Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 4, No 1-2 (2008)

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Unbounded Naturalism

Andrew Taggart

Abstract


This essay places John McDowell’s Mind and World squarely within the context of German idealism. Like German idealists before him, McDowell is concerned with overcoming subjectivism and with defending a robust conception of experience. Yet in the Anglo-American reception of McDowell’s Mind and World while much has been made of his relationship to Kant and Hegel, little attention has been paid to the developmental aspect of his ‘partially re-enchanted’ naturalism and its role in getting us beyond a conception of disenchanted nature. By cluing us into the issues that surround McDowell’s account of our normal upbringing (Bildung) and of our ability to reflect upon it, ‘Unbounded Naturalism’ seeks to make clear that McDowell’s realism succeeds in bringing the mind back into contact with the world but not without limiting the mind-world relationship considerably. This limitation indicates that one of the problems philosophy faces and that McDowell rightly identifies—namely, that of disenchantment—may require more than the kind of ‘therapeutic’ or ‘stoical’ solution that McDowell recommends; it may require cultivating a form of dialectical thought that can better face the deeply social and historical disunity between mind and world. Accordingly, the essay follows up its critique of McDowell’s ‘conservatism’ with a Hegelian-inspired attempt to retain and revise the vital points he makes about experience in particular and about naturalism in general.

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