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Transparency and doxastic self-knowledge

Transparency and doxastic self-knowledge
Transparency and doxastic self-knowledge
It is widely accepted that the knowledge we have of our own beliefs is distinct from other kinds of knowledge. However, in general, accounts of self-knowledge which capture this distinctive nature also struggle to explain precisely how our knowledgeable self-ascriptions of belief are warranted. That is, they fail to explain what makes our self-ascriptions count as knowledge. In this thesis, I seek an account that can do justice to the special status of doxastic self-knowledge, while also explaining the epistemology of our self-ascriptions.

The distinctiveness of self-knowledge, as Evans famously observed, can be partly seen to consist in the following fact: a subject can learn about her own beliefs by reflecting on the subject matter of those beliefs, as opposed to her own mental states. For instance, reflecting on the weather can put me in a position to know whether I believe it will snow. In this sense, beliefs are said to be ‘transparent’ to the world.

On one interpretation, the transparency thesis captures a way in which doxastic self-knowledge can be grounded, insofar as it suggests that world-directed judgments provide warrant for knowledgeable self-ascriptions of belief. I propose that by giving a satisfying epistemic account of ‘transparent’ self-knowledge, we can simultaneously satisfy the two key aims of my project – to explain what makes doxastic self-knowledge distinctive, as well as what makes it count as knowledge at all.

I begin by considering three promising accounts of doxastic self-knowledge, each of which purports to explain the source of our warrant for transparent self-ascriptions. The first two accounts, advanced by Richard Moran and Matthew Boyle respectively, understand our entitlement to transparent self-knowledge as inextricably connected to rational agency. On these views, it is because our beliefs are products of our capacity to ‘make up our minds’ that reflecting on their subject matter can itself ground self-ascriptions. The third account I consider represents a departure from this way of thinking. Alex Byrne’s inferential transparency account gives no special role to rational agency, construing doxastic self-knowledge as the product of an inference from p to I believe p. The account relies on this inference meeting externalist conditions to explain why it is conducive to rational, knowledgeable self-ascriptions.

I will argue that, while none of the above accounts convincingly capture the epistemology of transparent self-knowledge, the views proposed by Moran and Boyle get something right in understanding our entitlement to self-knowledge as connected to our capacity for rational agency. In the second part of the thesis, I outline an alternative account that seeks to preserve the attractive elements of these views. Perhaps surprisingly, the view I defend also incorporates an inferential element.

In my positive account, I claim that conscious judgment should be understood as a form of mental action, the phenomenal character of which makes available to me the premise I judge that p. From this premise I can infer to the conclusion that I believe that p. This conclusion, I argue, constitutes a knowledgeable self-ascription of belief.
University of Southampton
Gwynne, Eleanor Jane
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Gwynne, Eleanor Jane
7355af08-dfce-4acc-b1ad-80ae02df9d82
Mcneill, William
be33c4df-0f0e-42bf-8b9b-3c0afe8cb69e
Stazicker, James
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Whiting, Daniel
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Gwynne, Eleanor Jane (2019) Transparency and doxastic self-knowledge. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 152pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

It is widely accepted that the knowledge we have of our own beliefs is distinct from other kinds of knowledge. However, in general, accounts of self-knowledge which capture this distinctive nature also struggle to explain precisely how our knowledgeable self-ascriptions of belief are warranted. That is, they fail to explain what makes our self-ascriptions count as knowledge. In this thesis, I seek an account that can do justice to the special status of doxastic self-knowledge, while also explaining the epistemology of our self-ascriptions.

The distinctiveness of self-knowledge, as Evans famously observed, can be partly seen to consist in the following fact: a subject can learn about her own beliefs by reflecting on the subject matter of those beliefs, as opposed to her own mental states. For instance, reflecting on the weather can put me in a position to know whether I believe it will snow. In this sense, beliefs are said to be ‘transparent’ to the world.

On one interpretation, the transparency thesis captures a way in which doxastic self-knowledge can be grounded, insofar as it suggests that world-directed judgments provide warrant for knowledgeable self-ascriptions of belief. I propose that by giving a satisfying epistemic account of ‘transparent’ self-knowledge, we can simultaneously satisfy the two key aims of my project – to explain what makes doxastic self-knowledge distinctive, as well as what makes it count as knowledge at all.

I begin by considering three promising accounts of doxastic self-knowledge, each of which purports to explain the source of our warrant for transparent self-ascriptions. The first two accounts, advanced by Richard Moran and Matthew Boyle respectively, understand our entitlement to transparent self-knowledge as inextricably connected to rational agency. On these views, it is because our beliefs are products of our capacity to ‘make up our minds’ that reflecting on their subject matter can itself ground self-ascriptions. The third account I consider represents a departure from this way of thinking. Alex Byrne’s inferential transparency account gives no special role to rational agency, construing doxastic self-knowledge as the product of an inference from p to I believe p. The account relies on this inference meeting externalist conditions to explain why it is conducive to rational, knowledgeable self-ascriptions.

I will argue that, while none of the above accounts convincingly capture the epistemology of transparent self-knowledge, the views proposed by Moran and Boyle get something right in understanding our entitlement to self-knowledge as connected to our capacity for rational agency. In the second part of the thesis, I outline an alternative account that seeks to preserve the attractive elements of these views. Perhaps surprisingly, the view I defend also incorporates an inferential element.

In my positive account, I claim that conscious judgment should be understood as a form of mental action, the phenomenal character of which makes available to me the premise I judge that p. From this premise I can infer to the conclusion that I believe that p. This conclusion, I argue, constitutes a knowledgeable self-ascription of belief.

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Published date: December 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 444517
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/444517
PURE UUID: 96d38a92-6d00-4880-8512-d212f8bc0965
ORCID for William Mcneill: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3647-0720

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Date deposited: 22 Oct 2020 16:33
Last modified: 18 Feb 2021 17:26

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Contributors

Thesis advisor: William Mcneill ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: James Stazicker
Thesis advisor: Daniel Whiting

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