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Summary Social externalism claims that the meaning of a representational item is constitutively (rather than merely causally) determined partly by social factors. For example, social externalism claims that the meaning of a word in my mouth is determined partly by how others use that word, rather than solely by how I use that word or conceive of its meaning. Social externalism raises many questions about the nature and generation of meaning. To what degree is meaning determined socially? What types of representations have their meaning determined socially? What is the social and what is its role in determining meaning? Is social externalism really distinct from more general types of semantic externalism? Can we divide the determinants of meaning into social and non-social factors? Can we incompletely understand, or even misunderstand, the meanings of our own representations?
Key works Putnam 1975 introduces the idea of a division of linguistic labor. Burge 1979 uses a series of thought experiments, including the now-famous 'arthritis' case, to argue for his own form of externalism about mental content, which he calls 'anti-individualism', and to introduce the idea of incomplete understanding.
Introductions Kallestrup 2011, Lau 2008
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  1. Concepts as shared regulative ideals.Laura Schroeter & Francois Schroeter - manuscript
    What is it to share the same concept? The question is an important one since sharing the same concept explains our ability to non-accidentally coordinate on the same topic over time and between individuals. Moreover, concept identity grounds key logical relations among thought contents such as samesaying, contradiction, validity, and entailment. Finally, an account of concept identity is crucial to explaining and justifying epistemic efforts to better understand the precise contents of our thoughts. The key question, then, is what psychological (...)
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  2. Definition and Dispute: A Defence of Temporal Externalism.Derek Ball - 2024 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Many of our deepest disagreements turn on matters of definition. Philosophers discuss the definitions of knowledge, art, truth, and freedom, and social and political questions about personhood, health and disease, marriage and gender are also commonly thought of as turning in part on definitions. This book contributes to our understanding of how we engage with questions and disagreements of this kind. It argues that disputes about matters of definition are not just about the meanings of words or our concepts, and (...)
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  3. Pejoratives & Oughts.Teresa Marques - 2021 - Philosophia 49 (3):1109-1125.
    Chris Hom argued that slurs and pejoratives semantically express complex negative prescriptive properties, which are determined in virtue of standing in external causal relations to social ideologies and practices. He called this view Combinatorial Externalism. Additionally, he argued that Combinatorial Externalism entailed that slurs and pejoratives have null extensions. In this paper, I raise an objection that has not been raised in the literature so far. I argue that semantic theories like Hom’s are forced to choose between two alternatives: either (...)
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  4. Metasemantic ethics.Derek Ball - 2020 - Ratio 33 (4):206-219.
    The idea that experts (especially scientific experts) play a privileged role in determining the meanings of our words and the contents of our concepts has become commonplace since the work of Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge, and others in the 1970s. But if experts have the power to determine what our words mean, they can do so responsibly or irresponsibly, from good motivations or bad, justly or unjustly, with good or bad effects. This paper distinguishes three families of metasemantic views based (...)
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  5. Outsourcing Concepts: Deference, the Extended Mind, and Expanding our Epistemic Capacity.Cathal O'Madagain - 2018 - In J. Adam Carter, Andy Clark, Jesper Kallestrup, Orestis Palermos & Duncan Pritchard (eds.), Socially Extended Knowledge. Oxford University Press.
    Semantic deference is the apparent phenomenon whereby some of -/- our concepts have their content fixed by the minds of others. The -/- phenomenon is puzzling both in terms of how such concepts are -/- supposed to work, but also in terms of why we should have -/- concepts whose content is fixed by others. Here I argue that if we -/- rethink semantic deference in terms of extended mind reasoning -/- we find answers to both of these questions: the (...)
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  6. Externalist Thought Experiments and Direction of Fit.Casey Woodling - 2017 - Argumenta 3 (1):139-156.
    The classic thought experiments for Content Externalism have been motivated by consideration of intentional states with a mind-to-world direction of fit. In this paper, I argue that when these experiments are run on intentional states with a world-to-mind direction of fit, the thought experiments actually support Content Internalism. Because of this, I argue that the classic thought experiments alone cannot properly motivate Content Externalism. I do not show that Content Externalism is false in this paper, just that it cannot be (...)
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  7. What we talk about when we talk about content externalism.Jeff Engelhardt - 2016 - Synthese 193 (1):125-143.
    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, (...)
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  8. The Dual Concepts Objection to Content Externalism.Bryan Frances - 2016 - American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2):123-138.
    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.
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  9. Active Content Externalism.Holger Lyre - 2016 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 7 (1):17-33.
    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 content externalism that follows from the extended cognition thesis as a thesis about cognitive vehicles. Various features of active content externalism 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 (...)
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  10. Semantic Deference versus Semantic Coordination.Laura Schroeter & François Schroeter - 2016 - American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2):193-210.
    It's widely accepted that social facts about an individual's linguistic community can affect both the reference of her words and the concepts those words express. Theorists sympathetic to the internalist tradition have sought to accommodate these social dependence phenomena without altering their core theoretical commitments by positing deferential reference-fixing criteria. In this paper, we sketch a different explanation of social dependence phenomena, according to which all concepts are individuated in part by causal-historical relations linking token elements of thought.
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  11. Externalism and “knowing what” one thinks.T. Parent - 2015 - Synthese 192 (5):1337-1350.
    Some worry that semantic externalism is incompatible with knowing by introspection what content your thoughts have. In this paper, I examine one primary argument for this incompatibilist worry, the slow-switch argument. Following Goldberg , I construe the argument as attacking the conjunction of externalism and “skeptic immune” knowledge of content, where such knowledge would persist in a skeptical context. Goldberg, following Burge :649–663, 1988), attempts to reclaim such knowledge for the externalist; however, I contend that all Burge-style accounts vindicate that (...)
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  12. Self‐Knowledge and Externalism about Empty Concepts.Ted Parent - 2015 - Analytic Philosophy 56 (2):158-168.
    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 (...)
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  13. Two-dimensionalism and the social character of meaning.Derek Ball - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (S3):567-595.
    This paper develops and critiques the two-dimensionalist account of mental content developed by David Chalmers. I first explain Chalmers's account and show that it resists some popular criticisms. I then argue that the main interest of two-dimensionalism lies in its accounts of cognitive significance and of the connection between conceivability and possibility. These accounts hinge on the claim that some thoughts have a primary intension that is necessarily true. In this respect, they are Carnapian, and subject to broadly Quinean attack. (...)
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  14. Can groups have concepts? Semantics for collective intentions.Cathal O'Madagain - 2014 - Philosophical Issues 24 (1):347-363.
    A substantial literature supports the attribution of intentional states such as beliefs and desires to groups. But within this literature, there is no substantial account of group concepts. Since on many views, one cannot have an intentional state without having concepts, such a gap undermines the cogency of accounts of group intentionality. In this paper I aim to provide an account of group concepts. First I argue that to fix the semantics of the sentences groups use to make their decisions (...)
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  15. Normative Concepts: A Connectedness Model.Laura Schroeter - 2014 - Philosophers' Imprint 14.
    This paper proposes a new relational account of concepts and shows how it is particularly well suited to characterizing normative concepts. The key advantage of our ‘connectedness’ model is that it explains how subjects can share the same normative concepts despite radical divergences in the descriptive or motivational commitments they associate with them. The connectedness model builds social and historical facts into the foundations of concept identity. This aspect of the model, we suggest, reshapes normative epistemology and provides new resources (...)
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  16. Jazz Redux: a reply to Möller.Laura Schroeter & François Schroeter - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (2):303-316.
    This paper is a response to Niklas Möller’s (Philosophical Studies, 2013) recent criticism of our relational (Jazz) model of meaning of thin evaluative terms. Möller’s criticism rests on a confusion about the role of coordinating intentions in Jazz. This paper clarifies what’s distinctive and controversial about the Jazz proposal and explains why Jazz, unlike traditional accounts of meaning, is not committed to analycities.
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  17. Consciousness and Conceptual Mastery.Derek Ball - 2013 - Mind 122 (486):fzt075.
    Torin Alter (2013) attempts to rescue phenomenal concepts and the knowledge argument from the critique of Ball 2009 by appealing to conceptual mastery. I show that Alter’s appeal fails, and describe general features of conceptual mastery that suggest that no such appeal could succeed.
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  18. Internalism and Externalism in the Philosophy of Mind and Language.Basil Smith - 2013 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    How are the contents of our beliefs, our intentions, and other attitudes individuated? Just what makes our contents what they are? Content externalism, as Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge, and others have argued, is the position that our contents depend in a constitutive manner on items in the external world, that they can be individuated by our causal interaction with the items they are about. Content internalism, by contrast, is the position that our contents depend primarily on the properties of our (...)
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  19. 8. The Short Happy Life of the Swampman: Interpretation and Social Externalism in Davidson.Mario De Caro - 2011 - In Maria Cristina Amoretti & Gerhard Preyer (eds.), Triangulation: From an Epistemological Point of View. de Gruyter. pp. 179-196.
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  20. Why is there anything except physics?Barry Loewer - 2009 - Synthese 170 (2):217 - 233.
    In the course of defending his view of the relation between the special sciences and physics from Jaegwon Kim’s objections Jerry Fodor asks “So then, why is there anything except physics?” By which he seems to mean to ask if physics is fundamental and complete in its domain how can there be autonomous special science laws. Fodor wavers between epistemological and metaphysical understandings of the autonomy of the special sciences. In my paper I draw out the metaphysical construal of his (...)
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  21. Jackson’s classical model of meaning.Laura Schroeter & John Bigelow - 2009 - In Ian Ravenscroft (ed.), Minds, Ethics, and Conditionals: Themes from the Philosophy of Frank Jackson. Oxford University Press.
    Frank Jackson often writes as if his descriptivist account of public language meanings were just plain common sense. How else are we to explain how different speakers manage to communicate using a public language? And how else can we explain how individuals arrive at confident judgments about the reference of their words in hypothetical scenarios? Our aim in this paper is to show just how controversial the psychological assumptions behind in Jackson’s semantic theory really are. First, we explain how Jackson’s (...)
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  22. Introduction to the special issue “perspectives on social cognition”.Christian Onof & Leslie Marsh - 2008 - Cognitive Systems Research 9 (1-2).
    No longer is sociality the preserve of the social sciences, or ‘‘culture’’ the preserve of the humanities or anthropology. By the same token, cognition is no longer the sole preserve of the cognitive sciences. Social cognition (SC) or, sociocognition if you like, is thus a kaleidoscope of research projects that has seen exponential growth over the past 30 or so years.
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  23. Social externalism and first-person authority.Lynne Rudder Baker - 2007 - Erkenntnis 67 (2):287 - 300.
    Social Externalism is the thesis that many of our thoughts are individuated in part by the linguistic and social practices of the thinker’s community. After defending Social Externalism and arguing for its broad application, I turn to the kind of defeasible first-person authority that we have over our own thoughts. Then, I present and refute an argument that uses first-person authority to disprove Social Externalism. Finally, I argue briefly that Social Externalism—far from being incompatible with first-person authority—provides a check on (...)
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  24. Communication and Rational Responsiveness to the World.Robert Eamon Briscoe - 2007 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (2):135-159.
    Donald Davidson has long maintained that in order to be credited with the concept of objectivity – and, so, with language and thought – it is necessary to communicate with at least one other speaker. I here examine Davidson's central argument for this thesis and argue that it is unsuccessful. Subsequently, I turn to Robert Brandom's defense of the thesis inMaking It Explicit.I argue that, contrary to Brandom, in order to possess the concept of objectivity it is not necessary to (...)
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  25. Individualism, externalism and idiolectical meaning.Robert Eamon Briscoe - 2006 - Synthese 152 (1):95-128.
    Semantic externalism in contemporary philosophy of language typically – and often tacitly – combines two supervenience claims about idiolectical meaning (i.e., meaning in the language system of an individual speaker). The first claim is that the meaning of a word in a speaker’s idiolect may vary without any variation in her intrinsic, physical properties. The second is that the meaning of a word in a speaker’s idiolect may vary without any variation in her understanding of its use. I here show (...)
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  26. Temporal externalism, natural kind terms, and scientifically ignorant communities.John M. Collins - 2006 - Philosophical Papers 35 (1):55-68.
    Temporal externalism (TE) is the thesis (defended by Jackman (1999)) that the contents of some of an individual’s thoughts and utterances at time t may be determined by linguistic developments subsequent to t. TE has received little discussion so far, Brown 2000 and Stoneham 2002 being exceptions. I defend TE by arguing that it solves several related problems concerning the extension of natural kind terms in scientifically ignorant communities. Gary Ebbs (2000) argues that no theory can reconcile our ordinary, practical (...)
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  27. Temporal externalism, constitutive norms, and theories of vagueness.Henry Jackman - 2006 - In Tomas Marvan (ed.), What Determines Content? The Internalism/Externalism Dispute. Cambridge Scholars Press.
    Another paper exploring the relation between Temporal externalism and Epistemicism about Vagueness, but with slightly more emphasis on the role of constitutive norms relating to our concept of truth.
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  28. Intersubjective externalism.Peter Pagin - 2006 - In T. Marvan (ed.), What Determines Content? The Internalism/Externalism Dispute. Cambridge Scholar Press.
    in T. Marvan (ed) What Determines Content? The Internalism/Externalism Dispute, Cambridge Scholar Press, Newcastle upon Tyne, 39-54, 2006.
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  29. How social must language be?Claudine Verheggen - 2006 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 36 (2):203-219.
    According to the communitarian view, often attributed to the later Wittgenstein, language is social in the sense that having a (first) language essentially depends on meaning by one's words what members of some community mean by them. According to the interpersonal view, defended by Davidson, language is social only in the sense that having a (first) language essentially depends on having used (at least some of) one's words, whatever one means by them, to communicate with others. Even though these views (...)
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  30. Social externalism and the ontology of competence.Andrew Davis - 2005 - Philosophical Explorations 8 (3):297-308.
    Social externalism implies that many competences are not personal assets separable from social and cultural environments but complex states of affairs involving individuals and persisting features of social reality. The paper explores the consequences for competence identity over time and across contexts, and hence for the predictive role usually accorded to competences.
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  31. Temporal externalism and our ordinary linguistic practices.Henry Jackman - 2005 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (3):365-380.
    Temporal externalists argue that ascriptions of thought and utterance content can legitimately reflect contingent conceptual developments that are only settled after the time of utterance. While the view has been criticized for failing to accord with our “ordinary linguistic practices”, such criticisms (1) conflate our ordinary ascriptional practices with our more general beliefs about meaning, and (2) fail to distinguish epistemically from pragmatically motivated linguistic changes. Temporal externalism relates only to the former sort of changes, and the future usage relevant (...)
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  32. Davidson on social externalism.Halvor Nordby - 2005 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (1):88-94.
    A central premise in Tyler Burge's argument for social externalism says that an incomplete understanding can be sufficient for concept possession. Burge claims that this premise is grounded in ordinary practices of giving psychological explanations. On the basis of an extended version of Burge's 'arthritis' case Donald Davidson has argued that this claim is false. The paper argues that Davidson's argument is unconvincing. A closer analysis of Davidson's extended 'arthritis' case shows that the belief ascriptions Davidson focuses on actually support (...)
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  33. Anti-Individualism and Knowledge.Jessica Brown - 2004 - MIT Press.
    A persuasive monograph that answers the keyepistemological arguments against anti-individualism in thephilosophy of mind.
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  34. Social cartesianism.John Haugeland - 2004 - In Richard Schantz (ed.), The Externalist Challenge. De Gruyter.
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  35. Incorrect understanding and concept possession.Halvor Nordby - 2004 - Philosophical Explorations 7 (1):55-70.
    Tyler Burge has argued that an incorrect understanding of a word can be sufficient for possessing the concept the word literally expresses. His well-known 'arthritis' case involves a patient who understands 'arthritis' incorrectly, but who nevertheless, according to Burge, possesses the concept arthritis. Critics of Burge have objected that there is an alternative concept that best matches the patient's understanding and that this, therefore, is the patient's concept. The paper first argues that Burge's response to this objection is unconvincing. A (...)
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  36. Where after all are the Meanings? A Defense of Internalism. Searle versus Putnam.Christian Helmut Wenzel - 2004 - Experience and Analysis. Papers of the 27th International Wittgenstein Symposium 12:408-409.
    There has been recent dispute between Putnam and Searle over whether meanings are “in the head”. Putnam makes use of Twin-Earth thought experiments to show that our mental states alone cannot determine what we refer to (and thus “mean”) and that we rely also on external factors, which are not “in the head”. This suggests to me that we in some way mean more than we actually know. Searle on the other hand makes use of what he calls “Intentional contents”, (...)
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  37. Externalism and incomplete understanding.Asa Maria Wikforss - 2004 - Philosophical Quarterly 54 (215):287-294.
    Sarah Sawyer has challenged my claim that social externalism depends on the assumption that individuals have an incomplete grasp of their own concepts. Sawyer denies that Burge's later sofa thought-experiment relies on this assumption: the unifying principle behind the thought-experiments supporting social externalism, she argues, is just that referents play a role in the individuation of concepts. I argue that Sawyer fails to show that social externalism need not rely on the assumption of incomplete understanding. To establish the content externalist (...)
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  38. Chomsky and His Critics.Louise M. Antony & Norbert Hornstein (eds.) - 2003 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  39. Thought experiments and semantic competence.A. Benejam - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind. CSLI Publications.
  40. Thought experiments: Reply to Donnellan.Taylor Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
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  41. The indexical strategy: Reply to Owens.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
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  42. Psychology and the environment: Reply to Chomsky.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press. pp. 451-471.
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  43. Replies from Tyler Burge.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind: Essays on Tyler Burge. University of Chicago Press.
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  44. Social anti-individualism, objective reference.Tyler Burge - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (3):682–690.
  45. Davidson and forms of anti-individualism: Reply to Hahn.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
  46. Descartes, bare concepts, and anti-individualism: Reply to Normore.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
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  47. Social externalism and linguistic communication.Christopher Gauker - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind: Essays on Tyler Burge. CSLI.
    According to the expressive theory of communication, the primary function of language is to enable speakers to convey the content of their thoughts to hearers. According to Tyler Burge's social externalism, the content of a person's thought is relative to the way words are used in his or her surrounding linguistic community. This paper argues that Burge's social externalism refutes the expressive theory of communication.
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  48. Burge's thought experiment: Still in need of defense. [REVIEW]Nicholas Georgalis - 2003 - Erkenntnis 58 (2):267-273.
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  49. Terms and content.Tobies Grimaltos - 2003 - In Maria J. Frapolli & E. Romero (eds.), Meaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and Mind. CSLI Publications.
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  50. When swampmen get arthritis: "Externalism" in Burge and Davidson.Martin Hahn - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
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