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“Semantic Externalism: Ignoring Twin-Earth and Doing Naturalistic Philosophy” by Richard Boyd (Cornell University)

Date: 3:30pm - 5:00pm PST February 8, 2013 Location: J.R. Howard Hall 202

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J.R. Howard Hall 202

Semantic externalists maintain that the semantic content of our beliefs and other propositional attitudes are determined by environmental or social factors.  What they mean by this is not just the commonplace and uncontroversial idea that environmental and social factors are important causes of our beliefs and other propositional attitudes.  That’s uncontroversial.  What they have in mind is a controversial idea about what, for example, makes a belief that the Eifel Tower is in Paris a belief about the Eifel Tower.  There are different varieties of externalism but most would maintain that a person’s belief could not count as a belief about the Eifel Tower unless that person was causally connected (however indirectly) in the right way with the actual Eifel Tower.  Similarly many externalists have maintained that linguistic and conceptual norms in a person’s community constrain what belief contents can be properly attributed to her.  I’ll defend semantic externalism as an empirical claim about human cognitive psychology, albeit a claim that only a philosopher would dream up.


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Claire Kodachi, Administrative Coordinator, Philosophy Department.  503-768-7450
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