Hegel and McDowell on the “Unboundedness of the Conceptual”

  • Federico Sanguinetti
Part of the Studies in German Idealism book series (SIGI, volume 20)


In his philosophical proposal, McDowell draws on theoretical elements that can be found in Hegel’s thought. The thesis of the “unboundedness of the conceptual” (UC) is one of the central theoretical aspects (if not the central theoretical aspect) that McDowell claims to share with Hegel. In this chapter, I claim that the Hegelian version of UC has a specific ontological and metaphysical import that implies an excess with respect to McDowell’s “therapeutic” attitude. This excess in Hegel’s version of UC does not simply amount to a meta-philosophical difference. Rather, it has decisive theoretical consequences, which can be recognised as further having repercussions on other theoretical aspects shared by McDowell and Hegel. In Sect. 8.1, I analyse McDowell’s version of UC. In Sect. 8.2, I discuss the form UC assumes in Hegel’s thought. Here I show that, unlike McDowell, Hegel defends a more robust form of conceptualism, which is the result of a (partly) different argumentative framework. Unlike McDowell, the objects of the world are not something immediate or a-conceptual, but are always already intrinsically ontologically mediated in a conceptual way, insofar as they are determined starting from the holistic articulation of the Concept. In Sect. 8.3, I show the repercussions of these two interpretations of UC on other theoretical claims that can be ascribed both to McDowell and Hegel, such as α) the denial that an immediate givenness can count as a justification for a belief, β) the conceptuality of sensible experience, γ) a non-subjectivistic account of reason, δ) the direct openness to the world.



I would like to sincerely thank Michela Bordignon, Luca Corti, Davide Dalla Rosa, Federico Orsini and Paolo Tripodi for reading and commenting on previous versions of this paper.


  1. Ayers, Michael. 2004. Sense Experience, Concepts and Content. Objections to Davidson and McDowell. In Perception and Reality: From Descartes to the Present, ed. Ralph Schumacher, 239–262. Paderborn: Mentis.Google Scholar
  2. Baldwin, Thomas. 1991. The Identity Theory of Truth. Mind 100: 35–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bubner, Rüdiger. 2002. Bildung and Second Nature. In ed. Smith, 209–216.Google Scholar
  4. Collins, Arthur. 1998. Beastly Experience. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58: 375–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Corti, Luca. 2012. Crossing the Line: Sellars on Kant on Imagination. Verifiche 41 (1–3): 41–71.Google Scholar
  6. Corti, Luca. 2014. Ritratti hegeliani. Un capitolo della filosofia americana contemporanea. Roma: Carocci.Google Scholar
  7. Dodd, Julian. 1995. McDowell and Identity Theories of Truth. Analysis 55 (3): 160–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Echeverri, Santiago. 2011. McDowell’s Conceptualist Therapy for Skepticism. European Journal of Philosophy 79 (1): 22–56.Google Scholar
  9. Engel, Pascal. 2001. The False Modesty of the Identity Theory of Truth. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 9 (4): 441–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ferrarin, Alfredo. 2007. Logic, Thinking, and Language. In Von der Logik zur Sprache: Stuttgarter Hegel-Kongress 2005, ed. R. Bubner and G. Hindrichs, 135–158. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.Google Scholar
  11. Friedman, Michael. 2002. Exorcising the Philosophical Tradition. In ed. Smith, 25–57.Google Scholar
  12. Gaskin, Richard. 2006. Experience and the World’s Own Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Halbig, Christoph. 2002. Objektives Denken Erkenntnistheorie und Philosophy of Mind in Hegels System. Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2008. Varieties of Nature in Hegel and McDowell. In ed. Lindgaard, 72–91.Google Scholar
  15. ———. 2009a. Objektive Gedanken. Zum Kernbegrff der Philosophie Hegels. Verifiche 37: 33–60.Google Scholar
  16. ———. 2009b. Das Recht des subjektiven Willens (§ 132). Überlegungen zu Hegels Theorie praktischer Rationalität. Hegel-Studien 44: 95–105.Google Scholar
  17. Ho, Tsung Hsing. 2014. Naturalism and the Space of Reasons in Mind and World. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 22 (1): 49–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Knappik, Franz. 2016. Hegel’s Essentialism. Natural Kinds and the Metaphysics of Explanation in Hegel’s Theory of ‘the Concept’. European Journal of Philosophy 24 (4): 760–787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Puntel, Lorenz. 2005. Hegels Warheitskonzeption. Kritische Rekonstruktion und eine “analytische” Alternative. Internationales Jahrbuch des deutschen Idealismus 3: 208–242.Google Scholar
  20. Putnam, Hilary. 2002. McDowell’s Mind and McDowell’s World. In ed. Smith, 174–190.Google Scholar
  21. Quante, Michael. 2000. Zurück zur verzauberten Natur—ohne konstruktive Philosophie? Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 48 (6): 953–965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. ———. 2011. Die Wirklichkeit des Geistes. Studien zu Hegel. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  23. Redding, Paul. 2012. McDowell’s Radicalization of Kant’s Account of Concepts and Intuitions: A Sellarsian (and Hegelian) Critique. Verifiche 41 (1/3): 9–37.Google Scholar
  24. Rockmore, Tom. 2002a. Hegel, Analytic Philosophy and Realism. Hegel-Studien 37: 123–138.Google Scholar
  25. Sanguinetti, Federico. 2015a. Is Hegel’s Theory of Sensation Committed to Metaphysics? A Comparison between Hegel and McDowell on Perceptual Knowledge. Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy 18: 179–198.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 2015b. La teoria hegeliana della sensazione. Trento: Verifiche.Google Scholar
  27. Stern, Robert. 1993. Did Hegel Hold an Identity Theory of Truth? Mind 102: 645–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. ———. 2009. Hegelian Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Suhm, Christian, Philip Wageman, and Wessels Florian. 2000. Ontological Troubles with Facts and Objects in McDowell’s Mind and World’. In ed. Willaschek, 27–33.Google Scholar
  30. Thornton, Tim. 2004. John McDowell. Montréal & Kingston/Ithaca: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Travis, Charles. 2008. Reason’s Reach. In ed. Lindgaard, 152–175.Google Scholar
  32. Wartenberg, Thomas. 1993. Hegel’s Idealism: the Logic of the Conceptuality. In The Cambridge Companion to Hegel, ed. F. Beiser, 102–129. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wright, Crispin. 2002. Human Nature? In ed. Smith, 140–159.Google Scholar
  34. Willaschek, Marcus. 2000b. On “The Unboundedness of the Conceptual.” In ed. Willaschek. 2000a. 35–40.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Federico Sanguinetti
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN)NatalBrazil

Personalised recommendations