McDowell’s New Conceptualism and the Difference between Chickens, Colours and Cardinals

Johan Gersel, Rasmus Thybo Jensen, Morten Sørensen Thaning

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McDowell recently renounced the assumption that the content of any knowledgeable, perceptual judgement must be included in the content of the knowledge grounding experience. We argue that McDowell’s introduction of a new category of non-inferential, perceptual knowledge is incompatible with the main line of argument in favour of conceptualism as presented in Mind and World [McDowell, John. 1996. Mind and World. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press]. We reconstruct the original line of argument and show that it rests on the assumption that a specific model of justification, the Comparison Model, must apply to all cases of non-inferential, perceptual knowledge. We then show that the Comparison Model cannot be applied to McDowell’s new category of non-inferential, perceptual knowledge. As a consequence, McDowell is in need of an alternative model of justification and an alternative argument for conceptualism. We propose such an alternative model of justification based on McDowell’s reading of Sellars, but argue that the model only serves to make the need for an alternative motivation for conceptualism more urgent.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Explorations
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)88-105
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • McDowell
  • Conceptual content
  • Perceptual knowledge
  • Recognitional skills
  • The Myth of the Given

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