University of Tasmania

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The external self : externalism and first person authority

posted on 2023-05-27, 05:16 authored by Potts, RC
Externalism is the idea that the content of mental states is externally constituted. In this thesis I first consider and compare the philosophies of Davidson and Heidegger. I argue that both philosophers give similarly radical versions of externalism in which the contents of mental states are holistically and externally determined in terms of a unified structure that includes the individual, others and the objects and events about which they communicate. A common objection to externalism is the argument that if mental content is externally determined a person cannot have first person authority over the content of their own minds. I argue that in Heidegger first person authority is the result of the holistically unified structure of being-in-the-world. Further, I argue, with Davidson, that the objection that externalism is incompatible with first person authority relies on reinstating internalist models of mental content. I go on to defend Davidson's account of first person authority from some of the objections made in the philosophical literature. In discussing issues relating to first person authority I argue that although first person authority is compatible with externalism it cannot be understood in terms of a subject having privileged access to mental entities. First person authority is a formal condition of the holistic nature of the mental. This is apparent in two ways; firstly, when a person makes a statement about their mental states part of the content of that statement is constituted in terms of the same objects and events in the external world - what the mental state is about - that determine the content of the mental state. Secondly, first person authority is an outcome of the holistic nature of the mental - a person has first person authority over their mental states in virtue the fact that because the mental is holistically constituted any mental state is constituted in terms of the person's other mental states. It is clear that radical externalism undermines elements of the traditional way of thinking about mental content, the subject-object distinction and the self. I finally, briefly, suggest how radical externalism may cause a revision in our understanding of the self.


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Copyright 2003 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 2003. Includes bibliographical references

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