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Willem deVries

The Reflexive and the Sensory in Transcendental Empiricism

John McDowell is right to argue that, like himself, Wilfrid Sellars is also a transcendental empiricist (even if ‘transcendental empiricism' seems to be an oxymoron). McDowell locates the source of Sellars's transcendentalism in his rejection of atomism. I argue that in order to understand why rejecting atomism is not the same as rejecting empiricism itself, one must look closely at the specific character of Sellars's holism. This is principally determined by a set of reflexivity requirements on the linguistic, the conceptual, and the epistemic. These reflexivity requirements, in turn, are rooted in Sellars's conception of the normative. Finally, only against this background can we really see what is at stake in Sellars's and McDowell's differing treatments of the sensory.