Sellars on Functionalism and Normativity

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The term ‘functionalism’ is usually heard in connection with the philosophy of mind or cognition. The functionalism of Wilfrid Sellars, however, is in the first instance as response to the worries about the metaphysics not of mental states, but of meaning. Only late in his career did Sellars explore the possibility of extending his functionalism into an account of cognition. It has been suggested, though, that Sellars’ extension of his functionalist theory into subpersonal territory is not successful. In particular, there is a worry abroad that in order to be a functionalist about cognitive states, Sellars must succumb to a special form of the Myth of the Given. In this essay I will review and elucidate what I take to be the structure of Sellars’ functionalism, defending it from this worry. I will suggest a resolution of some apparent textual contradictions based in part on the chronology of Sellars’ writing, with the assumption that later writings express Sellars’ more nuanced views. Draft of 2009.
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