SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

First-Person Thought and Rational Action
(Philosophy of Mind, English)

A long lasting and quite influential tradition of philosophers, which has its roots in the work of Perry (1977; 1979), Lewis (1979) and Castaneda (1966), believes that first-personal self-thinking (FPT) is essential in some sense and cannot be reduced to other types of thoughts a thinker can grasp about him- or herself. What this essentiality consists of is not always clear, but the most common way to define the essentiality of first-person thought is to posit a necessary or at least in some sense special relation between FPT and agency. (cf. Owens 2011: 267; Prosser 2015: 212)
Recently, this line of thought has been questioned by so called 'De Se Sceptics' (cf. Torre 2016), such as Millikan (1990), Devitt (2013), Cappelen/Dever (2013) and Magidor (2015). They maintain that the proposed connection between rational action and first-person thought is not as tight or even necessary as believed by many adherents of the Perry-Lewis-Castaneda-tradition. Cappelen/Dever (2013) for instance argue that their action-inventory-model (AIM) is able to explain rational actions without an appeal to indexical thought or any agent-related contents. Even persons with the same set of non-indexical beliefs and desires are able to act differently in the same circumstances, since they have different actions available to fulfill their desires. Moreover, agents do not need to have any beliefs about their available actions in order to act rationally.
In the proposed talk I will firstly offer a critique of Cappelen's and Dever's AIM and present cases their model is not able to account for. I will conclude with an inference to the best explanation that we should rather adopt a model for rational action that appeals to beliefs (or other forms of representation) about the available actions than to the action inventory itself. Then, I will argue why those representations about the available actions should be regarded as first-personal. I will identify three peculiarities of FPT -- i.e. reflexivity, effortlessness and relational presuppositions -- that support this claim. In the final section, I will sketch how these features of FPT relate to rational action in general. I will come to the conclusion that it is not only important that we have beliefs about our available actions but that we additionally have the information that these available actions are also ours.

Chair: Christian Feldbacher
Time: 14:30-15:00, 14 September 2017 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004

Maik Niemeck 
(University College Freiburg, Germany)

Maik Niemeck is a PhD student and research assistant at the University College Freiburg with a research focus on the relation between consciousness and self-consciousness. Before he came to Freiburg he did his B.A. in Halle, his M.A. in Göttingen and was a visting student at the University of Notre Dame.

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