NDPR Reviews John McDowell


NDPR has just published a review, written by Willem A. de Vries (Philosophy, University of New Hampshire), of John McDowell’s two most recent essay collections, which are:

Having the World in View: Essays on Kant, Hegel, and Sellars

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John McDowell, Having the World in View: Essays on Kant, Hegel, and Sellars (Harvard Univ. Press, 2009)

The Engaged Intellect: Philosophical Essays

John McDowell, The Engaged Intellect: Philosophical Essays (Harvard Univ. Press, 2009)

To read the whole review, click here. Here is how it begins:

These two collections of essays bring us up to date on John McDowell’s philosophical production since Mind and World. Other than one essay on Plato’s Sophist from the early ’80’s that did not make it into McDowell’s earlier collections, everything in The Engaged Intellect (EI) was originally published in 1995 or later, while the contents of Having the World in View (HWV: EKHS) date from 1998 or later. The volumes exhibit great range, as one would expect with McDowell. In this review, it is impossible to summarize each of the 33 essays. Instead, I will selectively highlight essays in The Engaged Intellect, but focus on one thread that ties Having the World in View into a more unified volume.

The Engaged Intellect contains 19 essays in six sections: “Ancient Philosophy”; “Issues in Wittgenstein”; “Issues in Davidson”; “Reference, Objectivity, and Knowledge”; “Themes from Mind and World Revisited”; and “Responses to Brandom and Dreyfus”. The volume’s title seems a little odd — under such a title one would normally expect to find someone dealing with issues of contemporary social and political concern, and there is none of that here, though perhaps I’ve read too much Sartre. McDowell’s own explanation of the title is that it summarizes a theme running through the pieces: an insistence that humans possess a particular form of reason, which does, indeed, distinguish humanity from other animals, but which, nonetheless, cannot be divorced from our animal nature. Theoretical intellect is necessarily engaged with the animal, sensory capacities, and practical intellect with both the motivational propensities associated with feelings and the animal capacities for physical intervention in the world. McDowell’s notion of engagement, then, echoes the themes that many now broach under the rubric of ’embodiment’.

The essays contained in these volumes are definitely exercises in professional philosophy, complex and dense. Nevertheless their range is breathtaking, both historically and topically, from Plato and Aristotle through Kant and Hegel to Wittgenstein and Davidson, from metaphysics and philosophy of mind to epistemology and ethics.

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