SPAH Seminar Series: Conformity and Second Nature

This seminar discusses the natural and social necessitation in McDowell’s Mind and World

  • Thu 10 Dec 20

    15:00 - 17:00

  • Online


  • Event speaker

    Dr Matteo Falomi, University of Essex

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    SPAH Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Philosophy and Art History, School of

  • Contact details

    Hannah Whiting, School Manager

This seminar, hosted by Dr Matteo Falomi, University of Essex, discusses the natural and social necessitation in McDowell’s Mind and World.

An abstract from Mind and World by John McDowell

In Mind and World, McDowell aims at dissolving a philosophical anxiety about the place of reason in nature. His dissolution hinges upon a Wittgensteinian “reminder of the obvious”: reason is second nature to us, as we become rational through social habituation. I will argue that the content of this “reminder”, if thought through, turns out to be anything but obvious: if self-determination is acquired through habituation, then we must, but also must not, rely on the authority of our educators in order to acquire it. From this perspective, what habituation can deliver is at best a capacity to rely on external authority. This indicates that McDowell’s therapeutic attempt is incomplete, as it does not dissolve the reader’s anxiety, but rather leaves her with an anxiety of a different form: the attempt transforms an anxiety about natural necessitation into an anxiety about social necessitation, or conformity. To bring Mind and World’s project to completion, one would need to dissolve this anxiety. I will conclude by suggesting that Stanley Cavell’s work on Perfectionism may be a good starting place for approaching this task.


Bio: Matteo Falomi

Matteo Falomi is a part-time teacher in Philosophy at the University of Essex. He gained his PhD from the University of Naples’ “l’Orientale”, and has held post-doctoral appointments at Oxford University and at Essex. Before coming to Essex, he taught at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. He has published on Wittgensteinian ethics and on Cavell’s moral and political philosophy. He is presently working on a book on Cavell’s notion of moral perfectionism.

To attend this seminar, please contact Hannah Whiting at hannah.whiting@essex.ac.uk for the Zoom link. 

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