Response to Crispin Wright

John McDowell

in Knowing Our Own Minds

Published in print October 2000 | ISBN: 9780199241408
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598692 | DOI:
 Response to Crispin Wright

Show Summary Details


Wright takes it that Wittgenstein's main contribution to philosophical reflections on self‐knowledge is an explicit refusal to engage in the task that gives the ‘Cartesian’ conception of the mental, its captivating power: the task of explaining the distinctive features of our epistemic relation to our inner lives. Wright claims to find in Wittgenstein a two‐pronged argument to show that a ‘Cartesian’ conception cannot meet the supposed explanatory need. The picture mislocates Wittgenstein's target. As Wright presents it, the ‘Cartesian’ conception with its observational model of self‐knowledge transparently fails to address the supposedly puzzling feature of our self‐knowledge—its being not just non‐inferential but also baseless. So we need a different answer to the question ‘Why is the conception of the mental that Wittgenstein attacks so gripping?’ and ‘How can we dislodge that grip?’ Wright's picture offers no insight here. He has given us no determinate explanatory problem for the ‘Cartesian’ conception to be seen as a response to, and no determinate philosophical activity for Wittgenstein to be understood as refusing to engage in.

Keywords: baselessness; Cartesian conception; inner lives; Wittgenstein

Chapter.  7621 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.