From representations to practice : a critique of naturalized reason.
This thesis investigates an understanding of the relationship between mind and world which avoids
defining the former as a naturalizable entity and the latter as identifiable with the world described
by the natural sciences. I recommend paying closer attention to the notion of person and to our
practical encounter with the world. I reject the idea of the world's having a given structure which is
independent of our knowledge of it and, consequently, any conception of knowledge as a search
for free-standing essences.
I start by criticizing the project of naturalizing intentionality in general, and the content of
mental states in particular. I focus on Fodor's language of thought and his explication of semantic
relations as relations between individual mental representations and isolated features of the world.
I argue that this sort of account leads to scepticism or to postulating pre-established harmony. An
alternative, Davidsonian framework which highlights the interdependence of meaning and
knowledge is explored. Following the Kantian line opened by McDowell, I propose pursuing
Davidson's philosophy to its ultimate consequences and defend a non-foundationalist role for
experience, oppose Davidson's inconsistent deferentialist attitude to physical processes, and
suggest retaining the idea of mental causation by defining causation in terms of explanatory
practices rather than laws.
From this perspective minds cease to be bundles of mysterious internal states of organisms
which need relating to tangible matter. Instead, sense is made of people's dealings with the world
in terms of their interaction with each other, their ability to communicate, and the rationality and
normativity which regulates their lives. I argue that it is only from this perspective that claims of
knowledge can be made, and that attempts at reducing normativity to the supposedly descriptive
stance of science eliminate the grounds for maintaining that such attempts should be taken as true