Though Wilfrid Sellars portrayed himself as a latter-day Kantian, I argue here that he was at least as much a Hegelian. Several themes Sellars shares with Hegel are investigated: the sociality and normativity of the intentional, categorial change, the rejection of the given, and especially their denial of an unknowable thing-in-itself. They are also united by an emphasis on the unity of things–the belief that things do “hang together.” Hegel’s unity is idealist; Sellars’ is physicalist; the differences are substantial, but so are the resonances.
Analytic philosophy is rediscovering Hegel. This essay examines a particularly strong thread of new analytic Hegelianism, sometimes called ‘Pittsburgh Hegelianism’, which began with the work of Wilfrid Sellars. In trying to bring Anglo-American philosophy from its empiricist phase into a more sophisticated, corrected Kantianism, Sellars moved in substantially Hegelian directions. Sellars’ work has been extended, and revised by his Pittsburgh colleagues John McDowell and Robert B. Brandom. The sociality and historicity of reason, the proper treatment of space and time, conceptual holism, inferentialism, the reality of conceptual structure, the structure of experience, and the nature of normativity are the central concerns of Pittsburgh Hegelianism.
I argue that John McDowell’s attempt to refute Wilfrid Sellars’s two-component analysis of perceptual experience and substitute for it a conception according to which perceptual experience is the “conceptual shaping of sensory consciousness” fails. McDowell does not recognize the subtle dialectic in Sellars’s thought between transcendental and empirical considerations in favor of a substantive conception of sense impressions, and McDowell’s own proposal seems to empty the notion of sensory consciousness of any real significance.
Three forms of trust: topic-focused trust, general trust, and personal trust are distinguished. Personal trust is argued to be the most fundamental form of trust, deeply connected with the construction of one’s self. Information technology has posed new problems for us in assessing and developing appropriate forms of the trust that is central to our personhood.
Sellars was committed to the irreducibility of the semantic, the intentional, and the normative. Nevertheless, he was also committed to naturalism, which is prima facie at odds with his other theses. This paper argues that Sellars maintained his naturalism by being linguistically pluralistic but ontologically monistic. There are irreducibly distinct forms of discourse, because there is an array of distinguishable functions that language and thought perform, but we are not ontologically committed to the array of apparently non‐natural entities or relations mentioned in the metalanguage. However, there is an underlying relation between language and world presupposed by all empirically meaningful language. In his early work Sellars sought to describe this relation in linguistic terms as a form of “pure description,” but inadequacies in that notion drove him towards the naturalistic relation between language and world that he came to call “picturing.”