Singular Thought and Cartesian Philosophy

Anthony Brueckner

in Essays on Skepticism

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199585861
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595332 | DOI:
Singular Thought and Cartesian Philosophy

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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

Chapter.  3022 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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