Date of Award

5-1-2010

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Manfredi, Patsy

Abstract

This thesis is primarily a descriptive exploration of the related moral philosophies of Wilfrid Sellars and Richard Rorty. While Rorty is clear that his normative thinking descends from Sellars's positions, there are numerous differences between their two positions. For instance, though Rorty is a self-identified Sellarsian, he rejects the explicitly formal character of his predecessor's work. Further, Sellars's normative upshot may be seen as philanthropic whereas Rorty's is best understood as solidaristic. Chapter 1 works through Sellars's metaethical position, which gives an intentional account to experientially-imperative normative judgments. This description pays particular attention to the necessity of community and the action-motivating character of practical reasoning. Chapter 2 turns to Rorty's deployment of Sellars's insights, beginning with a brief account of the commonalities between their metaphysical and epistemological positions. The most significant extensions Rorty makes to Sellars's position are in limiting justificatory schemas to only one's own community and shifting the focus of this community from "we reasoners" to "we sufferers." The third and final chapter briefly compliments one of the benefits of Rorty's claims over Sellars's before turning to critique, arguing that unfortunately neither of their positions have much in the way of content to offer. Beyond this, it seems difficult to understand trans-traditional conversation or deliberation on their accounts, especially Rorty's. Nonetheless, by tracing the impact of Wilfrid Sellars's thought in the work of Richard Rorty, an important connection may be made and explored.

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