Brandom’s Got No Soul

Brandom, like McDowell, wants to tell “a story” in which human animals as “initially merely differentially responsive creatures can be initiated into the implicitly normative social practice of giving and asking for reasons” (26, cf. chs. 1-3 of Making It Explicit). So, “products of social interactions…are not studied by the natural sciences – though they are not for that reason to be treated as spooky and supernatural” (26). Here’s Brandom’s version of McDowell’s linguistic “toehold” for the space of reasons in the natural realm: “Those practices institute a realm of culture that rests on, but goes beyond, the background of reliable differential responsive dispositions and their exercise characteristic of merely natural creatures” (26).

But, as I suggest here, the “resting on” is what neither McDowell nor Brandom can properly admit, since that would require a point of contact between the two orders that could be measurable in quantitative terms (in terms of measurable, mappable transformations from the “merely animal” to the rational), but both identify a qualitative distinction between the “merely natural” and the space of reasons,” which no amount of quantitative tinkering can bridge. By contrast, if the natural (in the sense of the “real”) includes something spooky (like a soul), it can without any difficulty produce something spooky, like a reason.

This entry was posted in Epistemology, John McDowell, Nature, Robert Brandom and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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