Subjectivism and environmentalism

Inquiry 33 (2):197-214 (1990)
The main thesis of this paper is that the most cogent demands of subjectivity, at least with respect to questions concerning the contents of our thoughts, can be accommodated within an objectivist framework. I begin with two theses: (1) Subjectivity: I can know (the contents of) my own thoughts without appeal to any knowledge of features external to my mind; (2) Environmentalism: (The contents of) my thoughts are determined by features external to my mind, at least in this sense: without causal and/or social interaction between my internal states and various external features, these internal states would not have the particular contents they have and therefore would not be the mental states they are. Section I proceeds by elucidating various lines of environmentalism, an overtly objectivist thesis. Section II considers and refutes one purported environmentalist challenge to subjectivity, namely, that, according to it, thoughts are not in the head. Section III discusses a central subjectivist thesis, namely, thoughts do not admit of an appearance/reality distinction. Tyler Burge and Hilary Putnam, two environmentalists, seem to endorse such a distinction. It is argued that the two most reasonable routes of escape open to them require a retreat from environmentalism. This leaves us with an apparent dilemma: reject either subjectivity or environmentalism Section IV defends environmentalism. Section V considers and criticizes a maneuver Donald Davidson makes to preserve first?person authority over thought?contents. Section VI concludes with a brief defense of environmentalism which rests largely on rejecting a deeply entrenched epistemic model about how we access our own thoughts. It is argued that it is this bad epistemic model and not subjectivity per se, which has created whatever tension there appears to be between subjectivity and environmentalism
Keywords Environmentalism  Metaphysics  Subjectivity  Davidson, D
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DOI 10.1080/00201749008602218
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