Anti-Individualism and Knowledge – Jessica Brown [Book Review]

Times Literary Supplement 5336:26 (2005)
Abstract
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’.
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