In Defense of Narrow Content



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The thesis takes the form of a quest for a theoretical notion that captures our intuitive notion of mental content. In it, I have two related goals. First, to show that we can have a successful picture of mental content that does not involve any wide component: a picture of mental content according to which an individual s mental content is determined exclusively by properties intrinsic to that individual. Second, to show that we cannot have a successful account of mental content without, at very least, there being a narrow component to it. If I accomplish these goals, I will have shown that it is coherent to have a picture of mental content that does not depend on the external environment, and, further, that there must (at very least) be some distinct component of mental content that does not depend on the external environment. I begin by arguing that the narrow/wide distinction in mental content is parallel to the speaker/semantic distinction in semantics. I hope that drawing this parallel will help to clarify the narrow/wide distinction, and also help to illuminate a way that Burge s arthritis thought experiment can be accounted for by narrow mental content. Next I consider what roles we intuitively took mental content to play. These roles include the explanation of others behavior, direct and infallible access to our own mental content, and restrictions on others access to our mental content. An intuitively acceptable account must now also be able to account for Burge s arthritis thought experiment. Throughout the remainder of the thesis, I argue that narrow content can play all these roles, while wide content cannot account for the speech behaviors of others, or for the sort of privileged access we seem to have to our own mental content. Hence, I argue, narrow content is the true heir to the mental content throne. I provide a narrow content explanation of Burge s thought experiment, thus hopefully dodging the motivation for externalism. I argue, based on the parallel I have drawn between the narrow/wide and speaker/semantic distinctions, that wide content cannot adequately explain speech behavior. I then present Burge s arguments for compatibilism between externalism and privileged access, and argue that they are unsatisfactory. According to Burge s account or privileged access, an individual will not able to tell whether two thought tokens of hers are of the same type or not, which I argue is unacceptable. Further, I show that the account of access to mental content that Burge ends up with is no different from the (by all accounts non-privileged) access we have to our location. Burge has thus failed to give an account of privileged access, and failed to show privileged access compatible with externalism.



internalism, externalism, narrow, mental, content, burge, philosophy, mind, concepts