Philosophy of Mind > Intentionality > Content Internalism and Externalism > Externalism and Self-Knowledge > Externalism and Slow Switching
Edited by T. Parent (Nazarbayev University)
|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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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
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