Note on Mark Rowland's Externalism: Putting Mind and World Back Together Again

The book has two di sti ncti ve features. One is that while philosophers’discussions of externalism tend to be very technical, Rowlands presents his own discussion in an accessible manner. The second, more distinctive than the first, is that Rowlands treats the concept of externalism as a topic in both analytic and continental traditions of philosophy. In Chapter 2 Rowlands introduces the Cartesian internalist conception of the mind, which appears inconsistent with externalism. Rowlands claims that Cartesianism consists of three types of thesis: ontological, epistemological and axiological. Throughout the book he focuses on the ontological thesis, except for Chapter 8, where he discusses the epistemological thesis, and Chapter 11, where he discusses the axiological thesis. The rest of the book is roughly divided into two parts. In the first, Rowlands discusses the relationship between externalism and idealism, the latter of which is, according to him, a natural development of internalism. Rowlands advances his discussion by treating Edmund Husserl as an internalist and idealist, and Jean-Paul Sartre and Wittgenstein as externalists. In the second, he examines content externalism. He finds content externalism unsatisfactory and tries to establish a more robust form of externalism, which he calls ‘ vehicle externalism’ . He shows that vehicle externalism is applicable to conscious experience, which, on the face of it, has nothing to do with externalism. There are at least two possible impressions that readers might have about this book. The first is that the book is unfocused because it covers a number of distinct topics in two different traditions by relying on the widest construal of the term ‘ external i sm’ . A reader only interested in recent topics on content externalism in epistemology and the philosophy of mind—i.e. externalism and authoritative self-knowledge, externalism and scepticism, externalism and memory and so on—might have this impression..
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