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Knowing Our Own Minds$
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Crispin Wright, Barry C. Smith, and Cynthia Macdonald

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780199241408

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199241406.001.0001

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Reason and the First Person

Reason and the First Person

(p.243) 8 Reason and the First Person
Knowing Our Own Minds

Tyler Burge (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The first part of the paper focuses on the role played in thought and action by possession of the first‐person concept. It is argued that only one who possesses the I concept is in a position to fully articulate certain fundamental, a priori aspects of the concept of reason. A full understanding of the concept of reason requires being inclined to be affected or immediately motivated by reasons—to form, change or confirm beliefs or other attitudes in accordance with them—when those reasons apply to one's own attitudes. The cases where rational evaluations of acts and attitudes rationally motivate immediate implementation of the evaluations to shape the acts and attitudes are distinguished from cases where they do not, by the use of the first‐person concept to mark those acts and attitudes as one's own. The second part of the paper examines asymmetries between self‐knowledge and knowledge of other minds. The usual view that self‐knowledge has an immediate and a priori warrant, whereas knowledge of others’ minds rests on observation and inference is disputed. A sketch is given of knowledge of other minds that can be non‐inferential and can rest on an intellectual, non‐perceptual entitlement. When one seemingly understands an utterance in interlocution, one is a priori prima facie entitled to suppose that it comes from a rational source, and because knowledge of other minds can be immediate and epistemically grounded in intellectual, non‐empirical entitlements, it is distinguished from self‐knowledge not by being necessarily inferential or by being necessarily grounded in perception, but by being in some known contrast with thought known as one's own.

Keywords:   a priori entitlement, critical reasoning, first‐person concept, knowledge of other minds

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