Transparency as Avowability: An Essay on Intentional Self-Knowledge

Dissertation, Columbia University (1995)

Sanford Goldberg
Northwestern University
My dissertation presents an argument for and defense of the doctrine of transparency about mental content. This doctrine holds that for any thought a thinker knows the content of her thought in an immediate and non-inferential way; and that for any thoughts a thinker can discriminate between thoughts with different contents. ;In the opening chapter I give an argument in support of the doctrine of transparency. The suggestion is that Crispin Wright's argument for a "minimalist" realism about intentional states can be extended into an argument for transparency as well. I concede that Wright's minimalism is not free from objections; but I suggest that a proper modification of his position avoids the major objections and leaves the case for transparency intact. The resulting notion of transparency flows from the avowability of the intentional. ;However, in the past twenty years there have been a number of theories of meaning and reference on the basis of which many people have given up the doctrine of transparency. My next three chapters address these theories. In these chapters I defend my conception of transparency against arguments, from claims of the theories in question, to the conclusion that the doctrine of transparency is false. The claims themselves include theses about the normativity of meaning, the nature of demonstrative content, and the external constitution of content. In each chapter I argue that if they are to be part of a successful argument against transparency, the theses in question must be given a construal which is objectionable on independent grounds; and there are alternative construals of the theses on which they are perfectly compatible with the doctrine of transparency. ;If my central contention is correct, the doctrine of transparency can be defended without appeal to any Cartesian dogma about access to one's own ideas. In particular, the doctrine can be defended by appeal to our practices of belief-attribution. Yet, even as we make such an appeal, self-knowledge is more than just a reflection of such practices. Making sense of and defending the resulting picture is the unifying theme of the dissertation
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