1 In the philosophy of mind and language, the view that what is thought, or said, or experienced, is essentially dependent on aspects of the world external to the mind of the subject. The view goes beyond holding that such mental states are typically caused by external factors, to insist that they could not have existed as they now do without the subject being embedded in an external world of a certain kind. It is these external relations that make up the essence or identity of the mental state. Externalism is thus opposed the Cartesian separation of the mental from the physical, since that holds that the mental could in principle exist as it does even if there were no external world at all. Various external factors have been advanced as ones on which mental content depends, including the usage of experts, the linguistic norms of the community, and the general causal relationships of the subject. See also content, wide and narrow; twin-earth.
2 In the theory of knowledge, externalism is the view that a person might know something by being suitably situated with respect to it, without that relationship being in any sense within his purview. The person might, for example, be very reliable in some respect without believing that he is. The view allows that you can know without being justified in believing that you know. See also reliabilism.