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Externalism and Self-Knowledge
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More Delivery Options. On the one hand, it seems that avowals simply do not require justification or evidence. On the other hand, avowals seem to represent a substantive epistemic achievement. After a critical discussion of two extant construals of transparency , this article presents an alternative reading of transparency based on neo-expressivism about avowals that explains, without explaining away, the apparent groundlessness of avowals. The article goes on to explore a way of coupling this alternative reading with a plausible account of how it is that ordinary avowals can represent genuine knowledge of present states of mind.
Keywords: Self-knowledge , beliefs , avowals , transparency , neo-expressivism , epistemically groundless , epistemically privileged. We regularly attribute to ourselves states of mind, both in speech and in thought. Such self-ascriptions— avowals , as they are often called—have a distinctive epistemic profile. There is something puzzling here. On the one hand, it seems that our avowals simply do not rely on—nor do they require—positive justification.
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Their epistemic security does not seem to derive from an evidential basis; they are not—and need not be—underwritten by evidence or positive epistemic reasons at all. On the other hand, our avowals do seem to represent a kind of substantive epistemic achievement, and they seem to enjoy a certain privileged epistemic status: they appear to represent beliefs that are especially apt to constitute genuine knowledge of our own present states of mind.
Thus, a fundamental puzzle about self-knowledge is this: our avowals appear to be at once epistemically groundless and also epistemically privileged. When making such self-attributions, we direct our attention at the world, not at the contents of our own minds; we look through our self-ascriptions to the worldly features at which they are directed.
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That avowals exhibit transparency-to-the-world, it is thought, helps explain why they appear to be groundless. For their transparency-to-the-world makes clear that, unlike other claims, avowals are indeed not epistemically grounded in the facts that make them true viz. But this need not mean that they are epistemically groundless. As we read Evans here, he takes it as given that ordinary self-ascriptions of beliefs and other mental states are instances of knowledge, and he appeals to their transparency to demystify the elevated epistemic status ordinarily assigned to them.
His concern is to provide a non-Cartesian explanation of how conceptually articulate judgments concerning states of oneself can represent beliefs that are especially apt to constitute knowledge about those states, even though they are not epistemically grounded in peculiarly direct consideration of those states. On the epistemic construal, what renders avowals knowledgeable has directly to do with their rational basis; on the metaphysical construal, it has to do with the nature of mental states.
Externalism and Self-Knowledge (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
We will then present an alternative reading that both respects and makes sense of the apparent groundlessness of avowals. And, finally, we will explore one way of coupling this alternative reading with a plausible account of how it is that our ordinary avowals can represent genuine knowledge of our own states of mind.
The Transparency of Belief Avowals: Inferentialism vs. Thus, for Byrne, uncovering why it is that our belief self-ascriptions constitute genuine knowledge involves identifying a unique and especially truth-conducive epistemic method via which we come to self-ascribe our occurrent beliefs and other mental states. In other words, one reasons in accordance with the doxastic schema: 6. A subject, S, reasons in accordance with the rule BEL when she believes that she believes that p because she recognizes that p obtains.
However, Byrne argues that the belief-forming method characterized by BEL is especially truth-conducive. This is because BEL is not merely reliable; it is self-verifying : if S believes that she believes that p as a result of following BEL, then her belief that she believes that p must be true. Crucially, for Boyle, we are equipped with, and regularly exercise a reflective capacity to know the way we go about forming our beliefs.
Given what we know about our own lack of omniscience, one cannot reasonably regard the mere fact that p as a reason for thinking that one believes that p. Boyle thinks that no account that appeals to an information-gathering faculty for producing beliefs about an independent state of affairs—whether inward or outward looking—could adequately capture the character and special epistemic status of self-knowledge.
After all, the metaphysical nature of my first-order mental states, it seems, is something that need not be transparent to me. We thus believe that there are good reasons for seeking another alternative non-introspectionist account of what puts each of us in a special position to make knowledgeable pronouncements about our current states of mind.
Both types of accounts of belief self-knowledge we have considered take the phenomenon of transparency to show that ordinary mentalistic self-beliefs enjoy a special form of epistemic support. We think this is due to the fact their proponents Byrne and Boyle included share a certain presupposition. But this presupposition can and, we think, ought to be rejected.
Following Bar-On : 11ff. It has been traditionally assumed that the only way to vindicate the ordinary conception of first-person authority thus answering i is to identify specifically positive epistemic features that would reveal our mentalistic self-beliefs to be especially knowledgeable—that is, to answer ii. This has led philosophers to reject offhand a certain type of non-epistemic explanation of first-person authority that is, nevertheless, compatible with a substantive, non-deflationist answer to ii. Our view is that failing to recognize that the above two questions are distinct, and so perhaps most fruitfully answered independently, obscures the availability of an otherwise attractive account of self-knowledge.
This account naturally comes into view once one accepts the neo-expressivist answer to i that we go on to summarize which explains first-person authority without appealing to the positive features that render avowals instances of knowledge. We can perhaps begin to free ourselves of the presupposition in question, and revise our understanding of the epistemic significance of the phenomenon of transparency, if we cease to focus excessively on self-attributions of belief as the paradigm case of transparent self-knowledge.
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