Philosophia 42 (2):1-24 (2014)

Richard Manning
University of South Florida
Roughly, behaviorist accounts of self-knowledge hold that first persons acquire knowledge of their own minds in just the same way other persons do: by means of behavioral evidence. One obvious problem for such accounts is that the fail to explain the great asymmetry between the authority of first person as opposed to other person attributions of thoughts and other mental states and events. Another is that the means of acquisition seems so different: other persons must infer my mental contents from my behavior, whereas I need not. In this paper, I articulate a specifically Sellarsian behavioristic account of our knowledge of our own and others’ minds, and defend it against these two obvious objections. I further defend it against objections from Davidson, to the effect that Sellars’ account in particular cannot properly formulate the asymmetry at issue, and that behaviorism in general cannot account for the a priori character of the asymmetry. I argue that Davidson misinterprets Sellars at key points, and also misconstrues his own explanandum: What Sellars account can explain is an asymmetry in the reliability of first and other person attributions, but this asymmetry is not a priori. What is a priori is an asymmetry in the practice of according epistemic authority to such attributions. I argue that this asymmetry is what Davidson can and does explain, by appeal to the constitutive features of radical interpretation. But accepting this explanation does not require the rejection of Sellars’ account of the way that first and other persons in fact arrive at beliefs about their mental contents. The two approaches — one descriptive and empirical, the other constitutive and ideal — are compatible
Keywords Sellars  Davidson  First person authority  Behaviorism  Radical interpretation
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Reprint years 2014
DOI 10.1007/s11406-013-9489-3
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References found in this work BETA

Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind.Wilfrid S. Sellars - 1956 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 1:253-329.
Knowing One’s Own Mind.Donald Davidson - 1987 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 60 (3):441-458.
Individualism and Self-Knowledge.Tyler Burge - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (November):649-63.
First Person Authority.Donald Davidson - 1984 - Dialectica 38 (2‐3):101-112.

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Citations of this work BETA

Behaviorism.George Graham - 2003 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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