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Title: Conceptualism and practical significance : the McDowell-Dreyfus debate
Author: Cumming, Tom
ISNI:       0000 0004 9355 1556
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2019
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The purpose of this thesis is to offer a synoptic and distinctive resolution to the debate between Hubert Dreyfus and John McDowell, which concerns the extent to which conceptual capacities are involved in human perceptual experience and intentional action. My resolution demonstrates how conceptualism accommodates the phenomenon of unreflective action, avoiding “Cartesian” implications, and preserving distinctive insights from existential phenomenology. In my first chapter, I expound Dreyfus’s non-conceptualist account of the phenomenon of “unreflective action”. I highlight how such an account is supposed to avoid a Cartesian picture of the relationship between the human being and the world. In my second chapter, I demonstrate how conceptual involvement arises in practically engaged experience. This undermines Dreyfus’s argument that conceptual involvement necessarily entails Cartesianism. In my third chapter, I demonstrate the incoherence of a non-conceptualist account of intentional responses, with reference to Wilfred Sellars’ critique of the “given”, and go on to demonstrate how McDowell’s conceptualism avoids Cartesianism. In my fourth chapter, I argue that the intentional character of unreflective action necessarily entails that the agent possesses the relevant concepts. I then demonstrate how the apparently non-conceptual “motor intentional” content that Dreyfus highlights only plays a normative role through its integration into a framework of operative conceptual capacities. In my fifth chapter, I secure the idea that perceptual content can be “intrinsically” practically significant in a way consistent with its normative relation to unreflective action. I provide a distinctive conceptualist interpretation of Heidegger’s notion of the “ready-tohand” in order to do this. My resolution therefore demonstrates how a conceptualist account of intentional content accommodates the phenomenon that Dreyfus appeals to; the unreflective, embodied and practical way in which human beings engage with their environment. This resolution allows for a post-Cartesian conception of the mind, where the mind is integrated into practically engaged experience.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available