What asymmetry? Knowledge of self, knowledge of others, and the inferentialist challenge

Synthese 194 (3):723-741 (2017)
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There is widely assumed to be a fundamental epistemological asymmetry between self-knowledge and knowledge of others. They are said to be ’categorically different in kind and manner’ , and the existence of such an asymmetry is taken to be a primitive datum in accounts of the two kinds of knowledge. I argue that standard accounts of the differences between self-knowledge and knowledge of others exaggerate and misstate the asymmetry. The inferentialist challenge to the asymmetry focuses on the extent to which both self-knowledge and knowledge of others are matters of inference and interpretation. In the case of self-knowledge I focus on the so-called ‘transparency method’ and on the extent to which use of this method delivers inferential self-knowledge. In the case of knowledge of others’ thoughts, I discuss the role of perception as a source of such knowledge and argue that even so-called ’perceptual’ knowledge of other minds is inferential. I contend that the difference between self-knowledge and knowledge of others is a difference in the kinds of evidence on which they are typically based



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Quassim Cassam
University of Warwick

Citations of this work

Shared consciousness and asymmetry.Shao-Pu Kang - 2022 - Synthese 200 (5):1-17.
Against an Epistemic Argument for Mineness.Shao-Pu Kang - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-18.

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References found in this work

The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edited by John Henry McDowell.
Thought.Gilbert Harman - 1973 - Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
The Concept of Mind.Gilbert Ryle - 1949 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 141:125-126.

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