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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
A powerfully impressive book which simply towers over the more routine contributions of current analytical philosophy.
— Simon Glendinning
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
|I||Concepts and Intuitions||3|
|II||The Unboundedness of the Conceptual||24|
|IV||Reason and Nature||66|
|V||Action, Meaning, and the Self||87|
|VI||Rational and Other Animals||108|
|Davidson in Context||129|
|Postscript to Lecture III||162|
|Postscript to Lecture V||175|
|Postscript to Lecture VI||181|
John McDowell's writing has been characterized as "dense." Having read several of his other papers, I do not think this is a totally unfair charge. The opposite needs to be said of Mind and World: it is refreshingly accessible. This book weaves rigorous argumentation with historical stage-setting effortlessly.
Unfortunately, to fully appreciate some of McDowell's points, it requires a substantial background in philosophy, although I do not think that such a background is necessary to grasp the main argument of the book (the philosophers that McDowell grapples with most explicitly are Donald Davidson, Kant, and Gareth Evans, although I think that a perusal of 20th century analytic philosophy is sufficient). I say "unfortunately" because I think that anyone who has ever worried about how we could square our conception of ourselves as rational, free, and meaningful beings with a scientific conception of the world as constituted by arational, deterministic, and meaningless particles and forces, needs to read this book. McDowell seeks to alleviate this anxiety, not by offering a constructive account of minds and the world, but by disabusing us of some assumptions we have understandably adopted in light of the hard-won intellectual advances made by modern science.
Whether or not his diagnosis of our situation is correct is something that has, and will be, debated for some time. That said, I do not think it is contentious to say that his argument is careful and compelling and that the book should be read by anyone studying or planning to study the philosophy of science, mind, and even ethics.