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When people avow their present feelings, sensations, thoughts, etc., they enjoy what may be called "first-person privilege." If I now said: "I have a headache," or "I'm thinking about Venice," I would be taken at my word: I would normally not be challenged. According to one prominent approach, this privilege is due to a special epistemic access we have to our own present states of mind. On an alternative, deflationary approach the privilege merely reflects a socio-linguistic convention governing avowals. We (...) reject both approaches. On our proposed account, a full explanation of the privilege must recognize avowals as expressive performances, which can be taken to reveal directly the subject's present mental condition. We are able to improve on special access accounts and deflationary accounts, as well as familiar expressive accounts, by explaining both the asymmetries and the continuities between avowals and other pronouncements, and by locating a genuine though non-epistemic source for first-person privilege. (shrink)
In my essay I contend that the three main avenues by which one might plausibly account for one's self-awareness are unavailable to an individual who is restricted to the skeptic's epistemic ground rules. First, all-encompassing doubt about the world cancels our "external" epistemic access via perception to ourselves as material individuals in the world. Second, one does not have direct cpistemic access to one's substantial self through introspection, since the self as such is not a proper object of inner awareness. (...) Third, we cannot claim, as Descartes did, that we have indirect epistemic access to the substantial self by inference from the occurrence of experiences.The summary conclusion for which I argue is that, if we are to account for our self-knowledge, we cannot adopt the purely subjective epistemological stance that is at the heart of global skepticism. (shrink)
Over three decades ago, in a brief but provocative essay, Paul Ziff argued for the thesis that robots cannot have feelings because they are "mechanisms, not organisms, not living creatures. There could be a broken-down robot but not a dead one. Only living creatures can literally have feelings."[i] Since machines are not living things they cannot have feelings.
One of the goals of physiologists who study the detailed physical, chemical,and neurological mechanisms operating within the human body is to understand the intricate causal processes which underlie human abilities and activities. It is doubtless premature to predict that they will eventually be able to explain the behaviour of a particular human being as we might now explain the behaviour of a pendulum clock or even the invisible changes occurring within the hardware of a modern electronic computer. Nonetheless, it seems (...) fair to say that hovering in the background of investigations into human physiology is the promise or threat, depending upon how one looks at the matter that human beings are complete physical-chemical systems and that all events taking place within their bodies and all movements of their bodies could be accounted for by physical causes if we but knew enough. I am not concerned at the moment with whether or not this ’mechanistic’ hypothesis is true, assuming that it is clear enough to be intelligible, nor with whether or not we could ever know that it is true. I wish to consider the somewhat more accessible yet equally important question whether our coming to believe that the hypothesis is true would warrant our relinquishing our conception of ourselves as beings who are capable of acting for reasons to achieve ends of our own choosing. I use the word ’warrant’ to indicate that I will not be discussing the possibility that believing the mechanistic hypothesis might lead us, as a matter of psychological fact, to think of human beings as mere automata, as objects whose movements are to be explained only by causes rather than by reasons, as are the actions of a personal subject. I intend to consider only whether the acceptance of mechanism would in fact justify such a change in conception. (shrink)
The idea that we may continue to exist in a bodiless condition after our death has long played an important role in beliefs about immortality, ultimate rewards and punishments, the transmigration of souls, and the like. There has also been long and heated disagreement about whether the idea of disembodied existence even makes sense, let alone whether anybody can or does survive dissolution of his material form. It may seem doubtful that anything new could be added to the debate at (...) this late date, but I hope to show that this is not so. I will explore the problem of disembodiment from a somewhat different direction than has been tried before, one that leads to what seem to me more interesting and more definite conclusions about its unintelligibility. Furthermore, the approach I will be taking puts both the traditional mind-body problem and the competing claims of dualism and physicalism in a fresh light that can help us to understand better the nature of our embodied existence. (shrink)
[p. 259] After establishing his own existence by the Cogito argument, Descartes inquires into the nature of the self that he claims to know with certainty to exist. He concludes that he is a res cogitans, an unextended entity whose essence is to be conscious. Although a considerable amount of critical effort has been expended in attempts to show how he thought he could move to this important conclusion, his reasoning has remained quite unconvincing. In particular, his critics have insisted, (...) and I think quite rightly, that his claim to be "entirely and absolutely distinct"[i] from his body is not justified by the reasoning which he offers in its support.[ii] Nevertheless, I also believe that the proffered criticisms of Descartes. (shrink)