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Mind and World: With a New Introduction by the Author 2nd Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674576100
ISBN-10: 0674576101
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Editorial Reviews


Ever since Descartes, a lot of the very best philosophers have thought of science as an invading army from whose depredations safe havens have somehow to be constructed. Philosophy patrols the borders, keeping the sciences "intellectually respectable" by keeping them "within...proper bounds." But you have to look outside these bounds if what you care about is the life of the spirit or the life of the mind. McDowell's is as good a contemporary representative of this kind of philosophical sensibility as you could hope to find. (Jerry Fodor London Review of Books)

A powerfully impressive book which simply towers over the more routine contributions of current analytical philosophy. (Simon Glendinning Radical Philosophy)

McDowell locates an important tension in our thinking about thought, suggests an attractive way of easing the tension, and offers a plausible diagnosis of why the tension is acute...Mind and World is a genuinely provocative book that should be discussed. (Paul M. Pietroski Canadian Journal of Philosophy)

From the Back Cover

Modern philosophy finds it difficult to give a satisfactory picture of the place of minds in the world. In Mind and World, based on the 1991 John Locke Lectures, one of the most distinguished philosophers writing today offers his diagnosis of this difficulty and points to a cure. In doing so, he delivers the most complete and ambitious statement to date of his own views, a statement that no one concerned with the future of philosophy can afford to ignore. John McDowell amply illustrates a major problem of modern philosophy - the insidious persistence of dualism - in his discussion of empirical thought. Much as we would like to conceive empirical thought as rationally grounded in experience, pitfalls await anyone who tries to articulate this position, and McDowell exposes these, traps by exploiting the work of contemporary philosophers from Wilfrid Sellars to Donald Davidson. These difficulties, he contends, reflect an understandable - but surmountable - failure to see how we might integrate what Sellars calls "the logical space of reasons" into the natural world. What underlies this impasse is a conception of nature that has certain attractions for the modern age, a conception that McDowell proposes to put aside, thus circumventing these philosophical difficulties. By returning to a pre-modern conception of nature but retaining the intellectual advance of modernity that has mistakenly been viewed as dislodging it, he makes room for a fully satisfying conception of experience as a rational openness to independent reality. This approach also overcomes other obstacles that impede a generally satisfying understanding of how we are placed in the world.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 2 edition (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674576101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674576100
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This text with its new Introduction clearly demonstrates McDowell's prominence in American philosophy. McDowell is certainly one of the most important, careful, and creative minds in the field. Mind and World is crucial reading material on perceptual content, judgment, and experience.
Inspired by Sellars's Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind, McDowell interrogates the notion of a 'logical space of reasons' as having location in the natural world. At times adopting an obscure and abstract prose style, McDowell nevertheless identifies specific anxieties concerning the realtion between mind and world: tensions between a Kantian sensible intuition (or 'minimal empiricism')--how our thoughts are answerable to and directed at the world--and the idea of receiving an impression (or Kantian humility) as a transaction with the world, placing it in a 'logical space of reasons.' So there is a tension between a normative context, that is, how the world 'impinges' on us, which is within the logical space of reasons, and empirical concepts that are supposed to be within the logical space of nature. But if we take Sellars seriously, identifying something as an impression--an economy of logical space of nature 'giving' or 'impinging' on the mind, then we are responsible to characterize just how an 'impinging world' is different from justifying or placing a verdict on empirical descriptions. McDowell's tension is between a 'minimal empiricism'--thought is answerable to a tribunal of experience--and how experience is indeed a tribunal, which attributes verdicts on thoughts.
Along the way, McDowell critiques the Myth of the Given, Davidson's coherentism, and argues for 'direct realism.
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Logical grammar concerns itself with "functors", devices that transform parts of language into other parts. For example, predicates combine with names of objects to form sentences. One of the less-celebrated functor types is the "subnector", which transforms sentences into terms: returning from the complex to the simple. *Mind and World* is a subnector of a book. The philosophical issues it engages with are central ones, but they are developed against a background of baroque analytical machinery. In other words, you really have to know in quite a bit of detail what several difficult figures had to say before McDowell's own concerns are at all clear.

This should not be surprising, given that the book was originally the 1991 John Locke Lectures at Oxford: these lectures are delivered yearly to professional philosophers who have formalized theories and intricate arguments well in hand, but are looking to re-evaluate the "big picture" of the philosophical enterprise. McDowell accordingly polemically bases his presentation on philosophers he was closely linked to in earlier work, Donald Davidson and Gareth Evans. McDowell has elsewhere spent a great deal of energy defending and refining their ideas, but the emphasis here is on his divergence from them concerning the role of concepts in our experience of the world.

Beginning from Wilfrid Sellars' rejection of givenness, yet serious about maintaining the objective purport of perception, McDowell aims to vindicate a view of experience derived from Kant: that experience requires the exercise of conceptual capacities (such as the ability to discriminate facts about the object which might be true of other objects) and an element corresponding to Kantian "intuitions", the influence of independent realities.
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I have been reading this book in a group that includes some philosophers, and that has been very helpful in coming to grips with it. My own interest in mind/world relations has its roots in romantic poetry, Wordsworth specifically, where experiences of nature that seem to be meaningful are presented and reflected on, but not with philosophical rigor. For all that, the rhetorical power of the poetry was compelling and it gave me much to think about. For all his lack of rigor, Wordsworth was as concerned as modern philosophers are with the claims of science to have privileged access to the world and to have developed a language that "represents" the world ("is made true by the world") better than any other. [Philosopher and scientist friends tell me that that idea of "science" is more a straw man set up by some philosophers than it is a very accurate account of what scientists really care about.] One way of combatting this vision of science is to largely ignore these imperialistic claims and to develop a way of thinking that avoids the difficulties of deciding what is or is not a "true representation," on the grounds that we can never find a stance from which to judge with certainty the truth of a claim about this or that "representation." So pragmatist and neo-pragmatist philosophers will talk of "intersubjective agreement" within a culture's language-games and not make claims about "truth" that go outside these parameters. The idea of what would be the case even if no human beings existed is not an idea that they find interesting. McDowell shares many of the views of such philosophers, but he has a healthy respect for science and believes that we cannot think clearly about knowledge unless we can give a naturalistic account of how our concepts are in fact connected to the world.Read more ›
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