My PhD Thesis will be centred on John McDowell’s philosophy of mind. In McDowell’s view, mature human beings occupy an autonomous ‘space of reasons’, the logical space in which notions such as rationality and the possibility of correctness or otherwise of inferences or actions are found. The contents of this space, according to McDowell, are not reducible, in the sense of being fully redescribable in terms of, physical states, and in particular states of the brain, so rationality is not the kind of thing that can be investigated by natural science. Rather, rationality belongs to a ‘second nature’ that we come to possess through normal maturation in society.
However, McDowell’s views run contrary to those of many other contemporary philosophers who identify the mental with states of the brain. My project will therefore be to try to show how McDowell’s exciting and radical view of the mind could be true in a physical world. One possible direction of inquiry, which I shall pursue, is the investigation of possible analogies between the mental and some aspects of functional explanation in biology.
Supervisors: Professor Cynthia Macdonald and Professor Jonathan Gorman