What is the role of consciousness in our mental lives? Declan Smithies argues here that consciousness is essential to explaining how we can acquire knowledge and justified belief about ourselves and the world around us. On this view, unconscious beings cannot form justified beliefs and so they cannot know anything at all. Consciousness is the ultimate basis of all knowledge and epistemic justification.
Does rationality require logical omniscience? Our best formal theories of rationality imply that it does, but our ordinary evaluations of rationality seem to suggest otherwise. This paper aims to resolve the tension by arguing that our ordinary evaluations of rationality are not only consistent with the thesis that rationality requires logical omniscience, but also provide a compelling rationale for accepting this thesis in the first place. This paper also defends an account of apriori justification for logical beliefs that is designed (...) to explain the rational requirement of logical omniscience. On this account, apriori justification for beliefs about logic has its source in logical facts, rather than psychological facts about experience, reasoning, or understanding. This account has important consequences for the epistemic role of experience in the logical domain. In a slogan, the epistemic role of experience in the apriori domain is not a justifying role, but rather an enabling and disabling role. (shrink)
What is the normative role of knowledge? I argue that knowledge plays an important role as a norm of assertion and action, which is explained and unified by its more fundamental role as a norm of belief. Moreover, I propose a distinctive account of what this normative role consists in. I argue that knowledge is the aim of belief, which sets a normative standard of correctness and a corresponding normative standard of justification. According to my proposal, it is correct to (...) believe, assert and act on a proposition if and only if one is in a position to know it, but one has justification to believe, assert and act on a proposition if and only if one has justification to believe that one is in a position to know it. (shrink)
This paper argues that justification is accessible in the sense that one has justification to believe a proposition if and only if one has higher-order justification to believe that one has justification to believe that proposition. I argue that the accessibility of justification is required for explaining what is wrong with believing Moorean conjunctions of the form, ‘p and I do not have justification to believe that p.’.
According to the Rationality Constraint, our concept of belief imposes limits on how much irrationality is compatible with having beliefs at all. We argue that empirical evidence of human irrationality from the psychology of reasoning and the psychopathology of delusion undermines only the most demanding versions of the Rationality Constraint, which require perfect rationality as a condition for having beliefs. The empirical evidence poses no threat to more relaxed versions of the Rationality Constraint, which only require only minimal rationality. Nevertheless, (...) we raise problems for all versions of the Rationality Constraint by appealing to more extreme forms of irrationality that are continuous with actual cases of human irrationality. In particular, we argue that there are conceivable cases of “mad belief” in which populations of Lewisian madmen have beliefs that are not even minimally rational. This undermines Lewis’s claim that our ordinary concept of belief is a theoretical concept that is implicitly defined by its role in folk psychology. We argue that introspection gives us a phenomenal concept of belief that cannot be analyzed by applying Lewis’s semantics for theoretical terms. (shrink)
This is the first in a series of two articles that serve as an introduction to recent debates about cognitive phenomenology. Cognitive phenomenology can be defined as the experience that is associated with cognitive activities, such as thinking, reasoning, and understanding. What is at issue in contemporary debates is not the existence of cognitive phenomenology, so defined, but rather its nature and theoretical role. The first article examines questions about the nature of cognitive phenomenology, while the second article explores the (...) philosophical implications of these questions for the role of consciousness in theories of intentionality, introspective self-knowledge, and knowledge of the external world. (shrink)
In this chapter, I argue for the thesis that phenomenal consciousness is the basis of epistemic justification. More precisely, I argue for the thesis of phenomenal mentalism, according to which epistemic facts about which doxastic attitudes one has justification to hold are determined by non-epistemic facts about one’s phenomenally individuated mental states. I begin by providing intuitive motivations for phenomenal mentalism and then proceed to sketch a more theoretical line of argument according to which phenomenal mentalism provides the best explanation (...) of the independently motivated thesis of access internalism. The result is a theory of epistemic justification that brings intuition and theory into reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
This chapter argues that attention is a distinctive mode of consciousness, which plays an essential functional role in making information accessible for use in the rational control of thought and action. The main line of argument can be stated quite simply. Attention is what makes information fully accessible for use in the rational control of thought and action. But what makes information fully accessible for use in the rational control of thought and action is a distinctive mode of consciousness. Therefore, (...) attention is a distinctive mode of consciousness. In a slogan: attention is rational-access consciousness. (shrink)
Perception enables us to think demonstrative thoughts about the world around us, but what must perception be like in order to play this role? Does perception enable demonstrative thought only if it is conscious? This paper examines three accounts of the role of consciousness in demonstrative thought, which agree that consciousness is essential for demonstrative thought, but disagree about why it is. First, I consider and reject the accounts proposed by Gareth Evans in The Varieties of Reference and by John (...) Campbell in Reference and Consciousness before offering an alternative proposal of my own. My proposal is that consciousness plays an essential epistemic role in explaining the capacity for demonstrative thought about an object by enabling the subject to form immediately justified beliefs about the object. (shrink)
The topic of introspection stands at the interface between questions in epistemology about the nature of self-knowledge and questions in the philosophy of mind about the nature of consciousness. What is the nature of introspection such that it provides us with a distinctive way of knowing about our own conscious mental states? And what is the nature of consciousness such that we can know about our own conscious mental states by introspection? How should we understand the relationship between consciousness and (...) introspective self-knowledge? Should we explain consciousness in terms of introspective self-knowledge or vice versa? Until recently, questions in epistemology and the philosophy of mind were pursued largely in isolation from one another. This volume aims to integrate these two lines of research by bringing together fourteen new essays and one reprinted essay on the relationship between introspection, self-knowledge, and consciousness. (shrink)
Questions about the transparency of evidence are central to debates between factive and non-factive versions of mentalism about evidence. If all evidence is transparent, then factive mentalism is false, since no factive mental states are transparent. However, Timothy Williamson has argued that transparency is a myth and that no conditions are transparent except trivial ones. This paper responds by drawing a distinction between doxastic and epistemic notions of transparency. Williamson's argument may show that no conditions are doxastically transparent, but it (...) fails to show that no conditions are epistemically transparent. Moreover, this reinstates the argument from the transparency of evidence against factive mentalism. (shrink)
This is the second in a series of two articles that serve as an introduction to recent debates about cognitive phenomenology. Cognitive phenomenology can be defined as the experience that is associated with cognitive activities, such as thinking, reasoning, and understanding. What is at issue in contemporary debates is not the existence of cognitive phenomenology, so defined, but rather its nature and theoretical role. The first article examines questions about the nature of cognitive phenomenology, while the second article explores the (...) philosophical implications of these questions for the role of consciousness in theories of intentionality, introspective self-knowledge, and knowledge of the external world. (shrink)
Attention has been studied in cognitive psychology for more than half a century, but until recently it was largely neglected in philosophy. Now, however, attention has been recognized by philosophers of mind as having an important role to play in our theories of consciousness and of cognition. At the same time, several recent developments in psychology have led psychologists to foundational questions about the nature of attention and its implementation in the brain. As a result there has been a convergence (...) of interest in fundamental questions about attention. This volume presents the latest thinking from the philosophers and psychologists who are working at the interface between these two disciplines. Its fourteen chapters contain detailed philosophical and scientific arguments about the nature and mechanisms of attention; the relationship between attention and consciousness; the role of attention in explaining reference, rational thought, and the control of action; the fundamental metaphysical status of attention, and the details of its implementation in the brain. These contributions combine ideas from phenomenology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of mind to further our understanding of this centrally important mental phenomenon, and to bring to light the foundational questions that any satisfactory theory of attention will need to address. (from OUP website). (shrink)
This chapter develops a simple theory of introspection on which a mental state is introspectively accessible just by virtue of the fact that one is in that mental state. This theory raises two questions: first, a generalization question: which mental states are introspectively accessible; and second, an explanatory question: why are some mental states introspectively accessible, rather than others, or none at all? In response to the generalization question, I argue that a mental state is introspectively accessible if and only (...) if it is phenomenally individuated. And in response to the explanatory question, I argue that a mental state is introspectively accessible if and only if it is among the determinants of justification. This provides the basis of an argument for a phenomenal conception of justification, according to which a mental state is among the determinants of justification if and only if it is phenomenally individuated. (shrink)
Introspection stands at the interface between two major currents in philosophy and related areas of science: on the one hand, there are metaphysical and scientific questions about the nature of consciousness; and on the other hand, there are normative and epistemological questions about the nature of self-knowledge. Introspection seems tied up with consciousness, to the point that some writers define consciousness in terms of introspection; and it is also tied up with self-knowledge, since introspection is the distinctive way in which (...) we come to know about ourselves and, in particular, about our own conscious mental states, processes and events. Each of these topics – consciousness and self-knowledge – has generated an extensive philosophical literature in its own right. But despite some notable exceptions, the relationship between consciousness and self-knowledge has been curiously neglected and remains poorly understood. Indeed, until quite recently, the sub-fields of philosophy of mind and epistemology were pursued largely in isolation from one another. Recent philosophy of mind has been dominated by metaphysical questions about the nature of consciousness and its place in the physical world, while much less attention has been devoted to questions about the epistemic role of consciousness as a source of knowledge and justified belief. Similarly, recent epistemology has been organized around questions about the nature of knowledge and justified belief, but much of this discussion has developed independently of recent work in philosophy of mind about the nature of consciousness. The impetus behind this volume is to bring together these two lines of research by exploring the nature of introspection, which lies at the intersection between consciousness and self-knowledge. This volume collects fourteen new essays and one reprinted essay in which the interplay between concerns in epistemology and the philosophy of mind is a major focus. (shrink)
This chapter is guided by the hypothesis that the point and purpose of using the concept of justification in epistemic evaluation is tied to its role in the practice of critical reflection. In section one, I propose an analysis of justification as the epistemic property in virtue of which a belief has the potential to survive ideal critical reflection. In section two, I use this analysis in arguing for a form of access internalism on which one has justification to believe (...) a proposition if and only if one has higher-order justification to believe that one has justification to believe that proposition. In section three, I distinguish between propositional and doxastic versions of access internalism and argue that the propositional version avoids familiar objections to the doxastic version. In section four, I argue that the propositional version of access internalism also explains and vindicates internalist intuitions about cases. In section five, I conclude with some reflections on the relationship between critical reflection, responsibility and personhood. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to argue that what I call the simple theory of introspection can be extended to account for our introspective knowledge of what we believe as well as what we consciously experience. In section one, I present the simple theory of introspection and motivate the extension from experience to belief. In section two, I argue that extending the simple theory provides a solution to Moore’s paradox by explaining why believing Moorean conjunctions always involves some degree (...) of irrationality. In section three, I argue that it also solves the puzzle of transparency by explaining why it’s rational to answer the question whether one believes that p by answering the question whether p. Finally, in section four, I defend the simple theory against objections by arguing that self-knowledge constitutes an ideal of rationality. (shrink)
Could there be a cognitive zombie – that is, a creature with the capacity for cognition, but no capacity for consciousness? Searle argues that there cannot be a cognitive zombie because there cannot be an intentional zombie: on this view, there is a connection between consciousness and cognition that is derived from a more fundamental connection between consciousness and intentionality. However, I argue that there are good empirical reasons for rejecting the proposed connection between consciousness and intentionality. Instead, I argue (...) that there is a connection between consciousness and cognition that is derived from a more fundamental connection between consciousness and rationality. On this view, there cannot be a cognitive zombie because there cannot be a rational zombie. (shrink)
What is the role of affective experience in explaining how our desires provide us with reasons for action? When we desire that p, we are thereby disposed to feel attracted to the prospect that p, or to feel averse to the prospect that not-p. In this paper, we argue that affective experiences – including feelings of attraction and aversion – provide us with reasons for action in virtue of their phenomenal character. Moreover, we argue that desires provide us with reasons (...) for action only insofar as they are dispositions to have affective experiences. On this account, affective experience has a central role to play in explaining how desires provide reasons for action. (shrink)
What is the role of phenomenal consciousness in grounding epistemic justification? This paper explores the prospects for a global version of phenomenal conservatism inspired by the work of Michael Huemer, according to which all epistemic justification is grounded in phenomenal seemings. I’m interested in this view because of its global ambitions: it seeks to explain all epistemic justification in terms of a single epistemic principle, which says that you have epistemic justification to believe whatever seems to you strongly enough on (...) balance to be true. One of the attractions of phenomenal conservatism is that it offers such a simple and unified framework for explaining the epistemic role of phenomenal consciousness. I will argue, however, that the simplicity of phenomenal conservatism is not a theoretical virtue, but a theoretical vice, since it distorts the epistemological phenomena it is supposed to explain. In effect, phenomenal conservatism seeks to explain all epistemic justification on the same model as perception. But this has the predictable effect of distorting the epistemology of other domains, including introspection, inference, and a priori justification. (shrink)
This chapter provides a critical overview of several influential proposals about the epistemic function of higher-order evidence. I start by criticizing accounts of higher-order evidence that appeal to evidential defeat (§1), epistemic conflicts (§2), and unreasonable knowledge (§3). Next, I propose an alternative account that appeals to a combination of improper basing (§4) and non-ideal rationality (§5). Finally, I conclude by summarizing my reasons for preferring this account of higher-order evidence to the alternatives (§6).
The main goal of this chapter is to argue that accessibilism in epistemology is incompatible with vehicle externalism in philosophy of mind. As we shall see, however, there are strong arguments for both of these positions. On the one hand, there is a compelling argument for vehicle externalism: the parity argument from Clark and Chalmers 1998. On the other hand, there is a compelling argument for accessibilism: the Moorean argument from Smithies 2012. If accessibilism is incompatible with vehicle externalism, then (...) both arguments cannot be sound. I resolve the tension by arguing that while the Moorean argument succeeds, the parity argument fails, and so vehicle externalism should be rejected on broadly epistemological grounds. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that perception justifies belief about the external world in virtue of its phenomenal character together with its relations to the external world. But I argue that perceptual relations to the external world impact on the justifying role of perception only by virtue of their impact on its representational content. Epistemic level-bridging principles provide a principled rationale for avoiding more radically externalist theories of perceptual justification.
In his book, On Reflection, Hilary Kornblith criticizes what he regards as a chronic tendency in philosophy towards inflating the significance of reflection in ways that manifest a combination of philosophical naiveté and scientific ignorance about how reflection actually works. In these comments, I respond to Kornblith's challenge by sketching an account of the philosophical significance of reflection in the theory of epistemic justification.
In his provocative and engaging new book, Perplexities of Consciousness, Eric Schwitzgebel makes a compelling case that introspection is unreliable in the sense that we are prone to ignorance and error in making introspective judgments about our own conscious experience. My aim in this commentary is to argue that Schwitzgebel’s thesis about the unreliability of introspection does not have the damaging implications that he claims it does for the prospects of a broadly Cartesian approach to epistemology.
This chapter is organized around four central questions about the role of reasons in the epistemology of perception. The 'whether?' question: does perception provide us with reasons for belief about the external world? The 'how?' question: how does perception provide us with reasons for belief about the external world? The 'when?' question: when does perception provide us with reasons for belief about the external world? The 'what?' question: what are the reasons that perception provides us with for belief about the (...) external world? (shrink)
This chapter has two goals: to motivate the foundationalist solution to the regress problem and to defend it against arguments from Sellars, BonJour and Klein. Both the motivation and the defence of foundationalism raise larger questions about the relationship between foundationalism and access internalism. I argue that foundationalism is not in conflict with access internalism, despite influential arguments to the contrary, and that access internalism in fact supplies a theoretical motivation for foundationalism. I conclude that foundationalism and access internalism form (...) a coherent and well-motivated package. (shrink)
How is moral knowledge possible? This paper defends the anti-Humean thesis that we can acquire moral knowledge by deduction from wholly non-moral premises. According to Hume’s Law, as it has become known, we cannot deduce an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’, since it is “altogether inconceivable how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it” (Hume, 1739, 3.1.1). This paper explores the prospects for a deductive theory of moral knowledge that rejects Hume’s Law.
In The Epistemic Role of Consciousness, I argue that phenomenal consciousness plays an indispensable role in explaining our knowledge and justified beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Without phenomenal consciousness, we cannot know anything at all. The book develops a systematic theory of epistemic justification that applies to knowledge of every kind. In this brief summary, however, I will focus on the epistemology of perception, since that is the main topic addressed by the commentators in this book symposium.