I focus on two questions: what is knowledge, and how is knowledge possible? The latter is an example of a how-possible question. I argue that how-possible questions are obstacle-dependent and that they need to be dealt with at three different levels, the level of means, of obstacle-removal, and of enabling conditions. At the first of these levels the possibility of knowledge is accounted for by identifying means of knowing, and I argue that the identification of such means also contributes to (...) a proper understanding of what knowledge is. (shrink)
Vice epistemology is the philosophical study of the nature, identity, and epistemological significance of intellectual vices. Such vices include gullibility, dogmatism, prejudice, closed-mindedness, and negligence. These are intellectual character vices, that is, intellectual vices that are also character traits. I ask how the notion of an intellectual character vice should be understood, whether such vices exist, and how they might be epistemologically significant. The proposal is that intellectual character vices are intellectual character traits that impede effective and responsible inquiry. I (...) argue that situationist critiques of virtue epistemology pose no significant threat to this proposal. Studies by social psychologists of belief in conspiracy theories suggest that it is sometimes appropriate to explain questionable beliefs by reference to intellectual character vices. Neither ‘regulative’ nor ‘analytic’ epistemology has any good reason to question the epistemological significance of such vices. (shrink)
A familiar claim is that knowledge of our own thoughts, beliefs and other attitudes is normally immediate, that is, not normally based on observation, inference or evidence. One explanation of the possibility of immediate self-knowledge turns on the transparency of the question ‘Do I believe that P?’ to the question ‘Is it the case that P?’ This paper explains why occurrent mental states such as passing thoughts do not fall within the purview of the transparency account and proposes a different (...) account of how we know our own passing thoughts. It is also argued that the transparency account fails to explain how knowledge of our own beliefs can be psychologically or epistemically immediate. Finally, questions are raised about the presumption that knowledge of our own beliefs is epistemically immediate. (shrink)
Humans are not model epistemic citizens. Our reasoning can be careless, our beliefs eccentric, and our desires irrational. Quassim Cassam develops a new account of self-knowledge which recognises this feature of human life. He argues that self-knowledge is a genuine cognitive achievement, and that self-ignorance is almost always on the cards.
Self and World is an exploration of the nature of self-awareness. Quassim Cassam challenges the widespread and influential view that we cannot be introspectively aware of ourselves as objects in the world. In opposition to the views of many empiricist and idealistic philosophers, including Hume, Kant and Wittgenstein, he argues that the self is not systematically elusive from the perspective of self-consciousness, and that consciousness of our thoughts and experiences requires a sense of our thinking, experiencing selves as shaped, located, (...) and solid physical objects in a world of such objects. Awareness of oneself as a physical object involves forms of bodily self-awareness whose importance has seldom been properly acknowledged in philosophical accounts of the self and self-awareness. The conception of self-awareness defended in this book helps to undermins the idealist thesis that the self does not belong to the world, and also the claim that the existence of subjects or persons is only a derivative feature of reality. In the final part of the book, Cassam argues that the existence of persons is a substantial fact about the world, and that it is not possible to give a complete description of reality without claiming that persons exist. This clear, original, and challenging treatment of one of the deepest intellectual problems will demand the attention of all philosophers and cognitive scientists who are concerned with the self. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
I know that the laptop on which I am writing these words is dusty. How do I know? I can see that it is dusty. Seeing that it is dusty is a way of knowing that it is dusty. How come? According to what I’m going to call the entailment view, ‘S sees that P’ entails ‘S knows that P’ and it is only because this is so that seeing that the laptop is dusty qualifies as a way of knowing (...) that it is dusty. Generalizing from this, the entailment view concludes that Φ-ing that P is a way of knowing that P if and only if ‘S Φs that P’ entails ‘S knows that P’. (shrink)
I discuss the claim what makes self-knowledge epistemologically distinctive is the fact that it is baseless or groundless. I draw a distinction between evidential and explanatory baselessness and argue that self-knowledge is only baseless in the first of these senses. Since evidential baselessness is a relatively widespread phenomenon the evidential baselessness of self-knowledge does not make it epistemologically distinctive and does not call for any special explanation. I do not deny that self-knowledge is epistemologically distinctive. My claim is only that (...) talk of its evidential baselessness is insufficient to account for its epistemological distinctiveness. (shrink)
Sensory experience seems to be the basis of our knowledge of mind-independent things. The puzzle is to understand how that can be: how does our sensory experience enable us to conceive of them as mind-independent? This book is a debate between two rival approaches to understanding the relationship between concepts and sensory experience.
This article examines the concept of the so-called embodied self. It attempts to answer the metaphysical question about the relation between body and self, the phenomenological question about the nature of our awareness of our own body, and the epistemological question of whether anything is special about the knowledge we have of our own bodies. It considers arguments in favour and against the claim that the person is identical with body. It also evaluates whether bodily awareness is a form of (...) self-awareness. (shrink)
Abstract: Barry Stroud suggests that when we want to explain a certain kind of knowledge philosophically we feel we must explain it on the basis of another, prior kind of knowledge that does not imply or presuppose any of the knowledge we are trying to explain. If we accept this epistemic priority requirement (EPR) we find that we cannot explain our knowledge of the world in a way that satisfies it. If we reject EPR then we will be failing to (...) make all of our knowledge of the world intelligible all at once. I respond to this dilemma by questioning EPR and arguing that it is, in any case, a requirement that is satisfied by explanations of our knowledge in terms of non-epistemic seeing. Since non-epistemic seeing is not a form of knowing, such explanations show how knowledge of the world can come to be out of something that is not knowledge of the world. (shrink)
This volume brings together some of the most important and influential recent writings on knowledge of oneself and of one's own thoughts, sensations, and experiences. The essays give valuable insights into such fundamental philosophical issues as personal identity, the nature of consciousness, the relation between mind and body, and knowledge of other minds. Contributions include "Introduction" by Gilbert Ryle, "Knowing One's Own Mind" by Donald Davidson, "Individualism and Self-Knowledge" and "Introspection and the Self" by Sydney Shoemaker, "On the Observability of (...) the Self" by Roderick M. Chisholm, "Introspection" by D. M. Armstrong, "The First Person" by G. E. M. Anscombe, "On the Phenomeno-Logic of the I" by Hector-Neri Casta((n-))eda, "The Problem of the Essential Indexical" by John Perry, "Self-Identification" by Gareth Evans, and "The First Person--and Others" by P. F. Strawson. The only reader of its kind, Self-Knowledge fills a major gap in the history of philosophy and will be an accessible addition to a wide range of courses. (shrink)
A point that Strawson often emphasises in his writings is that the concepts of knowledge and perception are closely linked. For example, the idea of such a link does important in his exposition and defense of a causal analysis of perception. According to this analysis a material object M is perceived by a subject S only if M causes an experience in S. Why should this be? One reason, according to Strawson, is that such a causal requirement on perception is (...) implied by perception’s knowledge-giving role. This is one sense in which, in the words of Strawson’s last book, ‘we could not explain all the features of the concept of sense perception without reference to the concept of knowledge’. (shrink)
The Kantian project of investigating the necessary structure of experience presupposes answers to three questions: what is the purpose of such an investigation, what is the source of necessary features of experience, and by what means is it possible to establish the necessary structure of experience? This paper is a critical examination of Strawson's answers to these questions in The Bounds of Sense and his later work. The realism that is implicit in The Bounds of Sense is much more explicit (...) in Strawson's later work but relies on problematic assumptions about the relationship between epistemology and metaphysics. (shrink)
Transcendental epistemology is an inquiry into conditions of human knowledge which reflect the structure of the human cognitive apparatus. The dependence thesis is the thesis that a proper investigation of such conditions must lean in important respects on the deliverances of science. I argue that Kant is right to object to the dependence thesis, but that the best objections to this thesis lead to the conclusion that the conditions of knowledge which Kant identifies are not, in any interesting sense, a (...) relection of the structure of the human cognitive apparatus. (shrink)
An epistemological how-possible question asks how knowledge, or knowledge of some specific kind, is possible. Familiar epistemological how-possible questions include ‘How is knowledge of the external world possible?’, ‘How is knowledge of other minds possible?’ and ‘How is a priori knowledge possible?’ These are the three questions that I tackle in my book. In each case, I explain how and why the question arises and propose a way of answering it. The main negative claim of the book is that transcendental (...) arguments are of little use in answering how-possible questions. A transcendental demonstration of the necessity of a certain kind of knowledge does not amount to an explanation of its possibility. The main positive claim is that such questions call for what I describe as a multi-levels response. I give an account of the multi-levels approach and put it to use in explaining how various kinds of knowledge are possible.Epistemological how-possible questions are not directly concerned with whether knowledge is possible, but if we cannot explain how a certain kind of knowledge is possible then the reality of that kind of knowledge is called into question. How-possible questions are obstacle-dependent. We ask how knowledge …. (shrink)
In that book I had two different, though not unrelated aims. The first chapter was concerned with traditional scepticisms about, e.g., the external world and induction. In common with Hume and Wittgenstein (and even Heidegger) I argued that the attempt to combat such doubts by rational argument was misguided: for we are dealing here with the presuppositions, the framework, of all human thought and enquiry. In the other chapters my target was different. It was that species of naturalism which tended (...) to discredit, or somehow to reduce to more scientifically acceptable, physicalistic terms, whole regions of ordinary human thought, language, and experience – in particular the regions of moral discourse, of the subjectively mental and of the intensional. Here my reaction, as well as my target, was different. I did not merely stress the inescapability of the natural or common human standpoint from which we normally take for granted all that is called in question by scientistic naturalism. I also allowed the latter its own validity from its own limited standpoint.2 Philosophical scepticism and scientistic naturalism represent two types of challenge to ‘central features of our ordinary thought and talk’.3 The overall aim of Scepticism and Naturalism is to respond to these challenges and thereby to vindicate what Strawson refers to elsewhere as ‘our natural metaphysics’. (shrink)
An epistemological how-possible question asks how knowledge, or knowledge of some specific kind, is possible. The main contention of Duncan Pritchard‟s stimulating comments is that what I call „explanatory minimalism‟ appears to offer us just what we are seeking when we ask such a question. This looks like a problem for me given that I defend a version of explanatory anti-minimalism. Pritchard outlines a version of minimalism inspired by the writings of John McDowell and does not find it obvious that (...) this position is lacking in any relevant respect. Nor do I. My minimalism is moderate rather than extreme but Pritchard‟s objections to anti-minimalism are objections to extreme anti-minimalism. Indeed, his comments do not seem to me to have any direct bearing on what I take to be the fundamental disagreement between minimalism and anti-minimalism. (shrink)
How is knowledge of the external world possible? How is knowledge of other minds possible? How is a priori knowledge possible? These are all examples of how-possible questions in epistemology. In this highly original book Quassim Cassam explains how such questions arise and how they should be answered.
The terminology of ‘essence’ and ‘accident’, which it is customary to trace back to Aristotle, has been given a new lease of life by recent writing on logic and metaphysics. Aristotle's notion of ‘essence’ is notoriously difficult and obscure, but the works of Putnam 1 on natural kinds, Kripke 2 on naming and Wiggins 3 on identity may be seen as providing a new rationale, with a distinctive scientific twist, for talk of essences. This revival in the fortunes of essentialism (...) merits closer examination, for whilst it may be that modern versions of essentialism have avoided some of the difficulties of Aristotle's account, they have imported others which may prove no less intractable. (shrink)
A familiar claim is that knowledge of our own thoughts, beliefs and other attitudes is normally immediate, that is, not normally based on observation, inference or evidence. One explanation of the possibility of immediate self-knowledge turns on the transparency of the question 'Do I believe that P?' to the question 'Is it the case that P?' This paper explains why occurrent mental states such as passing thoughts do not fall within the purview of the transparency account and proposes a different (...) account of how we know our own passing thoughts. It is also argued that the transparency account fails to explain how knowledge of our own beliefs can be psychologically or epistemically immediate. Finally, questions are raised about the presumption that knowledge of our own beliefs is epistemically immediate. (shrink)