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.

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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

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