Norris’ "Epistemology" Ch5, II

Book Discussion of Christopher Norris’ “Epistemology: Key Concepts in Philosophy”

Chapter 5: Making for Truth: Some Problems with Virtue-Based Epistemology –

Section II.
Note: physicalist is apparently synonymous with ‘thoroughly naturalized’.

This section is going to mainly focus on how McDowell’s revision of Kant attempts to replace the normativity lost by Hume, then Quine, ironically because of Kant. It’s very weird how Kant helped, involving discussion of judgement and imagination and how they work to bring sensuous intuitions under concepts of understanding. I remember reading about some of this when I was reading Schopenhauer, but that was years ago, and I don’t remember any talk of imagination (which is supposedly blind, something “of which we are scarcely ever conscious,” so must not be what I think of when I think of imagination…which is something I use on purpose…I ‘imagine’ on purpose…but…perhaps it is the part of the mind that runs on automatic when we’re dreaming? I dunno).

McDowell is supposed to resolve this by “setting empirical constraints on the exercise of spontaneity while nonetheless allowing the mind sufficient scope for its active role in the process of judgement.” This was covered in chapter four, section four, The empirical constraints of receptivity are “responsible” and the exercise of spontaneity (the active role in the process of judgment) is “freedom”. Put them together, and you’ve got “responsible freedom” because the spontaneous is anchored within the receptive (which “respects Kant’s demand that reason should acknowledge certain necessary constraints on its proper sphere of jurisdiction—i.e., that it should not encroach on the domain of cognitive understanding where intuitions are ‘brought under’ adequate concepts—since otherwise it would become nothing more than a kind of speculative free-for-all or ‘frictionless spinning in the void’.”
The “question of how to wrest a space for ‘responsible freedom’ in judgement—a space where reason can exercise its powers with due regard to empirical constraints—is one that has continued to vex philosophy in the mainstream analytic line of descent even where that tradition has expressly renounced any Kantian conception of knowledge as vested in certain a priori (transcendentally deducible) intuitions, concepts and categories.”
–ignored by logical empiricist claim “that enquiry could perfectly well proceed through the bringing of first-order empirical observations under higher-level (e.g., deductive-nomological) modes of reasoning whose validity was self-evident.
–Quine’s attack on the ‘two dogmas’ “of logical empiricism set out to demolish this residual Kantian dichotomy while leaving a third dogma in place, that is, the idea that epistemology could be ‘naturalized’”…
–Davidson pointed out “Quine’s adherence to yet another covert dogma, i.e., his notion of empirical data as open to as many divergent interpretations as there existed ontological schemes or frameworks under which those data might be subsumed.” So, the “old dualism” of scheme and world is still there. Davidson tries to give up the dualism in that he tries to “reestablish unmediated touch with the familiar objects whose antics make our sentences and opinions true or false,” – throwing out normativity.
–McDowell seeks to restore normativity by countering Quine’s thoroughly naturalized theory of knowledge.
–Rorty (with “presumptive Davidsonian warrant”) claimed “we can be as hard-headedly ‘realist’ as we like about (say) the causal impact of incoming photons on Galileo’s eyeball while still maintaining that all such physical events are under some optional description or other. In which case, according to Rorty, the issue is strictly undecidable as between Galileo’s ‘observing’ the moons of Jupiter and thereby ‘shattering the crystalline spheres once and for all’ and his opponents’ taking those ‘same’ observations as merely introducing a further complication in the old Ptolemaic-Aristotelian astronomy.” Interpretation effectively goes “all the way down”.

But apparently McDowell keeps trekking right along with his attempt to detranscendentalized Kant without losing the normativity. Apparently—a detranscendentalized Kant is not a thoroughly naturalized Kant. I’m having trouble with that one. However…go back up and read how McDowell attempted to do this. But, in his attempt, he fails to explain how our knowledge “can be responsive to certain ideas of reason which must themselves be taken to inform (or to orient) every act of cognitive judgment but whose sphere of jurisdiction lies altogether outside and beyond the cognitive domain.” He avoids any appeal to Kant’s noumenal realm which would elude our grasp. His approach “seems to fight shy of explicitly endorsing … that reality must be located inside the conceptual sphere.”

Can a virtue-based epistemology do any better? Read on…

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance and now coordinates the CAA Catechism. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
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