Wilfrid Sellars's Anti-Descriptivism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The work of Kripke, Putnam, Kaplan, and others initiated a tradition that has come to be known as anti-descriptivism. This chapter argues that when properly interpreted, Sellars is a staunch anti-descriptivist. Not only does it accept most of the conclusions drawn by the anti-descriptivists, it goes beyond their critiques to reject the fundamental tenant of descriptivism-that understanding a linguistic expression consists in mentally grasping its meaning and associating that meaning with the expression. The chapter shows that Sellars' accounts of language and the mind provide novel justifications for the anti-descriptivists' conclusions. It presents what he takes to be a Sellarsian analysis of the relation between metaphysical modal and epistemic modal notions. The chapter's account involves extension of the strategy Sellars uses to explain both the relation between physical object concepts and sensation concepts, and the relation between concepts that apply to linguistic activity and those that apply to conceptual activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCategories of Being
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on Metaphysics and Logic
EditorsLeila Haaparanta, Keikki Koskinen
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199980031
ISBN (Print)9780199890576
StatePublished - Sep 20 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Anti-descriptivism
  • Kaplan
  • Kripke
  • Language
  • Meaning
  • Mind
  • Modal notions
  • Putnam
  • Sellars
  • Sensation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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