The Pittsburgh School of Philosophy
Sellars, McDowell, Brandom
Routledge – 2013 – 156 pages
In this volume, Maher contextualizes the work of a group of contemporary analytic philosophers—The Pittsburgh School—whose work is characterized by an interest in the history of philosophy and a commitment to normative functionalism, or the insight that to identify something as a manifestation of conceptual capacities is to place it in a space of norms. Wilfrid Sellars claimed that humans are distinctive because they occupy a norm-governed "space of reasons." Along with Sellars, Robert Brandom and John McDowell have tried to work out the implications of that idea for understanding knowledge, thought, norms, language, and intentional action. The aim of this book is to introduce their shared views on those topics, while also charting a few key disputes between them.
'There has been much recent interest in the work of each of these three philosophers, yet their respective writings are extensive and notoriously difficult to follow. As a result, there has been a variety of introductory volumes aiming to help the uninitiated reader grasp just how things 'hang together' with regards to a specific member of the trio. Perhaps due to the selectivity necessitated by approaching all three at once, Maher's book stands out amongst this group as offering the most accessible first port of call for the struggling student approaching the work of either Sellars, McDowell or Brandom. It is clearly and unpretentiously written; includes frequent previews and summaries throughout the narrative; and helpfully invites the reader into further engagement with the relevant thinkers by noting particular points of contention, puzzlement or incompleteness. The book thus succeeds in reaching its explicit goal, which is a genuine achievement given the difficult nature of the material involved.' – Jeremy Wanderer and Steven Levine, University of Massachusetts, Boston in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
1. Introduction 2. Language 3. Action 4. Mind 5. Knowledge 6. Science
Chauncey Maher is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Dickinson College. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Georgetown University in 2008.