Self‐Knowledge: Special Access Versus Artefact of Grammar—A Dichotomy Rejected

Elizabeth Fricker

in Knowing Our Own Minds

Published in print October 2000 | ISBN: 9780199241408
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598692 | DOI:
 Self‐Knowledge: Special Access Versus Artefact of Grammar—A Dichotomy Rejected

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The paper examines a dichotomy between special access accounts of authoritative self‐knowledge and constitutive accounts that treat such authority as a feature of the ‘grammar’ of self‐ascriptions, and concludes that it is a false one. Firstly, special access theories are shown to include not just Cartesian views but also a number of different kinds of accounts of the nature of mental states and our self‐knowledge of them. One group comprises functionalist accounts—special access theories, which involve non‐Cartesian conceptions of the individuation of conditions of mental states, and need make no play with any form of ‘inner perception’. Secondly, it is argued that there is space for intermediate theories according to which ‘grammar’ and empirical regularities collaborate inextricably to hold our actual mental state concepts together, and play a joint role in explaining the reliability of our basic self‐ascriptions of mental states. Finally, it is shown that all viable concepts of mental states, which can be competently self‐ascribed in a non‐inferential way, must be multi‐criterial concepts and not wholly fixed by ‘grammar’.

Keywords: artefact of grammar; Cartesianism; multi‐criterial concepts; special access

Chapter.  24083 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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