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Conceptualism and the Myth of the Given



Content Conceptualism is the view that all representational content, including the content of perceptual experiences, is conceptual content. The main motivation for this view is that it alone intelligibly explains how perceptual experiences justify beliefs. Underlying this position is what I will call ‘Epistemic Conceptualism’, according to which only conceptual contents can provide reasons for, and thus justify, beliefs. McDowell’s commitment to some such position comes out quite clearly in his discussion of the ‘Myth of the Given’, which he characterizes as ‘the idea that the space of reasons, the space of justification or warrants, extends more widely than the conceptual sphere ’ (McDowell 1994: 7). In order to disabuse of this idea, he assures us that ‘We cannot really understand the relations in virtue of which a judgement is warranted except as relations within the space of concepts: relations such as implication or probabilification, which hold between potential exercises of conceptual capacities ’ (McDowell 1994: 7). Bill Brewer has also argued for Content Conceptualism on this basis—though his position has changed in important ways since. (See Brewer, 2006) In what follows, I will argue that Epistemic Conceptualism is flawed. In particular, I will argue that we cannot account entirely for the reason-giving role of experiences in terms of thei

Year: 2014
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