Semantic Externalism

In the philosophy of language, semantic externalism is the view that the meaning of a term is determined, in whole or in part, by factors external to the speaker. According to an externalist position, one can claim without contradiction that two speakers could be in exactly the same brain state at the time of an utterance, and yet mean different things by that utterance. The philosopher Hilary Putnam has summarized the position with the statement: "meanings just ain't in the head!"

Although he did not himself use the term 'externalism' at the time, Hilary Putnam is generally considered to have invented semantic externalism in his 1975 paper "The Meaning of 'Meaning'", and the Twin Earth thought experiment he employed there to argue for the position is frequently cited in arguments over externalism to this day.

Externalism is generally thought to be a necessary consequence of any causal theory of reference; since the causal history of a term is not internal, the involvement of that history in determining the term's referent is enough to satisfy the externalist thesis. However, Putnam and many subsequent externalists have maintained that not only reference, but sense as well is determined, at least in part, by external factors (see sense and reference).

While it is common to shorten 'semantic externalism' to 'externalism' within the context of the debate, one must be careful in doing so, as there are several distinct debates in philosophy that employ the terms 'externalism' and 'internalism'.

Read more about Semantic Externalism:  Arguments For Externalism

Other articles related to "semantic externalism, semantic, externalism":

Internalism And Externalism - Epistemology - As A Response To Skepticism
... In responding to skepticism, Hilary Putnam (1982 ) claims that semantic externalism yields "an argument we can give that shows we are not brains in a vat (BIV) ... (See also DeRose, 1999.) If semantic externalism is true, then the meaning of a word or sentence is not wholly determined by what individuals think those words mean ... For example, semantic externalists maintain that the word "water" referred to the substance whose chemical composition is H2O even before scientists had discovered that ...
Semantic Externalism - Arguments For Externalism
... there have been numerous arguments for externalism that do not involve science-fiction scenarios ...
Hilary Putnam - Philosophy of Language - Semantic Externalism
... This led Putnam to adopt a version of semantic externalism with regard to meaning and mental content ... Davidson, despite his many differences of opinion with Putnam, wrote that semantic externalism constituted an "anti-subjectivist revolution" in philosophers' way of seeing the ...

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