[MaFLa] invitation to a philosophy lecture

Krisztina Biber Biberk at ceu.hu
Wed Jan 28 10:01:39 CET 2009

The CEU Philosophy Department cordially invites you to a talk 
(as part of its Departmental Colloquium series)
David Lauer (Freie Universität, Berlin))

The World in View. McDowell vs. Brandom on the Necessity of Experience

Tuesday, 3 February, 2009, 5.30 PM, Zrinyi 14, Room 412

Discussion of John McDowell’s contribution to the philosophy of
perception tends to concentrate on his conceptualism - the thesis that
the contents of perceptual experience are „conceptual through and
through“. However, this astounding claim of McDowell’s is in fact
just a corollary of two more basic tenets of his philosophy, namely the
rejection of what Sellarsians call the „Myth of the Given“, and a
commitment to what McDowell himself calls „Minimal Empiricism“.
Therefore, in order to assess the credentials of McDowell’s
conceptualism, his reasons for holding on to these tenets should be
assessed. I will do so for the latter of the two. Minimal Empiricism is
the thesis that we cannot understand our empirical beliefs as being
about the world - and therefore, as being beliefs - if experience does
not offer us reasons for them. Many commentators have complained that
they cannot find a satisfying argument for this thesis in Mind and
World. I will try to reconstruct an argument for Minimal Empiricism on
McDowell’s behalf, using materials gathered from a series of exchanges
between him and Robert Brandom, which revolves around a thought
experiment originally introduced by Brandom and known as the story of
the chickensexers. Brandom, like Davidson, thinks that we cannot and
need not make sense of experience as offering us reasons for belief, and
that we can understand the intentionality and world-involvingness of our
thought and talk without relying on any theoretical notion of experience
altogether. Against this, McDowell defends the claim that casting out
experience from the realm of rational relations renders the position of
the epistemic subject toward the world unrecognizable and therefore
makes intentionality unintelligible. I will reconstruct McDowell as
arguing for the idea that without reconstructing intentional
world-involvingness as a structural feature of the sensory consciousness
of an epistemic subject, as part and parcel of the phenomenology of our
being-in-the-world, any attempt to exorcise the Myth of the Given (which
unites McDowell with Brandom and Davidson) would remain incomplete.

Kriszta Biber
Department Coordinator
Philosophy Department
Tel: 36-1-327-3806
Fax: 36-1-327-3072
E-mail: biberk at ceu.hu
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