Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The myth of the given

McDowell’s account of the myth of the given is derived from Sellers. Moreover this account makes sense only in the context of Seller’s normative conception of knowledge (intro. to Mind and World, xiv). McDowell extends this to include not only knowledge but to the very notion of having contact with reality: normative context is necessary for being in touch with the world at all, whether knowledgeable or not.” (xiv).

Sellers attack on the myth of the given is an attack on the notion of ‘immediacy,” which is at the heart of the whole empiricist tradition as well as at the heart of the Cartesian tradition in general).

Habermas agrees with the basic thrust of this thinking by not only explicitly rejecting the myth of the given but also through his background in Hegel he is aware of the Hegel’s critique of the immediacy. Furthermore with his linguistic turn it become clear that reality is linguistically constituted and that there is no God’s eye view from which we can access naked reality. With the linguistic turn the whole notion of “purified experience’ or immediate contact with experiential reality becomes suspect.

The rejection of ‘immediacy’ is the rejection of two important factors:

1) The Lockean myth of the pure passivity of subject vis a vis external experience is rejected. There is no purely ‘passive’ experience as such because even in the purest of all pure experiences the active side of human subject is already implicated.

2) Locke’s confusion of explanation and justification is rejected. The thought that the bare experience can on its own act as reason is rejected. The thought behind this is that ‘reason’ involves actors and subjects who are responsible for not only making claims but also responsible for defending or rejecting and consequences ensuing form those claims. The idea is that ‘reasons’ presuppose the existence of social space in which claims can be made and defended. The idea already presupposes the idea of responsible actors. (for the above two points see Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature)

Thus the idea is incompatible with the myth of the given as far as the idea consists in the fact that bare perceptions in their givenness can stand as reasons. The myth of the given turns out to be a contradictory idea in this vein as the idea of reason presupposes the idea of an active subject while the myth is founded on the idea of purely passive subject while the very idea of reason requires at least two active subjects.

Sellers’ and Brandom’ idea of the priority of inference is built on the above insight. The same is the idea behind Habermas’ radicalisation of Dummet’s epistemic turn in the theory of meaning. The space of reason presupposes actors who can make claims and defend them. This is the basis of the rejection of the myth of the given by Sellers, Brandom, Davidson, Habermas.


Anonymous said...

It's Sellars, not "Sellers"

Anonymous said...

thats right thanks.

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