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Title: Self-knowledge in consciousness
Authors: McHugh, Conor
Supervisor(s): Nudds, Matt
Kallestrup, Jesper
Issue Date: Jul-2008
Publisher: The University of Edinburgh
Abstract: When you enjoy a conscious mental state or episode, you can knowledgeably self-ascribe that state or episode, and your self-ascription will have a special security and authority (as well as several other distinctive features). This thesis argues for an epistemic but nonintrospectionist account of why such self-ascriptions count as knowledge, and why they have a special status. The first part of the thesis considers what general shape an account of self-knowledge must have. Against a deflationist challenge, I argue that your judgments about your own conscious states and episodes really do constitute knowledge, and that their distinctive features must be explained by the epistemic credentials that make them knowledge. However, the most historically influential non-deflationist account—according to which such self-ascriptive judgments are based on introspective experiences of your conscious states and episodes— misconstrues the unique perspective that you have on your own conscious mind. The second part of the thesis argues that the occurrence in your consciousness of a state or episode of a certain type, with a certain content, can itself suffice for you to have a reason to judge that you are enjoying a state or episode of that type, with that content. Self-ascriptions made for such reasons will count as knowledge. An account along these lines can explain the special status of self-knowledge. In particular, I show that a self-ascription of a content, made for the reason you have in virtue of entertaining that content, will be true and rational, partly because it is an exercise of a general capacity, which I call “grasp of the first-/third-person distinction”, that is fundamental to our cognition about the world. A self-ascription of a particular type of conscious state or episode, made for the appropriate reason, will be true and rational in virtue of features distinctive of states or episodes of that type—features that contribute to determining which judgments are rational for a subject, without themselves being reasons that the subject has. I consider in detail the cases of perceptual experience and of judgment. The thesis concludes by arguing that this kind of account is well placed to explain how selfknowledge fulfills its central role in the reflective rationality that is characteristic of persons.
Description: doctoral award 2004/107894
Sponsor(s): Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Keywords: epistemology
Appears in Collections:Philosophy PhD thesis collection

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