Volume 50, Issue 1, Spring 2022
Inferentialism on Naturalized Grounds
Wilfrid Sellars on Science and the Mind
This paper explores some ideas of Wilfrid Sellars to raise two difficulties for a naturalistic approach to the mind. The first difficulty, which is methodological, is a corollary of Sellars’s distinction between two images of man-in-the-world, the manifest and the scientific image. For Sellars, taking science seriously requires that we think of it as constructing a unified image of man-in-the-world of its own. I argue that it is the rivalry between the manifest and the scientific image which gives rise to the mind-body-problem. The challenge for a naturalistic solution to the mind-body-problem is that it is not legitimate to isolate single scientific results from their theoretical context in order to integrate them piecemeal into the manifest image. According to Sellars, a satisfactory solution to the mind-body-problem must attempt nothing less than a fusion of both images which somehow respects and preserves the unity of each. The second, substantial difficulty for a naturalistic approach to the mind is that of coming to terms with the normativity of the mental. Many interpreters take Sellars to hold that normativity sets the mental apart from the rest of nature. Against this I argue that according to Sellars the living is governed by norms of its own. It follows that normativity cannot serve as the mark of the mental. I argue that according to Sellars the distinguishing feature of the mental lies elsewhere, namely in the way in which normative force comes about. Unlike biological norms, the norms of thought owe their force to a common practice of mutual evaluation. However, the assumption that there are norms in animate nature should make it easier for naturalists to accept that the mental is characterized by norms of its own.