Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Husserl’s Critique of Lotze and Its Relation to McDowell and the “Myth of the Given”

Topics: Cognitive science, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ontology, Philosophy of mind, Theoretical philosophy
Keywords: Husserl, Lotze, McDowell, Myth of the given, Non-conceptual content


The purpose of this paper is twofold: I want to investigate (i) to what extent Husserl’s critique of Lotze can provide a phenomenological contribution to the contemporary analytic debate on the Myth of the Given, and (ii) to what extent this critique can be related to McDowell’s conceptualism. We will see that Husserl’s phenomenological clarification of the acts of knowledge comes close to McDowell’s conceptualism in some respects, but fundamentally moves away from it in some others. Specifically, we will see that McDowell’s conceptualism would fail to follow Husserl’s “master thought”: the radical freedom of presuppositions in investigations concerning theory of knowledge. A side purpose of this paper is to show how the contemporary analytic debate resembles—both historically and systematically—one of the main problems that is at the origins of phenomenology: the critique of knowledge and the problem of the consciousness-world correlation. The paper is structured as follows: firstly, I briefly present the essential points of McDowell’s conceptualism; then, I summarize Lotze’s theory of knowledge from his last book of Logic from 1874; finally, I turn to Husserl’s critique of Lotze in the Unpublished Manuscript K I 59 and briefly indicate the possible points of contact that it may have with the contemporary analytic debate, especially with McDowell’s conceptualist response to the Sellarsian critique of the Given.

Sellars’ critique of the Given can be considered the original locus of what is now called the Pittsburgh School in contemporary analytic philosophy. One of the main problems that Sellars’ essay presents—and thus helps to shape this “school” of thought—concerns the general aim of his critique. To speak with McDowell, the question is whether Sellars’ main goal is, as Brandom interprets it, “to dismantle [traditional] empiricism” (Brandom 1997: 168) or whether it is, as McDowell suggests, “to rescue a non-traditional empiricism from the wreckage of traditional empiricism”, showing us the way on how to be…


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