GSTF Journal of General Philosophy (JPhilo)

, 1:3

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Conceptuality of Unreflective Actions in Flow: McDowell-Dryfus Debate

  • Ali FarAffiliated withUniversity of CaliforniaSanta Clara UniversitySan Francisco State University


The objective of this paper is to supplement Gottlieb’s challenge to Dryfus who claims that concepts are not operative in expert’s unreflective actions. First, concepts that an agent develops over time with practice, starting from the stage of novelty, become deeply rooted and persist through his expertise stage, according to common sense. It is unlikely that such rooted concepts become inoperative just when it is time for the agent to put them to use during the time that he is in the zone (i.e., in flow). Second, an expert's inability to remember reasons behind his actions while he is in the zone is insufficient to prove that concepts are inoperative when he is acting in the zone. For an agent to not remember reasons as such could more likely be a consequence of the adequacy of his minimized reflections on his maximized (i.e. expert level) concepts, while he is in such a state. Moreover, not recalling every reason behind every step of an agent’s actions in the zone could be a consequence of his maximum concentration on successful processing and coordination of the task at hand, as opposed to committing his finite mental capacities to memorizing the reasons behind his step-by-step actions when he is performing an expert level action in the zone. Third, I point out to the prevalence of examples when experts or observers provide testimony about use of concepts to strategize or review actions before, during, and after their ‘in the zone’ actions (e.g., review of video replays of a game or a tournament on sports channels), which supports the operations and conceptuality of unreflective actions in flow.


reflective action conceptuality unreflective action non-conceptuality flow in the zone myth of the given myth of the mental space of season Dryfus McDowell Gottlieb