Semantic Externalism and A Priori Self-Knowledge
Haukioja (Jussi)
Source: This is a preprint of an Article accepted for publication in Ratio © 2004 Blackwell Publishing
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. The argument known as the 'McKinsey Recipe' tries to establish the incompatibility of semantic externalism (about natural kind1 concepts in particular) and a priori self-knowledge about thoughts and concepts by deriving from the conjunction of these theses an absurd conclusion, such as that we could know a priori that water exists.
  2. One reply to this argument is to distinguish two different readings of 'natural kind2 concept':
    1. a concept which in fact denotes a natural kind3, and
    2. a concept which aims to denote a natural kind4.
  3. Paul Boghossian has argued, using a Dry Earth scenario, that this response fails, claiming that the externalist cannot make sense of a concept aiming, but failing, to denote a natural kind5.
  4. In this paper I argue that Boghossian's argument is flawed. Borrowing machinery from two-dimensional semantics, using the notion of 'considering a possible world as actual', I claim that we can give a determinate answer to Boghossian's question: which concept would 'water' express on Dry Earth?

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