I can’t feel his legs!

A demanding study of introspection

I can’t feel his legs!

Introspection and Consciousness

edited by Declan Smithies and Daniel Stoljar

Oxford University Press, $89.95 hb, 431 pp, 9780199744794

I have beliefs about what you believe. I also have beliefs about what I myself believe. The big difference between the two cases is how I come by these beliefs. By and large, my beliefs about what you believe come from observations of your behaviour (understood in a wide sense, which includes the environment in which your behaviour is located). Here are two illustrations. You sell all your shares and buy gold. I infer that you believe that gold will outperform shares. You write an article saying that the Coalition will win the next election. I infer that you believe that the Coalition will win the next election. However, my beliefs about what I myself believe don’t usually come from observations by me of my own behaviour. My belief that gold will outperform shares may explain why I sell all my shares and buy gold, but it doesn’t reveal to me that I have this belief. Likewise, I don’t need to write an article saying that the Coalition will win the next election in order to discover that I have this belief. There is, to borrow some jargon, a first person–third person asymmetry in how we arrive at beliefs about beliefs.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Frank Jackson

Frank Jackson

Frank Jackson is a fractional professor of philosophy at The Australian National University and a visiting professor at Princeton University. He is the author of books and papers in analytical philosophy, including From Metaphysics to Ethics (1998) and Language, Names, and Information (2010), and is a Corresponding Fellow of The British Academy.

Published in March 2013 no. 349

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.