Self‐Knowledge and Externalism about Empty Concepts

Analytic Philosophy 56 (2):158-168 (2015)

Abstract

Several authors have argued that, assuming we have apriori knowledge of our own thought-contents, semantic externalism implies that we can know apriori contingent facts about the empirical world. After presenting the argument, I shall respond by resisting the premise that an externalist can know apriori: If s/he has the concept water, then water exists. In particular, Boghossian's Dry Earth example suggests that such thought-experiments do not provide such apriori knowledge. Boghossian himself rejects the Dry Earth experiment, however, since it would imply that externalism is true of empty concepts as well as non-empty concepts. Yet in this paper I respond by defending empty-concept externalism, from criticisms suggested by Boghossian and Brown, and recently developed further by Besson. My contention is that an externalist can give a non-ad hoc descriptivist account of empty concepts. Accordingly, apriori self-knowledge does not enable an externalist to know contingent features of the external world.

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T. Parent
Nazarbayev University

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The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
The Meaning of 'Meaning'.Hillary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Individualism and the Mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.

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