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Summary The slow-switching thought experiment purports to show incompatibilism, viz., that content externalism is incompatible with introspective knowledge of one's own mental contents. The thought experiment starts by imagining that Oscar is unwittingly switched from his home on Earth to Twin Earth. Since Twin Earth is superficially indiscernible from Earth, Oscar continues to be unaware of the switch as time goes on. The intuition is that Oscar's use of the term 'water' (and the concept it expresses) will still denote H2O immediately after the switch. But externalists often say  that over time, Oscar's term/concept will come to denote XYZ instead. (The switch is thus a "slow" one.) Since externalists think such concepts have their contents determined partly by the kind in the environment, this means Oscar's term/concept will host a different content. And apparently, the switch in content cannot be detected by Oscar just by introspection. This result is thought to support the incompatibilist conclusion.
Key works The slow switch experiment originates in Burge 1988, though it was first defended as an incompatibilist argument by Boghossian 1989. Falvey & Owens 1994 were among the first compatibilists to reply, though a notable a skirmish arose early on between Warfield 1992, Warfield 1997 and Ludlow 1995, Ludlow 1997, concerning a "relevant alternatives" epistemology. Ludlow 1995 and Ludlow 1995 are also notable for developing a different reply to the argument, based on a surprising view about memory. But see Heal 1998 for an important critical discussion. Another notable skirmish was between Ebbs and Brueckner on whether the argument was self-undermining; the relevant papers are now conveniently collected in Brueckner & Ebbs 2012. Finally, some have suggested that the argument rests on an over-intellectualized conception of self-knowledge; see especially Bar-On 2004 and Bar-On 2008.
Introductions There are no introductions to slow switch arguments as such; instead, see the general introductions to the externalism/self-knowledge debates, under the superordinate category "Externalism and Self-Knowledge"
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  1. Dorit Bar-On, Externalism and Skepticism: Recognition, Expression, and Self-Knowledge.
    As I am sitting at my desk in front of my computer, a thought crosses my mind: There's water in the glass. The thought has a particular content: that there is water in the glass. And, if all is well, there is water in the glass, so my thought is true. According to external-world skepticism, I still do not know that there is water in the glass, because my way of telling what's in front of me does not allow me (...)
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  2. Dorit Bar-On (2004). Externalism and Self-Knowledge: Content, Use, and Expression. Noûs 38 (3):430-55.
    Suppose, as I stare at a glass in front of me, I say or think: There.
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  3. Jonathan Berg (1998). First-Person Authority, Externalism, and Wh-Knowledge. Dialectica 52 (1):41-44.
  4. Sven Bernecker (2004). Memory and Externalism. Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 69 (3):605-632.
    Content externalism about memory says that the individuation of memory contents depends on relations the subject bears to his past environment. I defend externalism about memory by arguing that neither philosophical nor psychological considerations stand in the way of accepting the context dependency of memory that follows from externalism.
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  5. Sven Bernecker (1996). Davidson on First-Person Authority and Externalism. Inquiry 39 (1):121-39.
    Incompatibilism is the view that privileged knowledge of our own mental states cannot be reconciled with externalism regarding the content of mental states. Davidson has recently developed two arguments that are supposed to disprove incompatibilism and establish the consistency of privileged access and externalism. One argument criticizes incompatibilism for assuming that externalism conflicts with the mind?body identity theory. Since mental states supervene on neurological events, Davidson argues, they are partly ?in the head? and are knowable just by reflection. Another argument (...)
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  6. Akeel Bilgrami (2003). A Trilemma for Redeployment. Philosophical Issues 13 (1):22-30.
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  7. Paul Boghossian (2011). The Transparency of Mental Content Revisited. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 155 (3):457-465.
    The transparency of mental content revisited Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9611-3 Authors Paul Boghossian, Department of Philosophy, New York University (NYU), 5 Washington Place, New York, 10003 USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
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  8. Paul Boghossian (1989). Content and Self-Knowledge. Philosophical Topics 17 (1):5-26.
    This paper argues that, given a certain apparently inevitable thesis about content, we could not know our own minds. The thesis is that the content of a thought is determined by its relational properties.
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  9. Paul Boghossian (1989). Content and Self-Knowledge. In Christopher S. Hill (ed.), Philosophy of Mind. University of Arkansas Press. 5--26.
    This paper argues that, given a certain apparently inevitable thesis about content, we could not know our own minds. The thesis is that the content of a thought is determined by its relational properties.
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  10. Paul A. Boghossian (2008). Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers. OUP Oxford.
    Content and Justification presents a series of essays by Paul Boghossian on the theory of content and on its relation to the phenomenon of a priori knowledge. -/- Part one comprises essays on the nature of rule-following and its relation to the problem of mental content; on the intelligibility of eliminativist views of the mental; on the prospects for a naturalistic reduction of mental content; and on the currently influential view that meaning is a normative notion. -/- Part two includes (...)
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  11. Paul A. Boghossian (1994). The Transparency of Mental Content. Philosophical Perspectives 8:33-50.
    Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/about/terms.html. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.
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  12. Paul A. Boghossian (1992). Externalism and Inference. Philosophical Issues 2:11-28.
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  13. Paul A. Boghossian (1992). Reply to Schiffer. Philosophical Issues 2:39-42.
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  14. J. Brown (2000). Critical Reasoning, Understanding and Self-Knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (3):659-676.
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  15. J. Brown (2000). Reliabilism, Knowledge, and Mental Content. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 100 (2):115-35.
    I consider whether one particular anti-individualist claim, the doctrine of object-dependent thoughts (DODT), is compatible with the Principle of Privileged Access, or PPA, which states that, in general, a subject can have non-empirical knowledge of her thought contents. The standard defence of the compatibility of anti-individualism and PPA emphasises the reliability of the process which produces a subject's second order beliefs about her thought contents. I examine whether this defence can be applied to DODT, given that DODT generates the possibility (...)
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  16. Jessica Brown (2004). Anti-Individualism and Knowledge. MIT Press.
    A persuasive monograph that answers the keyepistemological arguments against anti-individualism in thephilosophy of mind.
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  17. Jessica Brown (2001). Book Review. Knowing Our Own Minds Crispin Wright, Barry Smith, Cynthia MacDonald. [REVIEW] Mind 110 (438):586-588.
  18. Anthony Brueckner (2007). Scepticism About Self-Knowledge Redux. Analysis 67 (296):311–315.
  19. Anthony L. Brueckner (2003). The Coherence of Scepticism About Self-Knowledge. Analysis 63 (1):41-48.
  20. Anthony L. Brueckner (1997). Externalism and Memory. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78 (1):1-12.
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  21. Anthony L. Brueckner (1997). Is Scepticism About Self-Knowledge Incoherent? Analysis 57 (4):287-90.
    Gary Ebbs has argued that skepticism regarding knowledge of the contents of one's own mental states cannot even be coherently formulated. This articles is a reply to that argument.
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  22. Tyler Burge (1998). Memory and Self-Knowledge. In Peter Ludlow & N. Martin (eds.), Externalism and Self-Knowledge. Csli.
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  23. Tyler Burge (1988). Individualism and Self-Knowledge. Journal of Philosophy 85 (November):649-63.
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  24. Keith Butler (1997). Externalism, Internalism, and Knowledge of Content. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (4):773-800.
    Externalism holds, and internalism denies, that the individuation of many of an individual's mental states (e.g., thoughts about the physical world) depends necessarily on relations that individual bears to the physical and/or social environment. Many philosophers, externalists and internalists alike, believe that introspection yields knowledge of the contents of our thoughts that is direct and authoritative. It is not obvious, however, that the metaphysical claims of externalism are compatible with this epistemological thesis. Some (e.g., Burge, 1988; Falvey and Owens (F&O), (...)
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  25. John M. Collins (2008). Content Externalism and Brute Logical Error. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38 (4):pp. 549-574.
    Most content externalists concede that even if externalism is compatible with the thesis that one has authoritative self-knowledge of thought contents, it is incompatible with the stronger claim that one is always able to tell by introspection whether two of one’s thought tokens have the same, or different, content. If one lacks such authoritative discriminative self-knowledge of thought contents, it would seem that brute logical error – non-culpable logical error – is possible. Some philosophers, such as Paul Boghossian, have argued (...)
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  26. Donald Davidson (1987). Knowing One's Own Mind. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 60 (3):441-458.
  27. Simon Dierig (2010). The Discrimination Argument Revisited. Erkenntnis 72 (1):73 - 92.
    The first explicit argument for the incompatibility of externalism in the philosophy of mind and a priori self-knowledge is Boghossian’s discrimination argument. In this essay, I oppose the third premise of this argument, trying to show by means of a thought experiment that possessing the “twater thought” is not an alternative, a fortiori not a relevant alternative, to having the “water thought.” I then examine a modified version of Boghossian’s argument. The attempt is made to substantiate the claim that the (...)
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  28. Fred Dretske (2004). Knowing What You Think Vs. Knowing That You Think It. In Richard Schantz (ed.), The Externalist Challenge. De Gruyter.
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  29. Fred Dretske (2003). Externalism and Self-Knowledge. In Susana Nuccetelli (ed.), New Essays on Semantic Externalism and Self-Knowledge. MIT Press.
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  30. Gary Ebbs (2005). Why Scepticism About Self-Knowledge is Self-Undermining. Analysis 65 (287):237-244.
    In two previous papers I explained why I believe that a certain sort of argument that seems to support skepticism about self-knowledge is actually self-undermining, in the sense that no one can justifiably accept all of its premises at once. Anthony Brueckner has recently tried to show that even if the central premises of my explanation are true, the skeptical argument in question is not self-undermining. He has also suggested that even if the skeptical argument is self-undermining, it can still (...)
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  31. Gary Ebbs (2001). Is Skepticism About Self-Knowledge Coherent? Philosophical Studies 105 (1):43-58.
    In previous work I argued that skepticism about the compatibility ofanti-individualism with self-knowledge is incoherent. Anthony Brueckner isnot convinced by my argument, for reasons he has recently explained inprint. One premise in Brueckner's reasoning is that a person'sself-knowledge is confined to what she can derive solely from herfirst-person experiences of using her sentences. I argue that Brueckner'sacceptance of this premise undermines another part of his reasoning – hisattempt to justify his claims about what thoughts our sincere utterances ofcertain sentences would (...)
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  32. Kevin Falvey (2003). Memory and Knowledge of Content. In Susana Nuccetelli (ed.), New Essays on Semantic Externalism and Self-Knowledge. MIT Press.
  33. Kevin Falvey & Joseph Owens (1994). Externalism, Self-Knowledge, and Skepticism. Philosophical Review 103 (1):107-37.
  34. Paulo Faria (2009). Unsafe Reasoning: A Survey. Doispontos 6 (2):185-20.
    Judgments about the validity of at least some elementary inferential patterns (say modus ponens) are a priori if anything is. Yet a number of empirical conditions must in each case be satisfied in order for a particular inference to instantiate this or that inferential pattern. We may on occasion be entitled to presuppose that such conditions are satisfied (and the entitlement may even be a priori), yet only experience could tell us that such was indeed the case. Current discussion about (...)
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  35. Katalin Farkas (2003). What is Externalism? Philosophical Studies 112 (3):187-208.
    The content of the externalist thesis about the mind depends crucially on how we define the distinction between the internal and the external. According to the usual understanding, the boundary between the internal and the external is the skull or the skin of the subject. In this paper I argue that the usual understanding is inadequate, and that only the new understanding of the external/internal distinction I suggest helps us to understand the issue of the compatibility of externalism and privileged (...)
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  36. Jordi Fernandez (2004). Externalism and Self-Knowledge: A Puzzle in Two Dimensions. European Journal of Philosophy 12 (1):17-37.
    The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com.
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  37. Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (2003). Anti-Individualism and Basic Self-Knowledge. In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind. Csli.
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  38. Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.) (2003). Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind: Essays on Tyler Burge. University of Chicago Press.
  39. N. Georgalis (1990). No Access for the Externalist: Discussion of Heil's 'Privileged Access'. Mind 100 (393):101-8.
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  40. Mikkel Gerken (2013). Epistemic Reasoning and the Mental. Palgrave Macmillan (Innovations in Philosophy).
    Epistemic Reasoning and the Mental integrates the epistemology of reasoning and philosophy of mind. The book contains introductions to basic concepts in the epistemology of inference and to important aspects of the philosophy of mind. By examining the fundamental competencies involved in reasoning, Gerken argues that reasoning's epistemic force depends on the external environment in ways that are both surprising and epistemologically important. -/- For example, Gerken argues that purportedly deductive reasoning that exhibits the fallacy of equivocation may nevertheless transmit (...)
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  41. Mikkel Gerken (2011). Conceptual Equivocation and Warrant by Reasoning. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (3):381-400.
    In this paper, I challenge a widely presupposed principle in the epistemology of inference. The principle, (Validity Requirement), is this: S’s (purportedly deductive) reasoning, R, from warranted premise-beliefs provides (conditional) warrant for S’s belief in its conclusion only if R is valid. I argue against (Validity Requirement) from two prominent assumptions in the philosophy of mind: that the cognitive competencies that constitute reasoning are fallible, and that the attitudes operative in reasoning are anti-individualistically individuated. Indeed, my discussion will amount to (...)
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  42. Mikkel Gerken (2009). Conceptual Equivocation and Epistemic Relevance. Dialectica 63 (2):117-132.
    Much debate has surrounded "switching" scenarios in which a subject's reasoning is said to exhibit the fallacy of equivocation ( Burge 1988 ; Boghossian 1992, 1994 ). Peter Ludlow has argued that such scenarios are "epistemically prevalent" and, therefore, epistemically relevant alternatives ( Ludlow 1995a ). Since a distinctive feature of the cases in question is that the subject blamelessly engages in conceptual equivocation, we may label them 'equivocational switching cases'. Ludlow's influential argument occurs in a discussion about compatibilism with (...)
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  43. Brie Gertler (2004). We Can't Know a Priori That H2O Exists. But Can We Know a Priori That Water Does? Analysis 64 (1):44-47.
  44. John Gibbons (1996). Externalism and Knowledge of Content. Philsophical Review 105 (3):287-310.
    Many bclicvc that content cxtcrnalism is inconsistent with commonscnsc views about our kmowlcdgc of thc contents of our own thoughts} Content cxtcrnalism is thc vicw that thc propositional contents of an individual’s thoughts do not supcrvcnc on thc intrinsic properties of that individual. Relations bctwccn you and your social and physical environment partly dctcrminc thc comtents of your thoughts.? But if what dctcrmimcs thc content of your thoughts lics partly outside your mind, it might sccm that you have to investigate (...)
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  45. Eric Gilbertson (2000). Externalism and Memory. Southwest Philosophy Review 16 (1):51-58.
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  46. Sanford C. Goldberg (2007). Anti-Individualism, Content Preservation, and Discursive Justification. Nos 41 (2):178�203.
    Most explorations of the epistemic implications of Semantic Anti- Individualism (SAI) focus on issues of self-knowledge (first-person au- thority) and/or external-world skepticism. Less explored has been SAIs implications forthe epistemology of reasoning. In this paperI argue that SAI has some nontrivial implications on this score. I bring these out by reflecting on a problem first raised by Boghossian (1992). Whereas Boghos- sians main interest was in establishing the incompatibility of SAI and the a priority of logical abilities (Boghossian 1992: 22), (...)
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  47. Sanford C. Goldberg (2006). Brown on Self-Knowledge and Discriminability. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (3):301�314.
    In her recent book Anti-Individualism and Knowledge, Jessica Brown has presented a novel answer to the self-knowledge achievement problem facing the proponent of anti-individualism. She argues that her answer is to be preferred to the traditional answer (based on Burge, 1988a). Here I present three objections to the claim that her proposed answer is to be preferred. The significance of these objections lies in what they tell us about the nature of the sort of knowledge that is in dispute. Perhaps (...)
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  48. Sanford C. Goldberg (2005). (Nonstandard) Lessons From World-Switching Cases. Philosophia 32 (1-4):85-131.
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  49. Sanford C. Goldberg (2005). The Dialectical Context of Boghossian's Memory Argument. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35 (1):135-48.
    Externalism1 is the thesis that some propositional attitudes depend for their individuation on features of the thinker’s (social and/or physical) environment. The doctrine of self-knowledge of thoughts is the thesis that for all thinkers S and occurrent thoughts that p, S has authoritative and non-empirical knowledge of her thought that p. A much-discussed question in the literature is whether these two doctrines are compatible. In this paper I attempt to respond to one argument for an incompatibilist conclusion, Boghossian’s 1989 ‘Memory (...)
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  50. Sanford C. Goldberg (2004). Review of Maria Frapolli (Ed.), Esther Romero (Ed.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind: Essays on Tyler Burge. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2004 (1).
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