Hilary Putnam (1981) proposed an interesting and much discussed attempt to refute a skeptical argument that is based on one form of the brain-in-a-vat scenario. In turn, Putnam’s attempted refutation is based on contentexternalism (also known as semantic externalism). On this view, the referents and meanings of various types of singular and general terms, as well as the propositions expressed by sentences containing such terms, are determined by aspects of the speaker’s external environment. In this entry, (...) we will consider the basic features of and problems with Putnam’s original argument, and we will also present and discuss several of the most important attempts to reconstruct or improve upon that argument. (shrink)
Two arguments against the compatibility of epistemic internalism and contentexternalism are considered. Both arguments are shown to fail, because they equivocate on the concept of justification involved in their premises. To spell out the involved equivocation, a distinction between subjective and objective justification is introduced, which can also be independently motivated on the basis of a wide range of thought experiments to be found in the mainstream literature on epistemology. The subjective/objective justification distinction is also ideally suited (...) for providing new insights with respect to central issues within epistemology, including the internalism/externalism debate and the New Evil Demon intuition. (shrink)
At first pass, internalism about justification is the view that there is no justificatory difference without an internal difference. Externalism about mental content is the view that there are differences in mental content without an internal difference. Assuming mental contents are the primary bearers of justificatory features, the two views are in obvious tension. The goal of this paper is to determine how the tension is best resolved. The paper proceeds as follows. In §1 I explain the (...) threat to justificatory internalism from contentexternalism in more detail. In §2 I present Earl Conee and Richard Feldman’s “counterpart propositions” reply to the problem of contentexternalism. §3 criticizes the counterpart propositions reply. §4 presents a view in the metaphysics of belief that is widely adopted by content externalists: one that appeals to vehicles of content, modes of presentation of content, or ways of believing propositions. §5 exploits this metaphysics of belief in order to better accommodate justificatory internalist insights in light of contentexternalism. §6 shows how the new view can be used to address problems that face Conee and Feldman’s account. Finally, §7 provides a new argument from the Vehicle View for the language of thought hypothesis. (shrink)
Some philosophers argue that contentexternalism can provide the foundations of an argument against the traditional epistemological skeptic. I maintain that if such an argument is available, it seems there is also an a priori argument against the possibility of a creationist god. My suspicion is that such a strong consequence is not desirable for the content-externalists, and that the availability of this argument therefore casts doubt on the anti-skeptical position. I argue that all content externalists (...) should be troubled by this result, since even those philosophers who do not endorse the anti-skeptical strategy must either reject the possibility of a creationist god or admit that their thesis does not hold a priori for minds in general. (shrink)
In the last twenty-five years, several authors have raised problems to the thesis that privileged self-knowledge is compatible with contentexternalism. In particular, the 'slow-switching' argument, which was originally put forth by Paul Boghossian (1989), aims to show that there is no satisfactory account of how we can have privileged knowledge about our own thoughts given contentexternalism. Though many philosophers have found ways to block the argument, no one has worried to address a major worry (...) that Boghossian had when he presented the argument, which is to understand under which conditions privileged self-knowledge is possible given contentexternalism. In this paper, I offer a diagnosis of why the slow-switching argument fails and I show how the diagnosis enables us to provide a partial response to Boghossian's worry. (shrink)
Some content externalists claim that if C is a theoretical concept and “C” expresses C, then the content of C in a community at a time is determined by how some members of the community at the time—call them “experts”—understand C or use “C”. Thus, when non-expert Chauncey utters “C”, the content of the concept he expresses does not depend entirely on his intrinsic physical properties, contra the claims of content internalism. This paper proposes that “concept” (...) expresses a theoretical concept, such that the externalist’s insights should apply to how we understand claims expressing the view itself and to how we evaluate the arguments alleged to motivate it. With respect to the first, I argue that the content externalist should regard it as unclear at present which proposition her theory expresses, and should take it that contentexternalism teaches us about our linguistic community rather than about the metaphysical nature of concepts. With respect to the second, I argue that by externalism’s own lights, the famous externalist thought experiments shouldn’t establish contentexternalism. In conclusion, I suggest that making sense of contentexternalism requires presupposing internalism. (shrink)
Many philosophers have used premises about concepts and rationality to argue that the protagonists in the various Twin Earth thought experiments do not have the concepts that content externalists say they have. This essay argues that this popular internalist argument is flawed in many different ways, and more importantly it cannot be repaired in order to cast doubt on externalism.
Most content externalists concede that even if externalism is compatible with the thesis that one has authoritative self-knowledge of thought contents, it is incompatible with the stronger claim that one is always able to tell by introspection whether two of one’s thought tokens have the same, or different, content. If one lacks such authoritative discriminative self-knowledge of thought contents, it would seem that brute logical error – non-culpable logical error – is possible. Some philosophers, such as Paul (...) Boghossian, have argued that this would present a big problem for externalism, forcing the externalist to overhaul our norms of rationality. I consider several externalist strategies to block this possibly unhappy epistemological consequence, but I argue that they all fail. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to show that the truth of contentexternalism can be grounded in purely epistemological considerations in which no appeal is made to Twin‐Earth style cases. Contentexternalism is required to provide an adequate account of perceptual warrant.
Whereas a number of recent articles have focussed upon whether the thesis of contentexternalism is compatible with a certain sort of knowledge that is gained via first-person authority,1 far less attention has been given to the relationship that this thesis bears to the possession of knowledge in general and, in particular, its relation to internalist and externalist epistemologies. Nevertheless, although very few actual arguments have been presented to this end, there does seem to be a shared suspicion (...) that contentexternalism must be incompatible with epistemic internalism. In a recent and influential paper, however, James Chase has challenged this conventional wisdom by offering a subtle defence of the view that contentexternalism and epistemic internalism are, in fact, compatible after all.2 Our aim here is twofold. First, to show that Chase is only able to achieve this result because he focuses upon the internalist conception of justification, rather than knowledge. Second, to formulate one prima facie argument which shows that an internalist conception of knowledge is incompatible with an externalist conception of content, an argument which, moreover, is not touched by Chase. (shrink)
In this paper I consider a recent argument of Timothy Williamson’s that epistemic internalism and contentexternalism are indeed incompatible, and since he takes contentexternalism to be above reproach, so much the worse for epistemic internalism. However, I argue that epistemic internalism, properly understood, remains substantially unaffected no matter which view of content turns out to be correct. What is key to the New Evil Genius thought experiment is that, given everything of which the (...) inhabitants are consciously aware, the two worlds are subjectively indistinguishable for them, which is what matters on internalist accounts of epistemic justification. I argue that even if a standard moral of the New Evil Genius intuition is untenable due to considerations arising from contentexternalism, the case can be understood as supporting epistemic internalism in a way that is wholly compatible with contentexternalism. In short, epistemic internalism is committed to sameness of justificatory status between subjectively indistinguishable counterparts, not sameness of content of their justifiers. (shrink)
While recent debates over contentexternalism have been mainly concerned with whether it undermines the traditional thesis of privileged self‐knowledge, little attention has been paid to what bearing contentexternalism has on such important controversies as the internalism/externalism debate in epistemology. With a few exceptions, the question has either been treated as a side issue in discussions concerning the implications of contentexternalism, or has been dealt with in a cursory way in debates (...) over the internalism/externalism distinction in justification theory. In this paper, I begin by considering some of the arguments that have sought to address the question, focusing mainly on Boghossian's pioneering attempt in bringing the issue to the fore.1 It will be argued that Boghossian's attempt to exploit the alleged non‐inferentiality of self‐knowledge to show that contentexternalism and justification internalism are incompatible fails.In the course of this examination, I consider and reject as inadequate some recent responses to Boghossian's argument . I then turn to evaluating Chase's own proposed argument to show how contentexternalism can be brought to bear on the internalism/externalism debate in epistemology, and find it wanting. Finally, having discussed BonJour's terse remarks in this connection,3 I set out to present, what I take to be, the strongest argument for the incompatibility of contentexternalism and justification internalism while highlighting the controversial character of one of its main premises. Let us, however, begin by drawing the contours of the debate. (shrink)
Standard interpretations of Kant’s transcendental idealism take it as a commitment to the view that the objects of cognition are structured or made by conditions imposed by the mind, and therefore to what Van Cleve calls “honest-to-God idealism”. Against this view, many more recent investigations of Kant’s theory of representation and cognitive significance have been able to show that Kant is committed to a certain form of Mental ContentExternalism, and therefore to the realist view that the objects (...) involved in experience and empirical knowledge are mind-independent particulars. Some of these recent interpreters have taken this result to demonstrate an internal incompatibility between Kant‘s transcendental idealism and his own model of cognitive content and the environmental conditions of empirical knowledge. Against this suggestion, this article argues that, while Kant’s theory of content is indeed best construed as externalist, an adequately adjusted form of transcendental idealism is not only compatible with this externalism, but in fact supports it. More generally, the article develops the position that mental contentexternalism cannot force the adoption of metaphysical realism. (shrink)
M. McKinsey has argued that the externalist theory of mental content implies that one can have a priori knowledge of propositions that are in fact only knowable a posteriori. So, according to McKinsey, the externalist theory must be mistaken. A. Gallois and J. O'Leary-Hawthorne have formalized this argument. In this paper, I discuss their formalization and their criticisms of it.
The paper presents an extended argument for the claim that mental content impacts the computational individuation of a cognitive system (section 2). The argument starts with the observation that a cognitive system may simultaneously implement a variety of different syntactic structures, but that the computational identity of a cognitive system is given by only one of these implemented syntactic structures. It is then asked what are the features that determine which of implemented syntactic structures is the computational structure of (...) the system, and it is contended that these features are certain aspects of mental content. The argument helps (section 3) to reassess the thesis known as computational externalism, namely, the thesis that computational theories of cognition make essential reference to features in the individual's environment. It is suggested that the familiar arguments for computational externalism?which rest on thought experiments and on exegesis of Marr's theories of vision?are unconvincing, but that they can be improved. A reconstruction of the visex/audex thought experiment is offered in section 3.1. An outline of a novel interpretation of Marr's theories of vision is presented in section 3.2. The corrected arguments support the claim that computational theories of cognition are intentional. Computational externalism is still pending, however, upon the thesis that psychological content is extrinsic. (shrink)
Sanford Goldberg argues for ContentExternalism by drawing our attention to the extent to which an individual’s concepts depend on the concepts of others. More specifically, he focuses on cases that involve knowledge transmission between experts and non-experts to make his point. In this paper, I argue that the content internalist cannot only plausibly respond to his argument but that Content Internalism offers a more plausible account of intentional content with regard to knowledge transmission than (...) does ContentExternalism. (shrink)
Externalism holds, and internalism denies, that the individuation of many of an individual's mental states (e.g., thoughts about the physical world) depends necessarily on relations that individual bears to the physical and/or social environment. Many philosophers, externalists and internalists alike, believe that introspection yields knowledge of the contents of our thoughts that is direct and authoritative. It is not obvious, however, that the metaphysical claims of externalism are compatible with this epistemological thesis. Some (e.g., Burge, 1988; Falvey and (...) Owens (F&O), 1994) have sought to dispel the worry that there is a conflict, though they admit that if such a conflict exists, it spells trouble for externalism (see, e.g., F&O, 1994, p. 108). Boghossian has argued that there is indeed a conflict between externalism and introspective knowledge of content. Surprisingly, however, he also argues that there is a conflict between internalism and introspective knowledge of content. I will defend Boghossian's claim that there is a conflict between externalism and knowledge of content, but criticize his claim that there is a conflict between internalism and knowledge of content. (shrink)
There is widespread suspicion that there is a principled conflict between epistemic internalism and contentexternalism (or anti-individualism). Despite the prominence of this suspicion, it has rarely been substantiated by explicit arguments. However, Duncan Pritchard and Jesper Kallestrup have recently provided a prima facie argument concluding that internalism about knowledge and externalism about content are incompatible. I criticize the incompatibilist argument and conclude that the purported incompatibility is, at best, prima facie. This is, in part, because (...) several steps in the argument are faulty and, in part, because there are promising responses available to the compatibilists. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to scrutinize active externalism and its repercussions for externalism about mental content. I start from the claim that active externalism is a version of contentexternalism that follows from the extended cognition thesis as a thesis about cognitive vehicles. Various features of active contentexternalism are explored by comparison with the known forms of passive externalism – in particular with respect to the multiple realizability of (...) the relevant external content-determining components and with respect to mental causation. A crucial result is that social externalism is already a version of active externalism. I conclude with a first sketch of a general account of meaning inspired by extended cognition: a use theory supplemented by a functional-role account. (shrink)
Interpretive charity is an important principle in devising the content of propositional attitudes and their expression. I want to argue that it does not square well with externalism about content. Although my argument clearly also applies to a principle of maximizing truth (as it requires only the true belief - component of knowledge), I will focus my attention to Timothy Williamson’s more intriguing recent proposal of maximizing knowledge.
First, I argue that the narrow content of a thought cannot be identical with the linguistic meaning of the sentence used to express it. Secondly, I argue that the distinction between narrow content and linguistic meaning is not fatal to content-dualism. Thirdly I argue for the view that the proposition contributed by the clause prefixed by "that" is an interpretation of the believer's thought. Finally, I use this insight to provide an individualist account of Burge's thought-experiments such (...) that recognition that the truth-conditions of belief-ascriptions include aspects of the believer's environment does not entail that those environmental aspects are thereby parts of the contents of the person's thoughts. (shrink)
I deal here with one of Boghossian’s arguments against contentexternalism, related to our inferential rationality . According to his reasoning, the apriority of our logical abilities is inconsistent with certain externalist assumptions. Nevertheless, the problem constitutes an important challenge for any theory of content, not just for externalism. Furthermore, when we examine what internalists may propose to solve the problem, we see that externalists have at their disposal a more promising repertoire of possible replies than (...) internalists. In that sense, insofar as Boghossian’s scenario is relevant to the debate externalism/internalism, it can be seen as providing additional evidence for contentexternalism. (shrink)
Several lines of reasoning have been proposed to show the incompatibility of contentexternalism with justification internalism. In this paper I examine two such lines of reasoning, which both rely on the general idea that since contentexternalism is incompatible with certain aspects of the alleged privileged character of self-knowledge, it would tend to undermine justification internalism as well. I shall argue that both lines of reasoning, as they stand, lack plausibility, though the core idea of (...) the second line can be reconstructed into a new argument which shows considerable promise. In particular, relying upon the reliability constraint on knowledge, I shall argue that the so-called ‘two-concept’ version of contentexternalism is incompatible with ‘the transparency of sameness of content’, and thereby would also undermine justification internalism. (shrink)
Yli-Vakkuri offers a deductive argument for ContentExternalism that primarily appeals to two main principles he says should be adopted by all parties to the debate. Sawyer criticizes this argument on the grounds that there are internalist theories that are not consistent with the two principles he offers, although she takes no issue with the derivation itself. While Sawyer’s critique is insightful and largely correct, there is a more fundamental problem with the original argument. The formal proof given (...) in the original paper begs the question. The informal argument is enthymematic, and all the possible valid reconstructions require assumptions that can be legitimately rejected by content internalists. This is significant to point out as someone might think that the internalist views that Sawyer says are not consistent with the two principles that drive Yli-Vakkuri’s argument can be successfully challenged and thereby the original argument defended. (shrink)
While recent debates over contentexternalism have been mainly concerned with whether it undermines the traditional thesis of privileged self‐knowledge, little attention has been paid to what bearing contentexternalism has on such important controversies as the internalism/externalism debate in epistemology. With a few exceptions, the question has either been treated as a side issue in discussions concerning the implications of contentexternalism, or has been dealt with in a cursory way in debates (...) over the internalism/externalism distinction in justification theory. In this paper, I begin by considering some of the arguments that have sought to address the question, focusing mainly on Boghossian's pioneering attempt in bringing the issue to the fore.1 It will be argued that Boghossian's attempt to exploit the alleged non‐inferentiality of self‐knowledge to show that contentexternalism and justification internalism are incompatible fails.In the course of this examination, I consider and reject as inadequate some recent responses to Boghossian's argument. I then turn to evaluating Chase's own proposed argument to show how contentexternalism can be brought to bear on the internalism/externalism debate in epistemology, and find it wanting. Finally, having discussed BonJour's terse remarks in this connection,3 I set out to present, what I take to be, the strongest argument for the incompatibility of contentexternalism and justification internalism while highlighting the controversial character of one of its main premises. Let us, however, begin by drawing the contours of the debate. (shrink)
Há um argumento cético clássico derivado das Meditações sobre a filosofia primeira. Este artigo oferece uma formulação contemporânea padrão do argumento, pretendendo mostrar que ninguém sabe qualquer coisa sobre o mundo extramental. A obra de Hilary Putnam na filosofia da linguagem e da mente parece fornecer uma resposta a uma versão atualizada do argumento cético cartesiano. Em sua maior parte, este artigo é dedicado a uma análise e crítica das meditações anti-céticas de Putnam. PALAVRAS-CHAVE – Descartes. Putnam. Ceticismo. Cérebros em (...) cubas. Externalismo de conteúdo. ABSTRACT There is a classical skeptical argument that derives from Descartes’s Meditations on first Philosophy. This paper offers a standard contemporary formulation of the argument, which purports to show that no one knows anything about the world that exists outside our minds. The work of Hilary Putnam in the philosophy of language and mind seems to afford an answer to an updated version of the Cartesian skeptical argument. The bulk of this paper is devoted to an analysis and critique of Putnam’s anti-skeptical meditations. KEY WORDS – Descartes, Putnam, Skepticism, Brains in vats, Contentexternalism. (shrink)
I deal here with one of Boghossian’s arguments against contentexternalism, related to our inferential rationality (to use his term). According to his reasoning, the apriority of our logical abilities is inconsistent with certain externalist assumptions. Nevertheless, the problem constitutes an important challenge for any theory of content, not just for externalism. Furthermore, when we examine what internalists may propose to solve the problem, we see that externalists have at their disposal a more promising repertoire of (...) possible replies than internalists. In that sense, insofar as Boghossian’s scenario is relevant to the debate externalism/internalism, it can be seen (against Boghossian’s original intention) as providing additional evidence for contentexternalism. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Consensus has it that Putnam-Burge style arguments for content-externalism do not strengthen the case for vehicle-externalism, i.e., the thesis that some mental states include as their parts notebooks, iPhones, and other extra-bodily phenomena. Rowlands and Sprevak, among others, argue that vehicle-externalism gets stronger support from Clark and Chalmers’s parity principle and functionalism, generally. I contest this assessment and thereby give reason to reconsider the support that content-externalism provides the extended mind thesis: although (...) class='Hi'>content-externalism does not entail vehicle-externalism, as Rowlands argues, neither does functionalism. The functionalist cannot reject the content-externalist argument for vehicle-externalism on these grounds without undercutting her own.Export citation Request permission. (shrink)
This thesis has three parts. In the first part, the author defends the coherence of Cartesian scepticism about the external world. In particular, the author contends that such scepticism survives attacks from Descartes himself, as well as from W.V.O. Quine, Robert Nozick, Alvin Goldman, and David Armstrong. It follows that Cartesian scepticism remains intact. In the second part of this thesis, the author contends that the semantic or content externalisms of Hilary Putnam and Tyler Burge do not refute Cartesian (...) scepticism about the external world. In particular, he argues that Putnam and Burge do not make good their respective externalist cases against scepticism, and that they beg the question against that position. The author concludes that semantic or contentexternalism is important against such scepticism. In the third part of this thesis, the author addresses the mind, and suggests that Descartes, by offering his cogito argument, also offers a theory of thought content, which he then supports with his substance dualism. He suggests that Descartes does not succeed with any of his arguments here, although his theory of thought content is still plausible. To remedy this, the author discusses the versions of narrow meaning or content offered by Jerry Fodor and Colin McGinn, and defends a version of such meaning or content that presupposes that semantic or contentexternalism is false. The author lastly follows Donald Davidson, and argues for a version anomalous monism, which he contends is a theory that shows how semantic or content internalism might be true. (shrink)
Tyler Burge has in many writings distinguished between mental contentexternalism based on incorrect understanding and mental contentexternalism based on partial but not incorrect understanding. Both and have far-reaching implications for analyses of communication and concept possession in various expert-layperson relations, but Burge and his critics have mainly focused on . This article first argues that escapes the most influential objection to . I then raise an objection against Burge’s argument for . The objection focuses (...) on Burge’s claim that a person with a partial understanding of a term in our community expresses our standard concept because he is willing to defer to our standard understanding, while his “Putnamian” twin in a counterfactual community does not. The problem with Burge’s argument for this claim is that he does not consider the possibility that the person in our community and the twin would defer to the same understanding if they were presented with the same alternatives. Drawing from widespread dispositional assumptions about meaning, I argue that Burge must accept that they express the same concept if they would defer to the same understanding. The article closes with an examination on various ways the externalist may attempt to avoid this problem and concludes that none of them succeeds. (shrink)
Externalist theories of thought content are sometimes arrived at by reflection upon Twin Earth thought experiments of the sort made famous by Hilary Putnam and Tyler Burge. The conclusion many philosophers draw from these thought experiments is that certain types of thought contents are individuated, in part, by environmental or socioenvironmental factors. This doctrine of "Twin Earth content-externalism" implies that it is possible for thinkers that are alike in all intrinsic physical respects to differ in the contents (...) of their thoughts by virtue of differences in their environments. (shrink)
Externalism holds that the content of our utterances and thoughts are determined partly by the environment. Here, I offer an argument which suggests that externalism is incompatible with a natural view about ontological commitment--namely, the Quinean view that such commitments are fixed by the range of the variables in your theory. The idea in brief is that if Oscar mistakenly believes that water = XYZ, the externalist ontologically commits Oscar to two waterish kinds, whereas the Quinean commits (...) him to one such kind (albeit a metaphysically impossible kind). The penultimate section addresses a variety of objections to the argument. (shrink)
In this commentary, I examine John Tienson’s argument that reflection on the epistemic situation of the Cartesian meditator suggests that intentional content is narrow. My aim is to show how his argument is closely connected to another prominent objection to externalism—the McKinsey argument.
SummaryExternalism in philosophy of mind is usually taken to be faced with the following difficulty: from the fact that meanings are externally individuated, it follows that the subjective character of mental states and events becomes problematic. On the basis of a well‐founded approach to similar problems in the philosophy of action, I propose a solution based on two connected issues: we should think of mental states not as beliefs, but as states of knowledge, and thought experiments, designed to strip off (...) the contribution of the world from the subject's contribution to the contents of his mental states, are doomed to fail. The allegedly subjective character of propositional contentful states is that they are agent‐specific states. Agent‐specificity is not in contradiction with mental states or intentional actions having a circumstantial nature. (shrink)
In his fetishist argument, Michael Smith raises an important question: What is the content of the motivational states that constitute moral motivation? Although the argument has been widely discussed, this question has not received the attention it deserves. In the present paper, I use Smith’s argument as a point of departure for a discussion of how advocates of externalism as regards moral judgements can account for moral motivation. More precisely, I explore various explanations of moral motivation that externalists (...) can employ to answer the question Smith poses. (shrink)
On the dominant interpretation, Ockham is an externalist about mental content. This reading is founded principally on his theory of intuitive cognition. Intuitive cognition plays a foundational role in Ockham’s account of concept formation and judgment, and Ockham insists that the content of intuitive states is determined by the causal relations such states bear to their objects. The aim of this paper is to challenge the externalist interpretation by situating Ockham’s account of intuitive cognition vis-à-vis his broader account (...) of efficient causation. While there can be no doubt that intuitive states are causally individuated, I argue that, given Ockham’s broader theory of efficient causation (on which causation turns out to be an internal relation), this very fact entails that the content of such states is determined by factors internal (rather than external) to the states themselves. (shrink)