First-Person Knowledge
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: The Nature and Limits of Human Understanding: The Gifford Lectures, University of Glasgow, 2001, Anthony J. Sanford, ed. (London: T.&T. Clark, 2003): 165-184
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

    On June 11, 2001, Timothy McVeigh was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. Two days prior to the execution, many people, including McVeigh, knew that McVeigh was going to be executed in two days. But McVeigh knew something that the rest of us did not. He had first-person knowledge: “I am going to be executed in two days.” Moreover, his first-person knowledge was something that he experienced: He knew how it felt to know that he was going to be executed in two days. This is something that the rest of us could not have known. What I intend to do in this paper is to discuss the peculiar sort of knowledge that McVeigh had, but that the rest of us lacked, two days before the execution. I choose to speak of McVeigh’s first-person knowledge, not to exploit a solemn and momentous occasion, but to illustrate the existential and cognitive significance of first-person knowledge to the knower. The contrast between first- and third-person knowledge in the case of McVeigh strikes me as particularly vivid.


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