Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Stephen Turner

Co-Major Professor

Richard Manning


Analytic Philosophy, Carnap, Logical Positivism, Pragmatics, Sellars


Although Wilfrid Sellars's work holds a prominent place in recent analytic philosophy, little work has been done to situate his early approaches to normativity and the philosophy of language in their proper context. What little work has been done tends to emphasize Sellars's connection to a then dominant logical empiricism at the expense of marginalizing other American philosophical schools. On top of this historical issue, most scholars attempting to explain Sellars's systematic philosophy tend to ignore a developmental picture of Sellars's positions and focus on explicating the systematic character of his thought. My dissertation attempts to correct both of these tendencies by offering a historically situated account of Sellars's early papers that presents his views in relation to logical empiricism, the "Iowa School" of philosophy as embodied in Gustav Bergmann's and Everett Hall's writings, and some aspects of traditional American philosophy. By fleshing out the context of Sellars's early papers, it becomes clear that the "strong" normativist project present in his later essays developed out of his shift from his attempt to fit "traditional" philosophical problems into a formalist approach to language. My thesis acts as a "correction" to the previous interpretive points by presenting a more complex characterization of the contextual influences on Sellars's early papers and creating a foundation for a developmental account of Sellars's later views. I do this by examining evidence from Sellars's unpublished correspondence and works from a myriad of archival sources in conjunction with an analysis of his early publications.