This volume collects some of John McDowell's influential papers, written at various times over the last two decades. One group of essays deals mainly with issues in the interpretation of the ethical writings of Aristotle and Plato. A second group of papers contains more direct treatments of questions in moral philosophy that arise naturally out of reflection on the Greek tradition. Some of the essays in the second group exploit Wittgensteinian ideas about reason in action, and they open into the third group of papers, which contains readings of central elements in Wittgenstein's difficult later work. A fourth group deals with issues in the philosophy of mind and with questions about personal identity and the special character of first-personal thought and speech.
In a characteristic passage...[McDowell] is discussing knowledge, but the passage could stand at the head of almost any of the immensely influential essays collected in these two volumes. Reading them together, one is struck by how much they have in common, despite the breadth of issues that they address, ranging from ethics to metaphysics, the theory of knowledge, mind, and language. Time and again, McDowell aims to dissolve a philosophical problem by showing that it rests on a false assumption...What form do McDowell's exorcisms take? They vary, of course, to suit the nature of the problem addressed. But there is a typical McDowellian move, which consists of the rejection of an approach that is so pervasive in contemporary philosophical thinking as to seem inescapable. This approach involves treating such phenomena as perception, knowledge, memory, and the content of thought as composite: as consisting of different factors that can obtain independently. And part of the reason why this approach can seem so inescapable is that it starts with reflections that are no more than common sense.
- 416 pages
- 5-11/16 x 8-15/16 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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