This paper was written in the early nineties, and published in Philosophical Studies. No one ever noticed, as far as I can tell.
Radical Externalism With Regard to Experience
This chapter is an attempt to construct an alternative to a position I will term "internalism with
regard to veridical experience," and to use a rejection of this view to motivate a rejection of the
epistemology of justification. Internalism with regard to veridical experience is often associated
with epistemological foundationalism, but it has analogues or versions in other or related
traditions, for example classical empiricism, positivism, and phenomenalism. Indeed, even some
proponents of externalist theories of epistemic justification hold a form of internalism with regard
to veridical experience.(1)At any rate, the position is this: veridical empirical experience,
experience of the world, can be usefully bifurcated into inner and outer components. Experience
of the world, on the view in question, has a certain phenomenological character, a certain
subjective side which is intrinsic or internal to the experiencer and hence can be considered in
isolation from the external-world situations which it may represent or to which it may give us
access. In addition, this internal component of veridical experience is epistemically available to the
experiencer; it is a source of beliefs or knowledge about the external world. That this alleged inner
aspect or component of veridical empirical experience can be considered in isolation is suggested
by cases in which apparently empirical experience fails to give us access to external world
situations: experiences of dreams, illusions, hallucinations, and so forth. Such cases seem to give
us the inner without the outer component of empirical experience, thus suggesting (or so it is
held) that the two can be separated also in the case of veridical experience.
Some versions of internalism with regard to veridical experience refer to the epistemically
available inner component of experience as `sense data,' `ideas,' `sensations,' `appearances,'
`representations,' `seemings.' But I will not be concerned with general characterizations of this
component; I will not be explicitly concerned with the question of whether, for example, there are
such things as sense data, though the view that I sketch will entail that there are no sense data in
play in ordinary veridical experience of the world. It is rather to the general division of experience
on which these views rely that I will address my remarks.
On typical versions of this view (and here we move from philosophy of mind to epistemology), we
infer that certain external world situations obtain from the phenomenological character of
experience; we move outward through the inner component of experience to real world situations.
Again, I want to place no particular weight on the notion of inference here; on certain versions of
the view, the inner component of experience need never be formulated into beliefs of the sort that
can serve as parts of an inference. John Pollock, for example, says "We generally `look through'
our sensations at the world."
This need not be construed as inferential, but such a view will be equally under attack here.
So, putting it at its most general, internalism with regard to veridical experience is embodied in
(1) Veridical experience can be divided into inner and outer components.
(2) Some aspects of the inner component of veridical experience are epistemically available to the
(3) The experiencer moves outward epistemically through the inner into the outer component,
that is, comes to know or believe claims about the external world by undergoing the inner
component of experience.
I think that (2) and (3) are false, and that they lead to a highly distorted epistemology.
These three theses are very widely held indeed. Nevertheless, it will be useful to summarize a
contemporary epistemological theory that explicitly endorses them. I will start, then, with
Roderick Chisholm's view as expressed in "A Version of Foundationalism." Chisholm describes
certain properties as being "self-presenting." "If the property of being F is self-presenting," he
writes, "then for every [person] x, if (1) x has the property of being F, and if (2) x considers his
being F, then it is certain for x that he has the property of being F."(3) For example, if I am sad,
and I consider whether I am sad, it will be certain for me that I am sad. And, Chisholm adds with
regard to empirical experience, if I am having the experience of red, if I seem to see red or am, in
Chisholm's adverbial formulation, appeared to redly, then if I consider the matter, it will be certain
for me that I am having such an experience or am being so appeared to. He writes:
It may be self-presenting for x that he is being appeared to in a certain way (that he senses in a
certain way). But it cannot be self-presenting to him that there is something that is appearing to
him in that way (i.e. it cannot be self-presenting to him that an external stimulus object causes him
to sense in that way). By means of what principle, then, can the person pass from a way of
appearing to a particular physical thing that "transcends" that way of appearing? (p. 302)
The inner and outer components of experience here are distinguished by the supposed fact that
whereas the inner component of experience may be self-presenting, the outer component of
experience never is. Chisholm ends up supplying a principle of the kind he describes above, a
principle that allows us to move from the inner to the outer component of experience, and some
such principle is required on every epistemological version of internalism which does not lead
directly to external-world scepticism. Chisholm claims that being appeared to in certain ways may
makes it evident to x that he is experiencing a certain external object. `Making it evident' is not,
for Chisholm, exactly a matter of drawing inferences, but the difference need not concern us here,
though I will have something to say about it later in this chapter.
Initially, I will not attempt to refute or even directly attack internalism with regard to veridical
experience, though I will eventualy give some considerations which count against it. To begin
with, I will attempt merely to formulate an alternative view (a task which turns out to be
considerably less straightforward than it might seem), and to answer certain traditional arguments
that might be mustered against it.
At any rate, I can have the experience of seeing (to use an example from Austin) a pig, and no
doubt in this experience I come to display certain properties. But I will argue that the properties
of me that are epistemically relevant are not isolable from the state of affairs in which the
experience comes to be produced, namely a particular juxtaposition of me with a pig, because
they are properties I display only in relation to, only within, this state of affairs. Now many
thinkers, notably Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge, and Colin McGinn, have argued that mental states
which concern external objects cannot be individuated except with reference to facts about the
external world that are not necessarily within the ken of the cognizer.(4)
I think that is true. But here I am pursuing a rather more radical externalist claim, one which these
thinkers might well reject.(5) I shall suggest that, in a case where one is experiencing an external
object, there are no intrinsic or internal properties of the experiencer whatsoever which she
displays in virtue of experiencing that object, of a sort which are necessary for her to have that
experience, and which are epistemically accessible. To repeat, my aim at the moment is merely to
give a clear statement of the view, and to explain some of its epistemological implications.
Now it is sometimes held that some sort of externalism with regard to experience is supported by
certain familiar facts about the meaning of the word `experience.' Note that I cannot have the
experience of a pig if a pig is not actually present, just as I cannot see or hear a pig if there is no
pig there. In addition, experience, in contexts such as "S has an experience of x" introduces an
extensional or transparent context. Ascriptions of experience of this kind are open to substitution
of co-referring expressions. If the pig is called the `Empress of Blandings,' and I have an
experience of the pig, I have an experience of the Empress of Blandings, whether or not I know
that `Empress of Blandings' is a name of this pig. This shows at a minimum that `experience' is not
always used to ascribe a purely internal state, that in certain contexts, at any rate, `experience' is
meant to pick out a relation between a cognizer and objects or states of affairs in the world. For if
this sort of experience were a matter of my internal representations, substitution salva veritate of
co-referring expressions would not always go through; it would go through only for expressions I
took to refer to the pig in question.
Such facts, however, do not even suggest that internalism is false. An internalist who holds (1)-(3)
will say this: the pig causes my visual apparatus to assume a certain intrinsic state. I then infer
from beliefs about this state that I am in the presence of a pig. (Alternately: my intrinsic state
makes it evident to me that I am in the presence of a pig.) Of course, we can say truly that I
experience a pig only in the case where it is pig which causes my visual apparatus (including
whatever parts of the brain are employed in vision) to assume this state. And of course, in that
case, an ascription of the experience will be extensional. So at the stage at which a division is
drawn for epistemic purposes between inner and outer components of experience, the internalist
has no difficulty whatever in accounting for these facts about linguistic usage. But it nevertheless
seems to me that there are no intrinsic features of the kind described; the sort of properties of me
that are necessary for me to see a pig and that are epistemically available to me in normal
circumstances cannot be isolated in the required way; they are not intrinsic or internal properties
This is not as mysterious as it may sound. We can clarify it by analogy. To ascribe to S an
experience of x is to ascribe a relation that holds between S and x, or, alternatively, to ascribe a
certain relational property to S. Now consider the relational property I ascribe to S when I say: `S
is located to the south of Manchester.' This does ascribe a certain property to S: it ascribes to S
the property of being located to the south of Manchester. But this property is not intrinsic to S.
More precisely, it is not necessary that, in order to be located to the south of Manchester, S
display any particular intrinsic properties in virtue of standing in that relation. The state which S
instantiates she instantiates in virtue of certain external-world relations. If there were any
"internalists" with regard to such properties, they would be obliged to claim that, in virtue of
being located to the south of Manchester, there are certain intrinsic properties that S displays of a
sort that are necessary for her to be so located. But there are no intrinsic properties of S which
she displays in virtue of being located south of Manchester and the display of which is also
necessary for her to be so located. However, there are intrinsic properties of S without which she
could not be located to the south of Manchester, such as being spatially circumscribed. And there
are (possibly), as we shall see, intrinsic properties which she displays in virtue of being located
south of Manchester. But no property of S meets both these conditions.
Now it will surely be objected that, unlike the relation that S displays to Manchester when she is
located south of Manchester, the relation S displays to a pig when she experiences a pig is a
causal relation. In an experience of a pig, S is operated on causally by a pig. That is true. But it
does not follow that there are intrinsic properties of S that she displays in virtue of being causally
operated on by a pig, and the display of which are necessary conditions of her standing in that
relation. That is to say, it does not follow that there are properties that S displays in virtue of
being causally operated on by a pig that are isolable from the external world situation in which she
comes to be so causally operated on. Consider the transmission of motion among billiard balls.
The cue ball strikes the object ball, causing it to carom off the bumper, let us say. In this causal
situation, the object ball comes to be in motion. But of course, we cannot characterize the motion
of the object ball if we restrict our attention to the intrinsic or internal properties of the ball.
Motion is a relative property, a property of something in a situation.
Let us, then, introduce some terminology:
(F) A relation F between two individuals a and b is fused with respect to b just if there are no
intrinsic properties that b displays in virtue of satisfying Fax which are necessary in order for b to
It is time to explain this last clause. It is required in order to block the following sort of counter-example to the fusion of spatial location. Emily is located to the south of Manchester at 6:12 p.m..
At 6:12 p.m. it rains south of Manchester, and Emily gets wet. Being wet is (more or less) an
intrinsic property of Emily. Thus there is an intrinsic property that Emily displays in virtue of
being (because she is) located to the south of Manchester. But she might not have been wet at
6:12, for example, if it did not rain south of Manchester at that time; being wet is not necessary
for her to be so located. So in order to capture the fact that the relation of being located to the
south of Manchester is fused with respect to Emily, we must include this final clause in (F). The
clause is relevant to the treatment of experience, for those that hold (1), (2), and (3) are likely to
hold that we could not have experiences of the external world without undergoing the inner
component of such experiences, however the latter is characterized. So at least the kind of
properties displayed will be necessary for the `experience' relation. That is how I construe the final
clause of (F), as ranging over kinds of properties.
Both the relation of being located to the south of Manchester and the relation of being set in
motion by the cue ball are fused in the sense specified in (F). But we need to further distinguish
the two cases:
(F1) F is partially fused with respect to b just if there are no properties that b displays in virtue of
satisfying Fax which can be specified without reference to some feature of the world external to b,
and which are necessary for b to satisfy Fax.
Consider again the billiard ball example. Here we can specify the motion of the object ball without
reference to the motion of the cue ball, though not without reference to features of the world
external to the object ball. We need a stronger formulation, however, to deal with, anong others,
relations of spatial location:
(F2) F is fully fused with respect to b just if there are no properties that b displays in virtue of
satisfying Fax which can be specified without reference to a, and which are necessary for b to
The relation of being located to the south of Manchester is fully fused. We cannot specify the
properties of S which she displays in virtue of being located to the south of Manchester (and
which are of a kind necessary for her to be so located) without referring to Manchester. It might
follow from the fact that S is located to the south of London that she is located to the south of
Manchester. But this follows only with the added premise that London itself is located to the
south of Manchester.
Now the claim that experience is partially, much less fully fused, is implausible. Whatever the
details of a good physiological theory of vision, it is obvious that seeing something causes a series
of events in the eye and in the brain. And it is equally obvious that some of these events can be
specified without appeal to the world outside the head of the experiencer. For example, certain
neurons may fire, and the firing of neurons is internal to the experiencer. In addition, the firing of
these neurons, or at any rate of some neurons, and so forth, may well be necessary conditions, at
least physiologically necessary conditions, of having the experience in question.
These facts, however, are not yet enough to comfort a foundationalist who holds both (2) and (3).
For according to (2), the relevant internal aspects of the experience must be epistemically
available to the experiencer. And of course, this is just what the internalist asserts. But the firing
of neurons and so forth is not, or is at least not in general, epistemically available to the
experiencer. In a normal case, we do not infer from the firing of neurons that we are experiencing
a pig; indeed in the normal case we have no beliefs about the firing of neurons in such a case; we
have no access to the firing of our neurons whatever. (Or, at any rate, we have no access to the
firing of neurons under that description.) And even if we did, it would be perverse to move
outward epistemically from beliefs about the firing of neurons to beliefs about the external world;
the beliefs about neurons would seem to be otiose.
So the internalist, to repeat, needs to assert that the inner aspect of experience is epistemically
available. Let us consider a more fine-grained way to characterize fusion in relations.
(FA1) A relation F between two individuals a and b is partially fused with respect to b under
aspect G just if G is a property b displays in virtue of satisfying Fax, the display of which is
necessary in order for b to satisfy Fax, and G cannot be specified without reference to some
feature(s) of the world external to b.
(FA2) A relation F between two individuals a and b is fully fused with respect to b under aspect G
just if G is a property that b displays in virtue of satisfying Fax, which is necessary in order for b
to satisfy Fax, and G cannot be specified without reference to a.
We are now in a position to formulate two versions of externalism with regard to empirical
veridical experience. Let us term the first simply "externalism with regard to veridical experience":
(E) All properties of a person which she displays in virtue of experiencing an external object, and
which are epistemically available to her with reference to the existence and properties of that
object, are aspects under which her experiential relation to that object is partially fused.
This is a fairly mild principle, though still no doubt controversial: it says that veridical experience
presupposes an external world, and that the epistemically available aspects of that experience
cannot be specified without reference to some features of that world.
The view I have been attempting to formulate, however, might be termed "radical externalism
with regard to veridical experience":
(ER) All properties of a person which she displays in virtue of experiencing an external object,
and which are epistemically available to her with reference to the existence and properties of that
object, are aspects under which her experiential relation to that object is fully fused.
To put it less technically, though somewhat misleadingly, there is no epistemically accessible
internal component of veridical empirical experience. Among other things, there are no sense data,
phenomena, or seemings involved in veridical empirical experience.
It may well be asserted that (ER) leads directly to external-world scepticism. If I do not have
epistemic access to the internal component of my veridical experience, how can I know anything
at all about the external world? The proponent of radical externalism may reply as follows: In my
experience of a pig, aspects of me are fused with a pig. (I admit this sounds a bit disquieting.) I
take the role of b in schema (FA2). In such circumstances, I (may) have epistemic access to the
pig, unmediated by any internal aspects of me. (To repeat, there are internal aspects of me which
are necessary for me to experience a pig, and which I display in virtue of seeing a pig. But these
are not (in a normal case) epistemically available.) So (ER) is going to lead rather naturally to
some form of direct realism.
And since I have already argued at length that we need not take scepticism about the external
world seriously, we do not need to take it seriously here.
III. The Argument From Illusion
Now if (ER) is true, veridical and non-veridical empirical experiences are of radically different
kinds. I have not denied that it is possible to have non-veridical experiences that seem to be of
external objects; I have not denied that there are dreams, hallucinations, and so forth. But while
the epistemically available aspects of veridical experience are fully fused to the objects they are
experiences of, seeming to experience a pig is not fully fused to a pig. Seeming to experience a
pig does not fit into schema (FA2) under epistemically available aspects, even supposing that it is
a genuine relation. (However, if seeming to experience a pig is a relation, it might satisy (FA1); it
might be impossible, e.g., to seem to see a pig if the environment contained no pig-like features
whatever.) The epistemically available aspects of non-veridical experiences are not fully fused to
anything, though they may be partially fused. Putting it very roughly, dreams and hallucinations
are in some sense internal to the cognizer while veridical empirical experiences are not. So, to
repeat, veridical and non-veridical experiences are radically different.
Now such a view runs afoul of an ancient argument, an argument that will doubtless already have
occurred to the reader. That argument runs as follows:
(1) The experience of hallucinating a pig may be mistaken for the experience of seeing a pig.
(2) Thus, what is going on in the experiencer during these two experiences are closely similar, or
even "qualitatively identical."
(3) Since in both cases one ends up taking oneself to be seeing a pig, in particular the
epistemically available aspects of the experience of hallucinating a pig are the same (or very
similar) to the epistemically available aspects of seeing a pig.
Therefore, (4) Internalism with regard to veridical experience is true.
Now such an argument has an intuitive appeal, as can be seen from its persistence in the history of
philosophy. Indeed, some such argument underlies Cartesian scepticism, and thus, as I have
argued, it must to a large extent inform the history of the epistemology of justification. But I think
it is obviously a very weak argument. It appears to rely on some form of abductive inference,
some principle to the effect that if two things have certain similarities, they have other similarities,
or even a principle to the effect that if two things have certain similarities, they have some
identical component. Obviously, no inference that appeals to such a principle could establish its
conclusion with certainty. An android may look for all the world like a human being, yet not be,
all things considered, very much like a human being at all; it may have no component which is
closely similar to any component of a human being.
Premise (2) is clearly problematic. It seems to appeal to a principle to the effect that we cannot
mistake things for one another unless they are closely similar or of the same kind. That principle is
blatantly false. Furthermore, the proponent of (ER) can happily admit that hallucinating a pig and
seeing a pig are similar in certain respects; similar firings of neurons might take place in both cases
for example. Thus it must be established that certain of the similarities are epistemically available.
Premise (3) purports to do this, but again, it appears to rely on some extremely tenuous form of
Even were we to admit that the argument is valid, however, it begs the question against the
proponent of (ER). The argument assumes that internalism is true with regard to veridical
experience in order to show that it is. To repeat, it is argued that such experiences as seeming to
see a pig may be "qualitatively identical" or "indiscernible" from experiences of seeing a pig. That
is, it is possible to be appeared to pigly without a pig being present. It is then argued that the
similarity between seeming to see a pig and seeing a pig suggests that there is some component in
common to the experiences, that when one sees a pig, one also seems to see one.
But we can admit all the facts mustered for this conclusion and deny the conclusion. Now one
rather weak argument to the effect that "qualitative indiscernibility" provides grounds for the
conclusion derives from Ockham's Razor. That is, since we can give a more or less univocal
account of the two sorts of experience on the internalist view, it might be held that this fact counts
in favor of the view. About this I would merely like to say that although we should not needlessly
multiply entities, we ought to acknowledge all the entities there are that need explanation, and
that prima facie we seem to recognize a deep and important distinction between veridical
experience and hallucination.
The argument could perhaps be re-cast to avoid some of these problems. But, I claim, any way of
re-casting the argument will be question-begging against (ER), because any such re-casting of the
argument is going to have to appeal at some stage to "qualitative identity" or to an internalistic
sense of indiscernibility. These notions smuggle seemings or appearances into the argument in a
way that assumes that internalism is true. For qualitative identity and indiscernibility (as it is used
in the argument) are notions of apparent similiarity. If two things are qualitatively indentical, this
is just to say that they seem identical; if two things are indiscernible in the sense required in the
argument, this is just to say that they appear the same. Certainly, it cannot be claimed that, all in
all, the experience of hallucinating a pig is indiscernible from the experience of seeing a pig. This
is because seeing a pig requires the presence of a pig, and a situation in which there is a pig
present is not indiscernible from a situation in which there is not a pig present. Of course, I may
be deluded into thinking there is a pig present when there is not. But if we take this delusion as a
mark of indiscernibility between the two experiences, we a pre-supposing the legitimacy of
isolating a purely internal, epistemically available aspect of veridical as well as hallucinatory
experience: just what the argument purports in this context to prove. The argument presupposes
that (ER) is false, that the epistemically available aspects of veridical experience are not fully
fused to the object of that experience. If (ER) is true, then we cannot isolate an internal point of
view in the first place.
The illegitimate move is from the possibility of seeming to see a pig when no pig is present to the
claim that seeming to see a pig is an epistemically available aspect of actually seeing a pig, and
further, to the claim that a pig causes me to seem to see a pig, and to the claim that I infer that I
see a pig from the "fact" that I seem to see a pig. The experience of seeing a pig is then analyzed
as (a) seeming to see a pig, and (b) a pig being where I seem to see it (along with some causal
condition). But why should it be analyzed this way? Why not allow dreams, hallucinations, (as
well as pains) and so forth, to be isolated as fundamentally different sorts of experiences than
experiences of seeing a pig? Seeming to see a pig, or its seeming to me that I see a pig is not, if
(ER) is true, an aspect of seeing a pig. Or, again, if veridical experience of a pig satisfies (FA2)
under its epistemically available aspects, it is not the case that the pig causes me to display certain
instrinsic properties, from which I then infer the presence of a pig. In the case where there is a pig
under my nose I do not infer from the "fact" that I seem to see a pig that there's a pig. I simply see
a pig. It is the pig itself under some of its aspects, which is epistemically available; nothing internal
to me is epistemically available.
Of course, I may at times erroneously infer from seeming to see a pig that there's a pig, but I need
not, and we need not take such a circumstance as the starting point of an account of empirical
experience. Or at the very least, much more of an argument is required than has been provided by
proponents of the internalism that we ought to make this our starting point. Again, we can admit
all the data involved in hallucinations, dreams, etc., and we can admit that hallucinations are
sometimes mistaken for realities and even that certain aspects of hallucinations may be self-presenting. But what we need to know is, why should these facts be taken as a starting-point for
an account of what happens when I am not hallucinating? Why should we start from a position
internal to the cognizer? Now surely the answer to this is going to be something like the
following: if the cognizer is going to be justified in her beliefs about the external world, it is going
to have to be in virtue of facts to which the cognizer has access (this is the classic objection to
epistemological externalism). And since from the point of view of the cognizer the experience of
hallucinating a pig may be indistinguishable from seeing a pig, we cannot start with a description
of the situation from an external point of view if we are to get an account of the cognizer's own
justification going. I am going to consider such claims about justification in detail later, and it
should be noted that these claims would beg the question against the main thesis of this book: that
knowledge does not require justification. But, for the moment, even if knowledge does require
justification, we can point out that this account of justification pre-supposes exactly what I am
claiming it needs to show, that is, that in a case of seeing something under our noses, there is a
purely internal, epistemically available aspect of the experience that can be isolated; it pre-supposes that we can usefully describe the experience at all from a "purely internal" point of view;
it pre-supposes that we can bifurcate veridical experience into something like an hallucination plus
a state of affairs in the world. It is incumbent on the internalist to show that the appeal to
seemings, appearances, and so forth is even possible, that is, to show that, e.g., I am appeared to
in any way at all when I see a pig, before he argues empirical beliefs must be justified "internally."
There are, after all, competing pictures of how such claims could be justified.
IV. Against Internalism
If (ER) is true, the epistemological project of studying what seems to the individual to be
happening within him when he in fact experiences external objects, is radically impossible. There
are, in typical cases of empirical experience, no "phenomena" to isolate and study. My experiences
do not have any epistemicaly available aspects which are properties of me considered in isolation
from my environment; they are, rather, properties of a situation in which I am a component. To
consider how it is "with me," inside me, as I experience a pig, is, as an epistemological strategy,
false not only to what is actually happening (I am in interchange with my environment, am
situated with respect to it, am in spatial juxtaposition with a pig, literally in contact with it by
means of my sense organs), but also to what I take to be happening (I take it that I am spatially
juxtaposed with a pig, and so forth). Of course, I can have "phenomenological" experiences; I can
have pains, delusions, hallucinations, deceptive dreams. Some aspects of these may well be "self-presenting." But the extraordinarily odd claim is that I should try to describe cases of actually
seeing a pig by appeal to cases of hallucinating a pig (and so forth), rather than vice versa.
That is why a internalist of the kind we are considering cannot be engaged in a reconstruction of
what we actually do. We do not, as a matter of fact, start off with "phenomena" and infer features
of reality. Rather, we start with reality, situations in which we find ourselves, and, if we are
philosophers of a certain kind, infer (erroneously for the most part), features of phenomena. And
if the epistemically available aspects of an veridical experience are aspects under which the
experiential relation is fully fused to the object that is experienced, we could not possibly start
with "phenomena," because there are no phenomena, if the experience is veridical.
This view about experience is not wholly new. I take it to make somewhat more precise the view
of Dewey, for example. As Dewey saw, experience is an interchange between organism and
environment. He writes:
`Experience' denotes the planted field, the sowed seeds, the reaped harvests, the changes of night
and day, spring and autumn, wet and dry, heat and cold, that are observed, feared, longed for; it
also denotes the one who plants and reaps, who works and rejoices, hopes, fears, plans, invokes
magic or chemistry to aid him, who is downcast or triumphant. It is `double barrelled' in that it
recognizes in its primary integrity no division between act and material, subject and object, but
contains them both.(6)
This passage, I think, contains the seeds of an alternative to the epistemology of justification,
precisely because it countenances what I have been calling fusion. The epistemology of
justification, I hope to suggest, requires a bifurcation of the epistemic agent from the world. But if
Dewey is right, this bifurcation is invidious; we, as epistemic agents, are already part of the world.
As epistemic agents and as human beings, we are part of the natural system; we are fused with it.
We participate epistemically in the world in just the same ways that we participate in other ways
with the world, as ourselves aspects and segments of that world, as participants rather than
In a certain sense, and as I think Dewey would argue, we can get misled by starting with visual
experience, for here it is at least not baldly absurd to separate inner and outer components; it is at
least understandable how someone might think that such a separation makes sense in typical cases
of seeing an object. But consider other kinds of experience: for example the experience of
breathing or of eating. Here the bifurcation of experience into inner and outer components is
obviously out of place. Breathing and eating involve actually incorporating bits of the world into
one's body; you simply cannot describe a process of eating by restricting your attention to what is
internal to the person who is eating. Eating involves appropriating something from the
environment and incorporating it into one's body; it is an interchange between organism and
environment. To a certain extent, I believe that it is a compelling picture (at least as compelling as
the bifurcated picture) of vision, for example, or hearing or touch, to describe such experiences by
analogy to breathing or eating. Visual experience is a situation of an organism in an environment
in which elements of the environment are appropriated by the organism. There is no accurate
description of an actual visual experience which is a description of states of the organism in
isolation from that environment.
Some people, we might conclude, are appeared to pigly, others have pigs thrust upon them.
1. See, e.g., Alvin Goldman, Epistemology and Cognition (Boston: Harvard, 1986), p.154.
2. John Pollock, Contemporary Theories of Knowledge. (Totowa NJ: Rowman and Littlefield,
1986), p. 155.
3. Roderick Chisholm, "A Version of Foundationalism," reprinted in Human Knowledge, eds.
Paul Moser and Arnold vander Nat (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p.298.
4. See Tyler Burge, "Individualism and the Mental," Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Volume IV:
Studies in Metaphysics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1979), pp.73-121. Colin
McGinn, Mental Content (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979). Hilary Putnam, "The Meaning of
`Meaning'," in his Mind, Language and Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
5. McGinn, for example, writes: "Experience, we may say, represents the state of affairs so
presented (or apparently presented) . . . The way in which experience represents the world
constitutes its content, the way it makes things seem. The content of an experience determines
what it is as of - how the world would actually be presented if the experience were veridical"
(p.58). This is a version of the view I am rejecting.
6. John Dewey, Experience and Nature (New York: Dover, 1958 (1929)), p.8.