The aim of this Topics Seminar is for the participating student (1) to gain a thorough understanding of the primary texts for the course and a familiarity with the current debates in the philosophical literature on this topic; (2) to appreciate the arguments for and against the positions; and (3) to develop an independent judgment about the most promising approach in this area.
This “Topics Seminar” explores in depth issues and texts in Philosophy of the mind.|
Topic of 21-22 is Introspection as a Source of Knowledge
Ever since Descartes turned his mind’s eye inwards to secure an indubitable foundation for knowledge, philosophers have wrestled with the problem of the reliability of acquiring knowledge via introspection. Descartes was optimistic in this regard and claimed that on the basis of introspection he could claim that the nature of the self was to be a res cogitans. Gassendi in his objection to the Metaphysical Meditations stated that knowing that one thinks is not enough to establish what one is. Gassendi’s objection forces upon us a distinction between 1) knowing our particular thoughts and 2) knowing what kind of thing one’s self is. Hume was optimistic about the first kind of selfknowledge and sceptical about the second. His famous ‘elusiveness of the self’ thesis is: “For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I can never catch myself at any time without a perception, and can never observe anything but the perception. When my perceptions are remov’d for any time, as by sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist.” Kant went on to state that the nature of the self as it is in itself is unknowable.
In this course we will study the classical origins of the question whether introspection can be a reliable source of knowledge, not just about the self, but also about the deliverances of inner awareness. In doing so, we will rely, of course, on modern commentators like Andrew Brook and Beatrice Longuesse. We then proceed by reading responses to Descartes and Kant in both the continental and analytical tradition. We will read Heidegger’s curiously neglected response to Hume in Being and Time, and Merleau-Ponty’s defence of embodied subjectivity. If time permits, we will read parts of Walter Schulz, Ich und Welt.
In the analytical tradition the modern debate about these issues have probably started with Wittgenstein’s notorious private language argument. This will lead us to discussing the reception of Wittgenstein in the writings of McDowell and Crispin Wright. Shoemaker’s attack on the perceptual model of introspection will be studied and his famous claim that first person thoughts are immune to error through mis-identification. This brings us to more recent accounts of introspection, in particular the work of Evans on self-identification, Peacocke on the role of consciousness, and Michael Martin on the limits of self-awareness.
This is very much a research seminar, so suggestions of participants for articles to read are more than welcome.