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McKinsey reasoning & cognitive predicate assumptions

Ford, R; (2012) McKinsey reasoning & cognitive predicate assumptions. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

I defend the view that McKinsey reasoning is concerned with the following three claims: (i) If a subject's mental state is individuated by a given property, then she can know a priori that she a thought that has that property. (ii) Many de dicto structured cognitive predicates express properties that logically imply the existence of contingently existing physical objects external to the subject. (iii) Every de dicto structured cognitive predicate expresses a property which individuates the cognitive state described. Specifically, claims (i)-(iii) and a non-inferential principle governing the extent of our a priori knowledge capacities imply that a subject can know a priori that contingent objects external to her exist. Cartesian reflections, semantic evidence adduced by Kripke and the Fregean view that cognitive verbs express mental relations between persons and propositions support claims (i)-(iii) respectively. McKinsey reasoning is, thus, seemingly paradoxical. The dominant response is to evade or reformulate McKinsey reasoning (Brueckner, Boghossian, Davies, Wright, Brown). I argue that such responses tacitly assume claim (iii), which encourages the replacing of claims (i)-(ii) with alternative claims involving inferential knowledge principles and subjects’ having a priori knowledge of thought content which is externally determined; this package, on my view, is defective. I rebut suggestions that McKinsey reasoning is undermined by arguments for the claim it is not absurd to possess the capacity to know a priori that contingent external objects exist (Sawyer, Brewer), since they are directed at the reformulated reasoning only. I defend the view that there is sufficient evidence to both reject claim (iii) and replace it with an alternative claim concerning linguistic, not propositional, meaning. My view dissolves the issue of whether a priori access to one’s thought contents is achievable, if such contents are externally determined (Burge, Flavey & Owens). It also provides a novel response to a recent problem about our capacity to know our thought contents (Kallestrup & Pritchard).

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: McKinsey reasoning & cognitive predicate assumptions
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1370612
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