Lecture Drucken

Ray Brassier

Mapping and Picturing

9:00-17:00Haus der Kulturen der WeltJohn-Foster-Dulles-Allee 1010557 Berlin
Session one: Mapping and Picturing

"For the perceptive nominalist, the varieties of mapping are as multiple as simple matter-of-factual qualities and relations." (Wilfrid Sellars, Naturalism and Ontology, p.60)

What Sellars calls 'mapping' is closely tied to his theory of picturing. In this seminar, I want to investigate the link between mapping and picturing. Picturing does not consist in a relation of resemblance between representation and represented. It consists in the structural equivalence between properties of relations among representations considered as natural objects and properties among represented objects. The key to what I call Sellars' 'methodological materialism' lies in his claim that the dimensions of picturing (and hence of mapping) vary with the varieties of 'matter-of-factual' qualities. It is the latter that provide us with our coordinate systems for tracking the correlation between representing and represented. Cognitive evolution is tracked in terms of a 'world story' in which facts about representings are entwined with facts about what they represent. But the 'matter of factual qualities and relations' catalogued in this story remain provisional and subject to further emendation. This is what makes empirical theory 'a self-correcting enterprise'. Where positivistic naturalists privilege empirical evidence as the sole arbiter of cognitive revision, Sellars grants a decisive role to philosophy. Philosophy is not only an owl at dusk, anatomizing what is already known, it is also a "herald of the dawn", inventing new categories for the advancement of knowing. It is in accordance with this legislative task that Sellars postulates the category of 'absolute processes' to explain the link between conceptual categories and physical patterns. The rule-obeying activities constitutive of conceptual categorization and the pattern-governed behaviours embodying these rules are distinct but correlative dimensions of natural process. Conceptual transformations track physical patterns without mirroring them. Pure processes are postulated to explain the co-variation between patterns of representings and patterns of represented objects. This co-variation yields the two basic dimensions of cognitive mapping.