Conceptuality and practical action: A critique of Charles Taylor's verstehen social theory

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 40 (1):59-83 (2010)
Abstract
In their recent debate, Hubert Dreyfus rejects John McDowell’s claim that perception is permeated with "mindedness" and argues instead that ordinary embodied coping is largely "nonconceptual." This argument has important, yet largely unacknowledged consequences for normative social theory, which this article demonstrates through a critique of Charles Taylor’s Verstehen thesis. If Dreyfus is right that "the enemy of expertise is thought," then Taylor is denied his defense against charges of relativism, which is that maximizing the interpretive clarity of social practices unequivocally makes for better practices. Verstehen social theory, I argue, must consider both the gains and losses of the attempt to make the meaning of our practices explicit
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