Boghossian on empty natural kind concepts

Paul Boghossian has argued that Externalism is incompatible with privileged self-knowledge because (i) the Externalist can cite no property to be the reference of an empty natural kind concept such as the ether; (ii) without reference there is no content; hence (iii) either we do know on the basis of introspection alone whether an apparent natural kind thought has content or not, in which case we can infer from self-knowledge and a priori knowledge of Externalism alone to the existence in our environment of water, gold etc.; (iv) or we do not know, without empirical investigation, whether an apparent natural kind thought has content. An Externalist not wanting to accept either (iii) or (iv) can deny (i). All empty natural kind concepts refer to the necessarily uninstantiated property of being identical to nothing. Since they have different senses and self-knowledge is only held to extend to the existence and identity of sense, this is compatible with privileged self-knowledge, and Externalism is still true of the concepts
Keywords Concept  Epistemology  Externalism  Knowledge  Natural Kinds  Boghossian, P
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9264.00050
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