Inferentialism, Naturalism, and the Ought-To-Bes of Perceptual Cognition

In Vojtěch Kolman Ondřej Beran (ed.), From Rules to Meanings: New Essays on Inferentialism. New York: Routledge. pp. 308–22 (2018)
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Abstract: Any normative inferentialist view confronts a set of challenges in the form of how to account for the sort of ordinary empirical descriptive vocabulary that is involved, paradigmatically, in our noninferential perceptual responses and knowledge claims. This chapter lays out that challenge, and then argues that Sellars’ original multilayered account of such noninferential responses in the context of his normative inferentialist semantics and epistemology shows how the inferentialist can plausibly handle those sorts of cases without stretching the notion of inference beyond its standard uses. Finally, it is suggested that for Sellars there were deeply naturalistic motivations for his own normative inferentialism, though the latter raises further questions as to whether this really represents, as Sellars thought, a genuinely scientific naturalist outlook on meaning and conceptual cognition.

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James O'Shea
University College Dublin


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