Bildung, meaning, and reasons


By endorsing that Bildung is a condition for thought, McDowell explicitly sets out to revive a theme in classical german philosophy. As long as the concept of Bildung is intended to play a role McDowell’s theory of meaning and reasons, however, it is best understood in the light of his distinctive combination of neo-Fregeanism about content and Wittgensteinianism about rule-following. The Fregean part is there to ensure that reasons are objective, the Wittgensteinian move is to account for our grasping of reasons. I argue that, as it stands, the project can hardly succeed. According to this reading, Bildung not only provides the epistemic resources to access reasons; it shapes them in a way that is in tension with the idea that reasons are objective in the sense required. I conclude with a guess about the amendment needed to keep the project in the air.