In a letter to Chisholm, Wilfred Sellars wrote:
Thus, while I agree with you that
‘. . .’ means – – –
is not constructable in Rylean terms (‘Behaviorese,’ I have called it), I also insist that it is not to be analyzed in terms of
‘. . .’ expresses t, and t is about – – -.
My solution is that “‘. . .’ means – – -” is the core of a unique mode of discourse which is as distinct from the description and explanation of empirical fact, as is the language of prescription and justification.
Although Sellars was concerned with the philosophy of mind, there is something important here for philosophers of physics to learn as well. A major activity of physics is the collection of empirical facts. Another is the prediction and justification of these facts. But the activity of investigating meaning is a distinct activity altogether. This last activity includes much of what concerns the philosophy of physics, when it is done well.
Whether it be causation, equivalence, gauge, prediction, or simultaneity — among many examples — I think much of what distinguishes philosophy of physics from physics is a central concern with the (particularly philosophical) activity of explicating meaning.
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