Empiricism,Perceptual Knowledge, Normativity and Realism: Essays on the Anniversary of“Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind”


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.”