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Essays on Skepticism$
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Anthony Brueckner

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199585861

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199585861.001.0001

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Singular Thought and Cartesian Philosophy

Singular Thought and Cartesian Philosophy

Chapter:
14 Singular Thought and Cartesian Philosophy
Source:
Essays on Skepticism
Author(s):

Anthony Brueckner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199585861.003.0015

This chapter questions the cogency of another semantic externalist anti-sceptical strategy, that of John McDowell. When I think a thought via the sentence ‘This cat is black’ while in the presence of my cat Marco, my thought is object-dependent in the sense that Marco himself is a constituent in the Russellian singular proposition that constitutes the content of my singular thought, on McDowell's view. When I seem to, but do not, see Marco while tripping on LSD, my sentence ‘This cat is black’ fails to express a singular proposition involving my cat. This ‘object-dependence’ brand of semantic externalism is committed to disjunctivism about thought-content: there is no common content present in the good case in which I see Marco and think ‘This cat is black’ and the experientially indistinguishable bad case in which I merely hallucinate (this is Timothy Williamson's terminology). It is argued that contrary to his suggestion, McDowell cannot parley this disjunctivist thesis into a viable answer to the sceptic.

Keywords:   McDowell, disjunctivism, singular thought, content, illusion of singular thought

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