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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

14 Singular Thought and Cartesian Philosophy
Essays on Skepticism

Anthony Brueckner

Oxford University Press

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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