Mind and World
EPUB EBook by John Henry McDowell
EBook DescriptionI've only been reading philosophy for four years (at the time of writing), so this opinion should be taken with substantial salt, but: this is without a doubt my favorite work of philosophy. Mind and World EPUB EBook I've now read it three (four?) times, each more enlightening and more understandable than the last. McDowell beautifully and brilliantly argues for a picture of our relationship to the world that respects the indisiputable advances of modern science (especially its driving teleology out of the realm of law) without losing grasp on the relevant notions of freedom and intentionality that those advances can seem to threaten. This lays the groundwork for his work in other areas, e.g. metaethics.
The book consists of an introduction, very mildly edited versions of his 1991 John Locke lectures (six chapters, the main body of the book), and a substantial afterword examining the relationship between his thought and Davidson's thought (as well as Rorty's—McDowell is excellent at separating the good points Rorty makes from the fashionable relativism) and expanding on various points from the lectures. Because this is basically the print record of his lectures, various aspects of the writing betray its origin as lectures. This is most noticeable in the degree of repetition. McDowell had to put forth extremely complex ideas orally, with lectures separated by a week between them. McDowell thus spends a lot of time summarizing arguments he's made previously. I find this repetition extraordinarily helpful. Even in print, where re- EPUBreading is possible, the ideas are difficult, and having the relevant aspects summarized as they are needed makes it much, much easier to get a grasp on them. Some may find it annoying—I find it one of the book's virtues.
One criticism of the book I've seen and heard with some frequency is this: the writing is too opaque to really present McDowell's ideas clearly. As I've read and re-read the book, I've moved from agreeing with this criticism to understanding it in a detached way without agreeing with it. I find this criticism to be primarily a reflection of the fact that there is a reasonably steep learning curve for understanding both McDowell's ideas and the language in which he presents them. Now that I am acclimated to both, I in fact find that McDowell writes with a crystalline clarity that's very rare in philosophy, both in the sense that he understands the interconnections between relevant issues more clearly than most, and in that he describes these interconnections more lucidly than most. Compare Mind and World to the work of someone like Putnam. Putnam's language may seem clearer, but his ideas often are not, in ways not unrelated to the seeming surface clarity of his writing. Or hell, compare it to Kant or Sellars, two of the giants on whose shoulders McDowell stands. I find him much, much clearer than either, without any loss in profundity.
Return to the philosophical content of the book, I'd like to briefly offer an apologia for some flaws. Because of its origin in lectures, McDowell is unable to address every relevant issue (very understandable), and occasionally glosses far too briefly over an issue that in fact is much more demanding. The clearest example of this in my mind is the discussion, in lecture six, of the issue of fallibility of perception, and the threat that this will lead to skeptical problems. McDowell insists that it does not lead to such problems, and he hints at why. It's possible to see how this hinted at but unpresented argument fits into a form similar to others presented in the book (though McDowell doesn't make this explicit). But the discussion actually present in the book is itself clearly insufficient. And I think there's an extent to which that's simply a feature of the origin in lectures of the book. Elsewhere (Perception as a Capacity for Knowledge), McDowell does tackle the issue (extremely well, I might add). So, in reading the book, I suggest you keep in mind that it's not of a sort that McDowell could address all the relevant issues fully, and at times he does have to merely hint at arguments (he doesn't do this for the most central issues, however). The book cannot stand alone, sufficient by itself. It requires the context of the rest of McDowell's philosophy, which fleshes out implications and provides arguments for key positions that figure in Mind and World, but which are insufficiently defended.
The book is probably really only for the philosophy aficionado, but for such a person it's downright essential. Like this book? Read online this: Book Ideas In Seconds (How to Write a Book and Sell It Series Book 1), 50 Ways to Change Your Mind and Change the World.
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