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A Constructivist Picture of Self-Knowledge

Tanney, Julia (1996) A Constructivist Picture of Self-Knowledge. Philosophy, 71 (277). pp. 405-422. ISSN 0031-8191. E-ISSN 1469-817X. (doi:10.1017/S0031819100041668) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:11278)

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How are we to account for the authority granted to first-person reports of mental states? What accounts for the immediacy of these self-ascriptions; the fact that they can be ascribed without appeal to evidence and without the need for justification? A traditional, Cartesian conception of the mind, which says that our thoughts are presented to us directly, completely, and without distortion upon mere internal inspection, would account for these facts, but there is good reason to doubt the cogency of the Cartesian view. Wittgenstein, in his later writings, offered some of the most potent considerations against the traditional view, and contemporary philosophy of mind is practically unanimous in rejecting some of the metaphysical aspects of Cartesianism. But anyone who repudi¬ates Cartesianism shoulders the burden of finding another way to accommodate its apparent epistemological strengths.

Crispin Wright has suggested that Wittgenstein's rule-following passages are specifically concerned to question the idea that our ability to avow our thoughts is epistemically grounded. Wright sees in Wittgenstein an argument for a non-descriptive view about our relation to our own mental states, which, if plausible, would save the phenomenological immediacy of self-ascription, and the practice of granting authority. I'd like to consider the view that Wright recommends. I'll argue that it is a merit of Wright's view to allow for an element of creativity in self-ascription, but not at the cost of jettisoning the standards to which we're held account¬able when we self-ascribe, and that a plausible account of our ascriptive practices must accommodate both of these features.

The fact that we often self-ascribe directly and without appeal to evidence is recoverable on a view that takes thought content to be self-ascribable as part of an imaginative or creative skill whose standards can be extracted from looking at what we do when the attribution requires reflection or justification.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S0031819100041668
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Julia Tanney
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2011 17:01 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 09:49 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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Tanney, Julia.

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