Burge’s anti-individualism. Clarifying the thesis. Individualism is the view that all of an individual’s representational mental kinds are con- stitutively independent. Excerpts from Tyler Burge, ‘Individualism and the mental’, Midwest Studies in concern with the individual subject of mental states and events. Burge () Individualism and the Mental – Download as PDF File .pdf) or read online.

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Notice that internalism does not deny that the environment can causally affect whether something has K. Crane argues that in Burge’s example, undividualism is no reason for thinking that Jane has different concepts in the two situations, as her dispositions remain exactly the same.

Externalism and Cognitive Science 9. What the externalist thought experiments show is that ordinary belief ascriptions are sensitive to external facts, but it does not follow inividualism psychological contents are therefore wide. For these and other reasons the skeptical argument is not widely accepted.

Larson, Richard and Segal, Gabriel, Exactly how the skeptical argument is supposed to go and whether the argument is sound is controversial See the review in Boghossian b. For example, Tye suggests that the content of a perceptual state is the state of affairs that the state causally correlates with under optimal conditions. Williamson suggests that internalism can be understood as the doctrine that mental content supervenes on environmentally-independent phenomenal states, and Farkasmakes a similar proposal.

Even if content externalism is not a bar to privileged self-knowledge generally speaking, as of course many content externalists maintain, there may be specific kinds of self-knowledge for example, comparative knowledge of sameness of buege of the kind discussed above in connection with slow-switching that pose problems for forms of epistemic internalism.

She therefore maintains that there is no genuine dispute over the truth of externalism, and recommends that philosophers drop the issue in favor of more well-defined questions.


In contrast, active externalism asserts that the environment can play an active role in constituting and driving cognitive processes. A second line of criticism disagrees with the intuition that different belief ascriptions are true of the physically identical subjects in the two environments. Their mental states have the same casual powers, and science should capture this common aspect by postulating a shared narrow content which is determined by our intrinsic properties.

Externalism About Mental Content

It follows that facts about the environment play no role in determining whether or not the creature has property K. The argument just discussed aims to show that some beliefs involving menntal kind concepts depend on the identity of certain physical substances in our environment. In perhaps the most interesting and controversial proposal concerning the reach of externalism, it has recently been argued that externalism is also hhe of all conscious mental states.

Davidson does not explain why this claim should be accepted. For example, believing that it is raining and hoping that it is raining are intentional mental states with the same content but of individhalism psychological types.

Knowing Our Own MindsOxford: Whereas believing that it is raining and believing that it is sunny are states with distinct contents but of the same psychological type.

This is taken to show that externalism is incompatible with privileged self-knowledge. It then follows that externalism is correct with regard to semantic knowledge. This goes to show that there are no intrinsic facts that determine the meaning we associate with the term. Furthermore, though this is a logically separable thesis known as representationalism or intentionalismthe phenomenal characters of these conscious states are supposed by these and other authors to supervene on their contents.

Narrow contents and contexts are supposed to explain how identical individuals acquire wide contents, and they are supposed to play a central role in menal explanation. Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds: Although this thought experiment was designed to establish semantic externalism, it can be extended to mental contents as well see McGinn Defence of a Reasonable Individualism.


Externalism About Mental Content (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Such an individual would be expressing his belief that water quenches thirst, a belief that is true if and only if H 2 O quenches thirst. There are two main strategies to show that wide mental contents can legitimately enter into causal explanations.

Some believe that the argument is too strong in that it seems to establish meaning eliminativism rather than externalism. For further discussion, see BurgePeacockeand also the entry on narrow mental content.

Anx subject, however, is unable to discriminate between the indivudualism places. Chalmers himself expresses some sympathy to this response in his preface to Clark This is unlikely to be sure, but arguably nomologically possible.

Individualism and the mental

Action in PerceptionAnv, MA: Boghossian argues that knowing that one has thoughts about water allows one to infer that one has been in causal contact with water.

Bibliography Adams and Aizawa, Externalism and Self-knowledge 7. A different version of externalism, social externalismis defended by Tyler Burge especially Burge and Burge Both argue that, while a subject might be a priori justified in believing that she has a certain thought, and also a priori justified in thinking that the having of that thought depends on the presence of certain substances or communal practice in the environment, this a priori indivdiualism does not transmit to belief in burfe existence of those external substances or practices.

Burge makes use of similar arguments to show that social institutions also play a role in determining the contents of some beliefs and thoughts, including those that do not involve natural kind concepts. For criticisms of this reply, see McLaughlin and Brown