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Mind, World and Language: McDowell and Kovesi

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Abstract:

The ideas of John McDowell concerning the relations between mind, world and language are brought into contact with those of Julius Kovesi, with a view to seeing whether the latter can illuminate and flesh out the former. McDowell’s dialectic in Mind and World is expounded and reviewed, hinging on the notion of ‘conceptual second nature’ as his suggested way of showing that there is nothing mysteriously non–natural in human animals learning to find their way about both in a world characterised by lawlike connections and in one characterised by rational connections. Kovesi’s redrawing, in Moral Notions, of the Aristotelian material/formal metaphysical distinction as one between the logical elements of concepts, is adduced to show how the world is ‘shot through’ with concepts and reasons: the formal elements of concepts are nothing other than the reasons we have for collecting varied features of the material world under a concept, to meet our bodily and social needs. The mind can then be treated as a set of acquired capacities and dispositions to become conversant with these features and with the corresponding needs. Some possible objections to this bringing together of the two sets of ideas are briefly examined, and overall conclusions drawn.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9329.00192

Affiliations: University of Birmingham, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2002

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