What we talk about when we talk about content externalism

Synthese 193 (1):125-143 (2016)
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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 content externalism 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 content externalism. In conclusion, I suggest that making sense of content externalism requires presupposing internalism



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Jeff Engelhardt
Dickinson College

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Individualism and the mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.
Empiricism and the philosophy of mind.Wilfrid Sellars - 1956 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 1:253-329.

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