Department of Philosophy

Dorit Bar-On: Transparency, Expression and Self-Knowledge

Professor Dorit Bar-On will give a lecture at the Department of Philosophy on "Transparency, Expression and Self-Knowledge" June 10, 14:15-16:00, room 210, Sydnesplassen 12/13.

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Issues surrounding self-knowledge can lead to deep puzzles when divorced from folk-psychological moorings – from our everyday practices of spontaneously self-attributing mental states and evaluating others’ self-attributions. Prominent contemporary accounts of self-knowledge, in both the so-called empiricist and rationalist traditions, share a presupposition that, I believe, contributes to making the puzzles appear more, rather than less, intractable. This is the presupposition that the special security of spontaneous present-tense mental self-attributions (‘avowals’) is to be explained by whatever best explains their privileged epistemic status (as legitimate items of self-knowledge). In earlier work, I rejected this presupposition, as part of making room for a neo-expressivist account that explains avowals’ special security (compatibly with a variety of alternative views on the privileged epistemic status of self-knowledge). In the present paper, I re-evaluate the relative merits of this account when compared to some recent attempts to exploit the so-called transparency of mental self-attributions by way of capturing the distinctively first-person character of self-knowledge. I argue – against some ‘constitutivist/ reflectivist’ views – that the (neo-) expressivist approach can be better integrated with a psychologically grounded understanding of ourselves.