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Title: Unified transparency account of self-knowledge
Author: Schwengerer, Lukas
ISNI:       0000 0004 7654 9198
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2018
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In this thesis I propose an account of knowledge of one's own mental states. My goal is set on a unified transparency account of self-knowledge. It is unified, because the proposal will account for the generation of beliefs about mental states of all types, regardless of whether they are propositional, non-propositional, experiential or non-experiential. My account will thereby be applicable to knowledge of any mental state, from beliefs and desires to fears, hopes, and sensations such as pain. Moreover, it will be a transparency account because it holds on to Gareth Evans's (1982) observation that self-ascribing mental states is done by attending outwards instead of inwards. There is a sense in which we attend to the world when we find out whether we believe something, and my proposal aims to capture this intuition. The core idea I am exploring is the following: generally, when one produces a first-order mental state, one also forms a corresponding, dispositional second-order belief about that state. Both attitudes share elements of their production, which ensures reliability while retaining fallibility. For instance, when you form a belief 'there is a red car' by perceiving a red car, you also generate the dispositional belief 'I believe that there is a red car,' if everything goes right. I argue that almost all features that make self-knowledge special can be explained with this basic idea. The assumption that the production of a first-order mental state and a second-order belief about the state go hand in hand has surprising explanatory power. Moreover, there are at least no obvious reasons why the assumption should be ruled out. The upshot will be a view that we should take seriously as a contender for an explanation of self-knowledge. I will not be able to conclusively show that it is the best explanation, but I argue that it is one worth thinking about. The thesis is structured in three parts. The first part (chapters 1-3) focuses on the phenomenon of self-knowledge and the transparency idea. These chapters serve as the setup for my later proposed view. Chapter 1 and 2 discuss what exactly we want to explain when we say that we aim to explain self-knowledge. I thereby provide an overview of the conceptual landscape of self-knowledge and argue that we should understand the peculiarity of self-knowledge in terms of features of belief and belief-formation. Moreover, I commit myself to the view that the peculiarity has something to do with our cognitive access to mental states and relate that to the goal of a unified account of self-knowledge. Chapter 3 discusses how we ought to understand the other qualification of my goal: a transparency account of self-knowledge. I provide an overview of transparency accounts in the literature and lay out the path to avoid common problems of transparency accounts. In the second part (chapters 4 and 5) I propose the single process model of self-knowledge as a unified, transparency account of self-knowledge. I provide the core principles of the view and show how it explains the features of self-knowledge I aim to explain. Chapter 4 focuses on attitudes, both propositional and non-propositional. Chapter 5 expands the view to phenomenal states, such as being in pain. The third part (chapters 6 and 7) connects the epistemological discussion of the single process model to research on cognition. Chapter 6 proposes a cognitive story of predictive processing that is compatible with the single process model. I thereby discuss the plausibility of the predictive processing idea and its empirical support. I provide a predictive processing story of self-knowledge that fits with the single process model of self-knowledge. In chapter 7 I discuss extended mental states. Clark & Chalmers (1998) propose that at least some mental states, such as beliefs, can be extended to external devices. Given that my aim is a unified account, I ought to say something about knowledge of these extended beliefs. I argue that they cannot be known by the same processes as non-extended mental states because beliefs about extended beliefs show different features than beliefs about our non-extended states that we formed by introspection. Hence, even if my view cannot account for them this is not a problem, because they are not formed by genuine introspection. Instead, we come to know extended mental states by a distinct process that we might call extended introspection. Finally, chapter 8 provides a brief conclusion of the thesis for and points out some placed that require further development. The account is promising as an explanation of self-belief and self-knowledge, but whether it is correct also depends on future research outside the scope of philosophy.
Supervisor: McGlynn, Aidan ; Kallestrup, Jesper Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: self-knowledge ; forming the mental state ; intuitions