferentialism's full implications. I very much hope that it will be published quickly, since I believe that its appearance will have an important influence on the course of philosophical thought.
Review of Metaphysics - Willem A. Devries
Here are central works of the most profound and fertile American philosopher of the post-war era: everyone should have these essays.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674024984
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 1,297,994
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Wilfrid Sellars (1912-1989) graduated from the University of Michigan in 1933. He taught at Iowa, Minnesota, and Yale, and was University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh from 1963 until his death. His works include Science and Metaphysics (1968) and Science, Perception, and Reality (1963).

Kevin Scharp is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at The Ohio State University.

Robert B. Brandom is Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy and Fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Table of Contents

Editors' Introduction     vii
Editorial Notes     xxvii
Language and Meaning
Inference and Meaning     3
Some Reflections on Language Games     28
Language as Thought and as Communication     57
Meaning as Functional Classification: A Perspective on the Relation of Syntax to Semantics     81
Abstract Entities
Naming and Saying     103
Grammar and Existence: A Preface to Ontology     126
Abstract Entities     163
Mind, Language, and the World
Being and Being Known     209
The Lever of Archimedes     229
Some Reflections on Thoughts and Things     258
Mental Events     282
Science and the Mind
Phenomenalism     303
The Identity Approach to the Mind-Body Problem     350
Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man     369
"...this I or he or it (the thing) which thinks..."     411
Some Remarks on Kant's Theory of Experience     437
The Role of Imagination in Kant's Theory of Experience     454
Credits     469
Index     473
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