About this topic
Summary Social externalism claims that the meaning of a representational item is constitutively (rather than merely causally) determined partly by social factors. For example, social externalism claims that the meaning of a word in my mouth is determined partly by how others use that word, rather than solely by how I use that word or conceive of its meaning. Social externalism raises many questions about the nature and generation of meaning. To what degree is meaning determined socially? What types of representations have their meaning determined socially? What is the social and what is its role in determining meaning? Is social externalism really distinct from more general types of semantic externalism? Can we divide the determinants of meaning into social and non-social factors? Can we incompletely understand, or even misunderstand, the meanings of our own representations?
Key works Putnam 1975 introduces the idea of a division of linguistic labor. Burge 1979 uses a series of thought experiments, including the now-famous 'arthritis' case, to argue for his own form of externalism about mental content, which he calls 'anti-individualism', and to introduce the idea of incomplete understanding.
Introductions Kallestrup 2011, Lau 2008
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  1. Chomsky and His Critics.Louise M. Antony & Norbert Hornstein (eds.) - 2003 - Wiley-Blackwell.
  2. Social Relations and the Individuation of Thought.Michael V. Antony - 1993 - Mind 102 (406):247-61.
    Tyler Burge has argued that a necessary condition for individual's having many of the thoughts he has is that he bear certain relations to other language users. Burge's conclusion is based on a thought experiment in which an individual's social relations are imagined, counterfactually, to differ from how they are actually. The result is that it seems, counterfactually, the individual cannot be attributed many of the thoughts he can be actually. In the article, an alternative interpretation of Burge's thought experiment (...)
  3. Burge's New Thought Experiment: Back to the Drawing Room.Kent Bach - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (February):88-97.
  4. Personal Identity and Mental Content.James Baillie - 1997 - Philosophical Psychology 10 (3):323-33.
    In this paper, I attempt to map out the 'logical geography' of the territory in which issues of mental content and of personal identity meet. In particular, I investigate the possibility of combining a psychological criterion of personal identity with an externalist theory of content. I argue that this can be done, but only by accepting an assumption that has been widely accepted but barely argued for, namely that when someone switches linguistic communities, the contents of their thoughts do not (...)
  5. Social Externalism and First-Person Authority.Lynne Rudder Baker - 2007 - Erkenntnis 67 (2):287 - 300.
    Social Externalism is the thesis that many of our thoughts are individuated in part by the linguistic and social practices of the thinker’s community. After defending Social Externalism and arguing for its broad application, I turn to the kind of defeasible first-person authority that we have over our own thoughts. Then, I present and refute an argument that uses first-person authority to disprove Social Externalism. Finally, I argue briefly that Social Externalism—far from being incompatible with first-person authority—provides a check on (...)
  6. Consciousness and Conceptual Mastery.Derek Ball - 2013 - Mind 122 (486):fzt075.
    Torin Alter (2013) attempts to rescue phenomenal concepts and the knowledge argument from the critique of Ball 2009 by appealing to conceptual mastery. I show that Alter’s appeal fails, and describe general features of conceptual mastery that suggest that no such appeal could succeed.
  7. Two-Dimensionalism and the Social Character of Meaning.Derek Nelson Ball - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (S3):567-595.
    This paper develops and critiques the two-dimensionalist account of mental content developed by David Chalmers. I first explain Chalmers's account and show that it resists some popular criticisms. I then argue that the main interest of two-dimensionalism lies in its accounts of cognitive significance and of the connection between conceivability and possibility. These accounts hinge on the claim that some thoughts have a primary intension that is necessarily true. In this respect, they are Carnapian, and subject to broadly Quinean attack. (...)
  8. Thought Experiments and Semantic Competence.A. Benejam - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind. CSLI Publications.
  9. Belief and Meaning: The Unity and Locality of Mental Content.Akeel Bilgrami - 1992 - Blackwell.
    Belief and Meaning is a philosophical treatment of intentionality. It offers an original, logical and convincing account of intentional content which is local and contextual and which takes issues with standard theories of meaning.
  10. Individual and Social Minds.John E. Boodin - 1913 - Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 10 (7):169-180.
  11. Communication and Rational Responsiveness to the World.Robert Briscoe - 2007 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (2):135-159.
    Donald Davidson has long maintained that in order to be credited with the concept of objectivity – and, so, with language and thought – it is necessary to communicate with at least one other speaker. I here examine Davidson’s central argument for this thesis and argue that it is unsuccessful. Subsequently, I turn to Robert Brandom’s defense of the thesis in Making It Explicit. I argue that, contrary to Brandom, in order to possess the concept of objectivity it is not (...)
  12. Individualism, Externalism and Idiolectical Meaning.Robert Briscoe - 2006 - Synthese 152 (1):95-128.
    Semantic externalism in contemporary philosophy of language typically – and often tacitly – combines two supervenience claims about idiolectical meaning (i.e., meaning in the language system of an individual speaker). The first claim is that the meaning of a word in a speaker’s idiolect may vary without any variation in her intrinsic, physical properties. The second is that the meaning of a word in a speaker’s idiolect may vary without any variation in her understanding of its use. I here show (...)
  13. Against Temporal Externalism.J. Brown - 2000 - Analysis 60 (2):178-188.
  14. Anti-Individualism and Knowledge.Jessica Brown - 2004 - MIT Press.
  15. Defending Burge's Thought Experiment.Anthony L. Brueckner - 2001 - Erkenntnis 55 (3):387-391.
  16. Thought Experiments: Reply to Donnellan.Taylor Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
  17. Descartes, Bare Concepts, and Anti-Individualism: Reply to Normore.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
  18. Psychology and the Environment: Reply to Chomsky.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press. pp. 451-471.
  19. Replies From Tyler Burge.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind: Essays on Tyler Burge. University of Chicago Press.
  20. Social Anti-Individualism, Objective Reference.Tyler Burge - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (3):682–690.
  21. Davidson and Forms of Anti-Individualism: Reply to Hahn.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
  22. The Indexical Strategy: Reply to Owens.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
  23. Intellectual Norms and Foundations of Mind.Tyler Burge - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (December):697-720.
  24. Individualism and the Mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.
  25. Temporal Externalism, Natural Kind Terms, and Scientifically Ignorant Communities.John M. Collins - 2006 - Philosophical Papers 35 (1):55-68.
    Temporal externalism (TE) is the thesis (defended by Jackman (1999)) that the contents of some of an individual’s thoughts and utterances at time t may be determined by linguistic developments subsequent to t. TE has received little discussion so far, Brown 2000 and Stoneham 2002 being exceptions. I defend TE by arguing that it solves several related problems concerning the extension of natural kind terms in scientifically ignorant communities. Gary Ebbs (2000) argues that no theory can reconcile our ordinary, practical (...)
  26. Social Externalism and the Ontology of Competence.Andrew Davis - 2005 - Philosophical Explorations 8 (3):297-308.
    Social externalism implies that many competences are not personal assets separable from social and cultural environments but complex states of affairs involving individuals and persisting features of social reality. The paper explores the consequences for competence identity over time and across contexts, and hence for the predictive role usually accorded to competences.
  27. Social Externalism and Psychological Explanations - The Problem of the Semantic Features of Contents.Sara Dellantonio - unknown
    It starts to rain and I open the umbrella or, if I don"t have one, I ask my colleague, who is walking with me, if he has an umbrella in the bag. Why do I do so? There are many ways to answer this question, but if I adopt the strategy to explain the causes of my acting or speaking by looking for the reasons that I have for doing it (for instance, I notice that it is raining and I (...)
  28. Burge on Content.Reinaldo Elugardo - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):367-84.
  29. What We Talk About When We Talk About Content Externalism.Jeff Engelhardt - 2016 - Synthese 193 (1):125-143.
    Some content externalists claim that if C is a theoretical concept and “C” expresses C, then the content of C in a community at a time is determined by how some members of the community at the time—call them “experts”—understand C or use “C”. Thus, when non-expert Chauncey utters “C”, the content of the concept he expresses does not depend entirely on his intrinsic physical properties, contra the claims of content internalism. This paper proposes that “concept” expresses a theoretical concept, (...)
  30. Externalism About Content: Its Social and Its Physical Roots.Michael Esfeld - 2002 - Filosoficky Casopis 50:387-400.
  31. A Dichotomy Sustained.Graeme Forbes - 1987 - Philosophical Studies 51 (March):187-211.
  32. A Philosophically Inexpensive Introduction to Twin-Earth.Bryan Frances - manuscript
    I say that it’s philosophically inexpensive because I think it is more convincing than any other Twin-Earth thought experiment in that it sidesteps many of the standard objections to the usual thought experiments. I also discuss narrow contents and give an analysis of Putnam’s original argument.
  33. The Dual Concepts Objection to Content Externalism.Bryan Frances - 2016 - American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2):123-138.
    Many philosophers have used premises about concepts and rationality to argue that the protagonists in the various Twin Earth thought experiments do not have the concepts that content externalists say they have. This essay argues that this popular internalist argument is flawed in many different ways, and more importantly it cannot be repaired in order to cast doubt on externalism.
  34. On the Explanatory Deficiencies of Linguistic Content.Bryan Frances - 1999 - Philosophical Studies 93 (1):45-75.
    The Burge-Putnam thought experiments have generated the thesis that beliefs are not fixed by the constitution of the body. However, many philosophers have thought that if this is true then there must be another content-like property. Even if the contents of our attitudes such as the one in ‘believes that aluminum is a light metal’, do not supervene on our physical makeups, nevertheless people who are physical duplicates must be the same when it comes to evaluating their rationality and explaining (...)
  35. Twin Earth Thought Experiments.Bryan Frances - 1998
  36. Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind: Essays on Tyler Burge.Maria Frapolli & Esther Romero (eds.) - 2002 - University of Chicago Press.
    This volume comprises a lively and thorough discussion between philosophers and Tyler Burge about Burge's recent, and already widely accepted, position in the theory of meaning, mind, and knowledge. This position is embodied by an externalist theory of meaning and an anti-individualist theory of mind and approach to self-knowledge. The authors of the eleven papers here expound their versions of this position and go on to critique Burge's version. Together with Burge's replies, this volume offers a major contribution to contemporary (...)
  37. Social Externalism and Linguistic Communication.Christopher Gauker - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind: Essays on Tyler Burge. CSLI.
    According to the expressive theory of communication, the primary function of language is to enable speakers to convey the content of their thoughts to hearers. According to Tyler Burge's social externalism, the content of a person's thought is relative to the way words are used in his or her surrounding linguistic community. This paper argues that Burge's social externalism refutes the expressive theory of communication.
  38. Mental Content and the Division of Epistemic Labour.Christopher Gauker - 1991 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 69 (3):302-18.
    Tyler Burge's critique of individualistic conceptions of mental content is well known.This paper employs a novel strategy to defend a strong form of Burge's conclusion. The division of epistemic labor rests on the possibility of language-mediated transactions, such as asking for something in a store and getting it. The paper shows that any individualistic conception of content will render such transactions unintelligible.
  39. Rethinking Burge's Thought Experiment.N. Georgalis - 1999 - Synthese 118 (2):145-64.
  40. Burge's Thought Experiment: Still in Need of Defense. [REVIEW]Nicholas Georgalis - 2003 - Erkenntnis 58 (2):267-273.
  41. The Status of Supposition.Mitchell S. Green - 2000 - Noûs 34 (3):376–399.
    According to many forms of Externalism now popular in the Philosophy of Mind, the contents of our thoughts depend in part upon our physical or social milieu.1 These forms of Externalism leave unchallenged the thesis that the ~non-factive! attitudes we bear towards these contents are independent of physical or social milieu. This paper challenges that thesis. It is argued here that publicly forwarding a content as a supposition for the sake of argument is, under conditions not themselves guaranteeing the existence (...)
  42. Incomplete Understanding, Deference, and the Content of Thought.Mark Greenberg - unknown
    Tyler Burge’s influential arguments have convinced most philosophers that a thinker can have a thought involving a particular concept without fully grasping or having mastery of that concept. In Burge’s (1979) famous example, a thinker who lacks mastery of the concept of arthritis nonetheless has thoughts involving that concept. It is generally supposed, however, that this phenomenon – incomplete understanding, for short – does not require us to reconsider in a fundamental way what it is for a thought to involve (...)
  43. Terms and Content.Tobies Grimaltos - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind. CSLI Publications.
  44. When Swampmen Get Arthritis: "Externalism" in Burge and Davidson.Martin Hahn - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
  45. Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge.Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.) - 2003 - MIT Press.
    Essays by various philosphers on the work of Tyler Burge and Burge's extensive responses.
  46. Social Cartesianism.John Haugeland - 2004 - In Richard Schantz (ed.), The Externalist Challenge. De Gruyter.
  47. Temporal Externalism, Constitutive Norms, and Theories of Vagueness.Henry Jackman - 2006 - In Tomas Marvan (ed.), What Determines Content? The Internalism/Externalism Dispute. Cambridge Scholars Press.
    Another paper exploring the relation between Temporal externalism and Epistemicism about Vagueness, but with slightly more emphasis on the role of constitutive norms relating to our concept of truth.
  48. Temporal Externalism and Our Ordinary Linguistic Practices.Henry Jackman - 2005 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (3):365-380.
    Temporal externalists argue that ascriptions of thought and utterance content can legitimately reflect contingent conceptual developments that are only settled after the time of utterance. While the view has been criticized for failing to accord with our “ordinary linguistic practices”, such criticisms (1) conflate our ordinary ascriptional practices with our more general beliefs about meaning, and (2) fail to distinguish epistemically from pragmatically motivated linguistic changes. Temporal externalism relates only to the former sort of changes, and the future usage relevant (...)
  49. Deference and Self-Knowledge.Henry Jackman - 2000 - Southwest Philosophy Review 16 (1):171-180.
    It has become increasingly popular to suggest that non-individualistic theories of content undermine our purported a priori knowledge of such contents because they entail that we lack the ability to distinguish our thoughts from alternative thoughts with different contents. However, problems relating to such knowledge of 'comparative' content tell just as much against individualism as non-individualism. Indeed, the problems presented by individualistic theories of content for self-knowledge are at least, if not more, serious than those presented by non-individualistic theories. Consequently, (...)
  50. We Live Forwards but Understand Backwards: Linguistic Practices and Future Behavior.Henry Jackman - 1999 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80 (2):157-177.
    Ascriptions of content are sensitive not only to our physical and social environment, but also to unforeseeable developments in the subsequent usage of our terms. This paper argues that the problems that may seem to come from endorsing such 'temporally sensitive' ascriptions either already follow from accepting the socially and historically sensitive ascriptions Burge and Kripke appeal to, or disappear when the view is developed in detail. If one accepts that one's society's past and current usage contributes to what one's (...)
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