Anti-individualism, comprehension, and self-knowledge

Sanford C. Goldberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


In the 1990s, into the early 2000s, the topic of anti-individualism's implications for first-person authority was much discussed. Less discussed was the topic of anti-individualism's implications for the epistemology of understanding. Less discussed still is the connection between these two topics. This might encourage the idea, natural enough anyway, that there is no connection between them. In this chapter I aim to argue that they are intimately connected. I am not the first person to advocate such a view. In his 1999, Tyler Burge himself suggests as much. He writes: “comprehending standing, conceptual aspects of one's own thought and idiolect is itself, as a matter of psychological and sociological fact, normally dependent on having comprehended thoughts (one's own) that were shaped and expressed through the words of others” (p. 243). I think Burge's point here is both true and important. In this chapter I aim to develop it in defense of the following thesis: a plausible account of the epistemology of linguistic comprehension will provide further support for a ‘minimalist’ view of the knowledge each of us has of our own standing states of mind. If this is correct, then it gives us a new angle on the old debate about the compatibility of anti-individualism and first-person authority. The fact that a good deal of what we know comes from accepting what others tell us – a fact about our relations to othersubjects – tells us quite a bit about our relations to our own minds. 2 Let us begin with the humdrum fact that a good deal of what we know comes from accepting what others tell us. I am going to be making four simplifying assumptions about this phenomenon, in an attempt to argue for ‘minimalist’ conditions on comprehension. The first two assumptions have to do with the process of language understanding itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExternalism, self-knowledge, and skepticism:New essays
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781107478152
ISBN (Print)9781107063501
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Anti-individualism, comprehension, and self-knowledge'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this