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The external self : externalism and first person authority


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Potts, Richard C.(Richard Charles) 2003 , 'The external self : externalism and first person authority', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Potts, Richard C.(Richard Charles)
Keywords: Davidson, Donald, 1917-2003, Heidegger, Martin, 1889-1976, Externalism (Philosophy of mind)
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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
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Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 2003. Includes bibliographical references

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