Sellars, Wilfrid Stalker (1912–89)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD065-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

1. Life and works

As the son of the eminent Critical Realist philosopher Roy Wood Sellars, Wilfrid Sellars’ own philosophical calling was almost preordained. Educated at the University of Michigan and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, he held positions at the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota and Yale University before becoming University Professor of Philosophy and Research Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, where he remained from 1963 until his death. In 1950, with Herbert Feigl, he founded the first scholarly journal explicitly devoted to analytic philosophy, Philosophical Studies, edited jointly until 1971 and by Sellars alone for three more years.

Sellars saw post-war philosophers as confronted with two ‘images’, each of which laid claim to being a (potentially) complete picture of man-in-the-world – the ‘manifest image’, which had been the focal concern of ‘perennial philosophy’ from Plato and Aristotle to Strawson and Austin, and the ‘scientific image’, a complex understanding of man-in-the-world still in the process of emerging from the fruits of theoretical reasoning. Philosophy was challenged to explore the possibility of a ‘stereoscopic understanding’, in which the two images would become ‘fused’ into a single synoptic vision. Sellars’ writings are consequently dialectical and synthesizing, typically undercutting or evading accepted dichotomies and attempting to mediate conflicting intuitions. They are shaped by the standing conviction that it is a philosopher’s duty not merely to show that a received position has gone wrong, but also to explain why and how it could ever have appeared to be right.

Citing this article:
Rosenberg, Jay F.. Life and works. 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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