Collective Intentionality, Normativity, and the Space of Reasons: Engaging Wilfrid Sellars

October 13, 2024 - October 15, 2024
Georgetown University in Qatar, Doha

Georgetown University in Qatar


University of Edinburgh
University of West Bohemia
University of New Hampshire, Durham
London School of Economics
Georgetown University
Grand Valley State University
Indiana University, Bloomington
University of Wollongong
University of Vienna
University of Memphis


Georgetown University
Grand Valley State University

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The past three decades have seen a surge in scholarship on the philosophy of Wilfrid Sellars (1912-1989). Yet until very recently, this scholarship has focused almost exclusively on aspects of Sellars’s theoretical philosophy – his anti-foundationalist epistemology, his view of mental states as theoretical entities, his account of linguistic meaning in terms of normative functional/inferential role, and his nominalist, scientifically naturalist metaphysics – largely neglecting the fact that, throughout his career, Sellars also wrote extensively and with nuance about practical philosophical issues. Sellars’s practical philosophical oeuvre comprises a sophisticated theory of action and practical reasoning and an evocative and comprehensive ethical theory (both meta- and normative) grounded in a conception of a we-intention. Only in the past few years have Sellars scholars begun to focus on this aspect of Sellars’s work, and we are at last seeing a steady stream of publications in this area.

The aim of this workshop is to help build this momentum, by exploring relations between Sellars’s practical philosophy and contemporary debates on collective intentionality, normativity, and moral reasoning. Specifically, we are inviting submissions investigating connections between Sellars’s theory of we-intentions and contemporary thinking about collective intentionality or contemporary developments in ethics (meta- or normative). Sellars’s conception of we-intention, introduced to account for the intersubjectivity of moral reasoning and to develop a normative ethics that combines the best elements of Kantian deontology and utilitarianism, was noted by some of the pioneers of the present-day collective intentionality literature, such as Raimo Tuomela and John Searle, without deeper exploration. This workshop welcomes submissions that endeavor such deeper exploration. Furthermore, we welcome submissions that explore links between contemporary debates in ethics (both meta- and normative) and Sellars’s vision of moral norms and moral judgments.

With the recent publication of Wilfrid Sellars, The Metaphysics of Practice: Writings on Action, Community, and Obligation (Oxford University Press, 2023), edited by Kyle Ferguson and Jeremy Koons, all of Sellars’s practical philosophical writings (including unpublished manuscripts and correspondences) are now accessible in a single volume, making it easier for anyone interested in this area of scholarship to draw on Sellars’s practical philosophical oeuvre in its entirety.The publication of this volume is a significant development in the scholarship on Sellars's practical philosophy in its own right, and it provides opportunity for scholars to focus on this critical element of his overall project.

Keynote/Invited Speakers:

Natalie Gold (London School of Economics) – keynote.

Kirk Ludwig (Indiana University, Bloomington) – keynote.

Matthew Chrisman (University of Edinburgh)

Stefanie Dach (University of West Bohemia)

Willem A. DeVries (University of New Hampshire)

Jeremy Koons (Georgetown University in Qatar)

Ronald Loeffler (Grand Valley State University)

Glenda Satne (University of Wollongong)

Hans Bernhard Schmid (University of Vienna)

Deborah Tollefsen (University of Memphis)

Topics for papers at the workshop may include (but are not limited to):

·        Sellars’s theory of we-intentions and approaches to group/collective agency.

·        Subject, mode, and content accounts of we-intentions in relation to Sellars’s theory of we-intentions.

·        Team reasoning and its relation to Sellarsian moral reasoning.

·        Contemporary moral expressivism and Sellars’s theory of the moral ‘ought’.

·        Framing and team reasoning in relation to Sellars’s view on the rational necessity of the moral point of view.

·        Sellars’s theory of practical reasoning in relation to contemporary accounts.

·        Reductive vs. non-reductive accounts of collective action and Sellars’s distinction between I-intentions and we-intentions.

·        Sellars’s normative ethics in relation to current developments in normative ethics.

This workshop will be held in-person. It will be single-session, with four to five presentations per day. Presentations should be 45 minutes long, followed by 30-minutes of discussion. We intend to publish an edited volume with a respected academic press based on the talks given at this workshop, and expect all speakers to contribute a chapter to this volume, based on their presentations.

For each participant, all the costs for participating in this workshop (travel, hotel room, meals, visas, etc.) will be covered by Georgetown University in Qatar.

Scholars interested in participating should attach an abstract of no more than 1,000 words, prepared for blind review, to an email with the subject line "2024 Sellars workshop" to Pia Peltonen ([email protected]). In the body of your submission email, please indicate your full name and professional affiliation. Submission deadline is March 31, 2024.

For further information, contact Jeremy Koons ([email protected]) or Ronald Loeffler ([email protected]).

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