Volume 17, Issue 1, Spring 2012
McDowell and Perceptual Reasons
John McDowell claims that perception provides reasons for empirical beliefs. Perceptual reasons, according to the author of Mind and World, can be identified
with passively “taken in” facts. Concepts figure in the acts of acquiring perceptual reasons, even though the acts themselves do not consist in judgments. Thus,
on my reading, McDowell’s account of the acquisition of reasons can be likened to Descartes’ account of the acquisition of ideas, rather than to Kant’s theory of
judgment as an act by means of which one’s cognition comes to be endowed with objective validity. However, unlike Descartes, McDowell does not acknowledge
the skeptical challenge which his conception of the acquisition of reasons might face. He contends that perception is factive without arguing for the background
assumption (about a “perfect match” between mind and world) on which it rests. Hence, as I suggest in my article, the McDowellian claim that perception provides reasons for empirical beliefs is not sufficiently warranted.