- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; 2 edition (September 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780674576100
- ISBN-13: 978-0674576100
- ASIN: 0674576101
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mind and World: With a New Introduction by the Author 2nd Edition
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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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Expect to glean some insight on the nature of reason, the plausibility of certain conceptions of naturalism, and the nature of conceptual content. This is some of the most fun I've had reading philosophy in a while.
Some of the terminology is obscure. I've found that having a background in Kant and Sellars is particularly helpful. I've found the Wittgenstein passages (especially I.7) to be hard to wrap my head around, probably because I have less of a background in Wittgenstein.
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. McDowell argues that both elements are essential to including true, meaningful experience as a core element in our rational thought: misconstruing them as inessentially linked at will or heterogeneous and incapable of mixing leads to the reappearance of many traditional problems of epistemology we could otherwise opt out of.
McDowell then goes on to consider how such conceptual capacities could be part of the repertoire of a natural creature such as a human being, without appealing to an extra-natural "soul". His theory is derived from Aristotle's account of moral formation; Aristotle makes this out to be a matter of "second nature", which McDowell generalizes to cover the development of all "normative" conceptualization of the world, including our sense of action, under the heading of *Bildung* (a concept borrowed from the German pedagogical tradition). He ends his lectures by considering, in this light, Marx on the relationship of man to his world and Gadamer on the importance of tradition for rational thought.
This relates to McDowell's stated intention in the preface, that the whole work serve as a prolegomenon to the reading of Hegel's *Phenomenology of Spirit*. (In my opinion, the work fails to serve this purpose: the only Hegel quotation in the lectures is tendentiously interpreted, and Hegel's own treatment of *Bildung* in the *Phenomenology* makes it a critical and anti-traditional moment of the development of Spirit.) Those hoping for insight about historical materialism's relation to Hegel will be disappointed: in fact, as might be expected given his many favorable references to Gadamer, McDowell's own conclusions are in many ways diametrically opposite to those of the "Hegelian Marxists".
The lectures are followed by four postscripts, which expand upon technical disagreements between McDowell and other analytic philosophers mentioned in passing in the lectures. All of these will be of some interest to those who follow analytic philosophy closely, especially the interpretation of Wittgenstein: but there is less "systematic" content in these and the introduction (added for the paperback edition). One might hope for a "Briefer History of World" to make laypersons better acquainted with the important motifs of McDowell's philosophy; but unfortunately *Mind and World* will have to do as an introduction to McDowell's thought. Dense, but an essential part of contemporary philosophical discourse.