Working from a naïve-realist perspective, I examine first-person knowledge of one's perceptual experience. I outline a naive-realist theory of how subjects acquire knowledge of the nature of their experiences, and I argue that naive realism is compatible with moderate, substantial forms of first-person privilegedaccess. A more general moral of my paper is that treating “success” states like seeing as genuine mental states does not break up the dynamics that many philosophers expect from the phenomenon of knowledge of (...) the mind. (shrink)
The purpose of this essay is to account for privilegedaccess or, more precisely, the special kind of epistemic right that we have to some beliefs about our own mental states. My account will have the following two main virtues. First of all, it will only appeal to those conceptual elements that, arguably, we already use in order to account for perceptual knowledge. Secondly, it will constitute a naturalizing account of privilegedaccess in that it does (...) not posit any mysterious faculty of introspection or "inner perception" mechanism. (shrink)
I look at incompatibilist arguments aimed at showing that the conjunction of the thesis that a subject has privileged, a priori access to the contents of her own thoughts, on the one hand, and of semantic externalism, on the other, lead to a putatively absurd conclusion, namely, a priori knowledge of the external world. I focus on arguments involving a variety of externalism resulting from the singularity or object-dependence of certain terms such as the demonstrative ‘that’. McKinsey argues (...) that incompatibilist arguments employing such externalist theses are at their strongest, and conclusively show that privilegedaccess must be rejected. While I agree on the truth of the relevant externalist theses, I show that all plausible versions of the incompatibilist reductio argument as applied to such theses are fundamentally flawed, for these versions of the argument must make assumptions that lead to putatively absurd knowledge of the external world independently of the thesis of privilegedaccess. (shrink)
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)
Aaron Zimmerman has recently raised an interesting objection to an account of self-knowledge I have offered. The objection has the form of a dilemma: either it is possible for us to be entitled to beliefs which we do not form, or it is not. If it is, the conditions for introspective justification within the model I advocate are insufficient. If not, they are otiose. I challenge Zimmerman's defence of the first horn of the dilemma.
In this paper, I defend McKinsey's argument (Analysis 1991) that Burge's antiindividualist position is incompatible with privilegedaccess, viz. the claim that each subject can know his own thought contents just by reflection and without having undertaken an empirical investigation. I argue that Burge thinks that there are certain necessary conditions for a subject to have thoughts involving certain sorts of concepts; these conditions are appropriately different for thoughts involving natural kind concepts and thoughts involving non-natural kind concepts. (...) I use Burge's commitment to these entailments to show that his antiindividualist position is incompatible with privilegedaccess. (shrink)
By exploiting a concept called ways of believing, I offer a plausible reformulation of the doctrine of privilegedaccess. This reformulation will provide us with a defense of compatibilism, the view that content externalism and privilegedaccess are compatible.
Boghossian has argued that Putnam's externalism is incompatible with privilegedaccess, i.e., the claim that a subject can have nonempirical knowledge of her thought contents ('What the externalist can know a priori', PAS 1997). Boghossian's argument assumes that Oscar can know a priori that (1) 'water' aims to name a natural kind; and (2) 'water' expresses an atomic concept. However, I show that if Burge's externalism is correct, then these assumptions may well be false. This leaves Boghossian with (...) two options: (a) (heroically) to show that Burge's externalism is false; or (b) to reformulate the argument such that it does not require the two assumptions in question. I suggest one way of reformulating the argument. (shrink)
Many philosophers accept a “privilegedaccess” thesis concerning our own present mental states and mental events. According to these philosophers, if I am in mental state (or undergoing mental event) M, then – at least in many cases – I have privilegedaccess to the fact that I am in (or undergoing) M. For instance, if I now believe that my cat is sitting on my lap, then (in normal circumstances) I have privilegedaccess (...) to the fact that I now believe that my cat is sitting on my lap. Similarly, if I now imagine a parade coming down Main Street, then (again, in normal circumstances) I have privilegedaccess to the fact that I am now imagining a parade coming down Main Street. And again, if it now visually appears to me as if there is a cloud in the sky, then (again, in normal circumstances) I have privilegedaccess to the fact that it now visually appears to me as if there is a cloud in the sky. In each of these aforementioned cases, if circumstances are normal, then, these philosophers say, I have a distinctive kind of privileged epistemic access to facts about my own mental states or events. Of course, I don’t have privileged epistemic access to all facts about my own mental states or events. For instance, I don’t have privileged epistemic access to facts about which unconscious mental states or events I have. But I do have privileged epistemic access to many facts about my own mental states or events, and in particular to the various facts listed above. (shrink)
That everyone has some privilegedaccess to some information is trivially true. The doctrine of privilegedaccess is that I am the authority on all of my own experiences. Possibly this thesis was attacked by Wittgenstein (the thesis on the non?existence of private languages). The thesis was refuted by Freud (I know your dreams better than you), Duhem (I know your methods of scientific discovery better than you), Malinowski (I know your customs and habits better than (...) you), and perception theorists (I can make you see things which are not there and describe your perceptions better than you can). The significance of this rejected thesis is that it is the basis of sensationalism and thus of all inductivist and some conventionalist philosophy. (shrink)
Reliabilism is invoked by a standard causal response to the slow switching argument for incompatibilism about mental content externalism and privilegedaccess. Though the response in question is negative, in that it only establishes that, given such an epistemology, externalism does not rule privilegedaccess out, the appeal to reliabilism involves an assumption about the reliability of introspection, an assumption that in turn grounds a simple argument for the positive conclusion that reliabilism itself implies privileged (...)access. This paper offers a two-part defense of that conclusion: the reliabilist account of privilegedaccess is defended both againstarguments in favor of the rival content inheritance strategy and against an argument turning on empirical considerations concerning the individuation of the belief-producing process of introspection. (shrink)
The content of the externalist thesis about the mind depends crucially on how we define the distinction between the internal and the external. According to the usual understanding, the boundary between the internal and the external is the skull or the skin of the subject. In this paper I argue that the usual understanding is inadequate, and that only the new understanding of the external/internal distinction I suggest helps us to understand the issue of the compatibility of externalism and (...) class='Hi'>privilegedaccess. (shrink)
The question of whether externalism about mental content is compatible with privilegedaccess is a question of ongoing concern within philosophy of mind. Some philosophers think that Tyler Burge's early work on what he calls "basic self-knowledge" shows that externalism and privilegedaccess are compatible. I critically assess this claim, arguing that Burge's work does not establish the compatbility thesis.
McKinsey-style incompatibilist arguments attempt to show that the thesis that subjects have privileged, a priori access to the contents of their thoughts is incompatible with semantic externalism. This incompatibility follows – it is urged – from the fact that these theses jointly entail an absurd conclusion, namely, the possibility of a priori knowledge of the world. In a recent paper I argued that a large and important class of such arguments exemplifies a dialectical failure: if they are valid, (...) the putatively absurd conclusion can be generated without the privilegedaccess premise. Michael McKinsey has responded by arguing that the semantic externalist should adopt a neutral free logic invalidating a principle that my argument essentially relies on. I will say why the semantic commitments of the externalist are in tension with free logic, thereby vindicating my original argument. (shrink)
Externalists about mental content are supposed to face the following dilemma. Either they must give up the claim that we have privilegedaccess to our own mental states or they must allow that we have privilegedaccess to the world. The dilemma is posed in its most precise form through the McKinsey-Brown argument (McKinsey 1991; Brown 1995). Over the years since it was ?rst published in 1991, our understanding of the precise character of the premisses which (...) constitute the argument has been re?ned. It is based on three claims (where A partially serves to characterise the content of some belief state for which Externalism is true and E is some proposition about the external world). (shrink)
According to one of the most influential views in the philosophy of self-knowledge each person enjoys some special cognitive access to his or her own current mental states and episodes. This view faces two fundamental tasks. First, it must elucidate the general conceptual structure of apparent asymmetries between beliefs about one’s own mind and beliefs about other minds. Second, it must demarcate the mental territory for which first-person-special-access claims can plausibly be maintained. Traditional candidates include sensations, experiences (of (...) various kinds), thoughts, beliefs, desires, and also affective states such as emotions. I reconstruct five prominent privilegedaccess claims that have traditionally been maintained for emotions and discuss logical relations among them. I then argue that none of these claims stands up to scrutiny. The truth is that we often suffer from affective ignorance, and that third-person ascriptions of emotional states should often be credited with more rather than less authority than corresponding self-ascriptions. I conclude by considering, and rejecting, five potential objections to my argument. (shrink)
This paper defends the view that a belief to the effect that the believer is currently in some conscious state is "self-Warranted," in the sense that what warrants it is simply its being a belief of that sort. This position is compared with other views as to the epistemic status of such beliefs--That they are warranted by their truth and that they are warranted by an immediate awareness of their object. In the course of the discussion, Various modes of immediate (...) justification and various types of "epistemic immunities" are distinguished. It is contended that principles of justification are to be evaluated in terms of whether the beliefs they approve are likely to be correct. (shrink)
In Boghossian's 1997 paper, 'Analyticity' he presented an account of a prioriknowledge of basic logical principles as available by inference from knowledge of their role in determining the meaning of the logical constants by implicit definitiontogether with knowledge of the meanings so-determined that we possess through ourprivileged access to meaning. Some commentators (e.g. BonJour (1998), Glüer (2003),Jenkins (2008)) have objected that if the thesis of implicit definition on which he relieswere true, knowledge of the meaning of the constants would (...) presuppose knowledge of the very logical principles knowledge of which the account purports to explain. Aconsequence would seem to be that implicit definition is incompatible with privilegedaccess. I argue that whilst it is possible for Boghossian to defend against theseobjections the form of argument he proposes does exhibit a subtle form of questionbegging such that it exhibits a transmission of warrant-failure. (shrink)
Most content externalists concede that even if externalism is compatible with the thesis that one has authoritative self-knowledge of thought contents, it is incompatible with the stronger claim that one is always able to tell by introspection whether two of one’s thought tokens have the same, or different, content. If one lacks such authoritative discriminative self-knowledge of thought contents, it would seem that brute logical error – non-culpable logical error – is possible. Some philosophers, such as Paul Boghossian, have argued (...) that this would present a big problem for externalism, forcing the externalist to overhaul our norms of rationality. I consider several externalist strategies to block this possibly unhappy epistemological consequence, but I argue that they all fail. (shrink)