McDowell’s radicalization of Kant’s account of concepts and intuitions: A Sellarsian (and Hegelian) critique


McDowell’s attempts to find a way out of the grip of some seemingly intractable problems besetting analytic philosophy has led him back to Kant and Hegel. Understanding, with Kant, the role played by concepts in experience will point the way forward, but Kant’s thinking must be released from its own problems which threaten to reduce the contents of experience and knowledge to “facts about us”. Kant’s “subjectivism” must be subjected to an “Hegelian” critique. However, McDowell’s solution to that problem, which involves a radical reinterpretation of Kant’s concept–intuition distinction, introduces new problems. Here I contrast McDowell’s reinterpretation of the intuition–concept relation with a less radical one suggested by Wilfrid Sellars, and based on his diagnosis of the ambiguity of Kant’s notion of intuition. The Sellarsian modest revision of Kant both gives a better account of perceptual experience and helps us better to understand the step that Hegel had taken beyond Kant.