28 October 2015

Public lecture in Philosophy

Tim Thornton’s research concerns conceptual issues at the heart of mental health care. He has published on clinical judgement, idiographic and narrative understanding, the recovery model and understanding psychopathology, among other things. He is author of Essential Philosophy of Psychiatry (OUP 2007), John McDowell (Acumen 2004), Wittgenstein on Language and Thought (EUP 1998) and co-author of the Oxford Textbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry (OUP 2006) and Tacit Knowledge (Acumen 2013).


How can thought latch onto the world? Given that thoughts can be true or false, how can what is thought ever be the same as what is actually the case? Both Wittgenstein and McDowell attempt to dissolve this surprising puzzle concerning the harmony or fit of thought and world.

McDowell quotes Wittgenstein’s remark that “When we say, and mean, that such-and-such is the case, we -- and our meaning -- do not stop anywhere short of the fact” and offers his own gloss on it. There is no ontological gap between the sort of thing one can think and the sort of thing that can be the case. This, he suggests, points to a role for a form of empiricism: the harmony of thought and reality is underpinned by the possibility of direct experiential openness to the layout of the world. But in responding to growing critics of his own account of how this is so, McDowell’s account of the harmony of thought and reality seems less and less therapeutic and thus less and less Wittgensteinian. Wittgenstein’s own account, by contrast, looks not to experience but to a mediation in language. So are they addressing the same problem? And can Wittgenstein’s remarks escape the increasing difficulties that McDowell’s account finds itself in. This presentation will sketch both accounts and ask whether we can make do with as little as Wittgenstein seems to promise.

When and where

Thursday October 29, 16:00, Voltaire D.