Zwischen Analytischem Pragmatismus und Quietismus

Brandom und McDowell über die Rolle der Philosophie

  • Matthias Kiesselbach
Keywords: Pittsburgh School, pragmatism, analytical pragmatism, quietism, analytical philosophy, linguistic competence, intentionality, holism


This article examines the meta-philosophical rift which runs through the Pittsburgh School of contemporary philosophy. The rift is a disagreement about the appropriateness and likelihood of success of the kind of attempt at philosophical explanation in which implicitly mastered conceptual practices are reconstructed by way of combining simple and easily surveyable practical rules. While for Robert Brandom, such explanations can yield a genuinely better understanding of the target practice or vocabulary, and are thus an appropriate instrument for analytical philosophy, John McDowell considers them symptomatic of a wholly mistaken view of discursive practice, and takes their failure to be inevitable. According to McDowell, the futility of (“linear”) philosophical reconstructions is due to the holistic structure of linguistic competence and hence intentionality itself: distinct concrete conceptual practices presuppose each other in holistic (and hence circular) ways. This article defends Brandom’s thesis of the compatibility of the holism cited by McDowell on the one hand, and the possibility of philosophical explanation on the other, using a concrete example of a successful reconstruction which could be described as “linear” in McDowell’s sense. Finally, two possible answers in support of McDowell’s scepticism are discussed with a view to establishing room for a continuation of the debate.