Anti-individualism (also known as content externalism) is an approach to linguistic meaning in philosophy,[1] the philosophy of psychology,[2] and linguistics.

The proponents arguing for anti-individualism in these areas have in common the view that what seems to be internal to the individual is to some degree dependent on the social environment, thus self-knowledge, intentions, reasoning and moral value may variously be seen as being determined by factors outside the person.[3] The position has been supported by Sanford Goldberg[4] and by other thinkers such as Hilary Putnam and Tyler Burge.[5]


Academic discussion negotiating anti-individualism as a reasonable stance started with Tyler Burge's 1988 Individualism and Self-Knowledge[6] being particularly influential. In it, Burge set out to argue for a limited agreement with the Cartesian model of self-cognition as being Authoritative, but also pointed out that knowledge of self-cognition was not always absolute, allowing for the individuation of thought to originate from both the external content of our environment as well as from the internal landscape of our self-knowledge as it is still being discovered: "One can know what one's mental events are and yet not know relevant general facts about the conditions for individuating those events. It is simply not true that the cogito gives us knowledge of the individuation conditions of our thoughts which enables us to "shut off" their individuation conditions from the physical environment".[6]

Michael McKinsey builds on this in 1991 discussing Burge's view in his paper Anti-Individualism and Privileged Access[1] arguing that there is no warrant to an epistemic narrow state of mind (i.e. privileged access) and that there is only a wide state of mind as influenced by the conditions of individuation of thought. Anthony Brueckner then questions McKinsey's take on Burge and McKinsey replies in his Accepting the Consequences of Anti-individualism.[7]

Many of the essays found in Hilary Putnam's The Twin Earth Chronicles are considered early formative works for the anti-individualist model of meaning.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Mckinsey, Michael (January 1991). "Anti-Individualism and Privileged Access". Analysis. 51 (1): 9–16. doi:10.1093/analys/51.1.9. JSTOR 3328625.
  2. ^ Macdonald, Cynthia; Macdonald, Graham (February 1995). Philosophy of Psychology: Debates on Psychological Explanation (1st ed.). Blackwell. ISBN 978-0631185413. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  3. ^ Brown, Jessica: 2004, Anti-Individualism and Knowledge. MIT Press.
  4. ^ Goldberg, Sanford (2007). Anti-individualism: mind and language, knowledge and justification. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Burge, Tyler (November 2003). "Social Anti-Individualism, Objective Reference". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 67 (3): 682–690. doi:10.1111/j.1933-1592.2003.tb00316.x.
  6. ^ a b Burge, Tyler (November 1988). "Individualism and Self-Knowledge" (PDF). The Journal of Philosophy. 85 (11): 649–663. doi:10.5840/jphil1988851112. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  7. ^ McKinsey, Michael (April 1994). "Accepting the Consequences of Anti-individualism". Analysis. 54 (2): 124–128. doi:10.2307/3328832. JSTOR 3328832. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  8. ^ Hilary, Putnam (1 July 1996). The Twin Earth Chronicles: Twenty Years of Reflection on Hilary Putnam's "The Meaning of 'Meaning'". M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-1563248740. Retrieved 26 December 2014.