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Sellars’s Core Critique of C. I. Lewis: Against the Equation of Aboutness with Givenness

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Many have taken Sellars’s critique of empiricism in “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind” (EPM) to be aimed at his teacher C. I. Lewis. But if so, why do the famous arguments of its opening sections carry so little force against Lewis’s views? Understandably, some respond by denying that Lewis’s epistemology is among the positions targeted by Sellars. But this is incorrect. Indeed, Sellars had earlier offered more trenchant (if already familiar) critiques of Lewis’s epistemology. What is original about EPM is that it criticizes empiricist positions like Lewis’s not because of their foundationalism, but because of their psychologism about meaning. Since psychologism turns out to be unacceptable by Lewis’s own lights, EPM has a compelling (if implicit) critique of Lewis to offer after all, one that strikes at the heart of his philosophical system.

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Published Online: 2022-09-28

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