John McDowell

From Academic Kids

John McDowell (born 1942) is a contemporary philosopher, formerly a fellow of University College, Oxford and now a professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

McDowell's most noted work has been in the philosophy of mind and language. In the 1970s he was active in the project of semantics for natural language that had been initiated by Donald Davidson. His work is also heavily influenced by Wilfrid Sellars, P. F. Strawson, and Gareth Evans.

In more recent years he has advocated an externalist theory of mind, and contends that a due respect for scientific naturalism should not preclude our treating mentalistic vocabulary as real -- as actually referring to and describing the world. He has also written on Wittgenstein, Kant, Ancient Philosophy, and ethics.

Many of McDowell's papers are collected in Mind, Value, and Reality and Meaning, Knowledge, and Reality. His John Locke Lectures are reprinted in Mind and World, an influential but difficult work that provides a controversial account of empirical justification for beliefs, covering some of the same ground as Hegel's critique of Kant. Many of the central themes in McDowell's work have also been pursued in similar ways by his Pittsburgh colleague Robert Brandom, although the latter's work shows a strong influence of Richard Rorty which McDowell's work does not.

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