Experience, Thought and External World: Davidson and McDowell

Indian Philosophical Quarterly (3-4):43-64 (2019)
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Abstract
The relationship between experience and thought is one of the distinctive problems in contemporary philosophy and has significant implications for both philosophy of mind and epistemology. John McDowell in his Magnum Opus Mind and World has argued in favour of a rational and conceptual relationship between experience and thought. In our understanding of the relationship between experience and thought, in his opinion, we fall into an “intolerable oscillation” between Myth of the Given and Coherentism. One of these pitfalls, he specifically targets, is Davidson’s coherentism according to which there cannot be rational relationship between experience and thought. The point Davidson makes is that our perception of the world cannot give justification to our beliefs about the world. Only a belief, in his opinion, can justify another belief and this is considered to be one of the most controversial claims in contemporary philosophy. Both Davidson and McDowell would agree that the root of the problem pertaining to the relationship between experience and thought lies in the relationship between reason and nature (rationality and natural world). In this paper, my aim is to critically evaluate the debate between Davidson and McDowell about the relationship between experience and thought in connection with their views on the relationship between reason and nature. I will argue that a rational relation between experience and thought is necessary for our thought to have a genuine content from the external world.
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