Intentional Relations and the Sideways-on View: On McDowell's Critique of Sellars



Abstract: McDowell opposes the view that the intentionality of language and thought remains mysterious unless it can be understood ‘from outside the conceptual order’. While he thinks the demand for such a ‘sideways-on’ understanding can be the result of ‘scientistic prejudice’, he points to Sellars's thought as exhibiting a different source: a distortion of our perspective ‘from within the conceptual order’. The distortion involves a failure on Sellars's part to see how descriptions from within the conceptual order can present expressions and mental acts as related to extra-conceptual objects (a failure in turn explained by his failure to see how such relations could have normative import). In this paper, I argue that Sellars's thought suffers from no such distortion. If that is right, McDowell's examination of Sellars has not uncovered a disorder whose treatment might help relieve the desire for a sideways-on view.