Curing folk psychology of arthritis

Philosophical Studies 70 (3):323-36 (1993)
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Abstract
Tyler Burge's (1979) famous thought experiment concerning 'arthritis' is commonly assumed to show that all ascriptions of content to beliefs and other attitudes are dependent for their truth upon facts about the agent's social and linguistic environment. It is also commonly claimed that Burge's argument shows that Putnam's (1975) result regarding natural kind terms applies to all general terms whatever, and hence shows that all such terms have wide meanings.1 But I wish to show here, first, that neither Burge's initial thought experiment nor a second type of example that Burge describes supports either of these conclusions. Second, I will identify the proper conclusion to draw from Burge's discussion and show that this conclusion does not really pose a serious problem for individualism about the mental. And finally, I will argue that Burge's discussion does not in fact provide a conclusive reason for believing its proper conclusion.
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