Review of Jessica Brown, Anti-Individualism and Knowledge [Book Review]

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 a detailed and useful discussion not only of how we are to understand privileged access, but also of epistemological issues of more general import, such as the connection between knowledge and reliability. The second section focuses on various aspects of the problem of anti-individualism and reasoning, including an extensive discussion of the relation between anti-individualism and a Fregean account of content. The final section discusses the so-called reductio argument against compatibilism (i.e. the view that anti-individualism is compatible with a priori knowledge of one’s own thoughts), according to which compatibilism implies that we can have a priori knowledge of certain facts about the world that, intuitively, are not knowable that way. The book is very clearly written and structured. Readers unfamiliar with the debate will get a good sense of its broad contours and the various positions taken. Brown starts out by distinguishing different forms of anti-individualism. This is very helpful since it is quite clear that the term has come to be rather carelessly used, as if it referred to one particular thesis, whereas in fact a number of loosely related positions are labeled ‘antiindividualist’. At the outset she distinguishes three familiar anti-individualist theses: natural kind anti-individualism, social anti-individualism, and singular anti-individualism. These..
Keywords anti-individualism, externalism, self-knowledge, privileged access, reductio argument
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