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Externalism: An essay on the nature of the relation between psychological states and the world

Jennings, M. R. J.; (1996) Externalism: An essay on the nature of the relation between psychological states and the world. Masters thesis (M.Phil), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the assumptions behind various of the individuation principles of prepositional attitudes and other Intentional states - i.e. those principles by means of which the sameness and difference of psychological states are determined. It argues against the Externalist doctrine that the content of our mental lives depends for their individuation on states of affairs in the world: that is to say, on those things in the world one's thoughts or experiences are purportedly about. How the world happens to be matters little, I suggest, to the kind of thoughts and experiences one is capable of having. In doing so I provide a (I hope useful) critical survey of some of the more influential writings available on the subject. The thesis begins with a summary of Putnam's main thoughts concerning the semantics of natural kind terms, and examines the development of Burge's Externalism from his singular thought theory (1977) to that concerning general thoughts. Nowhere, however, do I align myself whole heartedly to any one philosopher. I reject, for example, the so-called "middle way" between Internalism and Externalism, advocated by Fodor and others: that view which accepts that truth-conditions are externally individuated but which argues that a new theoretical construct (narrow content) be devised in order to accommodate the otherwise plausible intuition that mental states be individuated by their causal role. The proposal is criticized for its obscurity. Rather than explore other versions of the Dual Component hypothesis, I propose instead that we reject Externalism tout court. The content of one's concepts are not individuated by one's social allegiance, or by the nature of things in the world which they subsume. No: one's concepts are often one's own constructs. Furthermore, I show that we can plausibly accept the consequence of immunity from conceptual error. I then summarize the debate between G. Segal and M. Davies, showing how the private concept strategy can answer Burge's non-linguistic Thought Experiment. Lastly, the Russellian Thought theory of Gareth Evans is looked at briefly, as are various responses. I argue that singular thoughts are not sui generis, but can be collapsed into general contents, and that their truth- conditions can be given partly in terms of our experiences rather than entirely by those things in the world which we assume to be their cause. I then defend Internalism about general thoughts by drawing attention to the implausibility of a consequence, otherwise neglected or ignored, of Burgean property-dependent Externalism: namely that such thoughts would not be available in wide scale hallucinatory scenarios.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil
Title: Externalism: An essay on the nature of the relation between psychological states and the world
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Intentional states
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099500
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