Essay on Reflexive Transparency, Mental Content, and Externalism

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Reflexive Transparency, Mental Content, and Externalism

It has been disputed whether an externalist conception of the individuation of intentional states, such as beliefs and desires, is compatible with self-knowledge, that is, the claim that one's judgments about one's intentional states are non-evidential, non-inferential, and authoritative. I want to argue that these theses are indeed incompatible, notwithstanding an important objection to this incompatibility claim. The worry has been raised that if externalism is true, then for a subject to know, say, that he or she believes that p, the subject would need to know, on the basis of some evidence, the external conditions which determine the belief's content. Thus, externalism would be
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And thus externalism would be incompatible with self-knowledge. But many philosophers have accepted an objection suggesting that this worry is mistaken, because even if one's belief content is externally determined, one need not know the external conditions determining that content in order to have the belief. And, thus, the subject's reflexive judgment about the belief would not need to rest on evidence about those external conditions.(2) But this objection rests, in turn, on a crucial assumption according to which mental content is reflexively transparent in the sense that a subject could not judge that she has an intentional state and be mistaken about the content of her state, even if content is externally determined.(3)

My main purpose is to question this crucial assumption. Now the claim that mental content is reflexively transparent is extremely compelling and, if it is correct while externalism is true, then this would indeed support the compatibility of externalism and self-knowledge. But, I want to argue that mental content is not reflexively transparent on the assumption of externalism. If my argument is correct, the upshot is that self-knowledge and
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