McDowell and the Puzzle of Conceptual Form

Minerva - An Internet Journal of Philosophy 19 (1):64-80 (2015)
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Abstract

In the course of recent debate with Hubert Dreyfus John McDowell emphasizes the notion of conceptual form or shape to explain how conceptual capacities are ‘operative’ in prereflective ‘coping’ activities. This paper considers how that notion is to be interpreted. In particular it considers whether or not it imposes a determinate constraint on the form of content and argues that both interpretations are unsatisfactory. Assuming conceptual form to be determinate is unnecessary to explain the universal applicability of concepts and conflicts with an argument McDowell uses against Evans. Attempting to avoid this conflict by leaving it indeterminate makes talk of conceptual form misleading, reducing it to an imprecise way of affirming our ability to apply concepts to subject-matter of any form whatever. As a consequence, Dreyfus’s challenge to McDowell cannot be met by appealing to the notion of conceptual form or shape. I further argue that it remains a puzzle how McDowell’s notion of conceptual form is to be understood, and that the difficulties with his response to Dreyfus point to an underlying tension between various claims McDowell makes about conceptual capacities.

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Andrew Inkpin
University of Melbourne

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References found in this work

Mind and World.Huw Price & John McDowell - 1994 - Philosophical Books 38 (3):169-181.
Mind and World.John Mcdowell - 1996 - Philosophical Quarterly 46 (182):99-109.
Mind and World.John McDowell - 1994 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 58 (2):389-394.
The return of the myth of the mental.Hubert L. Dreyfus - 2007 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 50 (4):352 – 365.
Overcoming the Myth of the Mental: How Philosophers Can Profit from the Phenomenology of Everyday Expertise.Hubert L. Dreyfus - 2005 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 79 (2):47 - 65.

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