Rationality and engagement: McDowell, Dreyfus and Zidane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article examines John McDowell's attempt to rehabilitate the classical idea of the rational animal and Hubert Dreyfus's criticisms of that attempt. After outlining the 'engaged' conception of rationality which, in McDowell's view, enables the idea of the rational animal to shake off its intellectualist appearance, the objections posed by Dreyfus are presented that such a conception of rationality is inconsistent with the phenomena of everyday coping, characterised by non-conceptual 'involvement', and expertise, characterised by non-conceptual 'absorption'. Drawing on Michael Fried's reflections on the representation of absorption in Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno's film Zidane, and invoking other considerations concerning the 'mindedness' of skilful activity, the sharp contrast between conceptuality and rationality on the one side and absorption and skilled coping on the other that frames Dreyfus's position in the debate is questioned. The paper concludes by suggesting that in order to see why Dreyfus is so firmly committed to that contrast, we need to widen the lens so that a broader range of philosophical motivations comes into view. For it is not just that there are phenomena that go missing or are mis-described in McDowell's account, according to Dreyfus; there are ideals and excellences that go missing too.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-180
Number of pages22
JournalHegel Bulletin
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'Rationality and engagement: McDowell, Dreyfus and Zidane'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this