The Myth of Mere Movement
Since Wilfrid Sellars’s “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind,” the myth of the Given has been central to philosophical discussions of perceptual experience and knowledge. In its most prominent form, the idea of the Given is the idea that perceptual experience can rationally support one’s thoughts but has no conceptual content. Now, intentional action is widely thought to be the structural complement of perceptual experience; via perceptual experience, the world impresses itself on the mind; via intentional action, the mind impresses itself on the world. But if that is true, we should suspect that there is something structurally similar to the idea of the Given in our thinking about intentional action. In this essay, I show in detail that indeed there is. Roughly, it is the idea that intentional actions can be rationally supported by one’s thoughts but have no conceptual content. I contend further that if the Given is a “myth,” so too is this structural analog. I also argue that if John McDowell’s way of avoiding the Given is satisfactory, there is a correlative way of avoiding the structural analog. The intriguing result: intentional action must have conceptual content. In the end, I raise two key questions about whether we should accept this result.
Maher, Chauncey. "The Myth of Mere Movement." Erkenntnis 82, no. 6 (2017): 1177-1193. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10670-016-9864-0