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Knowing Our Own Minds$
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Crispin Wright, Barry C. Smith, and Cynthia Macdonald

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780199241408

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199241406.001.0001

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What the Externalist Can Know A Priori

(p.271) 9 What the Externalist Can Know A Priori
Knowing Our Own Minds

Paul A. Boghossian (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Compatibilism combines an externalist view of mental content with a doctrine of privileged self‐knowledge. The essay presents

a reductio of compatibilism by arguing that if compatibilism were true, we would be in a position to know certain facts about the world a priori, facts that no one can reasonably believe are knowable a priori. Whether this should be taken to cast doubt on externalism or privileged self‐knowledge is not discussed. Consideration is given to the ’empty case’—the case in which a thinker expresses what he takes to be a genuine thought concerning a natural kind but where there is in fact no relevant natural kind, so that the putative natural kind term fails to refer. It is argued that, in such a case, on an externalist conception of natural kind terms, the thinker is deluded in taking himself to be expressing a complete thought, and that such delusions are not compatible with privileged self‐knowledge.

Keywords:   a priori knowledge, compatiblism, dry, earth, externalism, privileged self‐knowledge

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