Semantic Externalism, Self-Knowledge, and Slow Switching

Synthesis Philosophica 26 (2):375-390 (2011)
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Semantic externalism holds that the content of at least some of our thoughts is partly constituted by external factors. Accordingly, it leads to the unintuitive consequence that we must then often be mistaken in what we are thinking, and any kind of claim of privileged access must be given up. Those who deny that semantic externalists can retain any account of self-knowledge are ‘incompatibilists’, while those who defend the compatibility of self-knowledge with semantic externalism are ‘compatibilists’. This paper examines the claim of compatibilism, focusing on Burge’s “Slow Switching Argument” and Boghossian’s “Objection of Relevant Alternatives”. I argue that compatibilism is false, and that semantic externalism is incompatible with self-knowledge.

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Jennifer Mulnix
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth


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