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2010-05-06
Robert Brandom and John McDowell
Where should one begin if one is looking to start reading their work?

2010-05-10
Robert Brandom and John McDowell
Reply to Daniel Arias
Oh yes! And how to go on.

2010-05-10
Robert Brandom and John McDowell
Reply to Daniel Arias
Hey Daniel,

Are you reading for a certain purpose, or just looking for a way in to meander about from?

If it's the latter, I reckon Brandom's "Articulating Reasons: an Introduction to Inferentialism" (2000) is best - it's a book based on a set of lectures he gave at various times, with modifications, post-Making It Explicit (1994). So it contains a way into the ideas in that beefy book.

Brandom's pretty good with providing references to his main inspirations and this text abounds in these, so it's also good for following up the ideas that motivate and shape his work.

As for McDowell, Mind and World is probably the best compass point for his work. It is a fairly comprehensive book (based on his 1991 Locke Lectures) and deals with a whole gamut of issues. Apart from that, he's published 4 volumes of essays - 2 of which came out last year. One of these - Having the World in View - contains essays on Kant, Hegel and Sellars and includes his Woodbridge Lectures from 1998. This is a really good volume if this area of philosophy appeals to you.

Have fun,

Byron

2010-05-10
Robert Brandom and John McDowell
Reply to Daniel Arias
I don't know either. What I have done is reading their books and essays again and again...

2010-05-17
Robert Brandom and John McDowell
Reply to Daniel Arias
Reading Brandom, at any rate, is not difficult if you give yourself the time to do it. He is very clear, but it can take some time to get used to his style. If you don't have time, I would start with Jeremy Wanderer's excellent book on Brandom (<a href="http://www.acumenpublishing.co.uk/display.asp?K=A20060912153254126&sf1=sort_date&st1=20070713:20080910&sort=sort_date/d&m=4&dc=18">link</a>).

2011-03-28
Robert Brandom and John McDowell
Reply to Daniel Arias
Both Robert Brandom and John McDowell find their philosophical point of departure in the philosophy of Wilfrid Sellars. In fact, they are both self-styled "Sellarsians" and for this reason their work has sometimes gone under the label of the "Pittsburgh School of Philosophy" (a reference to the University of Pittsburgh which is where Sellars taught, and where McDowell and Brandom currently teach). In any case, McDowell and Brandom clearly see themselves to be the intellectual descendants of Sellars (though, in an even broader sense, they see themselves to be the intellectual descendents of Kant and Hegel).

So the best way to get into the works of McDowell and Brandom, is actually to read Sellars. Fortunately there is one single essay by Sellars which will suffice as an introduction to McDowell and Brandom but unfortunately that essay is a notoriously difficult work of philosophy. It is called "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind." The standard edition of this essay (http://www.amazon.com/Empiricism-Philosophy-Mind-Wilfrid-Sellars/dp/0674251555) comes with an introduction by Richard Rorty and a study guide by Robert Brandom. So in reading the essay along with the study guide, you will already get some insight into Brandom's philosophy.

After reading Sellars' "Empiricism..." along with Brandom's study guide I would recommend that you move on to the following two papers:

Robert Brandom, The Centrality of Sellars' Two-Ply Account of Observation to the Arguments of Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind.

John McDowell, Why is Sellars's Essay Called "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind"?

These two papers present a debate between Brandom and McDowell on the correct interpretation of Sellars. Now, I think you will be in a position to read almost any of Brandom / McDowell's works. A good place to start would be McDowell's Mind and World. That book, however has a dual point of departure. Sellars, explicitly, is one of the points of departure for that book but the other one is Donald Davidson. Thus, in addition to familiarity with Sellars, you will need some familiarity with Davidson before you can read Mind and World.

I think that if you can read Davidson's "A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge" and appreciate the manner in which it complement's Sellars' critique of what he calls "the myth of the given" then you are certainly in an adequate position to start reading McDowell's Mind and World. In fact, you are the very kind of person that he is writing this book for.

2011-03-29
Robert Brandom and John McDowell
Many thanks for these detailed suggestions. I am also keen to know of the nature of the connections, if any, between these authors and the philosophy of Hegel. 

2011-04-03
Robert Brandom and John McDowell
RE: Franson Manjali

These connections are outlined quite well by Richard Rorty in his introduction to Sellars' "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind." (EPM) You can find this introduction online: http://www.elizabeta.net/NOTES/notes_rorty.html


The ultimate goal of the Pittsburgh school of thinkers (Sellars, Brandom, McDowell, etc.) is to bring some fundamental Hegelian insights back into the tradition of analytic philosophy. When Sellars was writing, however, analytic philosophy was still not ripe for these insights. Sellars himself describes his project in EPM as an attempt to usher analytic philosophy "out of its Humean and into its Kantian stage." Further, he foreshadows the further Hegelian turn by referring to his own work (EPM) as "Meditations Hegelienes."


The further step was only taken by the next generation of the Pittsburgh school: most notably, Brandom and McDowell. Rorty says in his introduction to EPM that “Brandom’s work can usefully be seen as an attempt to usher analytic philosophy from its Kantian to its Hegelian stage." This is certainly something that Brandom himself would agree with and this is how Brandom sees his own role in philosophy today.


The same can also be said of McDowell’s work – and often is. Personally I would like to think of McDowell’s work as being more Kantian than Hegelian. McDowell himself, in the preface to his seminal work “Mind and World,” tells us that: “One way that I would like to conceive this work [Mind and World] is as a prolegomenon to a reading of the Phenomenology [Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit], much as Brandom’s forthcoming Making it Explicit: Reasoning, Representing and Discursive Commitment, is among many other things, a prolegomenon to his reading of that difficult text.” Thus we can see McDowell's work as forming some sort of transitionary phase from the Kantian stage of analytic philosophy to the Hegelian stage of analytic philosophy (if ever there can or will truly be such a thing).



2011-04-03
Robert Brandom and John McDowell
Reply to Daniel Arias
It should also be noted that the thinkers of the Pittsburgh school seek nothing less than a Hegelian turn in analytic philosophy. However, they think that such a turn is only possible on the basis of a prior, Kantian turn (which was Sellars' project).

Another way of putting the point is that they seek to emphasize the fundamental continuity between Kant and Hegel. They find in Kant an important precursor to Hegel and they see Kant as having paved the way for Hegel in an important sense.

For explicit readings of Kant and Hegel in this regard, I would refer the reader to the works of Robert Pippin. Pippin actually studied Hegel under Sellars (to some extent) and at any rate his work is quite consonant with the Pittsburgh school. See especially his first two books:

Kant's Theory of Form:  An Essay on the `Critique of Pure Reason' (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 1982).

Hegel's Idealism:  The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness.  (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1989.)

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For a general overview of these developments in analytic philosophy, it might be worthwhile to look into:

Paul Redding, Analytic Philosophy and the Return of Hegelian Thought, Cambridge University Press, 2007

I have never actually read this book but I saw a review of it online (http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=12925) and it seems to be telling quite the same story.