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Naomi Eilan

Objectivity and Bifurcationism

On one view, what gives us a grip on the idea of a mind-independent world is our commitment to its describability from no point of view. On another, what gives us a grip on the idea of a mind-independent world is our capacity to employ a primitive theory of perception, in virtue of which we think of our perceptions as explained jointly by the way the world is and our own position in it. My question is: to what extent, and in what sense, is the latter a serious alternative to the former? Some of McDowell’s most powerful arguments against the possibility of an absolute conception are extensions of his arguments about the distorting effects of combining bifurcationism about ethical concepts with appeals to the absolute conception in framing questions about the reality of ethical value. I will be suggesting that when we try and extend these arguments to similarly structured debates about the location of consciousness in the world, we see that appeal to the primitive theory only provides a serious alternative to the absolute conception if we think of the demonstratives deployed in the theory as mediated by experiences that are both world-dependent and concept-independent.