Friday, June 17, 2005

Queen of Hearts Psychology

A tag for extreme externalism & rejection of transparency of sense:

Queen of Hearts Psychology.

From Alice in Wonderland:

"The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round."

Someone who thinks that rationality "ain't in the head" might be described as following a similar policy.

Millikan provides a suggestion in "WQP" for developing a moderate view of meaning rationalism, but dismisses it on the grounds that the meaning rationalist is committed to meaning and rationality being completely in the head. Her suggestion is roughly that we can count as knowing sameness and difference of thought content a priori so long as we inhabit a favorable environment. But since we cannot know a priori that we are in a favorable environment, it seems that we can't know sameness and difference of content a priori.

That argument assumes that if we know a priori that two contents are the same or different, then we know a priori that the environment is favorable. Why not reject that assumption?

Rejecting it would go along with denying that to know a priori whether two contents are the same or different requires excluding all possible doubt that they are different or the same.

In favorable circumstances, we could then credit a subject with a priori knowledge of the contents of his thoughts. In unfavorable circumstances (twin-Earth switching cases, the presence of lots of barn facades, zookeepers painting donkeys to look like zebras), one's ability to tell sameness and difference of content a priori breaks down.

Adopting this approach would even make dynamic thoughts possible: the standard worries about dynamic thoughts (e.g., that it is never in principle impossible that one is mistaken when one reidentifies an object at different times) could be handled. A subject could maintain a single singular sense for an object through time and across different sensory modalities.

This is a way of working out the view Campbell argues for in "Is Sense Transparent" and that Evans takes for granted in parts of VoR (in the discussion of "here" thoughts, e.g. in Ch. 7).

The point of all of this is to make externalism compatible with a circumscribed version of what Millikan calls "meaning rationalism".

No comments: