A Dispositional Account of Self-Knowledge

Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 61 (2):249-278 (2000)
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It is widely thought that dispositional accounts of content cannot adequately provide for two of its essential features: normativity and non-inferentially-based self-knowledge. This paper argues that these criticisms depend upon having wrongly bracketed the presumption of first-person authority. With that presumption in place, dispositional conceptions can account for normativity: conditions of correctness must then be presumed, ceteris paribus, to be successfully grasped in particular cases, and thus to result from semantic-constituting dispositions; error occurs when cetera are not paria. An account of these ceteris paribus conditions is offered. An expressivist epistemology is then developed that accounts for the non-inferential self-ascription of semantic-constituting dispositions. It is argued that simply being the subject of such dispositions accounts for one's authoritative and direct semantic knowledge. Semantic knowledge consists in knowing how to apply an expression or thought, and such know-how is expressed in semantic self-ascriptions.



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Steven Yalowitz
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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