What certainty teaches

Philosophical Psychology 25 (2):227 - 243 (2011)
Most philosophers, including all materialists I know of, believe that I am a complex thing?a thing with parts?and that my mental life is (or is a result of) the interaction of these parts. These philosophers often believe that I am a body or a brain, and my mental life is (or is a product of) brain activity. In this paper, I develop and defend a novel argument against this view. The argument turns on certainty, that highest epistemic status that a precious few of our beliefs enjoy. For example, on the basis of introspection, I am certain that I am not in fierce pain right now. But if I am a complex thing like a body or a brain, then introspection might be a causal series of events extended in time. And any such process could go awry. So, if introspection is such a process, then I could gain good evidence that the introspective process has gone awry and that I am, contrary to appearances, feeling fierce pain right now. Therefore, the view that I am a complex thing like a body or a brain forces open the possibility that I cannot be certain that I am not feeling fierce pain right now. Since that is clearly not an open possibility, it follows that I am not a complex thing. I conclude by responding to three objections.
Keywords certainty  introspection  dualism  philosophy of mind  epistemology  defeasibility  materialism  physicalism
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2011.579419
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References found in this work BETA
David J. Chalmers (2003). The Content and Epistemology of Phenomenal Belief. In Quentin Smith & Aleksandar Jokic (eds.), Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 220--72.
Alex Byrne (2005). Introspection. Philosophical Topics 33 (1):79-104.
Sydney Shoemaker (1990). First-Person Access. Philosophical Perspectives 4:187-214.

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