Inverted First‐Person Authority

Colin McGinn

in Consciousness and its Objects

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199267606
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601798 | DOI:
Inverted First‐Person Authority

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It is often assumed that mental states must be known introspectively just as material objects must be known perceptually, and that this mode of knowing is especially authoritative; this chapter controverts this assumption. It is argued that a subject might introspect physical facts and perceive mental ones; and that a strong conception of the first-person authority of introspection – non-criterial, non-inferential, direct, infallible, incorrigible, certain – might apply instead to perception. The implications of the logical possibility of such an inverted subject for scepticism and the mind-body problem are discussed. The tension between the view of this chapter, which would make it possible for a subject to have a concept of pain without having introspective acquaintance with it, and the view that this is impossible is discussed.

Keywords: first-person authority; introspection; mind-body problem; perception; scepticism

Chapter.  9159 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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