McDowell, John Henry (1942-)

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McDowell taught philosophy at Oxford from 1967 to 1986, where he established himself as a key figure in analytic philosophy, mounting forceful arguments in favour of a realist stance in the theory of meaning, philosophy of mind and metaethics, and challenging a variety of noncognitivist and antirealist positions that had become orthodox in those fields. In 1986 he took up a position at the University of Pittsburgh, where he has worked since.

In his most highly acclaimed work, Mind and World (1994), McDowell sought to diagnose a transcendental anxiety, characteristic of modern philosophy, in which it seems mysterious that thought is answerable to reality at all. McDowell’s proposed cure for the anxiety turned on embracing the idea that there is no gap between reality and the reach of thought, no contact with reality that does not bring conceptual capacities into play, capacities that are acquired not by magic but naturally through education into a form of life. Much of McDowell’s work since Mind and World has been aimed at clarifying and refining the idea that conceptual capacities permeate the human life form. Increasingly, he has turned to Sellars, Kant and Hegel for guidance in pursuing that task.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge encyclopedia of philosophy online
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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