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'What an Anti-Individualist Knows A Priori' - Anthony Brueckner in Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings ed. Chalmers. OUP (2002) "Michael McKinsey argues in (1991) that the anti-individualist theory of content has the obviously false consequence that one has a priori knowledge of the external facts which, according to the theory, help determine the content of one's mental states." Directed against Burge. 639 "I will argue that these criticisms rest upon a misunderstanding of these views." McKinsey thinks Burge is trying to defend the consistency of these propositions: (1)Oscar knows a priori that he is thinking that water is wet. (2)The proposition that Oscar is thinking that water is wet necessarily depends upon E (where E is some 'external proposition' describing 'the relations that Oscar bears to other speakers or objects in his external environment.') (3)The proposition E cannot be known a priori, but only by empirical investigation. So McKinsey's main criticism of Burge is: "Burge's defence of privileged access commits him to (1), and his anti-individualist theory of content commits him to (2) and (3). But (2) has the consequence that Oscar can know E a priori. Not only does this consequence contradict (3), but, further, it embodies a claim about a priori knowledge which is obviously false on anyone's view." "To see whether this criticism of Burge is sound, we must first look at McKinsey's grounds for attributing (1) to (3) to Burge (or, more generally, to a theorist sympathetic to the main ideas of antiindividualism about content)." (1)is fine - we know that McKinsey understands a priori knowledge to be 'knowledge obtained independently of empirical investigation.'
- "On Burge's view, one's knowledge of the content of one's own states has a special self-verifying character." "The question whether the anti-individualist theory of content commits Burge to (2) and (3) obviously depends upon what the proposition E is." McKinsey is vague about this. "Anti-individualism is, roughly, the view that environmental factors external to the individual subject of mental states figure in the individuation of the contents of those states."
? So it would be natural to suppose that E describes these external, environmental factors. To clarify this, we need to look at the Twin Earth idea. "The liquid in Oscar's Earthly environment is H2O, while the twin liquid in Toscar's Twin Earthly environment is XYZ, a liquid which, according to the anti-individualist, is not water (though it is superficially indistinguishable from water; we will call it 'twater')."
"When Oscar says 'Water is wet,' this sentence expresses his thought that water is wet, but when Toscar uses the same sentence, it expresses his thought that twater is wet."
? "The difference in content between the two thoughts is due to the difference between the two thinkers' environments, says Burge."
? "Obviously, the fact that Oscar's environment contains H2O and not XYZ is not knowable a priori by Oscar or anybody else: empirical investigation of Oscar's environment is required for knowledge of that external content-determining fact." 639-40 But wouldn't this then count against (1)? How could he know that he wasn't thinking about twater?
"At this point, it is natural to suppose that McKinsey's proposition E, which, according to (3), cannot be known a priori, but only by empirical investigation, is a proposition describing the recently mentioned external, content-determining fact: (E1) Oscar inhabits an environment containing H2O and not XYZ. 640 Assuming that this is the proposition McKinsey means, why would he attribute (2) to Burge?
Brueckner says this is the only place in which Burge uses the language of necessary dependence: 'My view...is that many thoughts are individuated nonindividualistically: individuating many of a person or animal's mental kinds - certainly including thoughts about physical objects and properties - is necessarily dependent upon relations that the person bears to the physical, or in some cases social, environment.' "Thus the sense in which, for Burge, the proposition that Oscar is thinking that water is wet necessarily depends upon E (interpreted now as E1) is this: the thought experiment involving Toscar establishes that if E1 had been false and, instead, Oscar had inhabited a twin environment containing XYZ instead of H2O, and if Oscar's phenomenology, functional structure, behaviour, etc., had been held fixed, then some of Oscar's thought would have differed in content (he would have thought that twater is wet rather than that water is wet)."
- So there is a counterfactual dependence of content on E1.
- Thus we say it is necessary that such dependences hold.
- However, McKinsey reads (2) as asserting an entailment or implication of E by the proposition that Oscar is thinking that water is wet. o "He holds that the implication is conceptual in nature, where p conceptually implies q if and only if 'there is a correct deduction of q from p, a deduction whose only premises other than p are necessary or conceptual truths that are knowable a priori, and each of whose steps follows from previous lines by a self-evident inference rule of some adequate system of natural deduction.'
- Thus, McKinsey interprets (2) as:
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