Reflections on American Philosophy From Within

Roy Wood Sellars

FOREWORD

Philosophy should seek a clear‑cut framework. It is this that I have sought. The principle is that sensations guide perceiving in action and, at the human, cognitive level, give rise to well‑founded facts about the objects perceived.

What is involved? As I explored perceiving, as a referential act, I connected it with directed response. I called this the from‑and‑to circuit. When I see a tree, I find that I am looking at it and using my visual sensations to disclose it. The visual field is not terminal, as it was regarded by traditional empiricism, but informative. It is the external object which we are concerned with in perceiving. The function of the sense‑organs was not understood by philosophers, I fear. Nature was too ingenious for them. A tradition got started, ending, in our day, in positivism and phenomenalism.

The path I took was towards a new type of direct realism. I call it a referentially direct realism. Sensations function in perceiving as informational. There is a good deal of selective activity here, as the psychologist knows. And human cognizing is an achievement emerging from this setting. Its foundational postulate is that the mechanism of sense-perception furthers the transmission of information in the way of appearing or manifesting. And this is used as evidence. On its basis we sensuously think the object we are reacting to and develop our thought conceptually and linguistically into facts about. Common sense takes this natural road and then science takes over at a new level.

I have come to speak here of the "fallacy" of the unthought‑of possibility. Perry, Dewey, Montague, Blanshard and Schneider seem to have thought of me as a sort of maverick. They never saw what I was driving at. What I was doing was to undercut both presentationalism and representationalism. I was working towards a new kind of direct realism.

If I am a little hard on various movements of the time, it is because I believe that much of their ingenuity is misplaced. Young philosophers work hard but start from traditional premises. As I see it, phenomenologists and existentialists have no clear epistemology. Neither like empiricism, evolution and naturalism. I have protested, more than once, at what I called the neo‑colonialism of recent American philosophy. Peirce, alone, seems to have survived. A recent book jumps over critical realism altogether and devotes itself to logical positivism. Now I take logical positivism to have been more of the nature of a crusade of Viennese scientists who did not like German speculative extravagances. They seem to have known little about epistemological explorations in the United States. But, then, as I have indicated, many young American philosophers spoke of a stalemate here.

Some people have condemned me for being a materialist, even though an emergent or non‑reductive one. And so I will end with something shocking. As I point out, Lenin wanted to start from things but found sensations intervening. Passmore rather taunts him with it. So do other empiricists. But I have shown, I think, that perceiving does start with things and that sensations function within it. I think human knowing is a wonderful achievement but that it emerged out of a biological situation. This book is, in part, an intellectual autobiography; in part, an oriented critique of various positions of great vogue.

Oct. 12, 1967, Ann Arbor

Roy Wood Sellars


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1 — The Nature of the Project                                1

Science and Philosophy .....................................................    3
The General Plan of the Book ............................................    8

Chapter 2 — Stages in the American Scene                        15

Edwards and Emerson ......................................................   16
Bowne's Personalism ........................................................   19
A Few Remarks on Howison ............................................   22
Royce's Absolute Idealism ................................................   23

Chapter 3 — Pragmatism: Peirce, James and Dewey        27

C. S. Peirce ......................................................................   29
William James ...................................................................   32
John Dewey .....................................................................    36
A Note on Mead ..............................................................   39

Chapter 4 — The Realistic Movement                                 43

The New Realism and Its Critics .......................................   47
Montague and Critical Realism  .........................................   49
Schneider on Realism .......................................................    54

Chapter 5 — Critical Realism, Evolutionary Materialism
and Humanism
                                                                   57

Critical Realism as Gateway .............................................    58
Evolutionary Materialism ..................................................    64
Humanism: Valuations and Commitments ..........................    68

Chapter 6 — The British Scene                                            73

A Diversity of Traditions ...................................................    74
Russell's Type of Empiricism .............................................    75
G. E. Moore and Analysis .................................................    79
A Few Words about Ryle .................................................    82
Price and Broad ...............................................................     83

Chapter 7 — Positivism, Logic and Language                    87

A Few Words on Wittgenstein .........................................     91
Introspective Language ....................................................     95
Comment on Ayer's Phenomenalism .................................     98
Blanshard's Idealism .........................................................     99

Chapter 8 — Intersecting Dialectical Materialism             101

The Development of Dialectical Materialism .....................    102
The Ups and Downs of Dialectical Materialism ................    104
Panpsychism as an Alternative .........................................    110
Lenin and Epistemology ...................................................    116

Chapter 9 — Thomism and Evolutionary Naturalism        119

Epistemology and Ontology .............................................    120
Maritain ..........................................................................    121
Creationalism and Gilson .................................................    126
Nothingness and Creation ................................................    127
What Is Existence? ..........................................................    128
A Sophisticated Kind of Materialism ................................    133

Chapter 10 — The Human Situation and Existentialism    135

The Rise of Existentialism ................................................     136
Husserl and Sartre ..........................................................     139
Sartre's Main Doctrine ....................................................     140
Marcel ...........................................................................     142
Jaspers ...........................................................................     145
Heidegger ......................................................................      149

Chapter 11 — Religious Existentialism, Secularism
and Humanism
                                                                   153

The Next Step in Religion ................................................     153
Tillich and Whitehead ......................................................     155
What Is Man? .................................................................     157
Perspective .....................................................................     158
Tillich Again ....................................................................     161
Significance and Fact .......................................................    167
Hartshorne and Whitehead ..............................................     169
Trends and Depth Psychology .........................................     172

Chapter 12 — In What Sense Do Value Judgments and
Moral Judgments Have Objective Import?
                         175


SOURCE: Sellars, Roy Wood. Reflections on American Philosophy From Within. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969. ix, 202 p. Foreword, pp. v-vi; Table of Contents, pp. vii-ix.


American Philosophy Study Guide
includes the following & more:

Chapter 1: The Nature of the Project
Chapter 8 — Intersecting Dialectical Materialism

Some Reflections of Roy Wood Sellars

"Epilogue on Berkeley" by Roy Wood Sellars

Principles of Emergent Realism: Philosophical Essays by Roy Wood Sellars

"The New Materialism" by Roy Wood Sellars

Philosophy for the Future: The Quest of Modern Materialism: Foreword & Contents


Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Coming Attractions | Book News
Bibliography | Mini-Bibliographies | Study Guides
My Writings
| Other Authors' Texts | Philosophical Quotations
Images & Sounds | External Links

CONTACT Ralph Dumain

Uploaded 21 April 2003

Site ©1999-2008 Ralph Dumain