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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
It's generally agreed that, for a certain a class of cases, a rational subject cannot be wrong in treating two elements of thought as co-referential. Even anti-individualists like Tyler Burge agree that empirical error is impossible in such cases. I argue that this immunity to empirical error is illusory and sketch a new anti-individualist approach to concepts that doesn't require such immunity.
This paper argues for externalism about justification on the basis of thought experiments. I present cases in which two individuals are intrinsically and introspectively indistinguishable and in which intuitively, one is justified in believing that p while the other is not. I also examine an argument for internalism based on the ideas that we have privilegedaccess to whether or not our own beliefs are justified and that only internalism is compatible with this privilege. I isolate what I (...) take to be the most plausible form of privilegedaccess to justification and show that it is compatible with externalism. (shrink)
This essay motivates a revised version of the epistemic condition of safety and then employs the revision to (i) challenge the traditional conceptions of apriority, (ii) refute 'strong privilegedaccess', and (iii) resolve a well-known puzzle about externalism and self-knowledge.
Here are some things that I know right now: that I’m feeling a bit hungry, that there’s a red cardinal on my bird feeder, that I’m sitting down, that I have a lot of grading to do today, that my daughter is mad at me, that I’ll be going for a run soon, that I’d like to go out to the movies tonight. As orthodoxy would have it, some among these represent things to which I have privileged epistemic (...) class='Hi'>access, namely: my present states of mind. I normally know these states directly, immediately, non-inferentially – I know them the way no one else can know them, and in a way I know nothing else. It’s the job of philosophers to tell us scope and source of this selfknowledge and to explain what renders it privileged. (shrink)
Here are some things that I know right now: that I’m feeling a bit hungry, that there’s a red cardinal on my bird feeder, that I’m sitting down, that I have a lot of grading to do today, that my daughter is mad at me, that I’ll be going for a run soon, that I’d like to go out to the movies tonight. As orthodoxy would have it, some among these represent things to which I have privileged epistemic (...) class='Hi'>access, namely: my present states of mind . I normally know these states directly, immediately, non-inferentially – I know them the way no one else can know them, and in a way I know nothing else. It’s the job of philosophers to tell us what the scope and source of this self-knowledge and to explain what renders it privileged. (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)
Should those who work on ethics welcome or resist moves to open access publishing? This paper analyses arguments in favour and against the increasing requirement for open access publishing and considers their implications for bioethics research. In the context of biomedical science, major funders are increasingly mandating open access as a condition of funding and such moves are also common in other disciplines. Whilst there has been some debate about the implications of open-access for the social (...) sciences and humanities, there has been little if any discussion about the implications of open access for ethics. This is surprising given both the central role of public reason and critique in ethics and the fact that many of the arguments made for and against open access have been couched in moral terms. In what follows I argue that those who work in ethics have a strong interest in supporting moves towards more open publishing approaches which have the potential both to inform and promote richer and more diverse forms of public deliberation and to be enriched by them. The importance of public deliberation in practical and applied ethics suggests that ethicists have a particular interest in the promotion of diverse and experimental forms of publication and debate and in supporting new, more creative and more participatory approaches to publication. (shrink)
* Argument from authoritative self-knowledge ("privilegedaccess" to one's own mental states) 1. We have a "privilegedaccess" to our own mental states in the sense we have the authority on what mental states we are in. 2. Through introspection, we are aware of our mental states but not aware of them as physical states of any sort or as functional states. 3. Therefore, our mental states cannot be physical states.
Introduction -- Phenomenal consciousness -- Phenomenal consciousness and self-representation -- The connection between phenomenal consciousness and creature consciousness -- Consciousness of things -- Real world puzzle cases -- Why consciousness cannot be physical and why it must be -- What is the thesis of physicalism? -- Why consciousness cannot be physical -- Why consciousness must be physical -- Physicalism and the appeal to phenomenal concepts -- Some terminological points -- Why physicalists appeal to phenomenal concepts -- Various accounts of phenomenal (...) concepts -- My own earlier view on phenomenal concepts -- Are there any phenomenal concepts? -- Phenomenal concepts and burgean intuitions -- Consequences for a priori physicalism -- The admissible contents of visual experience : the existential thesis -- The singular (when filled) thesis -- Kaplanianism -- The multiple contents thesis -- The existential thesis revisited -- Still more on existential contents -- Consciousness, seeing and knowing -- Knowing things and knowing facts -- Nonconceptual content -- Why the phenomenal character of an experience is not one of its nonrepresentational properties -- Phenomenal character and representational content, part I -- Phenomenal character and representational content, part II -- Phenomenal character and our knowledge of it -- Solving the puzzles -- Mary, Mary, how does your knowledge grow? -- The explanatory gap -- The hard problem -- The possibility of zombies -- Change blindness and the refrigerator light illusion -- A closer look at the change blindness hypotheses -- The no-seeum view -- Sperling and the refrigerator light -- Phenomenology and cognitive accessibility -- A further change blindness experiment -- Another brick in the wall -- Privilegedaccess, phenomenal character, and externalism -- The threat to privilegedaccess -- A Burgean thought experiment -- Social externalism for phenomenal character? -- A closer look at privilegedaccess and incorrigibility -- How do I know that I am not a zombie? -- Phenomenal externalism. (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 privilegedaccess 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 privilegedaccess 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)
Vendler, Res Cogitans Knowing that one wants to go to the movies is an example of self-knowledge, knowledge of one’s mental states. It may be foolish to ask the man on the Clapham Omnibus how he knows what he wants, but the question is nonetheless important — albeit neglected by epistemologists. This paper attempts an answer. Before getting to that, the familiar claim that we enjoy “privilegedaccess” to our mental states needs untwining (section 1). A sketch of (...) a theory of knowledge of one’s beliefs that has received some attention in the recent literature (section 2), and the case for extending that account to self-knowledge in general (section 3), sets the stage for our answer to the main question (section 4). (shrink)
How should we think about the role of visual spatial awareness in perception and perceptual knowledge? A common view, which finds a characteristic expression in Kant but has an intellectual heritage reaching back farther than that, is that an account of spatial awareness is fundamental to a theory of experience because spatiality is the defining characteristic of “outer sense”, of our perceptual awareness of how things are in the parts of the world that surround us. A natural counterpart to this (...) idea is to treat self-consciousness as residing in a kind of sense that is fundamentally “inner”, such as introspection or whatever else gives one privilegedaccess to his own mental states as well as the proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness of bodily position. This division is compatible, of course, with the idea that inner sense provides an awareness of a distinctive kind of “body space”, but it treats that as importantly different from the awareness of the worldly space around one. -/- In contrast to such a picture, this dissertation proposes an account of visual spatial awareness according to which it is no less a source of self-consciousness than of the awareness of the objects around us, and an account of self-awareness in which visual experience is essentially implicated. I begin by arguing that we should think of visual spatial awareness not as necessary for the individuation of visual sensations but rather as an essential element in the awareness of an experientially objective world. In the subsequent chapters, I argue that in being visually aware of the egocentric positions of the worldly objects around us we are often aware also of our own spatial locations with respect to them, and that the visual experience of the world around one and one’s own situation in it is often an essential component in the knowledge that a human agent will have of his own intentional actions. (shrink)
Suppose there is a red ball against a uniformly gray background moving toward my left. I am seeing the moving red ball. I am having a visual experience that carries the information (among other things) that [the ball] is red.1 Now supposing that I have the concepts RED and SEEING, and all my other cognitive (including introspective) mechanisms are intact and working normally, the job is to say exactly how I do come to know that I am seeing [the ball] (...) as red. How do I come to know, as I shall sometimes put it, that I am seeing red? (shrink)
It is widely believed that Twin-Earth-style thought experiments show that the contents of a person's thoughts fail to supervene on her intrinsic properties. Several recent philosophers have made the further claim that Twin-Earth-style thought experiments produce metaphysically necessary conditions for the possession of certain concepts. I argue that the latter view is false, and produce counterexamples to several proposed conditions. My thesis is of particular interest because it undermines some attempts to show that externalism is incompatible with privileged (...) class='Hi'>access. (shrink)
Incompatibilism is the view that privileged knowledge of our own mental states cannot be reconciled with externalism regarding the content of mental states. Davidson has recently developed two arguments that are supposed to disprove incompatibilism and establish the consistency of privilegedaccess and externalism. One argument criticizes incompatibilism for assuming that externalism conflicts with the mind?body identity theory. Since mental states supervene on neurological events, Davidson argues, they are partly ?in the head? and are knowable just by (...) reflection. Another argument rejects incompatibilism by repudiating the object perception model of introspection. Once extemalism is freed from the internalist idea that thoughts take objects which are inner epistemological intermediaries, Davidson maintains, it poses no threat to privileged self?knowledge. It is argued that neither of these arguments is successful, since both disprove assumptions irrelevant to incompatibilism. Moreover, it is indicated how Davidson would have to go about defending his positive account of privileged self?knowledge against the principal incompatibilist arguments. (shrink)
The strategy of this paper is to throw light on rational cognition and epistemic justification by examining irrationality. Epistemic irrationality is possible because we are reflexive cognizers, able to reason about and redirect some aspects of our own cognition. One consequence of this is that one cannot give a theory of epistemic rationality or epistemic justification without simultaneously giving a theory of practical rationality. A further consequence is that practical irrationality can affect our epistemic cognition. I argue that practical irrationality (...) derives from a general difficulty we have in overriding built-in shortcut modules aimed at making cognition more efficient, and all epistemic irrationality can be traced to this same source. A consequence of this account is that a theory of rationality is a descriptive theory, describing contingent features of a cognitive architecture, and it forms the core of a general theory of “voluntary” cognition — those aspects of cognition that are under voluntary control. It also follows that most of the so-called “rules for rationality” that philosophers have proposed are really just rules describing default (non- reflexive) cognition. It can be perfectly rational for a reflexive cognizer to break these rules. The “normativity” of rationality is a reflection of a built-in feature of reflexive cognition — when we detect violations of rationality, we have a tendency to desire to correct them. This is just another part of the descriptive theory of rationality. Although theories of rationality are descriptive, the structure of reflexive cognition gives philosophers, as human cognizers, privilegedaccess to certain aspects of rational cognition. Philosophical theories of rationality are really scientific theories, based on inference to the best explanation, that take contingent introspective data as the evidence to be explained. (shrink)
Wittgenstein demystified the notion of 'observational self-knowledge'. He dislodged the long-standing conception that we have privilegedaccess to our impressions, sensations and feelings through introspection, and more precisely eliminated knowing as the kind of awareness that normally characterizes our first-person present-tense psychological statements. He was not thereby questioning our awareness of our emotions or sensations, but debunking the notion that we come to that awareness via any epistemic route. This makes the spontaneous linguistic articulation of our sensations and (...) impressions nondescriptive. Not descriptions, but expressions that seem more akin to behaviour than to language. I suggest that Wittgenstein uncovered a new species of speech acts. Far from the prearranged consecration of words into performatives, utterances are deeds through their very spontaneity. This gives language a new aura: the aura of the reflex action. I argue, against Peter Hacker, that spontaneous utterances have the categorial status of deeds. This has no reductive consequences in that I do not suggest that one category is reduced to another, but that the boundary between them is porous. This explodes the myth of an explanatory gap between the traditionally distinct categories of saying (or thinking) and doing, or of mind and body. (shrink)
1. First person authority: the received explanation Over a wide range of psychological attributes, a mature speaker seems to enjoy a defeasible form of authority on how things are with him. The received explanation of this is epistemic, and rests upon a cognitive assumption. The speaker’s word is a authoritative because when things are thus-and-so with him, then normally he knows that they are. This is held to be because the speaker has direct and privilegedaccess to the (...) contents of his consciousness by means of introspection, conceived as a faculty of inner sense. Like perceptual knowledge, introspective knowledge is held to be direct and non-evidential. Accordingly, the first-person utterances ‘I have a pain’, ‘I believe that p’, ‘I intend to V’ are taken to be descriptions of what is evident to inner sense. Many classical thinkers held such subjective knowledge to be not only immediate, but also infallible and indubitable. The challenge to the received conceptions came from Wittgenstein. He denied the cognitive assumption, arguing that it cannot be said of me at all (except perhaps as a joke) that I know that I am in pain. For what is that supposed to mean — except perhaps that I am in pain?1 If it makes no sense to say that one knows that one is in pain, then the epistemic explanation is a non-starter, since it explains the special authoritative status of a person’s avowal of pain by reference to the putative fact that the subject of pain knows, normally knows, or cannot but know, that he is in pain when he is. It is important to note that Wittgenstein did not mechanically generalize the case of pain across the whole domain of firstperson utterances. The case of pain constitutes only one pole of a range of such utterances. Avowals and averrals of belief and intention approximate the other pole, and require independent analysis and grammatical description. (shrink)
We often form beliefs about our own mental states. I believe that I have political beliefs of a certain kind. Perhaps you believe that you want to eat fish for lunch. Most of us have believed, at some moment or other, that we were in love. Let us call beliefs of this kind ‘self-ascriptions’ of mental states. Self- ascriptions normally enjoy a special kind of epistemic justification when the self-ascribed mental state is of a certain type, such as a belief (...) or a desire. Our justification for self-ascriptions of those mental stases seems to be, in some way, privileged or authoritative. In the philosophical literature, this idea is often expressed by saying that we have privilegedaccess to our own mental states, or that our self-ascriptions constitute self-knowledge. The goal of this discussion will be to account for that fact. I will concentrate on privilegedaccess to our own desires.[ii]. (shrink)
‘[I]ntrospection’ is just a convenient word to describe our way of knowing what is going on in our own mind, and anyone convinced that we know—at least sometimes—what is going on in our own mind and therefore, that we have a mind and, therefore, that we are not zombies, must believe that introspection is the answer we are looking for. I, too, believe in introspection.
This paper explores the phenomenon of meta-emotions. Meta-emotions are emotions people have about their own emotions. We analyze the intentional structure of meta-emotions and show how psychological findings support our account. Acknowledgement of meta-emotions can elucidate a number of important issues in the philosophy of mind and, more specifically, the philosophy and psychology of emotions. Among them are (allegedly) ambivalent or paradoxical emotions, emotional communication, emotional self-regulation, privilegedaccess failure for repressed emotions, and survivor guilt.
I offer a model of self-knowledge that provides a solution to Moore’s paradox. First, I distinguish two versions of the paradox and I discuss two approaches to it, neither of which solves both versions of the paradox. Next, I propose a model of self-knowledge according to which, when I have a certain belief, I form the higher-order belief that I have it on the basis of the very evidence that grounds my first-order belief. Then, I argue that the model in (...) question can account for both versions of Moore’s paradox. Moore’s paradox, I conclude, tells us something about our conceptions of rationality and self-knowledge. For it teaches us that we take it to be constitutive of being rational that one can have privilegedaccess to one’s own mind and it reveals that having privilegedaccess to one’s own mind is a matter of forming first-order beliefs and corresponding second-order beliefs on the same basis. (shrink)
Externalism holds that the individuation of mental content depends on factors external to the subject. This doctrine appears to undermine both the claim that there is a priori self-knowledge, and the view that individuals have privilegedaccess to their thoughts. Tyler Burge’s inﬂuential inclusion theory of self-knowledge purports to reconcile externalism with authoritative self-knowledge. I ﬁrst consider Paul Boghossian’s claim that the inclusion theory is internally inconsistent. I reject one line of response to this charge, but I endorse (...) another. I next suggest, however, that the inclusion theory has little explanatory value. (shrink)
Events are the instantiations of properties in substances at times. A full history of the world must include, as well as physical events, mental events (ones to which the substance involved has privilegedaccess) and mental substances (ones to the existence of which the substance has privilegedaccess), and, among the latter, pure mental substances (ones which do not include a physical substance as an essential part). Humans are pure mental substances. An argument for this is (...) that it seems conceivable that I could exist without my body. An objection to this argument is that ’I’ refers to my body, and so what seems conceivable is not metaphysically possible. My response to this objection is that ’I’ is an informative designator and so necessarily we know to what it refers, and it does not refer to my body. (shrink)
In my 1991 paper, AAnti-Individualism and PrivilegedAccess,@ I argued that externalism in the philosophy of mind is incompatible with the thesis that we have privileged , nonempirical access to the contents of our own thoughts.1 One of the most interesting responses to my argument has been that of Martin Davies (1998, 2000, and Chapter _ above) and Crispin Wright (2000 and Chapter _ above), who describe several types of cases to show that warrant for a (...) premise does not always transmit to a known deductive consequence of that premise, and who contend that this fact under-mines my argument for incompatibilism. I will try to show here that the Davies/Wright point about transmission of warrant does not adversely affect my argument. (shrink)
During the last decade Jessica Brown has been one of the main participants in the on-going debate over the compatibility of anti-individualism and self-knowledge. It is therefore of great interest that she is now publishing a book examining the various epistemological consequences of anti-individualism. The book is divided into three sections. The first discusses the question of whether a subject can have privilegedaccess to her own thoughts, even if the content of her thoughts is construed anti-individualistically. This (...) section contains a detailed and useful discussion not only of how we are to understand privilegedaccess, but also of epistemological issues of more general import, such as the connection between knowledge and reliability. The second section focuses on various aspects of the problem of anti-individualism and reasoning, including an extensive discussion of the relation between anti-individualism and a Fregean account of content. The final section discusses the so-called reductio argument against compatibilism (i.e. the view that anti-individualism is compatible with a priori knowledge of one’s own thoughts), according to which compatibilism implies that we can have a priori knowledge of certain facts about the world that, intuitively, are not knowable that way. The book is very clearly written and structured. Readers unfamiliar with the debate will get a good sense of its broad contours and the various positions taken. Brown starts out by distinguishing different forms of anti-individualism. This is very helpful since it is quite clear that the term has come to be rather carelessly used, as if it referred to one particular thesis, whereas in fact a number of loosely related positions are labeled ‘antiindividualist’. At the outset she distinguishes three familiar anti-individualist theses: natural kind anti-individualism, social anti-individualism, and singular anti-individualism. These.. (shrink)
In their joint paper entitled The Replication of the Hard Problem of Consciousness in AI and BIO-AI (Boltuc et al. Replication of the hard problem of conscious in AI and Bio- AI: An early conceptual framework 2008), Nicholas and Piotr Boltuc suggest that machines could be equipped with phenomenal consciousness, which is subjective consciousness that satisfies Chalmer’s hard problem (We will abbreviate the hard problem of consciousness as H-consciousness ). The claim is that if we knew the inner workings of (...) phenomenal consciousness and could understand its’ precise operation, we could instantiate such consciousness in a machine. This claim, called the extra-strong AI thesis, is an important claim because if true it would demystify the privilegedaccess problem of first-person consciousness and cast it as an empirical problem of science and not a fundamental question of philosophy. A core assumption of the extra-strong AI thesis is that there is no logical argument that precludes the implementation of H-consciousness in an organic or in-organic machine provided we understand its algorithm. Another way of framing this conclusion is that there is nothing special about H-consciousness as compared to any other process. That is, in the same way that we do not preclude a machine from implementing photosynthesis, we also do not preclude a machine from implementing H-consciousness. While one may be more difficult in practice, it is a problem of science and engineering, and no longer a philosophical question. I propose that Boltuc’s conclusion, while plausible and convincing, comes at a very high price; the argument given for his conclusion does not exclude any conceivable process from machine implementation. In short, if we make some assumptions about the equivalence of a rough notion of algorithm and then tie this to human understanding, all logical preconditions vanish and the argument grants that any process can be implemented in a machine. The purpose of this paper is to comment on the argument for his conclusion and offer additional properties of H-consciousness that can be used to make the conclusion falsifiable through scientific investigation rather than relying on the limits of human understanding. (shrink)
Skeptical theses in general claim that we cannot know what we think we know. Content skepticism in particular claims that we cannot know the contents of our own occurrent thoughtsat least not in the way we think we can. I argue that an externalist account of content does engender a mild form of content skepticism but that the condition is no real cause for concern. Content externalism forces us to reevaluate some of our assumptions about introspective knowledge, but it is (...) compatible with privilegedaccess and the distinctive epistemic character of introspective judgments. (shrink)
I consider whether one particular anti-individualist claim, the doctrine of object-dependent thoughts (DODT), is compatible with the Principle of PrivilegedAccess, or PPA, which states that, in general, a subject can have non-empirical knowledge of her thought contents. The standard defence of the compatibility of anti-individualism and PPA emphasises the reliability of the process which produces a subject's second order beliefs about her thought contents. I examine whether this defence can be applied to DODT, given that DODT generates (...) the possibility of illusions of thought. Drawing on general epistemological literature, I distinguish several senses of reliability, and argue that in the relevant sense-'global reliability'-DODT does sometimes threaten reliability and hence PPA. (shrink)
Do we have privilegedaccess to what we’re intentionally doing? Well, that probably depends on what privilegedaccess is. One way to think about privilegedaccess is to try to identify a true formal principle. One thing you’ll need to do when identifying the formal principle is to specify the relevant range of propositions to which you have privilegedaccess. These ranges are usually specified by subject matter: propositions about your own current, (...) conscious propositional attitudes, propositions about your own sensations, or perhaps, propositions about what you’re currently, intentionally doing. In addition to specifying a range, you need to decide which way the arrow goes. Many formal principles are modeled on one of the following ... (shrink)
The Content Sceptic argues that a subject could not have introspective knowledge of a thought whose content is individuated widely. This claim is incorrect, relying on the tacit assumption that introspective knowledge differs significantly from other species of knowledge. The paper proposes a reliabilist model for understanding introspective knowledge according to which introspective knowledge is simply another species of knowledge, and according to which claims to introspective knowledge are not, as suggested by the Content Sceptic, defeated by the mere possibility (...) of error. This way of understanding introspective knowledge affords a robust theory of privilegedaccess consistent with semantic externalism. (shrink)
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)
He then argues that (1), (2) and (3) constitute an inconsistent triad as follows (1991, p. 15): Suppose (1) that Oscar knows a priori that he is thinking that water is wet. Then by (2), Oscar can simply deduce E, using premisses that are knowable a priori, including the premiss that he is thinking that water is wet. Since Oscar can deduce E from premisses that are knowable a priori, Oscar can know E itself a priori. But this contradicts (3), (...) the assumption that E cannot be known a priori. Hence (1), (2), and (3) are inconsistent. McKinsey’s conclusion is that ‘anti-individualism is inconsistent with privilegedaccess’ (ibid.). (shrink)
In _Insensitive Semantics_, Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore (C&L) defend Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism. Semantic Minimalism concerns the effect of utterance context on _semantic_ content. It holds, in contrast to the views of a wide variety of linguists and philosophers of language, that this effect is limited to fixing the semantic value of the small number of expressions they argue are genuinely context- sensitive: uncontroversial indexicals, demonstratives, tense markers, and perhaps a few others. What’s more, according to C&L, (...) once this context-sensitivity has been accounted for, a (disambiguated) sentence expresses a truth-evaluable proposition. Speech Act Pluralism concerns _speech act_ content: what a speaker says (asserts, claims, etc.) by a particular utterance of a sentence. Among its central claims are: first, that speech act content typically includes an indefinite range of propositions, as evidenced by the indefinite range of accurate indirect speech reports concerning a particular utterance (call this Basic Pluralism); and, second, that speakers do not have privilegedaccess to what they say, nor must they believe what they sincerely say (call this the Controversial Aspect).1. (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)
I argue that Reid adopts a form of Meinongianism about fictional objects because of, not in spite of, his common sense philosophy. According to 'the way of ideas', thoughts take representational states as their immediate intentional objects. In contrast, Reid endorses a direct theory of conception and a heady thesis of first-person privilegedaccess to the contents of our thoughts. He claims that thoughts about centaurs are thoughts of non-existent objects, not thoughts about mental intermediaries, adverbial states or (...) general concepts. In part this is because of the common sense semantics he adopts for fictional-object terms. I show that it is reasonable for Reid to endorse Meinongianism, given his epistemological priorities, for he took the way of ideas to imply that his view about first-person privilegedaccess to our mental contents was false. (shrink)
Michael Devitt is a distinguished philosopher of language. In this new book he takes up one of the most important difficulties that must be faced by philosophical semantics: namely, the threat posed by holism. Three important questions lie at the core of this book: what are the main objectives of semantics; why are they worthwhile; how should we accomplish them? Devitt answers these 'methodological' questions naturalistically and explores what semantic programme arises from the answers. The approach is anti-Cartesian, rejecting the (...) idea that linguistic or conceptual competence yields any privilegedaccess to meanings. This new methodology is used first against holism. Devitt argues for a truth-referential localism, and in the process rejects direct-reference, two-factor, and verificationist theories. The book concludes by arguing against revisionism, eliminativism, and the idea that we should ascribe narrow meanings to explain behaviour. (shrink)
The McKinsey Problem concerns a puzzling implication of the doctrines of Content Externalism and PrivilegedAccess. I provide a categorization of possible solutions to the problem. Then I discuss Crispin Wright’s work on the problem. I argue that Wright has misconceived the status of his own proferred solution to the problem.
One of the main arguments intended to show that content externalism undermines the privilegedaccess thesis is the ‘slow switching argument’, originally proposed by Boghossian (). In this argument, it is supposed that a subject is unknowingly switched back and forth between Earth and Twin Earth: then it is claimed that, given externalism, when the subject is on Earth thinking that water is wet, he cannot know the content of his thought a priori, for he cannot, by mere (...) reflection, rule out the relevant alternative hypothesis that he is on Twin Earth thinking that twater is wet. One of the controversies surrounding this argument stems from the fact that it is not clear which epistemological principle underlies it. Here, I examine two suggestions made in the literature as to what that underlying principle might be. I argue that neither of these suggested principles is plausible, and thus that the slow switching argument never gets off the ground. (shrink)
Overview It is widely assumed that Descartes’ philosophy of mind is organized around three major commitments. The first is to substance dualism. The second is to individualism about mental content. The third is to a particularly strong form of the doctrine of privileged firstperson access. Each of these commitments has been questioned by contemporary philosophers of mind. Substance dualism is generally regarded as a non-starter, individualism has come under attack from a number of different quarters, and the doctrine (...) of privilegedaccess has been watered down or rejected. Yet, at least as far as questions about mental content and privilegedaccess are concerned, contemporary discussions still address what they represent as Descartes’ views. More often than not crude parodies of these views end up as the focus of discussion but more careful critics are usually prepared to recognize that Descartes’ philosophy of mind is more subtle and nuanced than the parodies might lead one to suppose. (shrink)
Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit has attracted much attention recently from philosophers, but none of the existing English-language books on the text addresses one of the most difficult questions the book raises: Why does the Phenomenology make such rich and provocative use of literary works and genres? Allen Speight's bold contribution to the current debate on the work of Hegel argues that behind Hegel's extraordinary appeal to literature in the Phenomenology lies a philosophical project concerned with understanding human agency in the (...) modern world. It shows that Hegel looked to three literary genres - tragedy, comedy, and the Romantic novel - as offering privilegedaccess to three moments of human agency: retrospectivity, theatricality, and forgiveness. Taking full account of the authors whom Hegel himself refers to (Sophocles, Diderot, Schlegel, Jacobi), Allen Speight has written a book with a broad appeal to both philosophers and literary theorists. (shrink)
This 1945 “Preface” is intended to answer the question “What is phenomenology?” and to justify it as the methodology of the long work of philosophical psychology to follow. Merleau-Ponty approaches this task by first setting out the apparent paradoxes and contradictory claims that have been advanced by phenomenology, in a long and eloquent survey section that is built on a series of “X, but also Y” rhetorical devices. He then surveys four prominent themes of phenomenology. Just as he does in (...) the introductory section of the essay “The Philosopher and His Shadow,” Merleau-Ponty here presents himself as the chief interpreter and champion of Husserl's later philosophy. The first major theme considered is that phenomenology is a matter of describing the field of perception. This sets it in contrast to the prevalent explanatory methodologies of a) scientific empiricism and b) metaphysical idealism. Empirical science (such as mathematical physics) begins with observation, but then abstracts entirely from lived experience to consider idealized schematic cases (such as motion across a frictionless surface) that may reveal universal laws. Such a methodology is obviously fruitful in important respects, but is nonetheless naïve and dishonest in its renunciation of the specifics of observed events. The metaphysical idealism of Kant or Descartes likewise abstracts from the experienced particularity of perception to posit an “inner man” that constitutes the world according to 2 internal, transcendental principles. Merleau-Ponty's criticism is the same, whether these principles are “reason” of Rationalism, “the categories of understanding” of Critical Rationalism, or the rules governing the “association of ideas” posited by Empiricism. Phenomenology indicates that perception is not an act but a fact; the world is not an object but rather the unified setting of perception; and the inner man is a myth, along with his allegedly privilegedaccess to univocal truth. The second theme is the technique of “phenomenological reduction,” the suspension of belief in the assemblage of everyday assumptions known as the “natural attitude.” Husserl's understanding of the reduction long led him to an idealist position: that all particular consciousnesses are united in a transcendental ego.. (shrink)
In "Propositions about Images" Philip Cam accurately analyzes and criticizes the grounds I gave, in the works he cites, for my denial that we have privilegedaccess (of any sort) to anything deserving to be called a mental image. He shows that I did not deal properly with the question of how I would interpret the ostensive force of "this" and "that" in an introspective judgment of the sort: "Now it looks like this and now it looks like (...) that." What can one be ostending or referring to in such a case, if not to an image (or some feature of an image)? (shrink)
During the last couple of decades, so called representationalist theories of mind have gained increased popularity. These theories describe mental states in terms of representations of external objects and states of affairs. It is also often held that the content of a subject’s thoughts and perceptions is determined by facts outside her mind, such as social relations between her and other people and causal relations between her and external objects. Some representationalists even argue that the phenomenal character of perceptual experiences (...) is determined by external factors in the sense that the truth conditions of statements like: “it looks blue” involve such facts. This entails that so called “phenomenal properties” such as colours are not properties of my experiences or even determined by such properties. This thesis has been labelled “phenomenal externalism” by e.g., Fred Dretske1 and William Lycan2. Introspection has traditionally been described as a subject’s immediate awareness of her own experiences. It has been assumed that the subject has a special and privilegedaccess to her experiences which means that she cannot be mistaken either about the content of her beliefs and experiences or about what they feel like to her. A long lived theory about introspection is that the introspective process is similar to perception, only the objects of the introspective process are “inner” instead of “outer”. This model seems to entail that experiences also share relevant similarities with external objects, such as having intrinsic properties, properties the subject is aware of when observing the objects in question. (shrink)