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Knowing our reasons: distinctive self-knowledge of why we hold attitudes and perform actions

Knowing our reasons: distinctive self-knowledge of why we hold attitudes and perform actions
Knowing our reasons: distinctive self-knowledge of why we hold attitudes and perform actions
This thesis argues that we have a distinctive way of knowing why we have our attitudes and perform actions. It is often thought that we have no special access of this sort, even if we have privileged access to other facts about ourselves, like what attitudes we hold. I argue that this orthodoxy fails. Rather, we do have a privileged first-person access to a key explanation of our attitudes and actions – the reasons for which we hold/perform them (i.e. our motivating reasons). In providing an account of this, I draw on insights from cognitive science and appeal to both the personal level, where we can talk of the subject herself, and that of low-level processing. I argue that at the low level, self-knowledge indeed resembles other-knowledge. But regarding how the subject herself learns of her motivating reasons, I argue that we use a ‘transparency method’. We learn of what our reason is for believing p, say, by considering what justifies believing p. We look out into the world and consider the good reasons in favour of having that belief. This then allows us to self-ascribe our motivating reason. The final substantive chapter builds on the foregoing to argue that self-knowledge of motivating reasons is distinctive in a further, perhaps surprising, way. Our motivating reasons self-intimate – if we have a motivating reason, then necessarily we will be in a position to know that we have it. Indeed, this is the case even though we can hold attitudes that we are not in a position to know that we hold. Therefore, self-knowledge of motivating reasons not only differs significantly from other-knowledge, but from self-knowledge of attitudes as well.
University of Southampton
Keeling, Sophie Alexandra
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Keeling, Sophie Alexandra
ec60b0cb-79d3-4ebb-be5f-7489fdb56307
Mchugh, Conor
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Gray, Richard
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Keeling, Sophie Alexandra (2018) Knowing our reasons: distinctive self-knowledge of why we hold attitudes and perform actions. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 184pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis argues that we have a distinctive way of knowing why we have our attitudes and perform actions. It is often thought that we have no special access of this sort, even if we have privileged access to other facts about ourselves, like what attitudes we hold. I argue that this orthodoxy fails. Rather, we do have a privileged first-person access to a key explanation of our attitudes and actions – the reasons for which we hold/perform them (i.e. our motivating reasons). In providing an account of this, I draw on insights from cognitive science and appeal to both the personal level, where we can talk of the subject herself, and that of low-level processing. I argue that at the low level, self-knowledge indeed resembles other-knowledge. But regarding how the subject herself learns of her motivating reasons, I argue that we use a ‘transparency method’. We learn of what our reason is for believing p, say, by considering what justifies believing p. We look out into the world and consider the good reasons in favour of having that belief. This then allows us to self-ascribe our motivating reason. The final substantive chapter builds on the foregoing to argue that self-knowledge of motivating reasons is distinctive in a further, perhaps surprising, way. Our motivating reasons self-intimate – if we have a motivating reason, then necessarily we will be in a position to know that we have it. Indeed, this is the case even though we can hold attitudes that we are not in a position to know that we hold. Therefore, self-knowledge of motivating reasons not only differs significantly from other-knowledge, but from self-knowledge of attitudes as well.

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Knowing our Reasons - Version of Record
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Published date: July 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 424224
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/424224
PURE UUID: ae4abb01-07e5-45bc-a789-3c71cb323a7d

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 05 Oct 2018 11:35
Last modified: 09 Apr 2019 16:30

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Contributors

Author: Sophie Alexandra Keeling
Thesis advisor: Conor Mchugh
Thesis advisor: Richard Gray

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