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Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Volume 72, Issue 1, January 2006

Jay F. Rosenberg
Pages 157-173

Still Mythic After All Those Years
On Alston’s Latest Defense of the Given

Wilfrid Sellars' conclusion in "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" that "the Given" is a "Myth" quickly elicited philosophical opposition and remains contentious fifty years later. William Alston has challenged that conclusion on several occasions by attempting to devise an acceptable account of perception committed to the givenness of perceived objects. His most recent challenge advances a "Theory of Appearing" which posits irreducible non-conceptual relations, ostensibly overlooked by Sellars, e.g., of "looking red", between the subject and the object perceived, that can playa justificatory role vis-à-vis the corresponding beliefs, e.g., that the object is red. I argue that Alston undermines his positive plausibility arguments by first blurring and then ignoring crucial differences among various looks-concepts, and that his own putative "phenomenal" looks-concept demonstrably cannot play the justificatory role that he envisions for it. Both his critique of Sellars' arguments and his own alternative proposal thus fail on all fronts.