Sellars, Wilfrid Stalker (1912–89)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD065-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Wilfrid Sellars was among the most systematic and innovative of post-war American philosophers. His critical destruction of the ‘Myth of the Given’ established him as a leading voice in the Anglo-American critique of ‘the Cartesian concept of mind’ and in the corresponding shift of attention from the categories of thought to public language. His own positive views were naturalistic, combining a robust scientific realism with a thoroughgoing nominalism which rejected both traditional abstract entities and ontologically primitive meanings. In their place, Sellars elucidated linguistic meaning and the content of thought in terms of a sophisticated theory of conceptual roles, instantiated in the linguistic conduct of speakers and transmitted by modes of cultural inheritance. He combined this theory with a form of ‘verbal behaviourism’ to produce the first version of functionalism in the contemporary philosophy of mind. Besides his profoundly original philosophical contributions, his long career as a distinguished teacher and influential editor earned him justified acclaim as one of the definitive figures of the post-war period.

    Citing this article:
    Rosenberg, Jay F.. Sellars, Wilfrid Stalker (1912–89), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD065-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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