Mind and World

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

London Review of Books

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

Radical Philosophy

A powerfully impressive book which simply towers over the more routine contributions of current analytical philosophy.
— Simon Glendinning

Canadian Journal of 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

London Review of Books - Jerry Fodor
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.
Radical Philosophy - Simon Glendinning
A powerfully impressive book which simply towers over the more routine contributions of current analytical philosophy.
Canadian Journal of Philosophy - Paul M. Pietroski
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.
Booknews
Based on the 1991 John Locke Lectures by McDowell (philosophy, U. of Pittsburgh) on empirical thought and the problem of dualism in modern philosophy. McDowell illustrates the pitfalls of conceiving of empirical thought as rationally grounded in experience through the works of philosophers from Wilfrid Sellars to Donald Davidson, and proposes a return to a pre-modern conception of nature. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674576100
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1996
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 629,500
  • Lexile: 1430L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

John McDowell is University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh.
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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction

Lecture I. Concepts and Intuitions

Lecture II. The Unboundedness of the Conceptual

Lecture III. Non-conceptual Content

Lecture IV. Reason and Nature

Lecture V. Action, Meaning, and the Self

Lecture VI. Rational and Other Animals

Afterword

Part I. Davidson in Context

Part II. Postscript to Lecture III

Part III. Postscript to Lecture V

Part IV. Postscript to Lecture VI

Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A fascinating and compelling book

    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.

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