Mind and World

Mind and World

Mind and World

Mind and World


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.


The main text of this book is a sort of record of the John Locke Lectures that I delivered in Oxford in Trinity Term, 1991. I have done some recasting of the lectures from the form in which I gave them. I have tried to make improvements in clarity and explicitness. I have also eliminated phrases like "next week" and "last week", which it seemed absurd to leave standing in a version meant to be taken in through the eye, perhaps--at least for the texts of the lectures--at a single sitting. But apart from correcting one inessential falsehood at the end of the last lecture, the texts I offer here, headed "Lecture I" and so on through "Lecture VI", aim to say just what I said in Oxford.

They aim, moreover, to say it with a mode of organization and in a tone of voice that reproduce those of the lectures as I gave them. There are at least three points here.

First, even where I have made revisions at the level of phrases and sentences, I have preserved the order of the lectures, as I delivered them, at the level of paragraphs and sections. In particular, I have not tried to eliminate, or even lessen, repetitiveness. I hoped that frequent and sometimes lengthy recapitulations would be helpful to hearers, and I hope they will be helpful to readers too.

Second, in a brief set of lectures, it seemed sensible to try to pursue a reasonably linear train of thought, and I have not tried to make the revised texts any less two-dimensional. The footnotes, in so far as they go beyond merely bibliographical information, and the Afterword are meant to give some indication of what a more rounded treatment of these issues might look like. But they are no more than an adjunct to the record of the lectures, more or less as I gave them.

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