Friday, 20 November 2009

Endogenous constraint on thinking not Thought

Having not enabled comments on this site, there is no neat way to report corrections. But Paul Witcombe has emailed me to point out the error of my post on Mind and World as transcendental anthropology. He says, surely correctly,

I’ve been mulling over the issues you raised but my ‘mullings’ keep being dominated by trying to give content to the notion of an ‘endogenous factor/constraint’ in relation to thought, a conceptual scheme etc in the context of McDowell’s position.
1. I think the notion requires the possibility of a relevant contrast in that context: that of an ‘exogenous constraint’. 2. Indeed, you prepare the ground for the notion by noting that McDowell does not reject the idea of ‘an exogenous constraint on thought but only that it cannot take the form of the Given (Myth). Contents can be given in in an anodyne sense in empirical experience, provided they do not outstrip the subject’s conceptual capacities.
3. [But] I don't think what is said in the first sentence in 2 above is quite correct. I think that McDowell does reject the idea of an exogenous constraint on thought. What I think he does not reject is the idea of exogenous constraints on particular ‘thinkings’. I believe the ‘unboundedness of the conceptual’ as understood by McDowell makes the idea of an exogenous constraint on thought (as such) unintelligible.
4. As far as I can see, the idea of an ‘endogenous constraint’ (‘endogenous factor’) in relation to thought requires the intelligibilty of the idea of an ‘exogenous constraint’ etc and this latter idea, as indicated, McD, I think, rejects.
5. Thus, I think that in an environment where the Scheme-Content Dualism (or Scheme-World Dualism) is abandoned, the conceptual is unbounded and the form/structure of thought is the form/structure of the world, the idea of an endogenous constraint/factor loses any substantive content/point. (Could its point, however, be merely to re-assert that the conceptual is unbounded: nothing is external to the conceptual, reason etc?).

So I must make sure I talk about an endogenous constraint on thinking or particular thoughts (or Fregean Thoughts) rather than on Thought, in an abstract singular, as a whole. Still, I am not sure that this changes the dialectic very much. Such a constraint might still seem impossible given the Mind and World critique of scheme-content dualism and thus still needs some delicacy.