Some Descriptional Theories of First-Person Thoughts

Dissertation, Brown University (1990)
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In this dissertation I investigate the nature of first-person thoughts, i.e., thoughts typically expressed in English with sentences containing 'I'. ;Led by McTaggart and Castaneda, many philosophers have advanced various arguments and putative counter-examples designed to show that no theory of first-person thoughts can be correct which holds that the reference of a first-person thought to its subject is mediated by descriptive content of that thought. I thoroughly review classical and contemporary theories of first-person thoughts, from Russell through the present, carefully noting the data, arguments, and putative counter-examples that an adequate theory must accommodate. ;Taking a position contrary to that of McTaggart, Castaneda, et al., I describe a class of descriptional theories of first-person thoughts able to meet all of the principal anti-descriptionalist arguments and putative counter-examples, and to explain many of the peculiar properties of first-person thoughts. Those theories impute to a first-person thought a complex descriptive content derived from its subject's introspection of his or her own nonfirst-person mental states; certain causal relationships with its subject's actions; and a structure that includes an aspect under which the content is thought, obscuring part of that content from the introspective awareness of its subject



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David B. Martens
University of Witwatersrand

Citations of this work

Self-Knowledge and Self-Reference.Robert J. Howell - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (1):44-70.
Close Enough to Reference.David B. Martens - 1993 - Synthese 95 (3):357 - 377.
First-Person Belief and Empirical Certainty.David B. Martens - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (1):118-136.

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