Sellars on thoughts and beliefs

Mitch Parsell

pp. 261-275

In this paper, I examine Wilfrid Sellars' famous Myth of Jones. I argue the myth provides an ontologically austere account of thoughts and beliefs that makes sense of the full range of our folk psychological abilities. Sellars' account draws on both Gilbert Ryle and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ryle provides Sellars with the resources to make thoughts metaphysically respectable and Wittgenstein the resources to make beliefs rationally criticisable. By combining these insights into a single account, Sellars is able to see reasons as causes and, hence, to respect the full range of our folk psychological generalisations. This is achieved by modelling folk psychological practice on theoretical reasoning. But despite frequent misinterpretation, Sellars does not claim that thoughts and beliefs are theoretical concepts. Thus, folk psychological explanation is not theoretical, and hence, it is not replaceable by scientific theory. Hence, scientific concepts will not eliminate folk psychological concepts. Thus, Sellars avoids eliminativism.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-010-9188-5

Full citation:

Parsell, M. (2011). Sellars on thoughts and beliefs. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 10 (2), pp. 261-275.

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