Special Colloquium

Sellars’s Picture Theory and the Readability of Things
September 19th, 1:30pm (CL 244-A)
Anton Friedrich Koch, Heidelberg
In this talk, I will try to show that Wilfrid Sellars in his picture theory of elementary sentences unwittingly provided good reasons for the thesis that things, in virtue of their manifest, phenomenal qualities, are readable in a literal, though extended sense of the word. More precisely speaking, they are translatable from a Jumblese (Sellars) and at the same time Lagadonian (D. Lewis) dialect into subject-predicate language, in so-called language entry transitions (observation reports). Then some consequences of the readability thesis will be drawn and discussed.
(1) Sellars, following Carnap in his Logische Syntax der Sprache, analyzes categorial contexts (“The moon is a thing”) as metalinguistic contexts (“‘moon’ is a thing word”, Carnap). But if a thing is a token of a Lagadonian name, then the moon itself is a •moon• (in Sellars’s dot quote convention). So, categorial contexts are objectively valid, i.e. true of objects, after all.
(2) In Jumblese, name tokens are at the same time sentence tokens. Then, if the moon is only a Lagadonian, but also) a Jumblese name token, it will at the same time be a token of elementary sentences about it. Qua name token, a thing is an object; qua token of elementary sentences, it is a complex of elementary facts (cf. Hegel’s thesis: “Every thing is a judgment” – and an inference, for that matter, as Hegel has it).
(3) According to the readability thesis, when we first enter the logical space of reasons by acquiring our mother tongue, we at the same time extend that space of reasons to include natural phenomena. The quest for an interface between the logical space of reasons and the logical space of nature may thus come to a happy end.
[Professor Koch will also be giving a talk titled "Why People Like Us Are Metaphysically Necessary" on Monday, September 22, at 4:30 p.m. in the Simon Silverman Phenomenology Center at Duquesne.]