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Two Forms of American Critical Realism: Perception and Reality in Santayana/Strong and Sellars

American critical realism emerged in two forms: an ‘essentialist’ version defended, with some significant divergences, by George Santayana and C. A. Strong, and an ‘empirical’ version primarily defended by Roy Wood Sellars. Both forms of American critical realism aimed at an epistemologically convincing ‘representationalist’ account of perception. However, they were divided over issues of ontology. While Santayana and Strong invoked the notion of essence in order to ontologically reinforce their epistemological conceptions, Sellars attempted a more empirical, evolution-based approach. It will be argued that Sellars’s view has more to recommend it because it better explains the actual mechanism of perceptual representation.