Semantic externalism and self knowledge : privileged access to the world
The thesis is concerned to defend the compatibility of two plausible claims about the mind; semantic externalism and privileged access. It is further concerned to demonstrate one important implication of the conjunction of semantic externalism and privileged access, an implication which forces the rejection of the dichotomy between knowledge of one’s mind and knowledge of one’s world. Chapter one is a presentation of semantic externalism. Chapter two is a presentation of the claim of privileged access. The claim of privileged access is formulated in response to the following question. How can a subject have privileged access to the contents of her thoughts given that her thoughts depend essentially on contingent facts about her world of which she could have empirical knowledge only? Chapter three is concerned with the following implication, the consequent of which is prima facie absurd. If the contents of the mind depend essentially upon contingent facts about the world, knowledge of the semantic contents “within” can yield knowledge of the world “without”. Chapter four is a defence of the consequent. It is argued that the apparent absurdity of non-empirical knowledge of the world arises from a failure to embrace the full force of semantic externalism. We can have privileged access to the world. Chapter five is an examination of the nature of de re thought. Whether the content of a de re thought is to be understood as object-dependent or as object-independent will determine the extent to which we can have privileged access to the world: that is, whether we can have privileged access to the objects of our de re thoughts as well as to general facts about our world. Chapter six focuses on the implications of the thesis for external-world scepticism.