Semantic Externalism

By Jesper Kallestrup

© 2010 – Routledge

278 pages

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Paperback: 9780415449977
pub: 2011-09-02
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About the Book

Semantic externalism is the view that the meanings of referring terms, and the contents of beliefs that are expressed by those terms, are not fully determined by factors internal to the speaker but are instead bound up with the environment.

The debate about semantic externalism is one of the most important but difficult topics in philosophy of mind and language, and has consequences for our understanding of the role of social institutions and the physical environment in constituting language and the mind. In this long-needed book, Jesper Kallestrup provides an invaluable map of the problem. Beginning with a thorough introduction to the theories of descriptivism and referentialism and the work of Frege and Kripke, Kallestrup moves on to analyse Putnam’s Twin Earth argument, Burge’s arthritis argument and Davidson’s Swampman argument. He also discusses how semantic externalism is at the heart of important topics such as indexical thoughts, epistemological skepticism, self-knowledge, and mental causation.

Including chapter summaries, a glossary of terms, and an annotated guide to further reading, Semantic Externalism an ideal guide for students studying philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.


"Kallestrup offers a timely field guide to one of the most active areas of philosophy … This book could serve as a core text for philosophy of mind or philosophy of language, and also as a survey of recent analytic philosophy." – CHOICE

"… Kallestrup's book provides an admirably detailed and theoretically engaged guide to the state of the debate on semantic externalism. A seminar devoted to working through the book along with the excellent bibliographical suggestions would put graduate students or advanced undergraduates in a position to understand the broad sweep of this important philosophical discussion."Laura Schroeter, University of Melbourne, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Kallestrup's excellent book is a must-read for students interested in externalist accounts of mind and language. It covers all of the central topics: the various arguments for externalist views, the varieties of such views, and their far-reaching semantic and epistemic implications. It also manages to do so in a lively, engaging way that students will find a joy to read." - Sanford Goldberg, Northwestern University, USA

"The only book-length introduction to one of the central debates in the philosophy of mind in the last forty years. Considerations about externalism have now become firmly embedded in many topics in the philosophy of mind and language, and Kallestrup's carefully organised exposition will enable readers to handle the often difficult and abstract subject matter with ease and confidence." - Katalin Farkas, Central European University, Hungary

"A clear, concise survey of the complex literature on semantic externalism, that also provides a genuine contribution to the contemporary debate. Kallestrup carefully distinguishes the various versions of externalism, assesses the arguments for and against, and spells out the implications for self-knowledge, skepticism and mental causation. An invaluable guide to teaching, while at the same time deserving serious attention by the scholar." - Åsa Wikforss, Stockholm University, Sweden

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Descriptivism 2. Referentialism 3. From Language to Thought 4. Narrow or Wide Content 5. Self-Knowledge 6. Scepticism 7. Mental Causation. Glossary. Notes. Bibliography. Index

About the Author

Jesper Kallestrup is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the editor (with Jakob Hohwy) of Being Reduced: New Essays on Explanation and Causation in the Special Sciences (2008), and he has published articles in, among others, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Analysis, Philosophical Studies, Synthese, American Philosophical Quarterly and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

About the Series

New Problems of Philosophy

New Problems of Philosophy

Series Editor: José Luis Bermúdez, Texas A&M University

'Routledge's New Problems of Philosophy series has a most impressive line-up of topical volumes aimed at upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in philosophy and at others with interests in cutting edge philosophical work. The authors are influential figures in their respective fields and notably adept at synthesizing and explaining intricate topics fairly and comprehensively.' – John Heil, Monash University (Australia) and Washington University, St Louis (USA)

‘This is an outstanding collection of volumes. The topics are well chosen and the authors are outstanding. They will be fine texts in a wide range of courses.’ - Stephen Stich, Rutgers University, USA

The New Problems of Philosophy series provides accessible and engaging surveys of the most important problems in contemporary philosophy. Each book examines a topic or theme that has emerged on the philosophical landscape in recent years, or that is a longstanding problem refreshed in light of recent work in philosophy and related disciplines. Clearly explaining the nature of the problem at hand and assessing attempts to answer it, books in the series are excellent starting-points for undergraduate and graduate students wishing to study a single topic in depth. They will also be essential reading for professional philosophers. Additional features include chapter summaries, further reading, and a glossary of technical terms.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / Semantics
PHILOSOPHY / Mind & Body