Do We Determine what We Believe by Looking Outward?

20 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2007

See all articles by Brie Gertler

Brie Gertler

Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia

Date Written: June 23, 2007

Abstract

Gareth Evans famously claimed that 'In making a self-ascription of belief, one's eyes are, so to speak, or occasionally literally, directed outward ¿ upon the world.' This claim exploits the idea that beliefs are 'transparent'. Contemporary philosophers such as Alex Byrne and Jordi Fernandez contend that this 'method of transparency' - determining whether one believes that p by reflecting on whether p - explains our privileged access to our beliefs. I argue that the transparency account of self-knowledge fails to explain how we know our own occurrent judgments, implicit beliefs, or ordinary dispositional beliefs. While the method of transparency brings about judgments, which we can then self-attribute, it cannot explain our privileged access to our pre-existing judgments. To determine whether one implicitly believes that p, one must limit oneself to internal sources of evidence concerning p. In other words, one must look inward. In the optimal cases, the method of transparency yields a judgment that is reliably linked to a dispositional belief, as when one judges that p on the basis of simply remembering that p. But even in these cases, one recovers one's evidence by looking inward rather than outward. And as evidence from social psychology illustrates, many cases are not optimal: one often dispositionally believes that p while judging that not-p. The method of transparency cannot explain our privileged access to our beliefs.

Keywords: self-knowledge, transparency, introspection, belief

Suggested Citation

Gertler, Brie, Do We Determine what We Believe by Looking Outward? (June 23, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=996267 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.996267

Brie Gertler (Contact Author)

Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia ( email )

120 Cocke Hall
P.O. Box 400780
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States

HOME PAGE: http://people.virginia.edu/~bg8y

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