Rationality-based and Acquaintance-based views of IntrospectionDaniel Stoljar (Australian National University)
Locating Subjectivity in the study of Consciousness
Abstract for the talk: In contemporary literature, introspection is often defined minimally as that distinctive way that we come to know or believe that we are in conscious states when we are in them. Different theories of introspection may then be understood as different proposals about how to fill out or understand the way in question. This paper compares and contrasts two such theories. The acquaintance-based theory (as I will call it) focuses in the first instance on conscious states. It says (roughly) that whenever an agent is in a conscious state, the agent is aware of or acquainted with being in the state, where the background notion of acquaintance is understood to be distinct from sense perception, on the one hand, and belief or knowledge, or the other. For the agent to know or believe by introspection, on this view, is for them to take advantage of the epistemic position they are in as a result of being acquainted in this way. By contrast, the rationality-based theory (as I will call it) focuses in the first instance on rational agents. It says (roughly) that rational agents have a capacity to believe that they are in conscious states when they are in them, much as they have the capacity, for example, to avoid obvious contradictions in their beliefs. For the agent to know or believe by introspection, on this view, is for them to exercise that capacity. These theories are not in conflict. It is possible, in particular, to hold both an acquaintance-based theory and a rationality-based theory. My focus in the paper, however, will be on a different possibility, namely, of holding a rationality-based theory while rejecting any acquaintance-based theory.
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