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Michael Williams

Science and Sensibility: McDowell and Sellars on Perceptual Experience

John McDowell’s Mind and World has three main elements: a problem, its solution and an account of the deep background to the problem that explains why McDowell’s solution is either not considered or dismissed.  In developing these elements—and particularly with respect to the first two—McDowell generously acknowledges his debts to Sellars, though he also puts forward some serous criticisms of Sellars’s final position. So how close are Sellars and McDowell.  A case can be made that they are very close, especially if  we look beyond Mind and World to McDowell’s Woodbridge Lectures.  We can, it seems, find Sellarsian anticipations of all three elements in McDowell’s view.  But appearances are misleading.  Sellars and McDowell are at odds in fundamental ways, and their differences spring ultimately from deeply divergent conceptions of the task of philosophy in our time.