Saturday, 2 December 2006

Welcome to the Space of Reasons

‘In characterizing an episode or a state as that of knowing, we are not giving an empirical description of that episode or state; we are placing it in the logical space of reasons, of justifying and being able to justify what one says’. - Wilfrid Sellars

John McDowell’s account of perceptual knowledge is arguably one of the most innovative presently available. However, one risk that often accompanies being innovative is that it is sometimes difficult to see how one’s ideas relate to more traditional lines of thought. If this is true of any analytic philosopher, it is true of McDowell, who is often taken by undergraduate philosophy majors and seasoned practitioners alike as a paradigm case of philosophical obfuscation. Moreover, the terminology and ideas that make up the usual stock and trade of epistemology—e.g., justification, epistemic internalism, content externalism, Twin Earth examples—are seldom explicitly employed or discussed by McDowell. Instead, he tends to resort to obscure metaphors and cryptic locutions; such as ‘the logical space of reasons’, ‘the interpenetration of inner and outer’ and ‘frictionless spinning in the void’. Unfortunately, this has prompted many to dismiss McDowell as irrelevant to the central concerns of epistemology. This blog represents my attempt to help remedy this problem. By discussing McDowell in relation to more traditional philosophical concepts, theories and theorists, I hope to make explicit, motivate and clarify, what I take to be central themes of McDowell’s epistemological project.

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