Anything which can properly be called ‘conceptual thinking’ can occur only within a framework of conceptual thinking in terms of which it can be criticized, supported, refuted (in short, evaluated). To be able to think is to be able to measure one’s thoughts by standards of correctness, of relevance, of evidence 1. In this sense the diversified conceptual framework is a whole which (however sketchy) is prior to its parts, and cannot be construed as a coming together of parts which are conceptual in character. The conclusion is difficult to avoid that the transition from preconceptual patterns of behavior to conceptual thinking is a holistic one, a jump to a level of awareness that is irreducibly new. A jump which was the coming of the being of man.

Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man

  • Constrast with Wittgensteinian image of “light dawning slowly on the whole”. Sellars is worried about the mechanism of how this happens.
  • The idea of language as something that is necessarily (rather than accidentally) criticizable is close to the private language argument.


  1. NB: in the space of justification