Philosopher’s index Abstract
- Focuses on the acknowledgment of which psychological states seem to compel the ordinary use of the first person referring to psychological objects and its relation to particular bodies.
- Analysis of holding on to one's understanding of the first person while being radically uncertain as to which particular thing a person belongs;
- Perspectives on the representation of consciousness of action and self-consciousness1.
- Descartes made vivid that my certainty as to which psychological states are mine seems to outrun by far my certainty about which body is mine, or even that I have a body. This can make it seem compelling that in our ordinary use of the first person, we are referring to purely psychological subjects, which just so happen to be specially related to particular bodies. This would explain why your certainty about your ownership of a particular psychological life can outrun your certainty about your ownership of a body. The problem is that it is difficult to make sense of this notion of the self as a purely psychological subject.
- You might argue that Descartes was wrong to think that I can hold on to my knowledge that various psychological states are mine while questioning whether I have a body. For, you might argue, I undermine my own understanding of the first person when I question whether I have a body. So I cannot hold on to my knowledge that these psychological states are mine while questioning whether I have a body.
- In this paper I want to explore the possibility of taking a different tack. I want to explore the possibility of acknowledging Descartes's point as correct, while resisting the need to make sense of the notion of the self as a purely psychological subject. I want to argue that our knowledge of our own psychological lives leaves it open what kinds of things we are. For our ordinary use and understanding of the first person leaves it open what kinds of things we are. The puzzle is to understand how it can be that you could hold on to your understanding of the first person while being radically uncertain as to which particular thing you are. For the first person is a singular term, and we would ordinarily think of understanding a singular term as a matter of knowing which thing it stands for.
- In §2 I will take as my starting-point Sydney Shoemaker's2 account of the metaphysics of embodiment, his explanation of what it is for a particular psychological life to be embodied in a particular body. I will look at how this might be complemented by an account of the epistemology of embodiment: how I know that I am embodied in a particular body.
- In §3 I will sketch the tension involved in taking an understanding of the first person to be prior to a knowledge of embodiment.
- In §4 I will sketch an account of how we might nonetheless use the first person as a referring term in advance of having knowledge of how we are embodied.
- Finally, in §5, I will make some brief remarks about the content of the certainty that one exists.
Footnote 2: Two papers are cited, namely:-
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