Semantic inferentialism as (a Form of) active externalism

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 16 (3):387-402 (2017)
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Abstract

Within contemporary philosophy of mind, it is taken for granted that externalist accounts of meaning and mental content are, in principle, orthogonal to the matter of whether cognition itself is bound within the biological brain or whether it can constitutively include parts of the world. Accordingly, Clark and Chalmers (Analysis 58(1):7–19, 1998) distinguish these varieties of externalism as ‘passive’ and ‘active’ respectively. The aim here is to suggest that we should resist the received way of thinking about these dividing lines. With reference to Brandom’s (1994, 2000, Inquiry 47:236–253, 2008) broad semantic inferentialism, we show that a theory of meaning can be at the same time a variety of active externalism. While we grant that supporters of other varieties of content externalism (e.g., Putnam 1975 and Burge (Philosophical Review 95:3–45, 1986) can deny active externalism, this is not an option for semantic inferentialists: On this latter view, the role of the environment (both in its social and natural form) is not ‘passive’ in the sense assumed by the alternative approaches to content externalism.

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Author Profiles

James Collin
University of Glasgow
S. Orestis Palermos
Cardiff University
J. Adam Carter
University of Glasgow

References found in this work

The extended mind.Andy Clark & David J. Chalmers - 1998 - Analysis 58 (1):7-19.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - Philosophy 56 (217):431-433.
The Bounds of Cognition.Frederick Adams & Kenneth Aizawa - 2008 - Malden, MA, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by Kenneth Aizawa.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - Critica 17 (49):69-71.
The meaning of 'meaning'.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.

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