Introduction In its most general formulation, externalism with regard to a property K is a thesis about how K is individuated. It says that whether a creature has K or not depends in part on facts about how the creature is related to its external environment. In other words, it is metaphysically possible that there are two intrinsically indistinguishable creatures, only one of which has property K, as a result of them being situated in different environments. To give a trivial example, externalism is true of mosquito bites since having them requires having been bitten by a mosquito. A mark on the skin created by careful micro-surgery is not a mosquito bite, even if it is intrinsically indistinguishable from a real one. Individualism or internalism with respect to a property K says that whether a creature has K or not supervenes on its intrinsic properties only.
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Introduction In its most general formulation, externalism with regard to a property K is a thesis about how K is individuated. It says that whether a creature has K or not depends in part on facts about how the creature is related to its external environment.
In other words, it is metaphysically possible that there are two intrinsically indistinguishable creatures, only one of which has property K, as a result of them being situated in different environments.
To give a trivial example, externalism is true of mosquito bites since having them requires having been bitten by a mosquito. A mark on the skin created by careful micro-surgery is not a mosquito bite, even if it is intrinsically indistinguishable from a real one. Individualism or internalism with respect to a property K says that whether a creature has K or not supervenes on its intrinsic properties only.
It follows that facts about the environment play no role in determining whether or not the creature has property K. Notice that internalism does not deny that the environment can causally affect whether something has K. For example, external factors such as exposure to radiation can cause cancer in an individual, but having cancer is still an internal physical state.
This article reviews the externalism vs. An intentional mental state is a mental state of a particular psychological type with some particular mental content. For example, believing that it is raining and hoping that it is raining are intentional mental states with the same content but of distinct psychological types.
Whereas believing that it is raining and believing that it is sunny are states with distinct contents but of the same psychological type. For the purpose of discussion, knowledge will not count as a psychological type. Externalism is clearly true of knowledge of the environment, since one can know that it is raining outside only if it is indeed raining outside.
But this kind of externalism is not too interesting. Externalism is true here only in part because knowledge requires veridical contents. What is controversial is whether externalism extends to mental states belonging to psychological types which do not have such a requirement, e. This is what the externalism debate on mental content is about. Among intentional mental states, a distinction is sometimes drawn between those that are de dicto of the dictum or proposition and those that are de re of the thing.
De re mental states, usually ascribed in English with an of or about locution e. However, a difficulty with this understanding of the distinction, pointed out by Farkas , is that it appears to rule out the possibility of antiphysicalist internalists.
This is ironic, given that Descartes is often held up as a paradigmatic example of an internalist about mental content. Williamson suggests that internalism can be understood as the doctrine that mental content supervenes on environmentally-independent phenomenal states, and Farkas , makes a similar proposal.
More recently, however, Gertler has argued that there is no understanding of the distinction between internal and external properties including the understanding adopted here that will correctly categorize the views we take to be clearly externalist or internalist.
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.
The Classic Arguments for Externalism The most well-known arguments for externalism typically make use of thought-experiments in which physically identical individuals are embedded in different social or physical environments. It is then argued that some beliefs and thoughts are possessed by one of these individuals but not the other. This shows that some mental contents fail to supervene on intrinsic facts, and hence that externalism is true. Many of these thought experiments were inspired by the related discussion of semantic externalism, the thesis that the meaning and reference of some of the words we use is not solely determined by the ideas we associate with them or by our internal physical state.
In Kripke , it is argued that the reference of proper names and natural kind terms is determined in part by external causal and historical factors. The macro properties of XYZ are supposed to be just like water : it looks and tastes like water, can be found in the rivers and oceans on Twin Earth, and so on. Of course, this person did not know that water is H2O.
Although this thought experiment was designed to establish semantic externalism, it can be extended to mental contents as well see McGinn Such an individual would be expressing his belief that water quenches thirst, a belief that is true if and only if H2O quenches thirst.
The externalist then asks us to consider a physically identical counterpart of this individual on Twin Earth. Being a resident on Twin Earth, this counterpart has only encountered twin-water, and has never encountered samples of water or heard about water from other people. According to the externalist, our intuition tells us that this individual on Twin Earth does not believe that water quenches thirst.
It follows that some beliefs do not supervene on intrinsic facts, and therefore that externalism is true. The argument just discussed aims to show that some beliefs involving natural kind concepts depend on the identity of certain physical substances in our environment.
Call this version of externalism natural kind externalism. A different version of externalism, social externalism, is defended by Tyler Burge especially Burge and Burge 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. In one such argument, we are to imagine an English-speaking individual, say Jane, who suspects she has arthritis as a result of having an ailment in her thigh.
According to Burge, in this counterfactual situation, Jane lacks the belief that she has arthritis in her thigh, or any other beliefs about arthritis, as no-one in her linguistic community possesses the concept of arthritis. Since the intrinsic facts about the individual are the same, but the beliefs are different, this is taken to show that externalism is correct. Furthermore, because the two situations differ only in the linguistic usage of the community, it is suggested that mental contents depend in part on communal linguistic practice.
Responses to the Classic Arguments The thought experiments above have generated a huge literature. Many authors remain unconvinced that they support externalism; in fact, although externalism, for decades, has been regarded as firm orthodoxy, a recent poll by PhilPapers suggests that, these days, only a thin majority The grounds for dissent are many and various. Some internalists claim that there are Twin Earth thought experiments that tell against, instead of in favor of, externalism.
Segal endorses a variation on this argument from Dry Earth; See Korman and Pryor for externalist replies. Some philosophers reject the use of thought experiments in determining whether content is wide or narrow. Cummins argues that empirical research is needed to find out about the nature of belief, not thought experiments. It might turn out that psychologists make use of belief content in their best psychological theories in an internalist manner, contrary to our folk intuitions.
It is possible, as experimental philosophers appear to have shown regarding intuitions about other prominent philosophical thought experiments, that externalist intuitions are a culturally local product. Weinberg et al. Surely, there will soon be cross-cultural empirical data on externalist intuitions. If it is found that only Westerners, for example, tend to have externalist intuitions, that could form the basis of a new kind of empirical critique of externalism. A second line of criticism disagrees with the intuition that different belief ascriptions are true of the physically identical subjects in the two environments.
Crane thinks that in both situations, Jane lacks the concept of arthritis, but possesses the concept of tharthritis. So Burge was mistaken in attributing to Jane in the actual world the belief that she has arthritis in her thigh.
Instead, in both worlds, Jane has the belief that she has tharthritis in her thigh. The contents of her beliefs in both cases are exactly the same. Georgalis takes a similar view, but unlike Crane, he thinks that Jane literally believes that she has arthritis in her thigh in both worlds, and that it is wrong to attribute to her the belief that she has tharthritis.
See also Segal A third line of criticism Loar , Patterson concedes that different belief ascriptions are true of the physically identical subjects, but denies that this implies externalism. It is submitted that there is a distinction between linguistic content and psychological content.
On this view, the linguistic contents of that-clauses in belief ascriptions do not accurately capture the psychological contents of mental states. But the problem with this attribution is that it fails to distinguish between the two distinct beliefs that Jane has about her ailments. On this line of thought, this shows that Jane has two beliefs with distinct psychological contents that ordinary belief attributions fail to capture.
What the externalist thought experiments show is that ordinary belief ascriptions are sensitive to external facts, but it does not follow that psychological contents are therefore wide. But see Stalnaker and Frances , both of whom argue that psychological contents so understood might still be wide.
Another popular response to the classic arguments is again to draw a distinction between two kinds of content.
However, this time the distinction is between two kinds of content that intentional mental states possess. It is first of all conceded that beliefs and thoughts have wide contents, as shown by the thought experiments. However, it is suggested that intentional mental states also possess a kind of narrow content that does not depend on the environment. For example, Fodor agrees that physically identical individuals have different wide contents when embedded in different contexts.
However, Fodor suggests that their beliefs still have the same narrow contents, which are functions from contexts to wide 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 psychological explanation.
See the entry on narrow content , and further discussion below. Finally, some authors e. In fact, Horowitz alleges that the various assumptions required by the arguments for externalism are inconsistent though see Brueckner for a reply.
Among those who accept externalism, one important issue concerns the implicit philosophical assumptions that ground the intuitions behind the thought experiments. There are two main approaches here. The causal-information theoretic approach explains content in terms of counterfactual or informational dependencies that hold between internal states and the environment in normal or ideal situations Dretske , Stalnaker The teleological approach, on the other hand, says that the contents of internal states are fixed by their design or evolutionary function Millikan , Papineau If these theories of content are correct, they explain why intentional mental states have wide contents and provide a theoretical basis for externalism.
See the entries on mental representation , and teleological theories of mental content. The Scope of Externalism The evaluation of the classic arguments is still a matter of active debate.
These are the states to which teleological or causal-informational theories of content apply. But this is not enough to show that all beliefs and thoughts have wide contents. This raises the question of whether there are non-deferential concepts to which externalism does not apply. For example, it might be argued that some very basic logical notions are indeed non-deferential.
Consider a mono-lingual English speaker who believes that something exists, or who believes that what will be, will be. If this is correct, then the classical arguments fail to show that all mental contents are wide.
Davidson asks us to imagine him being reduced to ashes by lightning in a swamp, while at the same time an exact physical replica of him is produced by pure coincidence.
This is unlikely to be sure, but arguably nomologically possible. According to Davidson, the swampman that is produced would have no intentional mental states whatsoever, even though it would behave just like him and would appear to other people as having thoughts of its own.
Malakazahn Individualism, Computation, and Perceptual Content. However, it is suggested that intentional mental states also possess a kind of narrow content that does not depend on the environment. Conscious mental states are mental states with phenomenal characters, states for which there is something it is like to have them. Some philosophers ans the use of thought experiments in determining whether content is wide or narrow.
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