The argument I will be presenting and critiquing resides in chapter 1 of Williamson’s “The Philosophy of Philosophy”. McDowell offers the following argument in support of his ideas on conceptualism:
There is no gap between the sort of thing one can think and the sort of thing that can be the case
1. When one thinks truly, what one thinks is what is the case
2. Thus, the world is everything that is the case (inferred from Premise 1 & 2)
3. Therefore, there is no gap between thought and the world
After presenting this argument, McDowell offers, in seemingly support of, the claim that ‘thought can be distanced from the world by being false’. However, this supplementary premise can be considered contrary, if not contradictory to the first premise. If no gap exists between what one can think and what can be the case then no amount of thought, regardless of its falsity, can create that gap. Either the argument should be deemed invalid or modified to account for the logical inconsistency in its structure. A revision of the argument could entail the removal of this premise, however McDowell must maintain one ideology over another since both beliefs cannot co-exist together. A second notion to consider is this idea of false thoughts vs. true thoughts; both stemming from the exact same world of thought. It would be mildly presumptuous to say that all false thought distances us from the world. I would argue that these false thoughts do not come from the world; rather they come from our interpretation, or namely distortion of true thoughts, which exist completely independent from our existence and thus the existence of our fundamental rationality that we apply to it. This may result from either from philosophical nescience or perhaps it is intentioned in all sorts of abstract thinking. Of course, this thought exists in the individuals that are thinking it; however can it not exist somewhere, as something, without us thinking it? Once we apply our thinking to something, is that not when other interpretations, possibilities, limits, and thus falsities are formed? It would appear that false thought could not exist in this manner. So false not is not what is distancing us from the world but it is our very nature that is the culprit.
McDowell commits another mistake in the ensuing premise, stating that ‘there is no distance from the world implicit in the very idea of thought.’ Here, he reaffirms the original premise of his argument after incoherently refuting it.