Chapter

Mental Actions and the No‐Content Problem

Lucy O'Brien

in Mental Actions

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780199225989
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191710339 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199225989.003.0011
Mental Actions and the No‐Content Problem

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This chapter argues that a certain kind of object-dependent externalism can be shown to be problematic when we focus on the role of mental action in our thinking. The mental action the chapter focuses on is supposition. The problem raised for this kind of externalism is to explain what is going on when an attempt to make a supposition with a demonstrative content fails, due to the fact that there is no relevant object available to be demonstratively referred to, and hence no content to suppose. The chapter considers a number of responses to this problem the object-dependent externalist might offer, and argues that all are, in one way or another, inadequate. In particular, they fail to provide an adequate answer to the ontological question: what is going on in the mental life of the subject when this kind of failure of self-knowledge takes place?

Keywords: no-content problem; object-dependent; kind-dependent; externalism; supposition; disjunctivism; self-knowledge

Chapter.  8048 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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