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2010-07-02
a question about McDowell on mediation and immediacy

Hello everyone,

There is a thought in McDowell that certain mediations are pernicious for our direct contact with the object while others are not (in fact they are necessary for any meaningful direct contact with the object). Thus in his discussion of Sellars, while he hails his insight that our immediate contact with the object in sense perception is conceptually structured and necessary for direct normative contact with the object, he thinks that Sellars' condition for “extra conceptual content” distorts our immediate contact with the object in intuition (and hence should be rejected) [this extra conceptual condition is supposedly Sellars' insistence that “the subject must know that the viewing circumstances are normal.”]. Now my question is this: what is it that makes the first type of mediation harmless, even necessary, for an immediate contact with the object, while the latter is damaging to it??

Ali


2010-07-02
a question about McDowell on mediation and immediacy
Reply to Ali Rizvi
Ali, your square-bracketed characterization of the 'extra-conceptual content' in Sellars to which McDowell objects is a bit puzzling to me.  Sellars' internalist requirement that the perceiver have a grip on the concept of standard conditions (etc.) is indeed additional conceptual content, but it is not 'extra-conceptual content' in the sense of non-conceptual content; and I think the latter, in the form of Sellars' embrace of non-conceptual sensory representations, is what McDowell (mistakenly) thinks 'distorts our immediate contact with the object in intuition'. 

There is a link between the two, perhaps, in Mind and World, in the reading of Sellars on non-conceptual sensations that McDowell has subsequently, and correctly, abandoned (see his 2009 collection, 'Having the World in View', pp. vii, 19-20, 122).  This was his idea that perhaps Sellars' can bring his theory of non-conceptual sensations into the 'space of reasons' as part of an epistemological theory that posits regularities involved in 'standard conditions' of perception -- but in Mind and World McD rejected this 'sideways on' justification of Sellars' 'sense impressions'.

In his more recent work McD now sees how Sellars thinks he can have both components intrinsic to a perceptual taking -- i.e., conceptual thinking and nonconceptual sensing -- but McD still thinks (mistakenly, I think) that the latter nonconceptual sensory contents still prohibit Sellars from achieving a satisfactory direct realism.  See McD's essay in that volume, 'Sensory Consciousness in Kant and Sellars' in particular, which gives a more accurate reading of Sellars, while still attempting to insist that Sellars' 'two component view' embracing nonconceptual content is unsatisfactory (for example, by in some sense taking colour out of objects and into the perceiver).

Not sure if this helps with what you were worried about...

2010-07-02
a question about McDowell on mediation and immediacy
Reply to James O'Shea

James, you are right, I should have used “additional” instead of “extra”; in any case that's what I meant. You're right to point out that McDowell's main concern (in these essays) is Sellars' insistence that perceptual experience needs conceptual as well as non conceptual element, and McDowell brings in the discussion of the additional conceptual element of the subject's knowledge of the normality conditions in order to explain why Sellars might have been tempted to insist on the necessity of the second non conceptual element for perceptual experience (this is one of the several explanations provided in the course of his Woodbridge lectures published in The Journal of Philosophy no. 9 (1998): 431- 491, here 474-476; sorry I don't have access to Having the World in view to check your references but I believe Woodbridge lectures are included in the collection you're referring to).So, my puzzle is still there (now rephrased in terms of the "additional" and not "extra" element but your reply was helpful in clearing up and focusing the issue in my mind. Ali



2010-07-02
a question about McDowell on mediation and immediacy
Reply to Ali Rizvi
Ali, the references to the book are not to the Woodbridge Lecture chapters but rather to more recent articles in which McDowell expllicitly rejects aspects of his reading of Sellars in those WL and in Mind and World, and I think this bears on your question.  (Note, if you can get a hold of the book, that on pp. 224-5, McD seems to have no problem with Sellars' appeal to additional conceptual knowledge of standard conditions of perception in what McD calls the 'second logical dimension' of dependence.) 

So I think you are absolutely right to be puzzled by McD's remarks on Sellars in the Woodbridge Lectures on pp. 474-76, and my conjecture, based on the new book, is that McD's way of attacking Sellars no longer relies on that earlier (I think, misguided) complaint.
Best of luck,
Jim

2010-07-03
a question about McDowell on mediation and immediacy
Reply to James O'Shea

Dear James, many thanks for clarifying this for me. I should get a copy of Having the world in view as soon as possible. In Woodbridge lectures, the second logical dimension is supposed to be the dependence of empirical knowledge on the conceptual apparatus as a whole and ultimately on a worldview (see pp. 435-436). This is part of a holism about knowledge/perceptual experience which McDowell attributes to Sellars and seems to endorse as well. It would be interesting to see how this fits into what you are referring to as the second logical dimension and is attributed to Sellars in the later writings.

Regards
Ali


2010-07-04
a question about McDowell on mediation and immediacy
Reply to Ali Rizvi
Hi Ali, I'll be interested to see what you make of the more recent stuff in that book.  It may be that McD still has a problem with the way that Sellars brings in standard conditions, despite that passage I mentioned (I'm not sure).  I have a critical notice of that book of McD's book that will appear in Philosophical Books and deals with the nonconceptual content issue if you'd like me to send you a copy (jim.oshea@ucd.ie).
Best wishes,
Jim