1st Edition

The Ethics of Wilfrid Sellars

By Jeremy Randel Koons Copyright 2019
    370 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    370 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Wilfrid Sellars’s ethical theory was rich and deeply innovative. On Sellars’s view, moral judgments express a special kind of shared intention. Thus, we should see Sellars as an early advocate of an expressivism of plans and intentions, and an early theorist of collective intentionality. He supplemented this theory with a sophisticated logic of intentions, a robust theory of the categorical validity of normative expressions, a subtle way of reconciling the cognitive and motivating aspects of moral judgment, and much more—all within a strict nominalism that preserves Sellars’s commitment to naturalism. The Ethics of Wilfrid Sellars offers the first systematic treatment of this sadly-neglected aspect of Sellars’s work, and demonstrates that his ethical theory—just like his more widely-discussed epistemology—has much to contribute to current debates.

    Introduction: Situating Sellars’s Ethical Theory in the Contemporary Landscape  

    Chapter 1: Sellars’s Synoptic Vision

    Chapter 2: A New Naturalism

    Chapter 3: Moral Judgments as Shared Intentions

    Chapter 4: What Are Sellarsian We-Intentions?

    Chapter 5: Practical Reasoning and the Logic of Intentions

    Chapter 6: Material Practical Inference

    Chapter 7: Cooperative Rationality and We-Intentions

    Chapter 8: Defeasible Rules and the Particularist Challenge

    Chapter 9: Rules, Pattern-Governed Behavior, and Collective Attitudes

    Chapter 10: Moral Motivation 1—Against the Humean Account

    Chapter 11: Moral Motivation 2—Sellars’s Kantian Account

    Chapter 12: Against Moral Foundationalism

    Chapter 13: Categorical Validity and the Necessity of Community

    Chapter 14: Sellars’s Mistaken Formalism

    Chapter 15: Sellars’s Ethical Naturalism


    Jeremy Randel Koons is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He has published widely in epistemology, metaethics, philosophy of religion, and other areas. His most recent book, The Normative and the Natural (co-authored with Michael P. Wolf) appeared in 2016.

    "With his feisty, comprehensive, in-depth treatment of Sellars’ ethics, Koons has now single-handedly re-introduced Sellars’ ethics as something Sellars scholars can no longer ignore. Koons’ book is to be celebrated as an important contribution to Sellars scholarship, and as a spirited, courageous effort to demonstrate the continuing importance of Sellars’ ethics in the contemporary philosophical landscape. I hope that this book will be widely read and discussed, and that it may kindle wide-spread serious engagement with Sellars’ practical philosophy, not only among Sellars scholars but also among scholars working in contemporary ethics and on theories of practical reasoning, agency, and collective intentionality."Ronald Loeffler in the International Journal of Philosophical Studies

    "Koons's work sets a new standard for work on Sellars by showing how to be deeply engaged with the details of his work, willing to correct him when necessary, and also addressing live current issues in contemporary philosophy."Carl B. Sachs in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews