Physical externalism and social externalism: Are they really compatible?

Journal of Philosophical Research 27:381-404 (2002)
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Abstract

Putnam and Burge have been viewed as launching a joint attack on individualism, the view that the content of one's psychological state is determined by what is in the head . Putnam argues that meanings are not in the head while Burge argues that beliefs are not in the head either, and both have come up with convincing arguments against individualism. It is generally conceived that Putnam's view is a version of physical externalism, which argues that factors in the physical environment play a role in determining the meanings of natural kind terms. Burge, on the other hand, is regarded as following up Putnam's argument to bring in factors in the social environment for the determination of belief. Burge's view has been commonly referred to as 'social externalism.' The general consensus in the field is that physical externalism and social externalism are compatible views. Furthermore, both Putnam and Burge seem to endorse each other’s position for the most part. In this paper, however, I shall argue against this general view to show that the two theories are deep down incompatible

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JeeLoo Liu
California State University, Fullerton

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