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Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Volume 57, Issue 4, December 1997

Keith Butler
Pages 773-800

Externalism, Internalism, and Knowledge of Content

Externalism holds, and internalism denies, that the individuation of many of an individual’s mental states (e.g., thoughts about the physical world) depends necessarily on relations that individual bears to the physical and/or social environment. Many philosophers, externalists and internalists alike, believe that introspection yields knowledge of the contents of our thoughts that is direct and authoritative. It is not obvious, however, that the metaphysical claims of externalism are compatible with this epistemological thesis. Some (e.g., Burge, 1988; Falvey and Owens (F&O), 1994) have sought to dispel the worry that there is a conflict, though they admit that if such a contlict exists, it spells trouble for externalism (see, e.g., F&O, 1994, p. 108). Boghossian has argued that there is indeed a conflict between externalism and introspective knowledge of content. Surprisingly, however, he also argues that there is a conflict between internalism and introspective knowledge of content. I will defend Boghossian’s claim that there is a conflict between externalism and knowledge of content, but criticize his claim that there is a conflict between internalism and knowledge of content.

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