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Author ORCID Identifier
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
There are two kinds of epistemic theories about self-knowledge: the traditional account, and the inferentialist account. According to the traditional view of self-knowledge, we have privileged access to our propositional attitudes. “Privileged access” means that one can gain knowledge of one’s own propositional attitudes directly via an exclusive, first-personal method called introspection. On the other hand, the inferentialist view of self-knowledge postulates that we don’t have privileged access to our propositional attitudes and must infer or self-attribute them instead. In this thesis I argue that the traditional view of self-knowledge, which postulates that we have privileged access to our propositional attitudes, ought to be abandoned in favor of an infernetialist picture of self-knowledge
I argue that recent experimental results in social psychology strongly imply that we don’t have privileged access to our propositional attitudes. In the choice blindness paradigm, the majority of participants can be manipulated into becoming oblivious to choices that they made just moments previously. Not only do participants utterly fail to notice that they did not receive what they wanted, but they also provide confabulated reasons as to why they made their “decision.” I maintain that the phenomena of choice blindness and confabulation are very difficult for the traditional theory of self- knowledge to accommodate and explain; whereas, on the other hand, the inferentialist account actually predicts and anticipates these experimental findings.
The traditional theorist cannot avoid the threat that choice blindness and confabulation pose by restricting the scope of privileged access even further, to exclude propositional attitudes, because privileged access to propositional attitudes is the very property which distinguishes the traditional view of self-knowledge from an inferentialist account. The traditional theorist might attempt to argue that privileged access to propositional attitudes is conceptually necessary, but I maintain that this argument fails. The traditional theorist’s only option, then, is to adopt a dual-method account whereby we sometimes gain self-knowledge via introspection and sometimes via inference. However, I maintain that the dual-method approach is a much weaker theory in terms of explanatory power when compared to the inferentialist account. On balance, then, the traditional view of self-knowledge should be rejected in favor of the inferentialist account.
Webster, Hayley F., "Self-Knowledge, Choice Blindness, and Confabulation" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. 1543.