Anti-Individualism and Knowledge
360 pp., 5 x 8 in,
- Published: March 12, 2004
- Published: March 5, 2004
Contemporary philosophy of mind is dominated by anti-individualism, which holds that a subject's thoughts are determined not only by what is inside her head but also by aspects of her environment. Despite its dominance, anti-individualism is subject to a daunting array of epistemological objections: that it is incompatible with the privileged access each subject has to her thoughts, that it undermines rationality, and, absurdly, that it provides a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. In this rigorous and persuasive study, Jessica Brown defends anti-individualism from these epistemological objections. The discussion has important consequences for key epistemological issues such as skepticism, closure, transmission, and the nature of knowledge and warrant.
According to Brown's analysis, one main reason for thinking that anti-individualism is incompatible with privileged access is that it undermines a subject's introspective ability to distinguish types of thoughts. So diagnosed, the standard focus on a subject's reliability about her thoughts provides no adequate reply. Brown defuses the objection by appeal to the epistemological notion of a relevant alternative. Further, she argues that, given a proper understanding of rationality, anti-individualism is compatible with the notion that we are rational subjects. However, the discussion of rationality provides a new argument that anti-individualism is in tension with Fregean sense. Finally, Brown shows that anti-individualism does not create a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. While rejecting solutions that restrict the transmission of warrant, she argues that anti-individualists should deny that we have the type of knowledge that would be required to use a priori knowledge of thought content to gain a priori knowledge of the world.
Bradford Books imprint
Jessica Brown, one of the leading contributors to the debates regarding anti-individualism's epistemological implications, has produced a book that is both systematic and nuanced in its account of these implications. Her robust defense of anti-individualism will certainly be at the heart of these debates in the years to come.
Sanford C. Goldberg, University of Kentucky
Jessica Brown's book will be a milestone in the understanding of anti-individualism. Clearly the outcome of considerable reflection, it makes a very strong case for thinking that although the epistemological implications of this idea may be radical, they do not count against its truth. It sets a clear agenda for the next stage of the debate.
Paul Snowdon, Department of Philosophy, University College London
In this important book, Jessica Brown argues that anti-individualism does not, after all, have the epistemological consequences that many critics have thought so damaging. Along with defense of this main claim, there is a wealth of argument and insight about reliability and discrimination in theories of knowledge, the possibility of illusions of thought, the appeal to Fregean sense, transmission of epistemic warrant, and more. It will be rewarding reading for anyone working in epistemology or philosophy of mind, and required reading for anyone working at the mind/epistemology interface.
Martin Davies, Australian National University