The debate on content externalism and self-knowledge concerns the supposed incompatibility between externalism and armchair knowledge of one's own thought contents. Following Putnam 1975 and Burge 1979, many philosophers accept that mental contents are individuated partly by the social and/or physical environment. But in a Cartesian vein, many are also convinced that we enjoy especially secure armchair knowledge of our own occurrent thought contents. Yet if those contents are partly determined by the environment, it seems we could not know our thought contents just from the armchair. Whether I am having a water-thought vs. a twin-water-thought would depend on factors which are known only empirically. The debate turns on whether this apparent conflict is real.
Ludlow & Martin 1998 contains a useful introductory essay, besides anthologizing most of the key papers listed above. McLaughlin et al 2009 contains a selection by Jessica Brown that is also useful. See the relevant chapters in Kallestrup 2011 as well. For a longer, more detailed introduction, and for a lengthy bibliography, see Parent 2013 in the Stanford Encyclopedia.
Ever since the 1970’s, philosophers of mind have engaged in a lively discussion of Externalism. Externalism is the metaphysical thesis that the contents of one’s thoughts are determined partly by empirical features of one’s environment. Externalism appears to clash with another plausible thesis—the epistemological thesis that one can have knowledge of one’s own thoughts, without evidence or empirical investigation. Many have argued that the conjunction of these theses is incompatible. I have argued elsewhere for their compatibility.1 Here I’ll just assume (...) that they are compatible and explore some consequences of conjoining a particular externalist thesis about the contents of thoughts (Social Externalism) with a particular thesis about self-knowledge (First-Person Authority). (shrink)
Social Externalism is the thesis that many of our thoughts are individuated in part by the linguistic and social practices of the thinker’s community. After defending Social Externalism and arguing for its broad application, I turn to the kind of defeasible first-person authority that we have over our own thoughts. Then, I present and refute an argument that uses first-person authority to disprove Social Externalism. Finally, I argue briefly that Social Externalism—far from being incompatible with first-person authority—provides a check on (...) first-personal pronouncements and thus saves first-person authority from being simply a matter of social convention and from collapsing into the subjectivity of “what seems right is right.”. (shrink)
Traditionally, Anglophone philosophers have assumed that the identity of a thought is determined wholly by the subject's intrinsic states--e.g., her brain states. In the 1970's, this traditional view (lately called 'individualism' or ‘internalism’) was challenged by Hilary Putnam and Tyler Burge, who argued that the contents of one’s beliefs, desires, intentions are partly determined by one's physical, social and/or linguistic environment. The question is not whether the environment causes one to think what one does. Rather, the question is one of (...) the identity of thoughts: In virtue of what is a thought the particular thought that it is? According to Putnam and Burge, the answer lies partly in the environment. What makes the belief expressed by ‘water is wet’ the belief that it is depends on the presence of H2O in the environment, not just on the believer’s internal states. The view that thoughts are individuated in part by environmental factors has come to be called ‘anti-individualism’ or ‘externalism’. (shrink)
This paper criticizes the widespread view whereby a second-order judgment of the form ‘I believe that p ’ qualifies as self-knowledge only if the embedded content, p , is of the same type as the content of the intentional state reflected upon and the self-ascribed attitude, belief, is of the same type as the attitude the subject takes towards p . Rather than requiring identity of contents across levels of cognition self-knowledge requires only that the embedded content of the second-order (...) thought be an entailment of the content of the intentional state reflected upon. And rather than demanding identity of attitudes across levels of cognition self-knowledge demands only that the attitude of the intentional state reflected upon and the attitude the subject self-attributes share certain features such as direction of fit and polarity. (shrink)
This paper argues that Sosa’s virtue perspectivism fails to combine satisfactorily internalist and externalist features in a single theory. Internalism and externalism are reconciled at the price of creating a Gettier problem at the level of “reflective” or second-order knowledge. The general lesson to be learned from the critique of virtue perspectivism is that internalism and externalism cannot be combined by bifurcating justification and knowledge into an object-level and a meta-level and assigning externalism and internalism to different levels.
Externalism is the view that some crucial element in the content of our representational states is outside of not just the states whose content they are but even the person who has those states. If so, the contents of such states (and, many hold, the states themselves) do not supervene on anything local to the person whose has them. There are a number of different candidates for what that element is: function (Dretske), causal connection (Putnam, Kripke, Fodor), and social context (...) (Davidson). (Burge has foot in both the causal connection and the social context camps and Dennett fits in here somewhere, too.) This diversity will turn out to be important. The paper starts with Dretske but gets to other varieties of. (shrink)
Há um argumento cético clássico derivado das Meditações sobre a filosofia primeira. Este artigo oferece uma formulação contemporânea padrão do argumento, pretendendo mostrar que ninguém sabe qualquer coisa sobre o mundo extramental. A obra de Hilary Putnam na filosofia da linguagem e da mente parece fornecer uma resposta a uma versão atualizada do argumento cético cartesiano. Em sua maior parte, este artigo é dedicado a uma análise e crítica das meditações anti-céticas de Putnam. PALAVRAS-CHAVE – Descartes. Putnam. Ceticismo. Cérebros em (...) cubas. Externalismo de conteúdo. ABSTRACT There is a classical skeptical argument that derives from Descartes’s Meditations on first Philosophy. This paper offers a standard contemporary formulation of the argument, which purports to show that no one knows anything about the world that exists outside our minds. The work of Hilary Putnam in the philosophy of language and mind seems to afford an answer to an updated version of the Cartesian skeptical argument. The bulk of this paper is devoted to an analysis and critique of Putnam’s anti-skeptical meditations. KEY WORDS – Descartes, Putnam, Skepticism, Brains in vats, Content externalism. (shrink)
Harold Langsam has recently presented a novel observational account of self-knowledge. I critically discuss this account and argue that it fails to provide a uniform understanding of how we are able to know the contents of our own thoughts.
Michael McKinsey has argued that content externalism has the absurd consequence that one can know a priori that water exists. Richard W. Miller responds that when a prioricity is properly understood, McKinsey's argument should not be seen as a _reductio of externalism. This paper disputes Miller's understanding of a prioricity.
Focuses on the arguments that show the externalism of mental content. Discussion on the principle of knowledge identification; Account of basic self-knowledge; Interpretations of sentence content; Skepticism of knowledge content.
By exploiting a concept called ways of believing, I offer a plausible reformulation of the doctrine of privileged access. This reformulation will provide us with a defense of compatibilism, the view that content externalism and privileged access are compatible.
Descartes's philosophy has had a considerable influence on the modern conception of the mind, but many think that this influence has been largely negative. The main project of The Subject's Point of View is to argue that discarding certain elements of the Cartesian conception would be much more difficult than critics seem to allow, since it is tied to our understanding of basic notions, including the criteria for what makes someone a person, or one of us. The crucial feature of (...) the Cartesian view defended here is not dualism--which is not adopted--but internalism. Internalism is opposed to the widely accepted externalist thesis, which states that some mental features constitutively depend on certain features of our physical and social environment. In contrast, this book defends the minority internalist view, which holds that the mind is autonomous, and though it is obviously affected by the environment, this influence is merely contingent and does not delimit what is thinkable in principle. Defenders of the externalist view often present their theory as the most thoroughgoing criticism of the Cartesian conception of the mind; Katalin Farkas offers a defence of an uncompromising internalist Cartesian conception. (shrink)
Abstract: This paper introduces and analyses the doctrine of externalism about semantic content; discusses the Twin Earth argument for externalism and the assumptions behind it, and examines the question of whether externalism about content is compatible with a privileged knowledge of meanings and mental contents.
There is a continuing debate as to whether externalism about mental content is compatible with certain commonly accepted views about the nature of self-knowledge. Both sides to this debate seem to agree that externalism is _not compatible with the traditional view that self-knowledge is acquired by means of observation. In this paper, I argue that externalism is compatible with this traditional view of self-knowledge, and that, in fact, we have good reason to believe that the self-knowledge at issue is acquired (...) by means of observation. (shrink)
Externalism in the philosophy of mind is threatened by the view that subjects are authoritative with regard to the contents of their own intentional states. If externalism is to be reconciled with first-person authority, two issues need to be addressed: (a) how the non-evidence-based character of knowledge of one's own intentional states is compatible with ignorance of the empirical factors that individuate the contents of those states, and (b) how, given externalism, the non-evidence-based character of such knowledge could place its (...) subject in an authoritative position. This paper endorses a standard strategy for dealing with (a). The bulk of the paper is devoted to (b). The aim is to develop an account of first-person authority for a certain class of intentional states that is capable of explaining (1) why knowledge of one's own intentional states is peculiarly authoritative, and (2) why such authority is compatible with externalism. (shrink)
This essay motivates a revised version of the epistemic condition of safety and then employs the revision to (i) challenge traditional conceptions of apriority, (ii) refute ‘strong privileged access’, and (iii) resolve a well-known puzzle about externalism and self-knowledge.