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Matthias Wunsch ; Bergische Universität Gesamthochschule Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Deutschland

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The author puts forward a critical evaluation of the philosophical anthropology
of American philosopher John McDowell, as set forth in his book Mind and
World (1994). The starting point of McDowell’s anthropology is the classical
tenet that humans are rational animals. According to McDowell, humans are
animals characterized by a nature and animality “permeated” by rationality,
i.e. by spontaneity. Humans consist of two components. The first encompasses
most of the diversity common to humans and animals, while the second,
rationality, i.e. spontaneity, is connected with the first component up to a certain
age, but it remains extrinsic. McDowell strives to conceive of rationality
and spontaneity as natural traits, and he does so by suggesting an expansion
of the natural-scientific concept of nature to include the concept of so-called
“second nature”. While the first nature encompasses our biological foundations,
the second nature of humans, according to McDowell, consists of the
faculties and qualities which can be related with rationality and spontaneity:
the faculties of conceptual or abstract representation, of deliberate action, and,
in particular, of responsiveness to reasons. Humans acquire their second nature
through “upbringing” and “education”. These processes do not add to our
organism anything that is extra-animal or that exceeds our nature. McDowell
believes that he is able to embed rationality into nature (thereby expanding
the second nature) with no negation of its character sui generis, and that he is
not forced to conclude that its activity as such can be elucidated by the tools
of natural sciences. McDowell’s line of thought is a theoretically challenging
attempt to sidestep the boundaries and avoid the obstacles of Platonic and
scientistic anthropology. The author shows that the attempt was unsuccessful
after all, since it failed to establish a well-balanced relation between the first
and second nature. He concludes that McDowell’s conception does not make
it possible to reach beyond the Platonic, i.e. scientistic anthropology.


anthropology, Platonic and scientistic anthropology, first and second human nature, nature and the supernatural

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