Abstract: A Model for McDowell

My intention is to propose a visual model for John McDowell’s theory that human perception is characterized by conceptualizing. The model I am proposing appeared to me in a dream in 1976, but I believe it is of use in the present for picturing the central features of McDowell’s theory. I use the dream’s narrative of the model in its setting to provide an item-by-item visual depiction of what has been called McDowell’s “pervasiveness theory.” It is particularly intended as an aid in understanding the central feature of McDowell’s theory, the idea that conceptual capacities pervade human sensory contact with the world’s objects in such a way that our knowledge of the world can have objective validity when the conditions are right. These sorts of “right condition” experiences, McDowell claims, provide immediate contact between the mind and the world in a way that undermines both traditional empiricist skepticism and Cartesian downplaying of the role of the senses. McDowell’s approach has deep roots in the epistemologies of Kant and Wilfrid Sellars; I will show how the model represents McDowell’s inspiration by and distinction from each. Most significantly, the model visualizes McDowell’s formula for salvaging a reformed empiricism by employing an “innocent” version of Sellars’ dreaded Myth of the Given. …


This essay appears here in six different parts. Each part contains about 3,000 words. My intention is to propose a visual model for John McDowell’s theory that human perception is characterized by conceptualizing. The model I am proposing appeared to me in a dream in 1976, but I believe it is of use in the present for picturing the central features of McDowell’s theory. I use the dream’s narrative of the model in its setting to provide an item-by-item visual depiction of what has been called McDowell’s “pervasiveness theory.” It is particularly intended as an aid in understanding the central feature of McDowell’s theory, the idea that conceptual capacities pervade human sensory contact with the world’s objects in such a way that our knowledge of the world can have objective validity when the conditions are right. These sorts of “right condition” experiences, McDowell claims, provide immediate contact between the mind and the world in a way that undermines both traditional empiricist skepticism and Cartesian downplaying of the role of the senses. McDowell’s approach has deep roots in the epistemologies of Kant and Wilfrid Sellars; I will show how the model represents McDowell’s inspiration by and distinction from each. …

About

Jim Hersh

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Salve Regina University

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