, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 1039–1062 | Cite as

Sellarsian Picturing in Light of Spinoza’s Intuitive Knowledge

  • Dionysis ChristiasEmail author


In this article, we will attempt to understand Sellars’ puzzling notion of ‘adequate picturing’ and its relation to the Sellarsian ‘conceptual order’ through Spinoza’s intuitive knowledge. First, it will be suggested that there are important structural similarities between Sellarsian ‘adequate picturing’ and Spinoza’s intuitive knowledge which can illuminate some ‘dark’ and not so well understood features of Sellarsian picturing. However, there remain some deep differences between Sellars’ and Spinoza’s philosophy, especially with regard to their notion of ‘adequacy’ and the sense in which an idea can be said to ‘correspond’ with its object. As a consequence of those differences it turns out that, from a Sellarsian viewpoint, Spinoza’s notion of intuitive knowledge is a version of the myth of the Given. However, Sellars’ own proposed way out of the Myth has problematic consequences by Sellars’ own lights: His sharp distinction between the ‘space of reasons’ level and the level of picturing makes the Sellarsian vision of the ‘stereoscopic fusion’ of those levels virtually unintelligible. Finally, it will be argued that a non-standard interpretation of Spinoza’s intuitive knowledge -proposed in Baltas (2012)-, combined with a Sellars-inspired bifurcated understanding of Dreyfusian expert knowledge, can provide the means 1) for constructing a notion of intuitive knowledge that evades the myth of the Given, and, 2) for making full sense of the claim that the ‘space of reasons’ dimension of understanding the world can in principle be fused with the ‘picturing’ dimension and provide us with a single complex coherent experience of reality and our place in it.


Sellars Spinoza Intuitive Knowledge Adequate Picturing Myth of the Given Expert Knowledge 


  1. Allison, H. (1987). Benedict de Spinoza: An Introduction. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Baltas, A. (2012). Peeling potatoes or grinding lenses: Spinoza and young wittgenstein converse on immanence and its logic. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bennett, J. (1984). A study of spinoza’s ethics. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  4. Brandom, R. (2002). ‘Adequacy and the Individuation of Ideas in Spinoza’s Ethics’. In Tales of the Mighty Dead: Historical Essays in the Metaphysics of Intentionality, 121–142. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Brandom, R. (2011). Perspectives on pragmatism: Classic, recent and contemporary. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brandom, R. (2015). From empiricism to expressivism: Brandom reads sellars. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Christias, D. (2015). Somatic intentionality bifurcated: A sellarsian response to sachs's merleau-pontyan account of intentionality'. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 23(4), 539--61.Google Scholar
  8. Curley, E. (1973). Experience in Spinoza’s Theory of Knowledge’. In M. Grene (Ed.), Spinoza: A Collection of Critical Essays (pp. 25–59). Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  9. Deleuze, J. (1992). Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  10. Della Rocca, M. (2000). Egoism and the Imitation of Affect in Spinoza’. In Y. Yovel & G. Segal (Eds.), Spinoza on Reason and the ‘Free Man’ (pp. 123–48). New York: Little Room Press.Google Scholar
  11. Della Rocca, M. (2008). Spinoza. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Dreyfus, H. (1991). Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time, Division I. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dreyfus, H. (1992). What computers still can’t do. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  14. Dreyfus, H. (2005). Overcoming the myth of the mental: how philosophers can profit from the phenomenology of everyday expertise’. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 79(2), 47–65.Google Scholar
  15. Dreyfus, H. (2007a). Return of the myth of the mental’. Inquiry, 50(4), 352–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dreyfus, H. (2007b). Response to McDowell’. Inquiry, 50(4), 371–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dreyfus, H. (2013). The myth of the pervasiveness of the mental’. In J. Schear (Ed.), Mind, Reason and Being-in-the-World: The McDowell-Dreyfus Debate (pp. 15–40). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Garrett, D. (2010). Spinoza’s Theory of Scientia Intuitiva’. In S. Tom, G. A. J. Rogers, & J. Kraye (Eds.), Scientia in Early Modern Philosophy (pp. 99–116). London and New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Martin, C. P. (2008). The framework of essences in spinoza’s ethics’. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 16(3), 489–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McDowell, J. (2007). What Myth?’. Inquiry, 50(4), 338–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McDowell, J. (2013). The myth of the mind as detached’. In J. K. Shear (Ed.), Mind, reason and being-in-the-world: The mcdowell-dreyfus debate (pp. 41–58). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. McGilvray, J. (1983). Pure Process(es)?’. Philosophical Studies, 43, 243–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Montero, B. G. (2016). Thought in action: Expertise and the conscious mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nadler, S. (2006). Spinoza’s ethics: An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. O’Shea, J. (2010). Normativity and scientific naturalism in Sellars’ ‘Janus-faced’ space of reasons’. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 18(3), 459–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Peirce, C.S. (1931–58). Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Rosenberg, J. (2007). Wilfrid Sellars: Fusing the images. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Sachs, C. (2014). Intentionality and the Myths of the Given: Between Pragmatism and Phenomenology. London: Pickering & Chatto.Google Scholar
  29. Scharp, K., & Brandom, R. (2007). In the space of reasons: Selected essays of Wilfrid Sellars. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Schear, J. K. (Ed.). (2013). Mind, reason and being-in-the-world: The McDowell-Dreyfus debate. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Schmid, S. (2007). ‘Truth, Adequacy and Meaning: Picturing in Spinoza and Sellars’. Available at:
  32. Seibt, S. (2009). ‘Functions between Reasons and Causes: On Picturing’. In Empiricism, Perceptual Knowledge, Normativity and Realism: Essays on Wilfrid Sellars, edited by Willem deVries, 247–83. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Sellars, W. (1949). Language, rules and behavior’. In S. Hook (Ed.), John Dewey: Philosopher of science and freedom (pp. 289–315). New York: Dial Press.Google Scholar
  34. Sellars, W. (1954). Some reflections on language games’. Philosophy of Science, 21(3), 204–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sellars, W. (1956, 1997). Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Sellars, W. (1957). Counterfactuals, Disposition and the Causal Modalities’. In H. Feigl, M. Scriven, & G. Maxwell (Eds.), Minesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. II (pp. 225–308). Minneapolis: University of Minesota Press.Google Scholar
  37. Sellars, W. (1960). ‘Being and Being Known’. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 28–49.Google Scholar
  38. Sellars, W. (1962). Truth and correspondence’. Journal of Philosophy, 59(2), 29–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sellars,W. (1963a). ‘Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man’. In Science, Perception and Reality. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Sellars, W. (1963b). ‘Theoretical Explanation’. Philosophy of Science: The Delaware Seminar Vol. II, 61–78. New York: John Wiley.Google Scholar
  41. Sellars, W. (1967). Science and metaphysics: Variations on kantian themes. Atascadero, California: Ridgeview Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  42. Sellars, W. (1979). Naturalism and ontology. Atascadero: Ridgeview Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  43. Sellars, W. (1981a). Mental events’. Philosophical Studies, 39(4), 325–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sellars, W. (1981b). Foundations for a metaphysics of pure process’. The Monist, 64(1), 3–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Soyarslan, S. (2013). The distinction between reason and intuitive knowledge in Spinoza’s ethics’. European Journal of Philosophy. doi: 10.1111/ejop.12052.Google Scholar
  46. Spinoza, B. (1930). Spinoza Selections. Translated by Abraham Wolf. Edited by John Wild, 401–479. New York: Scribners.Google Scholar
  47. Spinoza, B. (1982). The Ethics and Selected Letters. Translated by Samuel Shirley. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  48. Theodossiou, M. (2012). Aristides Baltas: peeling potatoes or grinding lenses: Spinoza and Young Wittgenstein converse on immanence and its logic (book review)’. Deucalion, 29(1/2), 135–45.Google Scholar
  49. Thompson, E. (2007). Mind and life: Biology, phenomenology, and the sciences of mind. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Wilson, M. (1996). ‘Spinoza’s Theory of Knowledge’. In The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza, edited by Don Garrett, 89–141, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Yovel, Y. (1989). ‘The Third Kind of Knowledge as Alternative Salvation’. In Spinoza and Other Heretics, Vol. I: The Marrano of Reason, 153–171. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Patras, University CampusPatrasGreece

Personalised recommendations