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Meaning and mapping : Sellars on predication and representation Townshend, Ewan


Wilfrid Sellars (1912-1989) developed a broadly deflationary, non-relational analysis of traditional semantic vocabulary. However, Sellars also developed a broadly inflationary, “correspondence” theory of “matter-of-factual” truth and linguistic representation, in which language-world relations play an important role. By contemporary lights, there is a certain tension in the combination of theses Sellars’s advances, concentrated in his claim (in Science and Metaphysics) that “the criterion of the correctness of the performance of asserting a basic matter-of-factual proposition is the correctness of the proposition qua picture” [ch.V, §57]. This paper addresses the tension in Sellars’s project, in an attempt to reconcile the analysis of semantic vocabulary with the account of “picturing” as a natural-order, language-world relation. I first situate Sellars’s theory of predication against the backdrop of theses advanced by Russell and early Wittgenstein. I then present Sellars’s analysis of semantic vocabulary and draw out his (albeit skeletal) account of the relation of semantic vocabulary to descriptive vocabulary, here proposing that a causal, anthropological account of the proper functioning of ‘...means...’ is supposed to fill an apparent gap most recently addressed by Lionel Shapiro (2014). Finally, I defend Sellars’s distinction between pictorial structure and logical structure, arguing that it stems from a disagreement with Wittgenstein of the Tractatus and yields a response to Irad Kimhi’s (2018) criticisms of compositionalist picture-theoretic accounts of propositional complexity.

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