Intuitions, Externalism, and Conceptual Analysis
Keywords:intuition, semantic externalism, conceptual analysis
Semantic externalism about a class of expressions is often thought to make conceptual analysis about members of that class impossible. In particular, since externalism about natural kind terms makes the essences of natural kinds empirically discoverable, it seems that mere reflection on one's natural kind concept will not be able to tell one anything substantial about what it is for something to fall under one's natural kind concepts. Many hold the further view that one cannot even know anything substantial about the reference-fixers of one's natural kind concepts by armchair reflection. In this paper I want to question this latter view and claim that, because of the way our standard methodology of doing theories of reference relies on semantic intuitions, typical externalists in fact presuppose that one can know the reference-fixers of one's natural kind concepts by mere armchair reflection. The more interesting question is how substantial such knowledge can be. I also take some steps toward answering this question.
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