Perceptual knowledge: explorations and extensions of the Sellarsian framework
The aim of my thesis is to outline a theory of epistemic justification for beliefs formed by sense perception. The project takes as its starting point the philosophical framework of Wilfrid Sellars. I begin with a discussion of the notion of the epistemological given that is appealed to in a wide variety of philosophical theories, and especially in theories of perceptual knowledge. Sellars famously claimed that "the given is a myth." However, there does not seem to always be common understanding about what givenness is. I construct a novel and useful way of characterizing givenness that both helps us to be able to identify different varieties of givenness in different theories, and enables us to see why Sellars thinks that it is a myth. I use this analysis to explain how Sellars would respond to some recent proponents of givenness. I also examine Sellars's own positive account of perceptual knowledge which avoids the given. I argue against common misunderstandings of Sellars's view, including the idea that Sellars is opposed to the idea of so-called "foundational" or "basic" beliefs. After separating the important insights from the parts of Sellars's view that are objectionable, I outline a theory of perceptual knowledge called perceptual responsibilism that is Sellarsian in spirit while diverging from Sellars's own view at some key points. At the heart of the view I defend is the idea that my being justified in believing (e.g.,) that there's a cat in front of me is due to the fact that I am epistemically responsible for its being the case that that judgment is likely to be correct. The account incorporates elements of externalism while still capturing what I take to be one of the leading insights of internalism, namely, that epistemology involves a deontological sort of normativity.
- Philosophy