Externalism, Naturalism and Method


Kirk Ludwig




This paper is concerned with certain arguments and motivations for externalism in the philosophy of mind, and with the proper method for answering questions about the conditions for having mental contents. I am interested in particular in the interplay between arguments for externalism and the demand that the mental be naturalized. Broadly speaking, we naturalize the mental by showing how it can be integrated successfully with the rest of our picture of the natural world. Arguments for externalism often seem to presuppose that the naturalistic project, cast in the particularly strong form of providing a conceptual reduction of the mental to the non-mental, can be successfully carried out. I find the arguments for externalism unconvincing, and the motivations for pursuing the naturalistic project in this form in which it is often cast, which would buttress these arguments for externalism, unpersuasive. In the following, I first provide an account of the externalist thesis, distinguishing it from two other positions, which I call `strong individualism' and `internalism' the distinction between which is easily overlooked -- and reject a further distinction sometimes advanced between `modal externalism' and `constitutive externalism'. As we will see, getting clear about the relations among these views is crucial to any adequate evaluation of arguments for externalism. Next, I turn to certain thought experiments that purport to establish externalism specifically about perceptual content. I argue that they fail, for two reasons, one of which can be traced partly to the failure to observe the distinctions between the different views mentioned above. These results generalize to externalist arguments of the same form about other sorts of content. My primary target in this is a series of recent papers by Martin Davies, culminating in one delivered at the 1992 SOPHIA conference.