Invitation for introspection essay

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Invitation for introspection essay

What is special about self-knowledge, compared to knowledge in other domains? Self-knowledge is thought to differ from other sorts of knowledge in one or more of the following ways.

Self-knowledge is especially secure, epistemically. Self-knowledge is sometimes acquired by use of an exclusively first-personal method.

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The differences between these are subtle. Statement 1 identifies the distinctive feature of self-knowledge as the epistemic status of a certain class of beliefs, whereas statement 2 identifies it by the method one uses in forming these beliefs.

Only these first two statements construe the distinctive feature of self-knowledge as plainly epistemic; however, most who endorse 3 also claim that this agential relation grounds a special epistemic relation. A minority of philosophers denies that self-knowledge is special at all.

This omniscience thesis is sometimes expressed by saying that mental states are self-intimating or self-presenting. Contemporary philosophers generally deny that we are infallible or omniscient about our mental Invitation for introspection essay. Here is a simple counter-example to the claim of infallibility.

But the therapist is mistaken—Kate does not resent her mother. Hence, Kate has a false belief about her own attitude. This case also undercuts the claim of omniscience, assuming that Kate is unaware of her genuine non-resentful attitude towards her mother.

If we restrict the relevant domain to beliefs formed by use of a method that is exclusively a method of attaining self-knowledge—perhaps introspection—we can formulate a more plausible infallibility thesis. We can generate an even more plausible thesis by limiting this restricted infallibility claim to pains and other sensations.

Descartes endorsed a limited infallibility thesis of this sort. There remains sensations, emotions and appetites. These may be clearly perceived provided we take great care in our judgments concerning them to include no more than what is strictly contained in our perception—no more than that of which we have inner awareness.

But this is a very difficult rule to observe, at least with regard to sensations. A common objection to even limited infallibility claims is the idea, often attributed to Wittgenstein, that where one cannot be wrong, one cannot be right either.

For instance, Wright maintains that the possibility of error is required for concept application, which is in turn required for substantial self-knowledge. The omniscience thesis seems even less plausible than the unqualified infallibility thesis.

But consider the following passage from Locke. When we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, meditate, or will any thing, we know that we do so. It is more likely that Locke means that we are always conscious of our thoughts and sensations.

In any case, the omniscience thesis may also be qualified. What is relevant to the most famous philosophical argument involving self-knowledge is not these general relations but, rather, the certainty of a particular instance of belief. Perhaps the most widely accepted view along these lines is that self-knowledge, even if not absolutely certain, is especially secure, in the following sense: Some theorists who take this line maintain that there is a causal gap between a perceptual state and its object, and this gap introduces sources of error that are absent in direct introspective apprehension of a sensation Gertler ; Horgan ; Siewert The notion that inner observation is the special method by which we achieve self-knowledge is central to the acquaintance and inner sense accounts see 3.

On this view, we ascertain our own thoughts by looking outward, to the states of the world they represent. This view is associated with a famous passage from Evans.

But arguably, some are more active: The agentialist contends that, whereas we know our itches and tickles only by observation, we can know our beliefs and intentions non-observationally, insofar as they are exercises of rational agency.

But a competing approach, sometimes attributed to Wittgenstein Wrightmaintains that the special authority of self-attributions is primarily a matter of social-linguistic practices, which dictate that we should treat subjects as authoritative about their own states. The first-person authority view does not require that self-attributions be epistemically grounded.

But our social-linguistic practice of treating others as authorities on their own states cries out for explanation: The first-person authority view diagnoses the authority granted to self-attributions in non-epistemic terms.

Strictly speaking, then, this position is not concerned with self-knowledge.Paul Kingsnorth is a writer and poet living in Cumbria, England. He is the author of several books, including the poetry collection Kidland and his fictional debut The Wake, winner of the Gordon Burn Prize and the Bookseller Book of the Year Award.

Kingsnorth is the cofounder and director of the Dark Mountain Project, a network of writers, artists, and thinkers. View Subjective Personal Introspection Research Papers on for free.

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Invitation for introspection essay

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Invitation for introspection essay

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