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self-knowledge and self-identity

sydney shoemaker

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


Normally the way one knows something about oneself is significantly different from the way one knows the same sort of thing about someone else. Knowledge of one's own current mental states is ordinarily not grounded on information about behaviour and physical circumstances. Knowledge of one's actions, and of such facts as that one is sitting or standing, is usually ‘without observation’ or, at any rate, not based on the sorts of observations that ground one's knowledge of the actions and posture of others. One's perceptual knowledge of one's situation in the world, e.g. that one is facing a tree, differs markedly from the perceptual knowledge others have of the same facts, since it usually doesn't involve perceiving oneself. And one's memory knowledge of one's own past is normally very different from one's memory knowledge of the pasts of others; one remembers one's thoughts, feelings, perceptions and actions ‘from the inside’, in a way that does not depend on the use of any criterion of personal identity to identify a remembered self as oneself. Although in all these cases one could speak of a ‘special’ first-person access, it is the access people have to their own mental states that has attracted the most attention. Some philosophers, e.g. R yle (1949) , have denied that there is a fundamental difference between first-person and third-person knowledge of mental states. Others, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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