How narrow is narrow content?

Dialectica 48 (3-4):209-29 (1994)
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SummaryIn this paper I discuss two influential views in the philosophy of mind: the two‐component picture draws a distinction between ‘narrow content’ and ‘broad content’, while radical externalism denies that there is such a thing as narrow content. I argue that ‘narrow content’ is ambiguous, and that the two views can be reconciled. Instead of considering that there is only one question and three possible answers corresponding to Cartesian internalism, the two‐component picture, and radical externalism respectively, I show that there are two distinct questions: ‘Are mental contents internal to the individual?’ and, ‘Are mental contents analysable in two‐components?’ Both questions can be given a positive or a negative answer, in such a way that there are four, rather than three, possible views to be distinguished. The extra view whose possibility emerges in this framework is that which mixes radical externalism with the two‐component picture. It agrees with radical externalism that there cannot be ‘solipsistic’ contents: content is not an intrinsic property of the states of an individual organism, but a relational property. It also agrees with the two‐component picture, on a certain interpretation: the broad content of a psychological state depends upon what actually causes that state, but the narrow content depends only on what normally causes this type of state to occur. In the last section of the paper, I deal with internal representation which seem to be independent even of the normal environment. I show that such contents are themselves independent of the normal environment only in a relative sense: they are locally independent of the normal environment, yet still depend on it via the concepts to which they are connected in the concept system.
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