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How Opacity Spawns Transparency : A Theory of Self-knowledge of Beliefs

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis develops a theory of self-knowledge of beliefs that suggests that when the same resources employed to identify other people’s beliefs are applied to oneself then non-interpretive and non-inferential self-knowledge of beliefs results. Like many other accounts, the proposal is based on the transparency of beliefs, i.e. the phenomenon that we can determine whether we believe p by determining whether p. However, it is superior to extant accounts of this kind because it makes the transparency of beliefs intelligible without presupposing any representation of one’s own mind. The account does so by proposing that the transparency of beliefs relies on a combination of practical and theoretical reasoning that, as soon as it has been executed once, remains subsequently implicit or unarticulated in the transition from the result of one’s determining whether p to one’s self-ascription of a belief about p. The transition at issue then leads to non-inferential self-knowledge. I argue that this account of selfknowledge, the implicit dual-reasoning (IDR) theory, is not threatened by the psychological data often taken to undermine the existence of non-interpretive and noninferential self-knowledge of attitudes and can be integrated with a well-supported interpretation-based account of self-knowledge of attitudes in general. On the resulting hybrid view, self-knowledge of attitudes is typically interpretive but beliefs retrievable in conscious thinking remain knowable non-inferentially. Toward the end, I supplement this view with an account of the function of self-knowledge of beliefs. The overall theory of self-knowledge that emerges from the thesis supports a hitherto unexplored picture of the relation between the nature of self-knowledge of beliefs and the nature of other-knowledge of them. It suggests that the existence of transparency-based, noninferential self-knowledge of beliefs is grounded in the prima facie entirely unrelated fact that other people’s beliefs are opaque, i.e. only interpretively accessible, to us.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2016


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