Experiencing the facts (critical notice of McDowell)

The general topic of "Mind and World", the written version of John McDowell's 1991 John Locke Lectures, is how `concepts mediate the relation between minds and the world'. And one of the main aims is `to suggest that Kant should still have a central place in our discussion of the way thought bears on reality' (1).1 In particular, McDowell urges us to adopt a thesis that he finds in Kant, or perhaps in Strawson's Kant: the content of experience is conceptualized; _what_ we experience is always the kind of thing that we could also believe. When an agent has a veridical experience, she `takes in, for instance sees, _that things are thus and so_' (9). McDowell's argument for this thesis is indirect, but potentially powerful. He discusses a tension concerning the roles of experience and conceptual capacities in thought, and he claims that the only adequate resolution involves granting that experiences have conceptualized content. The tension, elaborated below, can be expressed roughly as follows: judgments must be somehow constrained by features of the external environment, else judgments would be utterly divorced from the world they purport to be about; yet our judgments must be somehow free of external control, else we could give no sense to the idea that we are responsible for our judgments
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