About this topic
Summary The issue with armchair knowledge concerns a reductio ad absurdum, designed to show incompatibilism--the view that content externalism precludes apriori knowledge of one's own mental contents. The contention is that, if we had such knowledge under externalism, it would be possible to know apriori contingent facts about the external world. Put briefly, externalist thought experiments would show apriori that possessing the water concept requires the existence of water. And apriori self-knowledge would provide apriori knowledge that you possess the water concept. But given these bits of apriori knowledge, one could then deduce apriori that water exists. Whether this reductio is cogent is what animates the debates here.
Key works The incompatibilst reductio was first advanced by McKinsey 1991, though after a reply from Brueckner 1992, a more nuanced version was formulated by Brown 1995. Boghossian 1997 also propounded a similar version. McLaughlin & Tye 1998 in reply advanced the compatibilist side considerably; their remarks eventually lead to a concession in Brown's landmark book, Brown 2004. Another important compatibilist response denies the transmission of warrant within the reasoning; see especially Davies 1998, Wright 1998 and Wright 2000.
Introductions There are no introductions to the incompatibilist's reductio 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. Content Externalism and Equivocal Inference.T. Parent - manuscript
    This draft now appears (in revised form) as Chapter 6 of _Self-Reflection for the Opaque Mind_. See http://philpapers.org/rec/PARSFT-3.
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  2. Brown on the Reductio.Kathrin Glüer-Pagin - manuscript
    in What Detemines Content? The Internalism/Externalism Dispute, ed. T. Marvan, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press 2006.
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  3. Comments on Pryor's “Externalism About Content and McKinsey-Style Reasoning”.William S. Larkin - unknown
    I. Pryor on McKinsey: " A. Pryor’s Version of McKinsey-style Reasoning 1. Given authoritative self-knowledge, I can usually tell the contents of my own thoughts just by introspection. So I can know the following claim on the basis of reflection alone: " McK-1: I am thinking a thought with the content _water puts out fires_.
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  4. Authority Without Privilege: How to Be a Dretskean Conciliatory Skeptic on Self-Knowledge.Michael Roche & William Roche - 2021 - Synthese 198 (2):1071-1087.
    Dretske is a “conciliatory skeptic” on self-knowledge. Take some subject S such that S thinks that P and S knows that she has thoughts. Dretske’s theory can be put as follows: S has a privileged way of knowing what she thinks, but she has no privileged way of knowing that she thinks it. There is much to be said on behalf of conciliatory skepticism and Dretske’s defense of it. We aim to show, however, that Dretske’s defense fails, in that if (...)
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  5. Review of The Brain in a Vat, Edited by S. Goldberg. [REVIEW]Cameron Boult - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (1):75-82.
  6. Armchair Access and Imagination.Giada Fratantonio - 2018 - Dialectica 72 (4):525-547.
    In this paper, I focus on the Armchair Access Problem for E=K as presented by Nicholas Silins (2005), and I argue, contra Silins, that it does not represent a real threat to E=K. More precisely, I put forward two lines of response, both of which put pressure on the main assumption of the argument, namely, the Armchair Access thesis. The first line of response focuses on its scope, while the second line of response focuses on its nature. The second line (...)
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  7. Review of The New Science of the Mind by Marc Rowlands (2013).Michael Starks - 2017 - Philosophy, Human Nature and the Collapse of Civilization Michael Starks 3rd Ed. (2017).
    Before remarking on “The New Science of the Mind”, I first offer some comments on philosophy and its relationship to contemporary psychological research as exemplified in the works of Searle (S),Wittgenstein (W), Hacker (H) et al. It will help to see my reviews of PNC (Philosophy in a New Century), TLP, PI, OC, Making the Social World (MSW) and other books by and about these geniuses, who provide a clear description of higher order behavior, not found in psychology nor philosophy, (...)
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  8. Internalism, Externalism, and Accessibilism.Brie Gertler - 2015 - In Sanford Goldberg (ed.), Externalism, Self-knowledge, and Skepticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 119-141.
    Feldman and Conee (2001) observed that the term “internalism”, as used in epistemology, is ambiguous. It sometimes denotes the view that justification supervenes on factors within the thinker (“mentalism”), whereas at other times it refers to the view that justification is accessible to the thinker (“accessibilism”). As used in the debate about mental content, “internalism” corresponds to mentalism. Strikingly, however, it is the question of accessibilism that is the target of many internalist and externalist arguments. In this paper I argue (...)
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  9. Self‐Knowledge and Externalism About Empty Concepts.Ted Parent - 2015 - Analytic Philosophy 56 (2):158-168.
    Several authors have argued that, assuming we have apriori knowledge of our own thought-contents, semantic externalism implies that we can know apriori contingent facts about the empirical world. After presenting the argument, I shall respond by resisting the premise that an externalist can know apriori: If s/he has the concept water, then water exists. In particular, Boghossian's Dry Earth example suggests that such thought-experiments do not provide such apriori knowledge. Boghossian himself rejects the Dry Earth experiment, however, since it would (...)
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  10. Contrastive Self-Knowledge and the McKinsey Paradox.Sarah Sawyer - 2015 - In Sanford Goldberg (ed.), Externalism, Self-Knowledge, and Skepticism: New Essays. Cambridge, UK: pp. 75-93.
    In this paper I argue first, that a contrastive account of self-knowledge and the propositional attitudes entails an anti-individualist account of propositional attitude concepts, second, that the final account provides a solution to the McKinsey paradox, and third, that the account has the resources to explain why certain anti-skeptical arguments fail.
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  11. The Solution to the Consequence Problem According to Anti‐Individualism.Frank Barel - 2014 - European Journal of Philosophy 22 (1):20-33.
    : For quite some time now there has been an ongoing debate whether authoritative self-knowledge is compatible with anti-individualism.1 One influential line of argument against compatibilism is due to Paul Boghossian (1998). I argue that Boghossian misconstrues what the anti-individualist really is committed to. This defence of compatibilism is elaborated by showing how the Twin Earth thought experiment is meant to speak in favour of anti-individualism. Partly this will show that Boghossian is wrong in his denial that empirical background knowledge (...)
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  12. Transmission of Justification and Warrant.Luca Moretti & Tommaso Piazza - 2013 - The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Transmission of justification across inference is a valuable and indeed ubiquitous epistemic phenomenon in everyday life and science. It is thanks to the phenomenon of epistemic transmission that inferential reasoning is a means for substantiating predictions of future events and, more generally, for expanding the sphere of our justified beliefs or reinforcing the justification of beliefs that we already entertain. However, transmission of justification is not without exceptions. As a few epistemologists have come to realise, more or less trivial forms (...)
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  13. Externalism and Self-Knowledge.T. Parent - 2013 - In Ed Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Entry on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. A summary of the literature on whether externalism about thought content precludes non-empirical knowledge of one's own thoughts.
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  14. Slow Switching and Authority of Self-Knowledge.Hamed Bikaraan-Behesht - 2012 - Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 32:443-449.
    Based on content externalism, the question of whether self-knowledge is authoritative or not has launched a real controversy in the philosophy of mind. Boghossian proposed slow switching argument in defense of incompatibility of the two views. This argument has been criticized by some philosophers through different approaches. Vahid is one of them. He claimed that Boghossian's argument appeals to some controversial assumptions without which it cannot achieve its conclusion. In this article, I criticize Vahid's response to slow switching argument and (...)
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  15. Semantic Externalism.Jesper Kallestrup - 2011 - Routledge.
    Semantic externalism is the view that the meanings of referring terms, and the contents of beliefs that are expressed by those terms, are not fully determined by factors internal to the speaker but are instead bound up with the environment. The debate about semantic externalism is one of the most important but difficult topics in philosophy of mind and language, and has consequences for our understanding of the role of social institutions and the physical environment in constituting language and the (...)
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  16. The Discrimination Argument Revisited.Simon Dierig - 2010 - 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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  17. Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers.Paul A. Boghossian - 2008 - Oxford University Press.
    This volume presents a series of influential essays by Paul Boghossian on the theory of content and on its relation to the phenomenon of a priori knowledge. The essays are organized under four headings: the nature of content; content and self-knowledge; knowledge, content, and the a priori; and colour concepts.
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  18. Wright on the McKinsey Problem.Anthony Brueckner - 2008 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (2):385-391.
    The McKinsey Problem concerns a puzzling implication of the doctrines of Content Externalism and Privileged Access. I provide a categorization of possible solutions to the problem. Then I discuss Crispin Wright’s work on the problem. I argue that Wright has misconceived the status of his own proferred solution to the problem.
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  19. Why the Externalist is Better Off Without Free Logic: A Reply to McKinsey.Maria Lasonen-Aarnio - 2008 - Dialectica 62 (4):535-540.
    McKinsey-style incompatibilist arguments attempt to show that the thesis that subjects have privileged, a priori access to the contents of their thoughts is incompatible with semantic externalism. This incompatibility follows – it is urged – from the fact that these theses jointly entail an absurd conclusion, namely, the possibility of a priori knowledge of the world. In a recent paper I argued that a large and important class of such arguments exemplifies a dialectical failure: if they are valid, the putatively (...)
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  20. Externalism and Privileged Access Are Consistent.Anthony L. Brueckner - 2007 - In Brian P. McLaughlin & Jonathan D. Cohen (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell.
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  21. Externalism and Privileged Access Are Inconsistent.Michael McKinsey - 2007 - In Brian P. McLaughlin & Jonathan D. Cohen (eds.), Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell.
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  22. What's Wrong with McKinsey-Style Reasoning?James Pryor - 2007 - In Sanford Goldberg (ed.), Internalism and Externalism in Semantics and Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 177--200.
    (revisions posted 12/5/2006) to appear in Internalism and Externalism in Semantics and Epistemology, ed. by Sanford Goldberg (to be published by Oxford in 2006 or 2007) Michael McKinsey formulated an argument that raises a puzzle about the relation between externalism about content and our introspective awareness of content. The puzzle goes like this: it seems like I can know the contents of my thoughts by introspection alone; but philosophical reflection tells me that the contents of those thoughts are externalist, and (...)
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  23. Semantic Externalism and A Priori Self-Knowledge.Jussi Haukioja - 2006 - Ratio 19 (2):149-159.
    The argument known as the 'McKinsey Recipe' tries to establish the incompatibility of semantic externalism (about natural kind concepts in particular) and _a priori _self- knowledge about thoughts and concepts by deriving from the conjunction of these theses an absurd conclusion, such as that we could know _a priori _that water exists. One reply to this argument is to distinguish two different readings of 'natural kind concept': (i) a concept which _in fact _denotes a natural kind, and (ii) a concept (...)
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  24. What Externalists Should Say About Dry Earth.Daniel Z. Korman - 2006 - Journal of Philosophy 103 (10):503-520.
    Dry earth seems to its inhabitants (our intrinsic duplicates) just as earth seems to us, that is, it seems to them as though there are rivers and lakes and a clear, odorless liquid flowing from their faucets. But, in fact, this is an illusion; there is no such liquid anywhere on the planet. I address two objections to externalism concerning the nature of the concept that is expressed by the word 'water' in the mouths of the inhabitants of dry earth. (...)
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  25. Externalism and A Priori Knowledge of the World: Why Privileged Access is Not the Issue.Maria Lasonen-Aarnio - 2006 - Dialectica 60 (4):433-445.
    I look at incompatibilist arguments aimed at showing that the conjunction of the thesis that a subject has privileged, a priori access to the contents of her own thoughts, on the one hand, and of semantic externalism, on the other, lead to a putatively absurd conclusion, namely, a priori knowledge of the external world. I focus on arguments involving a variety of externalism resulting from the singularity or object-dependence of certain terms such as the demonstrative ‘that’. McKinsey argues that incompatibilist (...)
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  26. What Determines Content?: The Internalism/Externalism Dispute.Tomáš Marvan (ed.) - 2006 - Cambridge Scholars Press.
  27. Direct Reference and Logical Truth: A Reply to Lasonen‐Aarnio.Michael McKinsey - 2006 - Dialectica 60 (4):447-451.
  28. Reflections on Externalism and Self-Knowledge.Ian Phillips - 2006
    In the mid-nineties a large number of philosophers (most famously, Michael McKinsey, Jessica Brown and Paul Boghossian) raised and discussed a certain form of challenge to externalism. In Boghossian.
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  29. Externalism, Apriority and Transmission of Warrant.Sarah Sawyer - 2006 - In Tomáš Marvan (ed.), What Determines Content?: The Internalism/Externalism Dispute. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 142-153.
    In this paper, I defend the compatibility of externalism and privileged access and argue that the warrant transmission succeeds in cases of armchair knowledge, but that it does not have the anti-sceptical consequences that it is typically thought to have.
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  30. Noordhof on McKinsey-Brown.Anthony L. Brueckner - 2005 - Analysis 65 (1):86-88.
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  31. Lessons of World-Switching Cases.Sanford Goldberg - 2005 - Philosophia 32 (1-4):93-129.
  32. Review of Anti-Individualism and Knowledge. [REVIEW]Benjamin A. Gorman - 2005 - Essays in Philosophy 6 (1):10.
  33. The Transmogrification of a Posteriori Knowledge: Reply to Brueckner.Paul Noordhof - 2005 - Analysis 65 (1):88-89.
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  34. Review of Jessica Brown, Anti-Individualism and Knowledge[REVIEW]Asa Wikforss - 2005 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 13:525-541.
    During the last decade Jessica Brown has been one of the main participants in the on-going debate over the compatibility of anti-individualism and self-knowledge. It is therefore of great interest that she is now publishing a book examining the various epistemological consequences of anti-individualism. The book is divided into three sections. The first discusses the question of whether a subject can have privileged access to her own thoughts, even if the content of her thoughts is construed anti-individualistically. This section contains (...)
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  35. Self-Knowledge and Externalism.Bill Brewer - 2004 - In J.M. Larrazabal & L.A. PC)rez Miranda (eds.), The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 39-47.
    I want to discuss the possibility of combining a so-called.
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  36. Anti-Individualism and Knowledge.Jessica Brown - 2004 - MIT Press.
    A persuasive monograph that answers the keyepistemological arguments against anti-individualism in thephilosophy of mind.
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  37. Brewer on the McKinsey Problem.A. Brueckner - 2004 - Analysis 64 (1):41-43.
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  38. McKinsey Redux?Anthony L. Brueckner - 2004 - In Richard Schantz (ed.), The Externalist Challenge. De Gruyter. pp. 2--377.
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  39. Externalism and Self-Knowledge: A Puzzle in Two Dimensions.Jordi Fernandez - 2004 - European Journal of Philosophy 12 (1):17-37.
    The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com.
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  40. We Can't Know a Priori That H2O Exists. But Can We Know a Priori That Water Does?Brie Gertler - 2004 - Analysis 64 (1):44-47.
    Goldberg (2003) defends externalism from Boghossian's (1998) version of the "armchair knowledge" objection. I argue here that, while Goldberg's challenge blocks a different version of this objection, it does not directly block Boghossian's version. And Goldberg's approach is not promising as a response to Boghossian's version of the armchair knowledge objection.
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  41. Review of Maria Frapolli (Ed.), Esther Romero (Ed.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind: Essays on Tyler Burge[REVIEW]Sanford C. Goldberg - 2004 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2004 (1).
  42. Externalism and Skepticism.John Greco - 2004 - In Richard Schantz (ed.), The Externalist Challenge. De Gruyter. pp. 53.
    Part 1 argues that, despite rhetorical appearances, McDowell accepts a standard version of epistemic externalism. Moreover, epistemic externalism plays an important role in McDowell’s response to skepticism. Part 2 argues that, contra McDowell, epistemic externalism is necessary for rejecting skepticism, and content externalism is not sufficient for rejecting skepticism.
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  43. Outsmarting the McKinsey-Brown Argument?Paul Noordhof - 2004 - Analysis 64 (1):48-56.
    Externalists about mental content are supposed to face the following dilemma. Either they must give up the claim that we have privileged access to our own mental states or they must allow that we have privileged access to the world. The dilemma is posed in its most precise form through the McKinsey-Brown argument (McKinsey 1991; Brown 1995). Over the years since it was ?rst published in 1991, our understanding of the precise character of the premisses which constitute the argument has (...)
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  44. The Externalist Challenge.Richard Schantz (ed.) - 2004 - De Gruyter.
    Thus the texts attempt to answer the fundamental questions - of whether there are meanings, and, if there are, of what they are and of the form a serious ...
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  45. The Reductio Argument and Transmission of Warrant.J. Brown - 2003 - In Susana Nuccetelli (ed.), New Essays on Semantic Externalism and Self-Knowledge. MIT Press.
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  46. Externalism, Self-Knowledge and Transmission of Warrant.Martin Davies - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind. CSLI Publications.
    Externalism about some mental property, M, is the thesis that whether a person (or other physical being) has M depends, not only on conditions inside the person.
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  47. The Problem of Armchair Knowledge.Martin Davies - 2003 - In Susana Nuccetelli (ed.), New Essays on Semantic Externalism and Self-Knowledge. MIT Press.
    He then argues that (1), (2) and (3) constitute an inconsistent triad as follows (1991, p. 15): Suppose (1) that Oscar knows a priori that he is thinking that water is wet. Then by (2), Oscar can simply deduce E, using premisses that are knowable a priori, including the premiss that he is thinking that water is wet. Since Oscar can deduce E from premisses that are knowable a priori, Oscar can know E itself a priori. But this contradicts (3), (...)
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  48. Anti-Individualism and Basic Self-Knowledge.Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind. CSLI Publications.
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  49. Anti-Individualism, Conceptual Omniscience, and Skepticism.Sanford C. Goldberg - 2003 - Philosophical Studies 116 (1):53-78.
    Given anti-individualism, a subject might have a priori (non-empirical)knowledge that she herself is thinking that p, have complete and exhaustive explicational knowledge of all of the concepts composing the content that p, and yet still need empirical information (e.g. regarding her embedding conditions and history) prior to being in a position to apply her exhaustive conceptual knowledge in a knowledgeable way to the thought that p. This result should be welcomed by anti-individualists: it squares with everything that compatibilist-minded anti-individualists have (...)
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  50. On Our Alleged A Priori Knowledge That Water Exists.Sanford C. Goldberg - 2003 - Analysis 63 (1):38-41.
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