Department Chair:
Martin Thomson-Jones

Administrative Assistant:
Brenda Handley

Department Email:

Phone: 440 775 8390
Fax: 440 775 8084

King Buiding 105
10 North Professor Street
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Visiting Speaker Series

Visiting Speaker Series


 McDowell and Wright on Anti-Scepticism etc.


Alex Byrne


According to McDowell, “it constitutes a response [to the sceptic] if we can find a way to insist that we can make sense of the idea of direct perceptual access to objective facts about the environment. That contradicts the claim that what perceptual experience yields, even in the best possible case, must be something less than having an environmental fact directly available to one. And without that thought, this scepticism loses its supposed basis and falls to the ground” (“The Disjunctive Conception of Experience as Material for a Transcendental Argument”).

According to Wright, this is no response at all: “...there is an evident gap between direct awareness of a situation in virtue of which P is true and the acquisition of warrant for the belief that P...” (“Comment on John McDowell’s ‘The Disjunctive Conception…’”).  

Wright’s point is that a “direct realist” theory of perception, which he takes McDowell to be offering, does not dislodge any premise of the sceptic’s argument that we know nothing about the external world.

I attempt to disentangle this dispute, and to draw some lessons. McDowell, on my reading, does not counter the sceptic by offering a direct realist theory, but rather by denying that (quoting from Wright, “(Anti-) sceptics…”) “my warrant for [the proposition that here is a hand] consists in my being in a state which is subjectively indistinguishable from a state [in which I am hallucinating a hand]”. And McDowell, I argue, is right.


Thursday, April 28th, 4:30 p.m.

King 343


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