The 2011 Aquinas Lecture, Perception as a Capacity for Knowledge, was delivered on Sunday, February 27 2011, by John McDowell. Prof. McDowell is a Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh.
Prof. McDowell studied at the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and at New College, Oxford, and taught at University College, Oxford from 1966-1986. He is an Honorary Fellow of University College. He joined the Philosophy Department at the University of Pittsburgh in 1986. Prof. McDowell’s research and teaching fields include Greek Philosophy, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics. Prof. McDowell translated Plato’s Theaetetus for the Clarendon Plato series (Oxford University Press, 1973). He is author of Mind and World (Harvard University Press., 1994), and his essays have been collected in several volumes: Mind, Value, and Reality (Harvard University Press, 1998), Meaning, Knowledge, and Reality (Harvard University Press, 1998), Having the World in View: Essays on Kant, Hegel, and Sellars (Harvard University Press, 2009), and The Engaged Intellect: Philosophical Essays (Harvard University Press, 2009).
Prof. McDowell has held visiting appointments at Harvard University, the University of Michigan, UCLA, and Princeton University. He was invited to give the John Locke lectures at Oxford University in 1991 and the Woodbridge Lectures at Columbia University in 1997. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters of the University of Chicago.
A central theme in much of his work is the harmful effects, in modern philosophy and in modern reception of premodern philosophy, of a conception of nature that reflects an understanding, in itself perfectly correct, of the proper goals of the natural sciences. In a number of contexts, he has argued that we can free ourselves from characteristic sorts of philosophical anxiety by recalling the possibility of a less restrictive conception of what it takes for something to be natural.