Hegel, McDowell, and Perceptual Experience: A Response to John McDowell

  • Stephen HoulgateEmail author
Part of the Studies in German Idealism book series (SIGI, volume 20)


In this essay I examine Hegel’s conception of perceptual experience and respond to criticisms by John McDowell of an earlier essay of mine on the same topic. I argue that, for Hegel, sensation takes in the look or shape of things, but that consciousness and intuition actively “posit” what we see and feel as a world of objects. In McDowell’s view, this commits my Hegel to “subjective idealism.” I argue, by contrast, that Hegel avoids such idealism, because in positing what we see to be an object, consciousness thinks it to be the object it is: the activity of consciousness presents us with the object itself. I also argue, pace McDowell, that, for my Hegel, human beings do not first admit sensory content to an antechamber of the mind and then admit it to consciousness at the cost of being conceptualised, but that sensory content is taken into consciousness, and endowed with objectivity, as it is being received. To conclude, I note that, whereas, for Hegel, sensory content is received into consciousness by being actively taken up into it, for McDowell, experience involves no such activity but conceptual capacities are drawn into operation passively in the deliverances of sensibility.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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