‘Psychological Nominalism’ and the Given, from Abstract Entities to Animal Minds

In In: Patrick J. Reider, ed., Wilfrid Sellars, Idealism and Realism: Understanding Psychological Nominalism (London and New York: Bloomsbury), 2017: pp. 19–39. London: pp. 19-39 (2017)
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ABSTRACT: Sellars formulated his thesis of 'psychological nominalism' in two very different ways: (1) most famously as the thesis that 'all awareness of sorts…is a linguistic affair', but also (2) as a certain thesis about the 'psychology of the higher processes'. The latter thesis denies the standard view that relations to abstract entities are required in order to explain human thought and intentionality, and asserts to the contrary that all such mental phenomena can in principle ‘be accounted for causally' without any use of normative terms in the explanation. Recent 'Hegelian Sellarsians' such as Rorty, McDowell, and Brandom have argued that the holistic, normative themes in (1) support various non-realist or rather (German) 'idealist but common-sense realist' outlooks. By contrast, Sellars' own defenses of (2) reveal psychological nominalism itself to be a naturalistic empiricism intended to sustain the normative-holistic themes in (1) within an exhaustively scientific naturalist conception of reality.
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