The problem of self-knowledge is one of the most fascinating in all of philosophy and has crucial significance for the philosophy of mind and epistemology. Gertler assesses the leading theoretical approaches to self-knowledge, explaining the work of many of the key figures in the field: from Descartes and Kant, through to Bertrand Russell and Gareth Evans, as well as recent work by Tyler Burge, David Chalmers, William Lycan and Sydney Shoemaker. -/- Beginning with an outline of the distinction between self-knowledge (...) and self-awareness and providing essential historical background to the problem, Gertler addresses specific theories of self-knowledge such as the acquaintance theory, the inner sense theory, and the rationalist theory, as well as leading accounts of self-awareness. The book concludes with a critical explication of the dispute between empiricist and rationalist approaches. (shrink)
"Self-knowledge" is commonly used in philosophy to refer to knowledge of one's particular mental states, including one's beliefs, desires, and sensations. It is also sometimes used to refer to knowledge about a persisting self -- its ontological nature, identity conditions, or character traits. At least since Descartes, most philosophers have believed that self-knowledge is importantly different from knowledge of the world external to oneself, including others' thoughts. But there is little agreement about what precisely distinguishes self-knowledge from knowledge in other (...) realms. Partially because of this disagreement, philosophers have endorsed competing accounts of how we acquire self-knowledge. These accounts have important consequences for the scope of mental content, for mental ontology, and for personal identity. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the method of transparency --determining whether I believe that p by considering whether p -- does not explain our privileged access to our own beliefs. Looking outward to determine whether one believes that p leads to the formation of a judgment about whether p, which one can then self-attribute. But use of this process does not constitute genuine privileged access to whether one judges that p. And looking outward will not provide for access to (...) dispositional beliefs, which are arguably more central examples of belief than occurrent judgments. First, one’s dispositional beliefs as to whether p may diverge from the occurrent judgments generated by the method of transparency. Second, even in cases where these are reliably linked — e.g., in which one’s judgment that p derives from one’s dispositional belief that p — using the judgment to self-attribute the dispositional belief requires an ‘inward’ gaze. (shrink)
I elaborate and defend a set of metaphysical and epistemic claims that comprise what I call the acquaintance approach to introspective knowledge of the phenomenal qualities of experience. The hallmark of this approach is the thesis that, in some introspective judgments about experience, (phenomenal) reality intersects with the epistemic, that is, with the subject’s grasp of that reality. In Section 1 of the paper I outline the acquaintance approach by drawing on its Russellian lineage. A more detailed picture of the (...) approach emerges in succeeding sections, which respond to a range of objections. Some critics charge that approaches of this sort are overly idealized, in that they ignore the cognitive flaws and limitations of actual human beings. I begin to address these worries in Section 2, by arguing that the epistemic commitments of the acquaintance approach are in fact relatively modest. In Section 3, I sketch a picture of introspective reference that explains how phenomenal reality can intersect with the epistemic in a phenomenal judgment, as the acquaintance approach requires. Drawing on this picture of introspective reference, Section 4 sets out a practical strategy for achieving knowledge by acquaintance. Some contemporary acquaintance theorists (BonJour 2003, Fumerton 1996) employ demanding epistemic standards for knowledge by acquaintance, standards beyond those mandated by the acquaintance approach. In Section 5 I show that instances of introspective knowledge that meet less demanding standards can satisfy the acquaintance approach’s epistemic commitments. The final sections concern the most direct challenges to the acquaintance approach, which target the claim that phenomenal reality intersects with the epistemic. According to one such challenge, this claim is belied by the fact that possessing a phenomenal concept is a matter of having certain dispositions. Section 6 draws on a discussion by Sosa (2003) to articulate this challenge, and responds to it on behalf of the acquaintance approach. Section 7 addresses Stalnaker’s (2008) worry that, if phenomenal reality intersected with the epistemic, phenomenal information would be incommunicable. (shrink)
How does one know one's own beliefs, intentions, and other attitudes? Many responses to this question are broadly empiricist, in that they take self-knowledge to be epistemically based in empirical justification or warrant. Empiricism about self-knowledge faces an influential objection: that it portrays us as mere observers of a passing cognitive show, and neglects the fact that believing and intending are things we do, for reasons. According to the competing, agentialist conception of self-knowledge, our capacity for self-knowledge derives from our (...) rational agency—our ability to conform our attitudes to our reasons, and to commit ourselves to those attitudes through avowals. This paper has two goals. The first is exegetical: to identify agentialism's defining thesis and precisely formulate the agentialist challenge to empiricism. The second goal is to defend empiricism from the agentialist challenge. I propose a way to understand the role of agency in reasoning and avowals, one that does justice to what is distinctive about these phenomena yet is compatible with empiricism about self-knowledge. (shrink)
This paper defends a novel account of how we introspect phenomenal states, the Demonstrative Attention account (DA). First, I present a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for phenomenal state introspection which are not psychological, but purely metaphysical and semantic. Next, to explain how these conditions can be satisfied, I describe how demonstrative reference to a phenomenal content can be achieved through attention alone. This sort of introspective demonstration differs from perceptual demonstration in being non-causal. DA nicely explains key intuitions (...) about phenomenal self-knowledge, makes possible an appealing diagnosis of blindsight cases, and yields a highly plausible view as to the extent of our first-person epistemic privilege. Because these virtues stem from construing phenomenal properties as non-relational features of states, my defense of DA constitutes a challenge to relational construals of phenomenal properties, including functionalism and representationalism. And I provide reason to doubt that they can meet this challenge. (shrink)
Externalism about mental content is now widely accepted. It is therefore surprising that there is no established definition of externalism. I believe that this is a symptom of an unrecognized fact: that the labels 'mental content externalism' -- and its complement 'mental content internalism' -- are profoundly ambiguous. Under each of these labels falls a hodgepodge of sometimes conflicting claims about the organism's contribution to thought contents, the nature of the self, relations between the individual and her community, and the (...) epistemic availability of thoughts. This situation stems from the fact that contributors to debates about externalism differ in how they understand 'internal property'; these differences reveal (or, perhaps, generate) disparate conceptions of what is at issue in these debates. I argue that this situation is irremediable. There is no way to understand 'internal property' that will conform with prevailing beliefs about the nature of internalism and externalism, and with the usual taxonomy of leading positions. This ambiguity carries a heavy price: participants in these debates often argue at cross-purposes, disagreeing even on the nature of the evidence that could settle the question of externalism. Progress on the broad range of issues associated with these debates requires that we abandon the categories 'internalism' and 'externalism'. I close by suggesting a promising avenue for future research related to these issues. (shrink)
Clark and Chalmers argue that the mind is extended – that is, its boundary lies beyond the skin. In this essay, I will criticize this conclusion. However, I will also defend some of the more controversial elements of Clark and Chalmers's argument. I reject their conclusion because I think that their argument shows that a seemingly innocuous assumption, about internal states and processes, is flawed. My goal is not to conclusively refute Clark and Chalmers's conclusion. My aim is only to (...) reveal the best alternative for those who remain skeptical about the existence – or, perhaps, even the possibility – of extended minds. (shrink)
Some physicalists (Balog 2012, Howell 2013), and most dualists, endorse the acquaintance response to the Knowledge Argument. This is the claim that Mary gains substantial new knowledge, upon leaving the room, because phenomenal knowledge requires direct acquaintance with phenomenal properties. The acquaintance response is an especially promising way to make sense of the Mary case. I argue that it casts doubt on two claims often made on behalf of physicalism, regarding parsimony and mental causation. I show that those who endorse (...) the acquaintance response face special obstacles to invoking parsimony in an argument for physicalism. And I show how acknowledging the phenomenon of acquaintance can ease the dualist’s problems with mental causation, by dispelling three key objections to epiphenomenalism. The most challenging of these objections is that epiphenomenalism blocks an evolutionary explanation of the so-called “hedonic/utility match”. I propose that pleasures and pains, while themselves epiphenomenal, can nonetheless explain positive and negative associations with stimuli, associations that can contribute to fitness. (shrink)
This paper calls into question the viability of materialist reduction of the phenomenal. I revisit the 'Knowledge Argument', which claims that there is information about the phenomenal which is not reducible to, nor even inferable from, information about the physical. I demonstrate the failure of the two chief strategies for blocking the Knowledge Argument: analyzing phenomenal knowledge as an ability, and construing it as knowledge of facts which are ontologically reducible to physical facts. Materialist reduction of the phenomenal is, thus, (...) untenable; materialists must adopt a more extreme, eliminativist view about the phenomenal. (shrink)
My aim here is threefold: to show that conceptual facts play a more significant role in justifying explanatory reductions than most of the contributors to the current debate realize; to furnish an account of that role, and to trace the consequences of this account for conceivability arguments about the mind.
When read as demands for justification, these questions seem absurd. We don’t normally ask people to substantiate assertions like “I think it will rain tomorrow” or “I have a headache”. There is, at the very least, a strong presumption that sincere self-attributions about one’s thoughts and feelings are true. In fact, some philosophers believe that such self-attributions are less susceptible to doubt than any other claims. Even those who reject that extreme view generally acknowledge that there is some salient epistemic (...) difference between (a) one’s belief that she thinks it will rain tomorrow, or that she has a headache, and (b) her belief that it is raining, or that another person has a headache. (shrink)
_Arguing About the Mind_ is an accessible, engaging introduction to the core questions in the philosophy of mind. This collection offers a selection of thought-provoking articles that examine a broad range of issues from the mind and body relation to animal and artificial intelligence. Topics addressed include: the problem of consciousness; the nature of the mind; the relationship between the mind, body and world; the notion of selfhood; pathologies and behavioural problems; animal, machine and extra-terrestrial intelligence. The editors provide lucid (...) introductions to each section, give an overview of the debate and outline the arguments of the papers. An original and stimulating reader, _Arguing About the Mind_ is ideal for students new to the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
It is often said that we can know our own thoughts more directly or with more certainty than anyone else can know them. And this disparity is usually taken to be principled, in that we would not be the rational, reflective beings that we are without it. My aim is to trace the consequences of a principled disparity between self-knowledge and other-knowledge for what may be termed the “mechanics ” of self-knowledge . I use a new thought experiment to show (...) that if introspective states are merely causally related to introspected thoughts, the disparity between self-knowledge and other-knowledge is not truly principled. An account of self-knowledge adequate to a truly principled disparity will allow that thought tokens can be. (shrink)
A primary goal of this chapter is to highlight neglected epistemic parallels between dualism and physicalism. Both dualist and physicalist arguments employ a combination of empirical data and armchair reflection; both rely on considerations stemming from how we conceptualize certain phenomena; and both aim to establish views that are compatible with scientific results but go well beyond the deliverances of empirical science. -/- I begin the chapter by fleshing out the distinctive commitments of dualism, in a way that illuminates the (...) interplay of epistemic and metaphysical elements within the dualist position. Section 2 outlines two influential arguments for dualism and explains how dualists defend those arguments from key criticisms. Sections 3 and 4 examine the most powerful objections to dualism: that it is inferior to physicalism as regards the theoretical virtue of simplicity, and that it cannot explain mental causation. I show that each of these objections to dualism depends on substantial assumptions that cannot be empirically justified. The objection from mental causation additionally rests on an ambitious assumption about how we conceptualize physical phenomena. Section 5 briefly reviews how epistemic considerations inform arguments on both sides of this debate. (shrink)
Alas, things are not quite so simple. As James implies, the term ‘introspection’ literally means ‘looking within’, but of course we do not visually inspect the interiors of our crania. What unites proponents of introspection is the claim that we can recognize our own mental states through some sort of attention—a non-visual ‘looking’—whose immediate objects are thoughts or sensations within oneself, in a non-spatial sense of ‘within’. (The term ‘introspection’ is occasionally given an ecumenical gloss, to refer to any method (...) of knowing one’s own mental states, and not just self-directed attention. But the more restrictive use is standard, and provides the topic of the current entry.) As we will see, some contemporary philosophers and psychologists doubt that any such introspective process underlies self-knowledge. (shrink)
Conscious states as objects of awareness: on Uriah Kriegel, Subjective consciousness: a self - representational theory Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-9 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9763-9 Authors Brie Gertler, Corcoran Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
This commentary focuses on Smithies’ views about self-knowledge. Specifically, I examine his case for the striking thesis that rational thinkers will know all their beliefs. I call this the ubiquity of self-knowledge thesis. Smithies’ case for this thesis is an important pillar of his larger project, as it bears on the nature of justification and our ability to fulfill the requirements of rationality. Section 1 outlines Smithies’ argument for the ubiquity of self-knowledge. Section 2 sets the stage for a detailed (...) explication of his view by sketching an initial objection to that argument. Sections 3 and 4 respond to that objection on behalf of Smithies’ account, elucidating the distinctive positions on belief and justification that enable this response. Sections 5-7 raise some questions, namely: whether Smithies’ views about self-knowledge of beliefs provide a genuine competitor to other philosophers’ views on that issue; whether on his account justification is truly accessible to the thinker; how his account explains self-knowledge; and what his account implies about the situation of actual persons, who are not ideally rational. (shrink)
In self-attributing beliefs and desires, we exploit a method that is different from our methods for attributing such states to others. On one traditional diagnosis, this difference stems from the subject’s exclusive access to introspective evidence. Gallois rejects the “access to evidence” model of the epistemic difference between self-knowledge and other-knowledge; in this ambitious book he provides a non-introspectivist alternative account of first-person authority. His intriguing proposal is that rational subjects can know their consciously held propositional attitudes without observing their (...) own states. While he allows that we sometimes have introspective evidence for our own propositional attitudes, he is deeply suspicious about the power often accorded to such evidence. Robust conceptions of rationality and state consciousness weigh heavily in Gallois’ arguments and, I think, threaten to trivialize his claim that we enjoy first-person authority. But by departing from introspectivist accounts of self-knowledge, Gallois has made a provocative opening move in a gambit which promises to advance our understanding of the epistemic difference between self-knowledge and other-knowledge. (shrink)
Goldberg (2003) defends externalism from Boghossian's (1998) version of the "armchair knowledge" objection. I argue here that, while Goldberg's challenge blocks a different version of this objection, it does not directly block Boghossian's version. And Goldberg's approach is not promising as a response to Boghossian's version of the armchair knowledge objection.
Our fundamental conception of the self seems to be, broadly speaking, epistemic: selves are things that have thoughts, undergo experiences, and possess reasons for action and belief. In this paper, I evaluate the consequences of this epistemic conception for the widespread view that properties like thinking that arthritis is painful are relational features of the self.
According to an influential view that I call agentialism, our capacity to believe and intend directly on the basis of reasons—our rational agency—has a normative significance that distinguishes it from other kinds of agency (Bilgrami 2006, Boyle 2011, Burge 1996, Korsgaard 1996, Moran 2001). Agentialists maintain that insofar as we exercise rational agency, we bear a special kind of responsibility for our beliefs and intentions; and it is only those attitudes that represent the exercise of rational agency that are truly (...) our own. In this paper I challenge these agentialist claims. My argument centers on a case in which a thinker struggles to align her belief to her reasons, and succeeds only by resorting to non-rational methods. Because she relies on non-rational methods, this revision of her belief does not express her rational agency, in the agentialist sense. I argue that this process nevertheless expresses her capacities for rationality and agency; that she is responsible for the belief shaped through this process; and that the revised belief is truly her own. So rational agency is not distinctive in the ways that agentialists contend. (shrink)
The claim that there is an explanatory gap between physical and phenomenal properties is perhaps the leading current challenge to materialist views about the mind. Tye tries to block this challenge, not by providing an explanation to bridge the gap but by denying that phenomenalphysical identities introduce an explanatory gap. Since an explanatory gap exists only if there is something unexplained that needs explaining, and something needs explaining only if it can be explained , there is no gap. Tyes strategy (...) differs crucially from the claim that identities never stand in need of explanation because they constitute ultimate explanations; for he allows that identities such as water = H?O are explainable. Unlike WATER and H?O, which are descriptive concepts, phenomenal concepts are perspectival and hence irreducible to descriptive concepts, according to Tye. The fact that something picked out by a perspectival concept is identical to something picked out by a non-perspectival concept cannot be explained.1 So, he concludes, phenomenalphysical identities need not be explained. (shrink)
Feldman and Conee (2001) observed that the term “internalism”, as used in epistemology, is ambiguous. It sometimes denotes the view that justification supervenes on factors within the thinker (“mentalism”), whereas at other times it refers to the view that justification is accessible to the thinker (“accessibilism”). As used in the debate about mental content, “internalism” corresponds to mentalism. Strikingly, however, it is the question of accessibilism that is the target of many internalist and externalist arguments. In this paper I argue (...) that the focus on thinkers’ access to their thoughts is misplaced. The debate between externalism and internalism hinges on the significance of external factors for rational relations between first-order thoughts, not on issues of accessibility. The shift away from issues of accessibility neutralizes both the “incompatibility” objection to externalism and the charge that internalism overestimates first-person access. The revised understanding of the debate supports a broadly Fregean approach to individuating cognitive values. I develop a version of this approach and defend it from a prominent externalist objection. Since this approach individuates cognitive values narrowly, my argument ultimately supports internalism. (shrink)
With this provocative book, Quassim Cassam aspires to reorient the philosophical study of self-knowledge so as to bring its methodology and subject matter into line with recognizably human concerns. He pursues this reorientation on two fronts. He proposes replacing what he sees as the field’s standard subject, an ideally rational being he calls Homo Philosophicus, with a more realistic Homo Sapiens. And he proposes shifting the field’s primary focus from ‘narrow epistemological concerns’ to issues reflecting ‘what matters to humans’, such (...) as knowledge of one’s own character and the moral significance of self-knowledge. Cassam also contributes to this field: he advances an inferentialist account of self-knowledge and a moderate instrumentalism about self-knowledge’s value. (shrink)
The definitive statement of the Knowledge Argument was formulated by Frank Jackson, in a paper entitled “Epiphenomenal Qualia” that appeared in The Philosophical Quarterly in 1982. Arguments in the same spirit had appeared earlier (Broad 1925, Robinson 1982), but Jackson’s argument is most often compared with Thomas Nagel’s argument in “What is it Like to be a Bat?” (1974). Jackson, however, takes pains to distinguish his argument from Nagel’s. This entry will follow standard practice in focusing on Jackson’s argument, though (...) I will also describe the main points of alleged similarity and dissimilarity between these two arguments. (shrink)
This chapter concerns self-knowledge of our mental states, with a focus on how we know our own beliefs and intentions. It examines the agentialist approach to self-knowledge, which is driven by the idea that believing or intending on the basis of reasons is something that we DO, and hence involves agency. Agentialists maintain that, because beliefs and intentions are exercises of agency, self-knowledge of these attitudes differs fundamentally from self-knowledge of states that we simply undergo, such as sensations. Specifically, agentialists (...) claim that self-knowledge of our attitudes is linked with our identity as rational thinkers, capable of believing and intending on the basis of reasons. This chapter outlines the agentialist approach to self-knowledge, and canvasses and assesses a range of agentialist accounts of how we know our own beliefs and intentions. (shrink)
The plain man thinks that material objects must certainly exist, since they are evident to the senses. Whatever else may be doubted, it is certain that anything you can bump into must be real; this is the plain man’s metaphysic. This is all very well, but the physicist comes along and shows that you never bump into anything: even when you run your hand along a stone wall, you do not really touch it. When you think you touch a thing, (...) there are certain electrons and protons, forming part of your body, which are attracted and repelled by certain electrons and protons in the thing you think you are touching, but there is no actual contact. … The electrons and protons themselves, however, are only crude first approximations, a way of collecting into a bundle either trains of waves or the statistical probabilities of various different kinds of events. Thus matter has become altogether too ghostly to be used as an adequate stick with which to beat the mind. —Bertrand Russell, “What is the Soul?” 193.. (shrink)
Charles Siewert offers a persuasive argument to show that the presence of certain phenomenal features logically suffices for the presence of certain intentional ones. He claims that this shows that phenomenal features are inherently intentional. I argue that he has not established the latter thesis, even if we grant the logical sufficiency claim. For he has not ruled out a rival alternative interpretation of the relevant data, namely, that intentional features are inherently phenomenal.
Farkas’ ambitious agenda is to advance a strongly internalist account of the mental. She makes impressive strides towards achieving this goal. Along the way, she presents important new arguments on a number of topics, including: how best to understand the ‘twin’ cases used in debates about content, the alleged incompatibility of content externalism and privileged access, and the prospects for defending Frege’s claim that sense determines reference. In this review, I survey a number of her arguments and raise some questions (...) about her proposed criterion for "mental". (shrink)
I defend one leading strand of Descartes's thought against feminist criticism. I will show that Descartes's “first-person” approach to our knowledge of minds, which has been criticized on feminist grounds, is at least compatible with key feminist views. My argument suggests that this strand of Cartesianism may even bolster some central feminist positions.
My dissertation has three interrelated aims: to defend introspectivism, the view that the deliverances of introspection should be basic data for philosophical theories of the mind, from pivotal objections which inspire the currently prevailing anti-introspectivist approach to mentality; to advance a substantive account of introspection; and to lay the groundwork for a more general theory about the mental. ;I begin by analyzing a host of philosophical problems about the mind; in each, I isolate the source of perplexity in an epistemic (...) factor. The body of the thesis is devoted to elucidating the ontological and epistemological status of mind by considering, in turn, phenomenality and intentionality. ;Physicalism lacks the resources to explain the individual subject's greater epistemic authority regarding the phenomenal as compared to the physical. My detailed account of phenomenal state introspection is therefore preferable to the physicalist explanations of phenomenal knowledge; its consequences include a counterexample to a widely-accepted constraint on concept possession and a minor modification to one familiar theory of de se reference. ;Similarly, functionalist reduction of intentional states cannot countenance our refusal to defer to empirical science regarding one's occurrent mental states to the same extent that we defer regarding physical states. My account of introspection, which does justice to the measure of authority we retain about our own intentional states, undermines both functionalism and content externalism about such states. ;Grave difficulties face each of the four currently popular views about the relation between phenomenality and intentionality. According to my alternative, occurrent phenomenal states and occurrent intentional states are importantly different yet share an epistemic feature which distinguishes them from physical states: our deference to empirical science regarding such occurrent states is limited in a way that our deference regarding physical states is not. The key to understanding the mind is thus intimately related to the primary source of philosophical problems about it, namely, the disparity between our knowledge of the mental and our knowledge of the physical. (shrink)
In this commentary, I examine John Tienson’s argument that reflection on the epistemic situation of the Cartesian meditator suggests that intentional content is narrow. My aim is to show how his argument is closely connected to another prominent objection to externalism—the McKinsey argument.
I will present a conceptual argument for a simulationist answer to (2). Given that our conception of mental states is employed in attributing mental states to others, a simulationist answer to (2) supports a simulationist answer to (1). I will not address question (3). Answers to (1) and (2) do not yield an answer to (3), since (1) and (2) concern only our actual practices and concepts. For instance, an error theory about (1) and (2) would say that our practices (...) and concepts manifest a mistaken view about the real nature of the mental. Finally, I will not address question (2a), which is an empirical question and so is not immediately relevant to the conceptual argument that is of concern here. (shrink)