Linguistic Content and Explanatory Psychological Content

Roberts, Gavin James (2013) Linguistic Content and Explanatory Psychological Content. MPhil thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Burge (1979) presents an argument to show that externalism is true for mental content that incorporates the notion of a social term that is incompletely understood (‘Social Externalism’). Burge relies on something like the following: 'S→M Principle: We mean what we say'. Burge recognises that we do not always apply the S→M Principle. If one could identify some reasonably clear demarcation criteria (the Conditions) that could be applied to determine when the S→M principle should be upheld, we could formulate a substantial and potentially interesting positive thesis that is in fact stronger than Social Externalism (and thus entails Social Externalism). Such a thesis is the focus of this dissertation: S→M Thesis: Interpreters are correct to apply S→M without qualification in (all) cases in which speakers misunderstand the social terms that they use, provided the Conditions are met. In objection to Burge’s position many writers have noted that upholding the S→M Principle in many cases results in belief ascriptions that fail to explain behavioural dispositions that the speaker has that are only explicable in light of the misunderstanding. Since the Conditions determine when the S→M Principle holds it is hoped that the Conditions may enable us to accommodate intuitions on both sides of the debate. Linguistic Content (as used here) is the state-of-affairs that the speaker actually represents by virtue of uttering the words in the context (determined, in part, by social facts). Explanatory Psychological Content (as used here) is the state-of-affairs that the speaker intends to represent by virtue of uttering the words in the context. When the S→M Principle holds Explanatory Psychological Content and Linguistic Content will coincide. When the S→M Principle does not hold, they will come apart. The central theme that emerges is the trade-off between psychological sensitivity and semantic stability.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Social Sciences, History & Philosophy > Philosophy
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2014 14:52
Last Modified: 29 May 2014 16:43

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