Knowing Our Own Minds

Knowing Our Own Minds

Knowing Our Own Minds

Knowing Our Own Minds


Self-knowledge is the focus of considerable attention from philosophers: Knowing Our Own Minds gives a much-needed overview of current work on the subject, bringing together new essays by leading figures. Knowledge of one's own sensations, desires, intentions, thoughts, beliefs, and other attitudes is characteristically different from other kinds of knowledge: it has greater immediacy, authority, and salience. The contributors examine philosophical questions raised by the distinctive character of self-knowledge, relating it to knowledge of other minds, to rationality and agency, externalist theories of psychological content, and knowledge of language. Together these original, stimulating, and closely interlinked essays demonstrate the special relevance of self-knowledge to a broad range of issues in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language.


Crispin Wright

It is only in fairly recent philosophy that psychological self-knowledge has come to be seen as problematical; once upon a time the hardest philosophical difficulties all seemed to attend our knowledge of others. But as philosophers have canvassed various models of the mental that would make knowledge of other minds less intractable, so it has become unobvious how to accommodate what once seemed evident and straightforward—the wide and seemingly immediate cognitive dominion of minds over themselves.

My programme in this chapter involves characterizing this dominion with some care. We need to be as clear as possible why one form of traditional thinking on the matter has seemed so attractive—even unavoidable—and what a satisfactory account of the issues in this region has to accomplish. However, my underlying and primary concern is with the later Wittgenstein's contribution to the question. Ultimately I think we are provided with a most vivid illustration—and can perhaps gain an insight into the intended force—of something which I do not think has so far been very well understood: the anti-explanatory motif that runs through the pronouncements on philosophical method occurring in the Philosophical Investigations.

People can be variously deluded about themselves: self-deceived about their motives, for instance, or overly sanguine, or pessimistic, about their strengths of character and frailties. But it is none the less a truism that for the most part we know ourselves best—better than we know others and better than they know us.

In one kind of case, the explanation of this would seem straightforward. It is (merely) that our own presence is, for each of us, a constant

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