Content Externalism and the Epistemic Conception of the Self

Philosophical Issues, Vol. 17, 2007

18 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2007

See all articles by Brie Gertler

Brie Gertler

Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia


I consider the relation among three views. (A) Externalism about content. (B) Internalism about the self. (C) An epistemic conception of the limits of the self. Most contemporary philosophers accept (A) and (B). I call the conjunction of these two claims standard externalism. Standard externalism contrasts with 'extended mind' externalism, which accepts (A) but rejects (B). Standard externalists are largely silent as to how they conceive the self; statement (C) simply expresses one natural conception of the self. I argue that this triad (A)-(C) is unstable, in that plausible ways of specifying the epistemic features mentioned in (C) yield conceptions of the self that undermine standard externalism. But rejecting (C), by adopting a non-epistemic conception of the self, is equally unpromising. This best option is to reject (A) or (B), and thereby to reject standard externalism.

Keywords: externalism, mental content, self, personal identity, extended mind

Suggested Citation

Gertler, Brie, Content Externalism and the Epistemic Conception of the Self. Philosophical Issues, Vol. 17, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Brie Gertler (Contact Author)

Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia ( email )

120 Cocke Hall
P.O. Box 400780
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States


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