The Authority of Inner Sense

William S. Larkin

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

 

Mississippi Philosophical Association

4/12/03

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I.                     Introduction

A.      First-Person Authority and the Temptation to Dualism

1.        Our knowledge of our own minds seems to be radically different from (and better than) our knowledge of the external world.

2.        It is tempting to infer that the objects/facts known must be radically different.

 

B.       The Manifest Image, the Scientific Image, and Philosophy

1.        A significant function of philosophy is to adjudicate between the manifest and scientific images of persons.

a.        Priming the manifest image

b.       Explanatory Models

c.        Naturalistic Interpretations

2.        First-Person Authority is a central tenet of the manifest image of persons.

3.        If the manifest image of persons is to be reconciled with the emerging scientific image, then we need a model for first-person authority that can be easily given a naturalistic interpretation.

 

C.       Thesis: A broad perceptual model of introspection is both naturalistically interpretable and adequate to account for first-person-authority.

 

 

II.                   Introspection, Privileged Access, and First-Person Authority

A.      Introspection =df That faculty by means of which we are aware of the contents of our own occurrent thoughts.

1.        Thoughts =df propositional attitude states (as opposed to qualitative states)

2.        Occurrent =df active and available

3.        Active =df not a merely standing state, but one that is presently engaged in some cognitive operation

4.        Available =df not repressed or suppressed or anything of the sort

 

B.       Privileged Access =df Introspection affords us a kind of direct and non-empirical access to the contents of our own thoughts that is denied others.

1.        Direct =df non-inferential, and unmediated by any intervening psychological state

2.        Non-empirical =df does not rely on any more empirical investigation of oneís behavior or environment than is necessary to entertain the relevant thought

3.        Introspection yields higher-order judgments of the form ĎI am thinking that Pí.

 

C.       First-Person Authority: The privileged introspective judgments (PIJs) we make about the contents of our own thoughts are on a qualitatively better epistemic footing than the ordinary perceptual judgments (OPJs) we make about the external world.

1.        Reliability: PIJs are more reliable than OPJs

2.        Basing Asymmetry: We can justify OPJs on the basis of PIJs but not vice versa

3.        Immunity to Epistemic Defect: It seems that OPJs are subject to certain epistemic defects to which PIJs are immune.

 

 

D.      Traditional Ways of Accounting for First-Person Authority

1.        Omniscience (Immunity to Ignorance)

Necessarily: If S is thinking that P, then S is aware that she is thinking that P.

2.        Infallibility (Immunity to Error)

Necessarily: If S believes that she is thinking that P, then she is thinking that P.

3.        Indubitability (Immunity to Doubt)

Necessarily: If S believes she is thinking that P, then there are no sufficient grounds for her to doubt that she is thinking that P.

4.        Incorrigibility (Immunity to Correction)

Necessarily: If S sincerely asserts that she is thinking that P, then no one else has sufficient grounds for doubting that S is thinking that P.

 

E.       Contemporary Constitutive Models of Introspection

1.        Shoemaker and Self-Intimation

Necessarily: If S is rational with normal cognitive and conceptual capacities and S has an occurrent thought that P, then S believes that she is thinking that P.

2.        Burge and Immunity to Brute Error

Necessarily: If S is suffering from no rational or cognitive defect and S (introspectively) believes that she is thinking that P, then S is thinking that P.

 

 

III.                 The Broad Perceptual Model

A.      Higher-Order Belief Theory of Awareness: Our awareness of occurrent thought contents is constituted by higher-order beliefs about them.

 

B.       Contingent Causal Connection: In the absence of any causal malfunction or interference, occurrent thoughts cause higher-order beliefs about their contents.††

 

C.       Teleo-Functional Content Determination: The mechanisms responsible for the causal production of introspective judgments have the teleological function of providing information about the presence of certain types of thoughts.And the function of the relevant belief producing mechanism determines the content of the higher-order introspective belief.

 

D.      Reliabilism: Introspective judgments are warranted in virtue of the reliability of the mechanism responsible for their causal production by occurrent thoughts.

 

E.       Worries:

1.        On this model, occurrent thought contents are not transparent and PIJs are neither infallible, nor indubitable, nor incorrigible.

2.        How can an account of introspection that explicitly models PIJs on OPJs possibly account for first-person authority?

3.        Reliability does not seem to be sufficient for warrant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IV.                 Immunity to Subjective Irrationality

A.      Bon Jour Cases: OPJs are not immune to subjective irrationality

 

B.       Necessary Conditions for Subjective Irrationality

1.        S must be aware of the evidence against her belief that P.

 

2.        The counter-evidence to Sís belief that P must be sufficiently compellingócompelling enough to make S distrust the source of her belief that P.

 

C.       Main Argument

P1:††††††† It is subjectively irrational for S to maintain her privileged introspective judgment (at time t) that she is thinking that P only if there is some counter-evidence C such that there is a cogent argument at t from Sís awareness of C to the conclusion that S should not trust her introspective judgments at t.

P2:††††††† There cannot be any cogent argument at t from Sís awareness of C to the conclusion that S should not trust her introspective judgments at t.For, any such argument will be self-defeating.

 

C:††††††††† So it cannot be subjectively irrational for S to maintain her privileged introspective judgment that she is thinking that P.

 

D.      Alternative Version of the Argument

P1:††††††† It is subjectively irrational for S to maintain some privileged introspective judgment at time t1 that she is thinking that P, call that judgment J, only if she recognizes at t1 that the source of J is untrustworthy.

 

P2:††††††† It is not possible for S to recognize at t that the source of J is untrustworthy.

 

2a: Recognizing at t that the source of J is untrustworthy requires that Sís P-relevant introspective faculty be both trustworthy and untrustworthy at t.

 

2b:It is not possible for Sís P-relevant introspective faculty to be both trustworthy and untrustworthy at t.

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

C:††††††††† So it is not possible for it to be subjectively irrational for S to maintain any privileged introspective judgment.

 

 

V.                   Conclusion

A.      OPJs are subject to a certain epistemic defect to which PIJs are immune.

 

B.       Immunity to Subjective Irrationality

Necessarily: If S believes that P, then S is not aware that there is compelling counter-evidence to P.

 

C.       PIJs are immune to subjective irrationality even on a broad perceptual model of introspection.

 

D.      Immunity to subjective irrationality can ground a satisfactory account of first-person authority.