RIP Workshop: Self Knowledge

ERI Building, G51
Monday 12th December 2011 (16:00-19:00)

For enquiries, please contact the local organizer, Dr Jussi Suikkanen (

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4.00-5.15: Åsa Wikforss (Stockholm University) 
“Self-Knowledge: A Special Kind of Knowledge?”

5.15-5.30: Coffee and Tea

5.30-6.45: Cynthia Macdonald (University of Manchester) 
“Self-Knowledge and the ‘Inner Eye’”

6.45pm onwards – Drinks and Dinner

According to a legend, the words ‘Know thyself’ were inscribed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. This aphorism has always fascinated philosophers. Plato, for example, discussed it in at least six of his dialogues. More recently, philosophers have been very interested in self-knowledge understood as knowledge about our own mental states. The presentations at this workshop will discuss the recent work on how is it that we can know what we think. They also explore the special features of this kind knowledge.

The workshop is open to all audiences, and there is no attendance fee (refreshments will be free, but drinks and dinner will not be included).


Åsa Wikforss: Self-Knowledge: A Special Kind of Knowledge
I examine the claim that self-knowledge is epistemologically special. My focus is on knowledge of our own beliefs. Two claims are often made: First, that this knowledge is better or safer than ordinary empirical knowledge. Second, that it involves a special kind of justification, since it can neither be said to be based on observation, nor on inferences from other beliefs. I argue that both of these claims are problematic. In particular, I argue that the arguments against the observational and inferential models fail. Instead, I suggest, self-knowledge should be treated as an ordinary species of empirical knowledge.

Cynthia Macdonald: “Self-Knowledge and the ‘Inner Eye’”
Tyler Burge has argued that the basic core cases of authoritative self-knowledge are the 'cogito-like' ones. These are thoughts that are contextually self-verifying because, in thinking the thought, one makes the thought true. One makes it true because the state thought about is literally a part or constituent of the thinking state. In thinking that I am thinking that Manchester is north of London, I am thinking that Manchester is north of London. The knowledge possessed by subjects in such cases is infallible for this reason. This has been called the 'same-order' view of authoritative self-knowledge. I first consider problems with this view, then formulate a response to it. The response is a version of what is known as Detectivism, a view that appeals to an observational basis for authoritative self-knowledge.