2.85 Wide Content

Category: Philosophy of Mind

Keywords: twin, burge, contents, content, externalism, representational, thoughts, representation, externalist, individualism, fodor, narrow, representations, representing, represents

Number of Articles: 222
Percentage of Total: 0.7%
Rank: 69th

Weighted Number of Articles: 228.2
Percentage of Total: 0.7%
Rank: 73rd

Mean Publication Year: 1995.4
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1987.9
Median Publication Year: 1996
Modal Publication Year: 1992

Topic with Most Overlap: Ordinary Language (0.0405)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Concepts (0.0486)
Topic with Least Overlap: Crime and Punishment (5e-05)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Crime and Punishment (7e-04)

Wide Content

Figure 2.190: Wide Content

Wide Content Articles in Each Journal

Figure 2.191: Wide Content Articles in Each Journal


Contemporary debates about semantic externalism were kicked off by Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity and Hilary Putnam’s Meaning and Reference. Naming and Necessity isn’t in this study, though its impacts are felt in several places. But Meaning and Reference is, and it is even in this category. Here is the model’s views on where to place Meaning and Reference.

Table 2.37: Hilary Putnam (1973) “Meaning And Reference” Journal of Philosophy 70:699-711.
Subject Probability
Wide Content 0.3907
Definitions 0.1760
Modality 0.0670
Ordinary Language 0.0513
Meaning and Use 0.0430
Universals and Particulars 0.0401
Analytic/Synthetic 0.0389
Sets and Grue 0.0278
Radical Translation 0.0271
Marx 0.0248
Concepts 0.0246
Speech Acts 0.0222

It’s largest topic is this one, but the model also notes it is about definitions and modality, which makes sense. But the probability that it is in this topic is comfortably largest. And it’s an incredibly influential paper, so I would have guessed that it would have been quickly followed by a flood of similar papers.

But that’s not remotely what happened. The model sees very little work on this topic for another decade. There is a bit of discussion in the mid-1980s, then it is Michael McKinsey’s 1991 paper Anti-Individualism and Privileged Access, that really starts the discussion going. Just to make this vivid, let’s focus on the last 40 years of those graphs above, starting from Putnam’s original paper.

Recent Work on Wide Content

Figure 2.192: Recent Work on Wide Content

The lack of life in this topic through the 1970s and much of the 1980s was one of the biggest surprises to me of the whole project. In recent years it feels like topics can catch fire immediately after the publication of a high profile paper. But that is realy not what happened in debates about wide content. Putnam’s paper is one of the most influential of its time, and its time is the most important few years in the history of philosophy, but that influence was not felt for many years after its publication.