Chrucky's Way Out for Sellars

David Benfield

Montclair State

This is a commentary on my paper, "Linguistic Idealism," (distilled from chapter 5 of my dissertation) which I presented at the New Jersey Regional Philosophy Conference (Douglas College, 1991). The commentary has the virtue of being both succinct and accurate. Printed with the permission of Professor Benfield. (Andrew Chrucky)

Dr. Chrucky is concerned with the following argument, often attributed to Sellars by his critics:

1. All awareness is propositional.
2. All propositions are composed of concepts.
3. All concepts are linguistically mediated.
4. All awareness is linguistically mediated
Dr. Chrucky finds the conclusion of the argument objectionable and something he would like to protect Sellars from having to embrace. His strategy is first to admit that the critics are not unfair in attributing this argument to Sellars but then to go on to show that a close and sympathetic reading of Sellars allows one to divide the argument into two related arguments, whose conclusions are much less shocking and unacceptable. They are generated by noting that for Sellars there are two kinds of awareness: awareness built upon or around linguistic structures and a lower level (called "rs" by Dr. Chrucky) sort of awareness built upon or around sub-conceptual structures. Both kinds of awareness are propositional and hence the original claim, stated in premise 1., survives. These arguments would be:
5. All conceptual awareness is propositional.
6. All propositions are composed of concepts.
7. All concepts are linguistically mediated.
8. All conceptual awareness is linguistically mediated.

9. All rs-awareness is propositional.
10. All rs-propositions are composed of rs-concepts.
11. No rs-concepts are linguistically mediated.
12. No rs-awareness is linguistically mediated.
Dr. Chrucky spends the remainder of his paper defending the idea that it is possible to make sense of the notion of propositional non-linguistic rs-awareness. This leads him to propose that we think of rs-awareness as sensations with propositional structure. If propositionalized sensations are intelligible in non-linguistic organisms, then Dr. Chrucky has indeed found a way for a Sellarsian to hang onto a version of the first premise without having to accept the seemingly counter-intuitive conclusion that all awareness is linguistically mediated.

For me, the effort to preserve the propositional structure of awareness is not sufficiently motivated. Perhaps, I need to think more deeply about organisms which clearly have knowledge and which clearly do not have it by means of a conventional language. Maybe the best way to account for this knowledge is in terms of sensations which are propositional in nature. I simply am not certain that preserving the propositional nature of their awareness would be my number one priority.

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