‘Wilfrid Sellars, Philosophical Semantics & Synthetic Necessary Truths’ by Ken Westphal, Bosporus University, Department of Philosophy
DATE: Friday, March 4
One feature of Sellars’s ‘philosophical’ semantics (EAE ¶¶40, 67) concerns ‘syn- thetic necessary truths’ (SM 2:53, 3:18–19), a direct successor to C. I. Lewis’s (MWO, 1929: 227–9, 254–8) relativised pragmatic a priori. Following Reichenbach, Lewis and Parrini, I argue (briefly) that the relativised synthetic a priori required for natural science cannot be merely linguistic (§3). I then argue in detail that the relevant, relativised synthetic a priori cannot be merely meta-linguistic (§§4–7). So doing identifies the key distinction between empiricism and pragmatism; the role of that distinction in contrasting Lewis’s robust pragmatic realism in MWO(1929) to his empiricist relapse in AKV (1946); the key contrast between the robust pragmatic realism of Classical American pragmatism and meta-linguistically inclined neo-pragmatism; and shows that Brandom’s (2015) inferentialist semantics is neo-pragmatist, not pragmatically realist; and that Sellars developed his philosophical semantics on behalf of robust pragmatic realism. Unlike Brandom, Sellars made his way back to robustly realist classical pragmatism by attending closely to Carnap’s use of his formal semantics and its methodological links to Carnap’s explication of conceptual ‘explication’. Carnap’s explication of ‘explication’ reconnects to Lewis’s pragmatic realist semantics in MWO.