chapter  5
25 Pages

McDowell

Concepts, Perceptions, Debates
WithCorijn van Mazijk

This chapter deals with McDowell’s philosophy of perception. In the first part, I outline McDowell’s conceptualism as a response to a problem regarding our responsiveness to reasons and answerability to reality. I analyze some of the different ways in which McDowell has fleshed out the idea that perception would have conceptual content. This reveals a certain development of his thought, but also, or so I argue, a lingering unclarity as to what it means for perception to have conceptual content. This unclarity mainly concerns the division between weak and strong conceptualism, which concepts would inform perceptual experience, and how the perceptions of non-rational animals could bring an external world in view for them, given that they lack concepts. After having highlighted these and certain other difficulties, I consider in a separate section whether the theories of Kant and Husserl might offer resources to avoid them. The second part provides a brief review of some relatively recent arguments for non-conceptual content, which, I show, often do not threaten McDowell’s central thesis.