Modeling De Se Belief


We develop an approach to the problem of de se belief usually expressed with the question, what does the shopper with the leaky sugar bag have to learn to know that s/he is the one making the mess. Where one might have thought that some special kind of “de se” belief explains the triggering of action, we maintain that this gets the order of explanation wrong. We sketch a very simple cognitive architecture that yields de se-like behavior on which the action-triggering functionality of the belief-state is what counts it as de se rather than some prior property of being “de se” explaining the triggering of action. This functionality shows that action-triggering change in belief-state also undergirds a correlative change in the objective involved in the triggered action. This model is far too simple to have any claim to showing how the de se works for humans, but it shows, by illustration, that nothing mysteriously “subjective”” need be involved in this aspect of self-conception. While our exposition is very different from those of Perry and Recanati, all three of us are developing the same kind of view.

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Bernard Molyneux
University of California, Davis

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