Experience and sensation: Sellars and Dewey on the non-cognitive aspects of mental life

Education and Culture (Winter) 17 (1):3 (2001)
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Sellars and Dewey each isolated and critiqued different aspects of the atomistic epistemology of the logical positivists: Dewey labeled his target "Sensationalistic Empiricism", and Sellars labeled his "the Myth of the Given." The main theme of this paper will be the similarity and differences in their responses to this kind of philosophy, and how both responses can be clarified and strengthened by considering recent discoveries in Cognitive Neuroscience. What we have recently learned about neural architecture accounts for a distinction between knowledge and experience that is a recurrent theme in both Sellars and Dewey. Dewey, however, made a sharper break from the positivists by seeing all experience as shaped by skills and abilities which were designed to acheive certain goals and were colored by emotions. The connectionist architecture used in Cognitive Neuroscience supports this view, as does the psychological research of J.J. Gibson. Once we consider the ways in which connectionist cognitive abilities differ from linguistic ones, Sellars' distinction between thoughts and sensations, and Dewey's distinction between knowledge and experience, can both be plausibly accounted for



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Teed Rockwell
Sonoma State University

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Locating John Dewey.William Gaudelli - 2006 - Education and Culture 21 (1):4.

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