SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Uniqueness Problem for Transparent Self-Knowledge
(Epistemology, English)

My paper is concerned with developing an objection to Moran's influential transparency account of self-knowledge (2001), according to which a rational agent can acquire knowledge of her own belief by reflecting upon reasons relevant to its subject-matter, as opposed to reflecting on her own psychology. On Moran's view, the question 'do I believe p?' is treated by agents as equivalent to the question 'is p true?', and an agent is warranted in self-attributing a doxastic attitude towards p once she has reached a judgement about p.
In the paper, I build upon an objection to Moran proposed by Jonathan Way (2007). Way persuasively argues that the account cannot apply to self-knowledge of intentions due to the fact that it endorses the controversial 'uniqueness' thesis. I contend that we should extend this objection to theoretical reasoning. Broadly stated, the uniqueness thesis is the view that any given body of evidence supports only one rational conclusion. In the doxastic case, Moran's account is committed to a version of the uniqueness thesis insofar as it relies on deliberation over the question of 'whether p' yielding a single rationally acceptable answer, which provides the subject with an answer to the question of what her attitude towards p is.
I argue against Moran's transparency account by appealing to specific cases, such as those of testimony, in which a subject could take her reasons to rationally permit both the belief that p and the suspension of judgment regarding p. This is because testimonial evidence which warrants a subject in forming the belief that p does not rationally require her to believe p. Such cases therefore demonstrate the plausibility of some doxastic states conforming to a subject's reasons without also being knowable via the transparency procedure.
I thus defend a version of permissivism, the view that there can be more than one rationally permitted response to a body of evidence. This represents a significant problem for the transparency account, since it means there are likely to be rational doxastic states which a subject could not come to know about via the procedure it describes. In other words, it suggests that the transparency procedure for acquiring self-knowledge, as described by Moran, will sometimes lack the power to generate an answer to the question of what one's doxastic attitude is.

Chair: Victoria Lavorerio
Time: 19:00-19:30, 12 September 2018 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.004

Eleanor Gwynne 
(University of Southampton, United Kingdom)

I am currently a third year PhD student at the University of Southampton. I am working on an AHRC funded project entitled ''The Transparency of Doxastic Self-Knowledge'' under the joint supervision of Dr Conor McHugh (Southampton) and Dr James Stazicker (Reading).

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