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In the Light of ExperienceNew Essays on Perception and Reasons$
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Johan Gersel, Rasmus Thybo Jensen, Morten S. Thaning, and Søren Overgaard

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198809630

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198809630.001.0001

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Empiricism and Normative Constraint

Empiricism and Normative Constraint

(p.101) 4 Empiricism and Normative Constraint
In the Light of Experience

Hannah Ginsborg

Oxford University Press

McDowell holds that our thinking, in order to have intentional content, must stand in a normative relation to empirical reality. He thinks that this condition can be satisfied only if we adopt “minimal empiricism”: the view that beliefs and judgements stand in rational relations to perceptual experiences, conceived as passive. I raise two complementary difficulties for minimal empiricism, one challenging McDowell’s view that experiences, conceived as passive, can be reasons for belief, the other challenging his view of experience as presupposing conceptual capacities. I go on to argue that minimal empiricism is not necessary for satisfying the condition that thinking be normatively related to the empirical world. There is another way of understanding the relation between thought and reality which construes it as normative without being rational: we can understand it as the world’s normative constraint on the activity through which empirical concepts, and hence empirical thinking, become possible.

Keywords:   McDowell, normativity, concepts, intentionality, rationality, empiricism, reasons for belief, perceptual experience, concept-acquisition, language-acquisition

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