McDowell’s Unexpected Philosophical Ally

European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy 4 (2) (2012)
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Abstract

In this paper I will explore the philosophical exchange between Hubert Dreyfus and John McDowell regarding the role of conceptual capacities in our openness to the world. According to Dreyfus, McDowell fails to do justice to instances of embodied coping from which conceptual mindedness is completely absent. That is to say, when we are fully, pre-reflectively absorbed in our activities, we respond to the affordances and solicitations of the environment without the assistance of mindedness or conceptual articulation. On Dreyfus’ view, McDowell displays serious symptoms of ‘intellectualism’ – privileging the higher levels of our cognitive abilities and overlooking what occurs in engaged, bodily activity. In order to counter Dreyfus’ objections, McDowell must provide a satisfactory account of the pervasiveness of conceptuality in our openness to the world, without neglecting and distorting the phenomenon of embodied coping. Fortunately, he is not alone in this task: in fact, McDowell is very close to the philosophical tradition of hermeneutics that came into prominence in the twentieth century with thinkers like Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer. This affinity, however, is discounted by Dreyfus’ reading of Heidegger with its emphatic insistence on the preconceptual and prelinguistic character of our most basic openness to the world. My main purpose in this paper is to suggest an alternative reading of Heidegger that places him closer to John McDowell, and further removed from Dreyfus’ phenomenology of absorbed coping.

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References found in this work

The return of the myth of the mental.Hubert L. Dreyfus - 2007 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 50 (4):352 – 365.
What myth?John McDowell - 2007 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 50 (4):338 – 351.
Response to McDowell.Hubert L. Dreyfus - 2007 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 50 (4):371 – 377.
Response to Dreyfus.John McDowell - 2007 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 50 (4):366 – 370.
Replies.Cristina Lafont - 2002 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 45 (2):229 – 248.

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