Peirce and Sellars on Nonconceptual Content

In Luca Corti & Antonio Nunziante (eds.), Sellars and the History of Modern Philosophy. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 125-143 (2018)
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Whereas Charles Peirce’s pragmatist account of truth has been much discussed, his theory of perception still offers a rich mine of insights. Peirce presented a ‘two-ply’ view of perception, which combines an entirely precognitive ‘percept’ with a ‘perceptual judgment’ that is located in the space of reasons. Having previously argued that Peirce outdoes Robert Brandom in achieving a hyper-inferentialism (“Making it Explicit and Clear”, APQ, 2008), I now wish to examine his philosophy in the light of inferentialism’s ‘original fount’ – Wilfrid Sellars. Does Peirce’s percept commit him to the Myth of the Given? I argue that it does not, because although the percept is understood as nonepistemic, it is not understood to justify the perceptual judgment. Rather, the perceptual judgement indexes the percept. I explain this original view, then argue that Peirce and Sellars actually have a great deal in common in their rare diachronically mediated yet at the same time direct perceptual realism, and the ‘critical commonsensist’ epistemology to which it gives rise.
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