In The Philosophy of Wilfrid Sellars: Queries and Extensions, edited by Joseph C. Pitt, 1978. (pp. 25-39)



While the recent attempts of Thomas Nagel and Alan Gewirth to forward the basically Kantian enterprise of showing that altruism is a rational requirement on action have been much discussed by moral philosophers, Wilfrid Sellars' attempt to argue for a similar thesis has been largely ignored.1 Whatever the reasons why philosophers have ignored his views, it is surely unfortunate. Sellars' defense of this thesis is carried on with a full awareness of the difficulties of such an undertaking. More importantly, he develops his defense of altruism within the context of the comprehensive theory of practical reason he has developed over the years, and this theoretical background makes his views on ethics of special interest. Indeed, it is Sellars' attempt to develop his ethical views within the context of this theory of practical reason that turns his writings on ethics into something of a dialectical thicket, and this might have deterred some from attending more closely to them.

I have attempted EIsewhere to provide a large-scale map of this terrain, and I will forswear further work of that kind here.2 I would like instead to set out as briefly as I can Sellars' defense of the thesis that altruism is a rational requirement on action, and then to treat it to some critical attention. One difficulty of such an undertaking is that one does not find in Sellars a single crucial argument for this thesis. Indeed, the main body of his ethical theory provides not so much a defense of this thesis as it does a context in which the thesis can be sprung on the reader. This will necessitate my spending some time setting out the main outline of Sellars' ethical theory in order that his defense of altruism can be seen as an integral part of it. A second difficulty is that Sellars does not himself frame his discussion of the foundations of ethics in terms of a defense of altruism. In fact, he never, to my knowledge, uses the expression 'altruism' in developing his ethical views. Nevertheless, it is clear that one of the fundamental aims of his ethical theory is to show that it is a rational requirement on action that agents attend to the welfare of their fellows. It is surely legitimate then to speak of his aims in ethical theory as fundamentally like those of Nagel and Gewirth.

My strategy here will be, in section I, to sketch in the main lines of his ethical theory relevant to his discussion of altruism and in the following two sections to raise two related lines of criticism. The thrust of these lines of criticism will be to suggest that there are certain difficulties with Sellars' use of the notion of intrinsic reasonableness to characterize intentions, and that these difficulties call into question his overall defense of altruism. In the final section, I suggest how some of Sellars' insights might be accommodated, although in ways that surely wouldn't satisfy Sellars, within a broadly Humean ethical framework.


Sellars' ethical theory represents an attempt to do justice to what, for moral philosophers in the rationalist tradition, are the two most important features of moral judgments. First, moral judgments are taken to be practical judgments in that assent to them gives rise to reasons for action. Second, moral judgments are taken to be cognitive judgments in that they can be assessed with regard to their truth or falsity in a way similar to that in which straightforwardly factual judgments can be assessed. Notoriously, there are difficulties in sustaining both of these views simultaneously.3 If the practical force of moral judgments is accounted for by construing them as expressions of attitudes, imperatives or intentions, then it is difficult to show how such judgments can have the requisite cognitive character. If, on the other hand, their cognitive character is accounted for by construing them as disguised factual judgments or as the objects of some special faculty of intellectual intuition, it is difficult to see how such judgments can give rise in the requisite fashion to reasons for action.

Sellars is well aware of the difficulties of accounting for both of these features of moral judgment simultaneously, and the dialectical development of his views in his most important writings on ethics represents an attempt to overcome these difficulties. His basic strategy is to construe moral judgments as expressions of intentio(EIs), thus accounting for their practical character, and then to show how EIs can under certain conditions have a kind of cognitive character.

There are two distinguishable problems that arise from the attempt to account for the cognitive character of moral judgments while construing them as EIs. One must deal first with the lack of intersubjectivity of EIs: Ordinary EIs are, as Sellars puts it, "abidingly egocentric".4 Two persons cannot express the same intention. If we attend only to the surface grammatical form in which intentions are expressed it may appear that there is no difficulty of this sort. Thus, using Sellars' special schema for representing EIs, we might have:

(1) Shall Jones (Jones will wash the car)
(2) Shall Smith (Jones will wash the car)
Though it appears here that Smith and Jones are expressing the same intention, Sellars claims, and surely rightly, that appearances are misleading.5 While the intention expressed in (1) is the straightforward intention that Jones perform a certain action, the intention expressed in (2) relates to that action in a quite different way. What Smith is really intending is that he do whatever action may be open to him to bring it about that Jones washes the car. The actions that would 'cash' Smith's intention are surely quite different from the actions that would 'cash' Jones' intention.

This special egocentricity of intentions is signalled according to Sellars by the lack of an external negation with EIs. Thus, ought judgments give rise to the following four irreducible logical forms:

(3) Jones ought to do A
(4) Jones ought not to do A
(5) It is not the case that Jones ought to do A.
(6) It is not the case that Jones ought not to do A.
While with EIs there are only two logical forms possible:
(7) I shall do A.
(8) I shall not do A
We may, of course, say of Jones that it is not the case that he intends to do A or that it is not the case that he doesn't intend to do A but in saying this we are merely denying that he has certain intentions. In using negative locutions of this kind to deny the presence of an intention, we are not implying that these same locutions could be used to express an intention. Thus, while ascriptions of intentions can have an external negation, expressions of intention cannot.

The fact that ordinary EIs lack intersubjectivity has important implications for any account of moral judgments that takes intentions as the model for such judgments. If moral judgments, like ordinary EIs, were essentially egocentric, then neither real moral agreement nor real moral disagreement would be possible. Moral agreement wouldn't be possible because two persons could not express the same moral judgment: moral disagreement would not be possible because access to external negation would be denied to persons expressing moral judgments. The problem of intersubjectivity, then, is the problem of construing EIs in such a way that they can play the intersubjective role that Sellars takes moral judgments to play in ordinary thought and talk.

The second problem arising for Sellars' attempt to construe moral judgments as EIs is what we might call the problem of objectivity, and it arises as a consequence of the conceptual fact that ordinary EIs cannot be assessed as either true or false. While ascriptions of intentions may be true or false, depending on whether the person to whom the intention is ascribed in fact has the appropriate intention, expressions of intentions can be neither. Expressions of intentions can have properties that are similar in certain respects to truth and falsity. Thus, we may speak of someone's expression of intention as being misleading, or deceptive. More importantly, EIs may be inconsistent. Thus, if someone intends to do A, and knows that his bringing about A' is a necessary condition of his doing A, but he doesn't intend to bring about A', there exists a certain inconsistency in his practical thought. He should (the 'should' of reasonableness) either give up his intention to do A, or adopt the intention to do A'. But neither the possibility of deceptive EIs nor the possibility of inconsistent EIs can provide room for the notion of truth or falsity with regard to EIs.

The problem of objectivity then is the problem of construing EIs in such a way that they can have the properties of truth and falsity, properties that Sellars takes moral judgments to have.

Sellars' solutions to these two problems both involve special features of EIs that are associated with an agent's involvement in communities. He argues, to put the point oversimply, that insofar as a rational agent comes to see himself as a member of a community of other agents, his intending takes on an intersubjective form, and, indeed, he comes necessarily to have intersubjective intentions with a special, determinate content. The intersubjective form of intending in these cases solves the problem of intersubjectivity while the determinate content of the required intentions solves the problem of objectivity.

The intersubjective form of intending that arises through group involvement is what Sellars calls we-intending.6 Thus, he claims, Jones is not only able to express intentions from his personal point of view, but Jones can also express intentions from the point of view of some group to which he belongs. The linguistic form in which these group intentions could be captured is:

(9) Tom: We shall do what we can to end the war.
(10) Dick: We shall do what we can to end the war.
And Sellars says of these EIs:
These statements in the first person plural have the interesting properties that (a) they express the speakers' intention, yet (b) the intentions expressed are in the strongest sense the same.7
Thus, Tom and Dick can express the same intention in a way that avoids the abiding egocentricity that Sellars attributes to ordinary EIs.

Sellars' solution to the problem of objectivity also arises through the dynamics of group membership. The background for this solution is set by a number of claims that he takes over from Kant.8 First, with regard to intentions he construes truth as a special form of reasonableness. Since he has developed a sophisticated account of the implication relations among EIs, there is no difficulty in accounting for relative reasonableness as a property of an EI.9 An intention, I, is reasonable relative to another intention, I', just in case I' implies I in accord with the principles of practical inference. But merely relative reasonableness will obviously not do as an analogue of truth. What is required is a notion like the categorical reasonableness Kant attributed to moral judgments. It is one of Sellars' most important insights to notice that such categorical reasonableness need not be incompatible with relative reasonableness. Thus, if it were possible to discover some intention that is intrinsically reasonable, any intention implied by it would be both reasonable relative to it and categorically reasonable. And such categorical reasonableness would surely be sufficiently analogous to the notion of truth to justify us in appraising such intentions as true.

Sellars' solution to the problem of objectivity then is to propose that there is one intention that is intrinsically reasonable and that it generates the categorical reasonableness of all the intentions implied by it. The proposed candidate for intrinsic reasonableness is an agent's intersubjective intention that the welfare of his group or community be promoted. Sellars says:

... the intention
It shall we be the case that our welfare is maximized.
does seem to have an authority which is more than a matter of being generally accepted. It is a conceptual fact that people constitute a community, a we, by virtue of thinking of each other as one of us, and by willing the common good not under the species of benevolence -- but by willing it as one of us, or from a moral point of view.10
With this solution to the problem of objectivity, the bare bones of Sellars' account of moral ought-judgments is before us. Such judgments are expressions of categorically reasonable intersubjective intentions. Inasmuch as moral judgments are expressions of intention, their practical character is accounted for; inasmuch as they are intersubjective and categorically reasonable, their cognitive character is accounted for. This account of the logic of ought judgments also constitutes a defense of the claim that altruism is a rational requirement on action. If, as Sellars claims, the intention to promote the welfare of the community to which I belong is intrinsically reasonable, then some altruistic requirement on action must be implied by his view.

Although there are a number of features of the view I have set out above which need comment and clarification, I will concentrate only on those features directly relevant to Sellar's defense on the thesis that altruism is a rational requirement on action. Central to this defense is, first, Sellars' claim that there is an intrinsically reasonable intention that underlies the categorically valid intentions he takes to be expressed by moral judgments. The second crucial claim is that there is a necessary connection between (1) an agent's seeing himself as a member of a community and (2) an agent's intending to promote the general welfare of the members of that community.11 About both of these claims a number of questions can be raised. First, it is unclear what Sellars takes to be the defining features of an intrinsically reasonable intention. Within the context of his theory of practical inference he is able to define the notion of relative reasonableness. The notion of categorical reasonableness, in turn, is to be defined in terms of intrinsic reasonableness and relative reasonableness. Thus, a categorically reasonable intention is either (1) an intrinsically reasonable intention or (2) an intention reasonable relative to an intrinsically reasonable intention. The notion of intrinsic reasonableness, itself, however, is left undefined. It is not difficult, of course, to give a sense to this notion, and a sense that one would expect it standardly to have. One would suppose that the reasonableness of an intrinsically reasonable intention would be absolutely underived. Also, an intrinsically reasonable intention would be characteristic of any fully rational agent and its reasonableness would depend on some property it has, rather than on some contingent feature of an agent who might have the intention. These characteristics are surely what Sellars would expect to be implied by his use of the notion of intrinsic reasonableness. The difficulty is that the intention he characterizes as intrinsically reasonable appears not to have all of these properties, or even any of them.

The intention that he characterizes as intrinsically reasonable is, as we have seen, the following:

(IR) It shallwe be the case that our welfare is promoted.
But is it clear that we have only one intention here? There would, of course, be only one intention if the scope of the 'we' in this intention were fixed and determinate. But this need not be the case. The scope of the 'we' is to be determined for each rational agent by the most embracing community to which he sees himself belonging.12 There can be no doubt that Sellars thinks it is possible for the nature of this most embracing community to vary across agents. Thus, he suggests that in earlier, pre-modern societies, the most embracing group was typically seen as the tribe. In contemporary society, agents typically think of the community of human beings as the most embracing group. Sellars, along with Kant, looks forward to the day when the most embracing community will typically be taken to be the community of all rational creatures.13

There seems to have been some change in Sellars' views on the determinateness of the most embracing group. In one of his earlier articles he says that an agent's most embracing community "consists of those with whom he can enter into meaningful discourse". And he goes on to say in the same place that

the conceptual framework of persons is the framework in which we think of one another as sharing the community intentions which provide the ambience of principles and standards (above all, those which make meaningful discourse possible) within which we live our indi- vidual lives.14
The suggestion in these passages is that insofar as one thinks of oneself as bound by certain intersubjective norms for guiding meaningful discourse and rational thought, then one will identify the most embracing community as the community of creatures who share the intentions which underlie such norms. For those persons who embrace the norms of theoretical rationality, then, the most embracing community will be the community of rational creatures. If we identify the class of those who accept the norms of theoretical rationality with the class of rational agents (and such an identification surely seems plausible), then the notion of the most embracing group for all rational agents will be fixed.

But Sellars seems to have thought better of this point in his later writings where he discusses, in the context of ethical theory, the nature of the most embracing community. He says there that, "the argument for the reality of an ethical community consisting of all rational beings, the major premise of which is the 'fact of reason', remains incomplete."15 This incompleteness is the result of our inability to identify what Sellars calls the epistemic community, the community made up of those who are bound by intersubjective epistemic 'ought's', and the ethical community, the community made up of those who are bound by intersubjective ethical 'ought's'. So while Sellars seems to suggest in his earlier writings that the nature of the embracing community could be fixed by attending to the common theoretical norms shared by rational creatures, he gives up that suggestion in his later writings.

Sellars leaves open the possibility, then, that different rational creatures may identify their most embracing group in different ways. For some agents, the most embracing group may be the claaa of human beings, for others, the class of rational creatures, and others yet may associate themselves most embracingly with some far more restricted community. The relativity that Sellars allows into his notion of the most embracing group creates problems, however, for his use of the notion of 'intrinsic reasonableness'. As we have seen, a minimal account of this notion would restrict its application to intentions whose reasonableness was underived. But the intentions Sellars takes to be intrinsically reasonable lack this property. The intention that is intrinsically reasonable for Jones would appear to depend on the particular community that Jones takes to be most embracing; similarly, for Smith. But, since there are no rational constraints on which communities Jones and Smith will consider most embracing, they may, equally reasonably, live within quite different embracing communities. The intention that is intrinsically reasonable for Jones may be quite different from the intention that is intrinsically reasonable for Smith.

It appears then that the intention Sellars characterizes as intrinsically reasonable lacks all of the properties that informally attach to the notion of intrinsic reasonableness. It is not underivative; on the contrary, it is derived from an agent's recognition that some particular community is most embracing for him. It need not be characteristic of every fully rational agent; indeed, different rational agents may, on Sellars' view, have different intrinsically reasonable intentions. Finally, the intrinsic reasonableness of this intention does not depend on some property it has; rather, it depends on some contingent feature of the agent who has the intention. These points, taken together, surely raise questions about the appropriateness of Sellars' use of the notion of intrinsic reasonableness to characterize the altruistic intention.

Sellars, of course, may claim that virtually all rational agents, as a matter of fact, identify the most embracing community in an identical way, as, perhaps, the community of human beings. Given the contemporary variety of racist, nationalistic and elitist social doctrines with which we are familiar, this claim must surely appear dubious. But, even if it were true, it hardly seems acceptable to base a claim about the intrinsic reasonableness of an intention on this apparently contingent fact.


My remarks above are intended to suggest that on Sellars' view rational agents may differ in their intrinsically reasonable intentions, and that this suggests some difficulty with the notion of intrinsic reasonableness itself. Another related line of criticism involves the suggestion that Sellars' view allows the same rational agent to have a number of different intrinsically reasonable intentions. This line of thought grows out of a certain ambiguity in Sellars about the grounds for the intrinsic reasonableness of intrinsically reasonable intentions.

We have already noted that the crucial claim in his defense of intrinsically reasonable intentions is that there is a necessary connection between:

(1) A person's seeing himself as a member of a community;
(2) A person's willing the common good or general welfare of that community.
Difficulties arise when we notice that most persons belong simultaneously to any number of groups or communities, based on family connections, professional associations, religious beliefs, shared goals, personal interests, etc. It is never clear whether Sellars thinks that membership in any community involves willing the common good of the community, or if it is only membership in what he calls the 'embracing community' that has this consequence. His view is open to either of two interpretations:
(11) Any community membership that involves the sharing of intersubjective intentions, will also bring with it the intersubjective intention to promote the general welfare of the members of the community.

(12) Only membership in the most embracing community to which someone belongs brings with it the intersubjective intention that the general welfare of the members of this most embracing community be promoted.

There are texts to which one can point that support each of these options, but the difficulty runs deeper than just an unclarity on Sellars' part. There are serious difficulties involved in adopting either alternative.

Consider the first alternative. According to this view, perceived membership in any community brings with it the intersubjective intention to promote the general welfare of the members of the community. Given the variety of modes of membership in communities, however, one's first response to this claim is likely to be that it is just false. Seeing oneself as a member of Rotary International might surely differ in its implications from seeing oneself as a member of the Christian community which might in turn differ from seeing oneself as a member of the American Philosophical Association.

We can distinguish a number of types of human communities whose conditions of membership vary widely. Thus, there are human communities where membership is based on similarity of status or role (e.g., professional organizations), on certain contractual agreements (e.g., commercial associations) or on some shared goal or set of principles (e.g., the ACLU). It would surely be difficult to show that membership in communities of all of these types would bring with it the intersubjective intention to promote the general welfare of all of the members. A closer look at just one of these types of community may make this clear.

Consider, for example, a particular community, membership in which is based primarily on the sharing of some common goal or goals among the members. One might think, for example, of a community organization formed with the goal of protecting a certain salt marsh. The motives for joining such a group might vary widely among the members. Some joined because they have some articulatable concern for the rights of future generations -- in particular, their right to live in the same world with a salt marsh. Others may want, selfishly it may seem, to continue collecting exotic plant life found there. Others yet may be moved by some connection they see between the destruction of the salt marsh and their own property values.

Not only, however, might motives for joining the group differ across the members, but there may be deep personal antagonisms among the members of the group. They all might, indeed, mutually dislike each other, and have little respect for the motives of their fellow members of the association. Nevertheless, there could exist within this group intersubjective intentions of the sort Sellars associates with real community membership. There could be, that is, intentions that are intersubjective in the sense of providing the foundation for full-fledged 'ought' talk among the members. When one member says to another, "You ought to spend your time picketing, rather than writing letters to the editor," this would be understood and possibly criticized, as involving some group intention. The point is that a group may exist the object of whose group activities lies outside any conception of the general welfare of its members. One member could indeed believe that the achievement of the group goal would be disastrous for the other members: the environmentalist, for example, who thinks that the protection of the salt marsh will harm property values.

In communities, thus, where membership is based on the shared pursuit of some goal, there is no necessary connection between perceived membership in the community and the intention to promote the general welfare of the community. It think similar results would be obtained if we looked at communities that involve different membership conditions.

One objection to the first interpretation above, then, is that membership in any community does not appear to bring with it the intention to promote the general welfare of the members of the community. But even if it were true that there is a necessary connection between perceived membership in a community and the intention to promote the general welfare of the community members, there would still be difficulties for Sellars' view if he took the first interpretation. These difficulties arise because, were this the case, a plurality of intrinsically reasonable intentions would exist at the foundation of the practical thought of virtually every agent. Since virtually every rational agent is a member of more than one community, virtually every agent will have a plurality of intrinsically reasonable intentions. But this would surely give rise to paradoxical results. First, how would an agent think about the welfare of some person who belongs to three distinct communities of which the agent is a member? Is this person's welfare to be given three times the attention of someone who belongs to only one of these communities? Second, how are we to deal with the clear possibility that two categorically reasonable intentions (derived from two distinct intrinsically reasonable intentions) might be in conflict in that they could not both be fulfilled? In such a case, how would one determine the reasonable thing to do? A third difficulty is that this position would involve treating the moral 'ought' as on the same conceptual level with 'humbler' 'ought's' derived from less grand points of view. But Sellars, along with Kant, surely wants to preserve the conceptual distinctiveness of the moral 'ought'.

Even were it true then that membership in any community brings with it the intention to promote the general welfare of the members of that community, there will still be serious difficulties with adopting the first interpretation set out above. These difficulties suggest that it is only with regard to membership in the most embracing group that intrinsically reasonable intentions arise. On the second interpretation, there is no commitment, associated with membership in less inclusive groups, to the general welfare of the members of such groups. While the second interpretation may avoid the difficulties we have noted above, however, it encounters a problem of a quite different sort. It is simply not clear what is special about membership in the most embracing group. Why should membership in this group give rise to intrinsically reasonable intentions when membership in other groups does not? Communities at both levels share the property that intersubjective intentions are involved. Indeed, if it were possible to measure something like intensity of community involvement, the intensity in smaller communities would typically be much greater than that in larger ones. The only thing apparently distinctive about the most embracing group is its embracingness, but why should this property be such that only membership in a community with it gives rise to intrinsically reasonable intentions? 'Big is better' doesn't seem to provide a sufficient argument here.

This second level of criticism, then, comes to this. It is unclear in Sellars whether membership in any community that involves intersubjective intentions will give rise to intrinsically reasonable altruistic intentions or whether such intentions are confined to membership in the most embracing community. But either alternative is problematic. If Sellars adopts the first he must deal with the clearly paradoxical results that follow. If he adopts the second, he must present some reason for supposing that membership in the most embracing community gives rise to intrinsically reasonable altruistic intentions just on account of its embracingness. I can find no argument in Sellars for the special status of the most embracing group, nor have I been able to construct such an argument myself.


The two lines of criticism I have suggested here converge on the notion of intrinsic reasonableness. If Sellars is to show that altruism is a rational requirement on action, he must, given his general account of the logic of 'ought' judgments, show that the altruistic intention is intrinsically reasonable. If I am right, he has not yet succeeded in doing so. Indeed, it is not even clear what he takes the criteria for an intrinsically reasonable intention to be.

Sellars is surely right, however, that altruism is somewhere near the heart of the moral point of view, and his claim that coming to care about others is tied up in some way with seeing those others as one of us seems plausible. When persons become entangled in group activities that involve shared goals or common interests, they do typically come to care about each other. (Though, as I have argued, they need not do so.) If nothing EIse, it is difficult to ignore the interests of someone with whom one shares a common enterprise. It would be nice then if we could accommodate Sellars' insights about the importance of community in- volvement in occassioning altruistic feelings, without accepting the extreme Kantian view that community involvement rationally requires altruisrn.. My own feeling, indeed, is that Sellars' insights about the importance of shared activities in bringing persons to care about others would fit more easily into a broadly Humean account of ethics than into the Kantian framework into which he attempts to fit them.

Bernard Williams has contrasted Humean and Kantian approaches to the 'move to morality' in the following fashion:

Kantians make the distinction between motivations which are emotional, grounded in desire, and particular, as against motivations which are universal, rational and of principle. The step to morality involves a discontinuous step to the latter. For Hume, there are desires of different degrees of generality, involving objects with different degrees of remoteness and independence from the subject: the slide towards morality is a slide along these continua. Connected with this is the point . . . that for Kant impersonal and intrapersonal altruism is grounded in the structure of practical reason; for Hume, it is grounded in a special sort of desire or sentiment.16
This distinction between two importantly different ways of conceiving the 'move to morality' indicates one of the fundamental divides in moralm theory, and there should be no doubt on which side of the divide Sellars stands. On all important questions on this issue, he is a thoroughgoing Kantian. He writes in one place that:
The recognition of each man everywhere as one of us was the extension of tribal loyalty which exploded it into something new. It has a precarious toehold in the world, and we are usually a far smaller group.17
The use of the notion of 'explosion' here could not more clearly indicate the discontinuity that Sellars, along with Kant, perceives between the purely personal (or some tribal version of it) and the moral.

Humeans, as Williams notes, eschew this radical discontinuity in favor of a 'slide toward morality'. As persons become involved in more complicated and larger scale human activities, the class of persons about whose welfare they are concerned typically expands. There is, of course, no feature of practical reason which makes this expansion rationally necessary. Nor is a person who fails to come to care about others defective rationally. (Although he may be defective in other ways.) But there are certain features of human sentiments, and certain conditions of human life, which make this expansion, if not inevitable, nevertheless typical. It should be clear how Sellars' insights into the role of community membership in expanding concern for others could fit within this Humean framework. Of course, other elements of his view would not fit so well. The Humean view could not accommodate a view of moral judgments as categorically reasonable intentions nor, indeed, a view of altruism as a rational requirement on action, and Sellars would surely be reluctant to give up these views. In these matters, though, the burden of proof surely rests with the Kantian, and until an unproblematic argument is given for altruism as a rational requirement on action, we need not cut our ethical theory to fit this claim.

University of Notre Dame


1 Nagel's defense of this view is found in The Possibility of Altruism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970). Gewirth has developed his views in a series of articles published over the past few years. Among the most important of these are (1) 'Categorical Consistency in Ethics', Philosophical Quarterly, XVII (1967), 289-99; (2) 'Must One Play the Moral Language Game', American Philosophical Quarterly, VII (1970), 107-18; (3) 'The Normative Structure of Action', Review of Metaphysics, XXV (1971), 238-61. Sellars' defense of this thesis is presented in slightly different forms in different places. The most important sources for his views in ethics are: (1) 'Imperatives, Intentions, and the Logic of 'Ought'', (hereafter, IILO) in Morality and the Language of Conduct, (ed. by Hector-Neri Castaneda and George Nakhnikian), Wayne State University Press, Detroit: 1970,159-218; (2) 'Science and Ethics', in Philosophical Perspectives, Charles Thomas, Springfield, Illinois: 1967; and Ch. VI of Science and Metaphysics: Variations on Kantian Themes (hereafter SM) Routledge and Kegan Paul, London: 1967. My discussion of his views here will draw primarily on his most recent presentation of them in SM.

2 'Sellars' Ethical Theory', in The Synoptic Vision: Essays on the Philosophy of Wilfrid Sellars, (ed. by C. F. Delaney, et al.), University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame: 1977, 149-88.

3 Indeed, I am inclined to think that the difficulties involved in sustaining simultaneously the cognitive and practical theses concerning moral judgments are the real center of the alleged is-ought problem. This point is missed if it is supposed that this problem centrally involves some special semantical property either possessed by, or lacking in, moral judgments.

4 SM, 217.

5 See his discussion in SM. 184-6.

6 See Sellars' discussion of we-intending in IILO, 200-205, and SM, 215-18.

7 SM, 217.

8 See SM, 208-14.

9 For Sellars' account of practical inference, see IILO, 173-80, and SM, 176-83.

10 SM, 222.

11 My use of the locution 'an agents seeing himself as a member of a community' may not be altogether clear. I mean it to carry the force that some agent sees himself as a member of a community if and only if he shares some intersubjective intentions with the members of that community. I take it that real membership in a community would always have this force for Sellars, too. Of course, there are many questions left over about what a full account of membership would look like.

12 I will suppose in developing this point that only membership in the most embracing community brings with it the intrinsically reasonable intention to promote the general welfare. In the next section, I suggest that there are difficulties with this claim.

13 Sellars mentions the evolution of the most embracing community in a number of places. See, for example, his remarks in 'Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man', in Science, Perception and Reality, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London: 1963, 39.

14 Ibid, 39.

15 SM, 226.

16 Bernard Williams, 'Egoism and Altruism', in Problems of the Self, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 1973, 260.

17 IILO, 210.