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Wilfrid S. Sellars Papers

What's online?

Selected portions of the papers are scanned and online.

What’s in the entire collection?

The Wilfrid S. Sellars Papers reflect the working life of a professional philosopher of science. Focusing on his professional pursuits in researching, writing and teaching from the 1930s through 1987, these files consist of books, correspondence, contracts, course materials, financial records, manuscripts, notes, photographs, publications, and reports. Especially significant are the manuscripts, which range from notes and working drafts in Sellars’s own hand to the published articles.

Although smaller than the other series, the first series provides researchers with records pertaining to the more personal aspects of Sellars’s life. The second, fifth and sixth series document the various stages of researching, writing, and editing of manuscripts employed by Sellars. The third series emphasizes Sellars’s academic duties as a philosophy professor from 1938 to 1987. The fourth series highlights Sellars’s contributions to the philosophy community as an editor, consultant, and lecturer, which compliment his duties as an author and professor. The seventh series documents the career of Sellars’s father, Roy Wood Sellars, which is included because of the close personal and professional interactions between them.

About Wilfrid S. Sellars

Wilfrid S. Sellars (1912-1989) was a major American philosopher who was active in the middle part of the 20th century. His father was the prominent Canadian-American philosopher Roy Wood Sellars. Wilfrid Sellars’s family traveled in Europe during his childhood and youth and he attended educational institutions in France and in Germany. He attended the University of Michigan, receiving an A.B. degree in 1933. He then attended the University of Buffalo, located in Buffalo, New York, from which he obtained an AM in 1934. He then traveled to England, where as a Rhodes Scholar he enrolled at Oriel College, Oxford. He earned a BA from Oriel in 1936 and an MA in 1940. In 1938 Sellars took up his first academic post as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Iowa.

Sellars served in the United States Navy during World War II. After the war, in 1946, he moved to the University of Minnesota, as an assistant professor of Philosophy. At Minnesota he established a productive professional relationship with Herbert Feigl, working with him at the Minnesota Center for the Philosophy of Science. In 1950 the two of them founded Philosophical Studies, a forum for publishing articles and books in the new sub-discipline of analytic philosophy, and were co-editors of the early volumes.

In 1956 Sellars, while at the University of London as a Special Lecturer, delivered one of his most important papers. This was later published as “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind.” In 1958 Sellars became a Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. In 1963 Sellars moved to the University of Pittsburgh where he became the University Professor of Philosophy. Sellars remained at the University of Pittsburgh for the remainder of his active professional life.

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