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Knowing One’s Mind Joe Cruz Williams College Philosophy & Cognitive Science.

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1 Knowing One’s Mind Joe Cruz Williams College Philosophy & Cognitive Science

2 “ Is there any knowledge in the world that is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?” — Bertrand Russell The Problems of Philosophy (1912)

3 The question of certainty What is certainty?

4 The question of certainty What is certainty? A claim is certain if it is inconceivable for it to be false.

5 The question of certainty What is certainty? A claim is certain if it is inconceivable for it to be false. (This is not the same as a claim being necessarily true.)

6 The question of certainty Certainty is a reflective, conceptual state.

7 The question of certainty Certainty is a reflective, conceptual state. Are there any plausible candidates for certainty?

8 “ I am— I exist: this is certain; but how often? As often as I think...” — René Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy (1614)

9 Thinking as having explicit ideas What is thinking?

10 Thinking as having explicit ideas “…what is a thinking thing? It is a thing that doubts, understands, conceives, affirms, denies, wills, refuses…”

11 Thinking as having explicit ideas — “The cat is on the mat”

12 Thinking as having explicit ideas — “The cat is on the mat” Not:

13 Thinking as having explicit ideas — “The cat is on the mat” (As purely a thought, or, pure intellection.)

14 Thinking as having explicit ideas — “The cat is on the mat” — “Does utilitarianism lead to injustice?” — “I want chocolate” — “The sunset is lovely”

15 Thinking as having explicit ideas I.e., having an idea the content of which is explicit, articulate and clear in your mind.

16 Thinking as having explicit ideas I.e., having an idea the content of which is explicit, articulate and clear in your mind. (Plus some reflective attitude toward that content)

17 Thinking as having explicit ideas Argument for Pure Intellection: Vs. Chiliogon (a thousand-sided figure)

18 Thinking as having explicit ideas Can you be wrong about the explicit ideas you are having?

19 Thinking as having explicit ideas Can you be wrong about the explicit ideas you are having? Or, could an evil genius deceive you with respect to your explicit ideas?

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21 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas Of course, you cannot be certain that the cat is on the mat

22 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas How about I am certain that I am now thinking: “The cat is on the mat”

23 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas But this is not true, let alone certain I am certain that I am now thinking: “The cat is on the mat” Because you are actually thinking “I am now certain that I am thinking: The cat is on the mat.”

24 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas So how about “I am now certain I am thinking: The cat is on the mat”

25 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas But this is not true, let alone certain “I am now certain that I am thinking: The cat is on the mat” Because you are actually thinking “I am now certain that I am certain that I am thinking: The cat is on the mat.”

26 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas Certainty is elusive because pure intellection lags one step behind its object.

27 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas Certainty is elusive because pure intellection lags one step behind its object. There is a gap between two acts of thought, and in that gap lies the possibility of error.

28 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas What about being certain that you have thoughts (even if you cannot be certain which thought you are having)?

29 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas What about being certain that you have thoughts (even if you cannot be certain which thought you are having)? But if you can’t be certain which thought you are having, then how can you be certain that you having one?

30 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas Descartes claims that he is certain that he exists, as often as he (explicitly) thinks.

31 Uncertainty about having explicit ideas Descartes claims that he is certain that he exists, as often as he (explicitly) thinks. But he cannot be certain how often that is, so he cannot be certain that he exists.

32 Thinking as consciousness What is consciousness?

33 Thinking as consciousness “…it is certain that I seem to see light, hear a noise, and feel heat; this cannot be false, and this is what in me is properly called perceiving, which is nothing else than thinking.”

34 Thinking as consciousness — Tasting chocolate

35 Thinking as consciousness — Tasting chocolate — Seeing the color red — Feeling envy — Experiencing pain

36 Thinking as consciousness I.e., the felt experience of your present sensations.

37 Thinking as consciousness Can you be wrong about how your sensations feel to you?

38 Thinking as consciousness Can you be wrong about how your sensations feel to you? (Not about the words you use, but about the sensations themselves.)

39 Thinking as consciousness Can you be wrong about how your sensations feel to you? Or, could an evil genius deceive you with respect to the way that your sensations feel?

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41 Uncertainty about consciousness Being conscious is a (glorious, wondrous, mysterious) capacity that you have.

42 Uncertainty about consciousness Being conscious is a (glorious, wondrous, mysterious) capacity that you have. (And it is likely shared with many non- human animals.)

43 Uncertainty about consciousness Reflecting on your consciousness is a different (glorious, wondrous, mysterious) capacity that you have.

44 Uncertainty about consciousness Reflecting on your consciousness is a different (glorious, wondrous, mysterious) capacity that you have. (And it is likely not shared by many non- human animals.)

45 Uncertainty about consciousness But if consciousness and reflection on consciousness are two different capacities, then an evil genius could ‘enter the gap’ to mislead you.

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47 Uncertainty about consciousness

48 “I am certain I am now seeing red”

49 Uncertainty about consciousness What about being certain that you are conscious (even if you can’t be certain what you are conscious of)?

50 Uncertainty about consciousness What about being certain that you are conscious (even if you can’t be certain what you are conscious of)? But if you can’t be certain what you are conscious of, then how can you be certain that you are conscious?

51 Uncertainty about consciousness There is no other marker for the activity of consciousness than consciousness of something.

52 Uncertainty about consciousness Certainty is elusive because conceptual reflection lags one step behind consciousness.

53 Uncertainty about consciousness Certainty is elusive because conceptual reflection lags one step behind consciousness. There is a gap between an act of thought and consciousness, and in that gap lies the possibility of error.

54 Uncertainty about consciousness Descartes claims that he is certain that he exists, as often as he (consciously) thinks. But he cannot be certain how often that is, so he cannot be certain that he exists.

55 Uncertainty about consciousness Descartes claims that he is certain that he exists, as often as he (consciously) thinks. But he cannot be certain how often that is, so he cannot be certain that he exists.

56 Nothing is certain You cannot be certain of your explicit thoughts

57 Nothing is certain You cannot be certain of your explicit thoughts You cannot be certain of your conscious states

58 Nothing is certain So, the best candidates for certainty fail

59 Nothing is certain So what?

60 “How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as a result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of Djin when Aladdin rubbed his lamp.” — T.H. Huxley Lessons in Elementary Psychology (1866)

61 Certainty and consciousness The alleged hard problem of consciousness: The problem of experience, or the something-it-is-like-to-be problem

62 Certainty and consciousness Why is the something-it-is-like-to- be problem hard?

63 Certainty and consciousness Why is the something-it-is-like-to- be problem hard? Consciousness is alleged to have scientifically intractable properties

64 Certainty and consciousness — Epistemically unique (Descartes, sixth meditation)

65 Certainty and consciousness — Epistemically unique — Private

66 Certainty and consciousness — Epistemically unique — Private But there is a gap between your reflection and the object, just as there is a gap between someone else and the object.

67 Certainty and consciousness — Epistemically unique — Private — Perspectival

68 Certainty and consciousness — Epistemically unique — Private — Perspectival But understanding is conceptual and reflective, and that is not perspectival (in this sense)

69 Certainty and consciousness — Epistemically unique — Private — Perspectival

70 Certainty and consciousness The properties allegedly had by consciousness are the result of a fallible inference based on particular evidence

71 Nothing is certain Philosophy as continuous with science

72 Nothing is certain Philosophy as continuous with science (I.e., as preparation for empirical inquiry.)

73 “Epistemology, or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science. It studies a natural phenomenon, viz., a physical human subject.” — W.V.O Quine “Epistemology Naturalized” (1969)

74 Knowing One’s Mind Special thanks to: Melissa Barry, Michelle Donnelly ‘08, Will Dudley ‘89, Young Hahn ‘07, Kris Kirby, Adriann Mintzmyer ‘09, Kathleen Monahan, Craig Robertson, and Julianne Shelby ‘06.


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