Mind, Value and Reality, Paperback
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


This paper collects some of John McDowell's papers, written at various times over the 1980s and 1990s.

One group of essays deals mainly with issues in the interpretation of the ethical writings of Aristotle and Plato.

A second group of papers contains more direct treatments of questions in moral philosophy that arise naturally out of reflection on the Greek tradition.

Some of the essays in the second group exploit Wittgensteinian ideas about reason in action, and they open into the third group of papers, which contains readings of central elements in Wittgenstein's difficult later work.

A fourth group deals with issues in the philosophy of mind and with questions about personal identity and the special character of first-personal thought and speech.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of Western philosophy
  • ISBN: 9780674007130



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This excellent book collects several of McDowell's essays on topics ranging from Aristotelian ethics, to Wittgenstein and rule following, to anti-reductionism and the philosophy of mind. There is a nice phenomenological strain running through the essays in this book (at least the ones I've read so far), which should make it appealing also to audiences more familiar with "continental" work. In "Functionalism and Anomolous Monism" McDowell critiques another philosopher Loar who undertakes to provide a functionalist-reductionist account rejoinder to Davidson's claim that a physicalist reduction of the "'constitutive role played by rationality' in shaping our thoughts about propositional attitudes." The upshot of this essay is a persuasive argument not only against Loar's specific reduction, but against the possibility of any such reduction. At the end of this essay, McDowell also makes some short remarks contra Davidson, arguing that if we accept the latter's critique of content-scheme dualism, we should be similarly critical of the Humean criticism of causality, given that the notion that "causes are not given in experience" relies on the undermined notion of (bare) experience. If we accept that singular causal relations *are* in fact given in experience, then we are no longer forced to see causality as necessarily nomological (consisting in a "suitable type of generality", i.e. lawlike). McDowell dubs this "fourth dogma of empiricism" the Prejudice of the Nomological Character of Causality.Another important essay here is the one on Bernard Williams' arguments against external reasons, a paper from Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy that McDowell rightly says is under-appreciated. Briefly, McDowell's argument is that if we abandon the notion that the supporter of external reasons wants such reasons in order to be able to level a charge of irrationality against an agent who (purportedly) has an external reason to do something, but no internal reason (i.e. does not do it), then the notion of external reasons becomes much more palatable. McDowell also examines the requirement that the transition from not possessing to possessing an external reason (from it being external to it being internal) need be rational--what sort of requirement is this, and what sort of transitions (e.g. conversion experiences? education?) might it rule out?