Two Minutes with Dr. Yahya
The Arab Manifesto: Self and Mind Knowledge
(Originally written by: Prof. Hasan Yahya, Ph.Ds between 1994 and 2005)
Models of Knowing One’s Self
In philosophy, “knowing one’s self” or ‘self-knowledge’ commonly refers to knowledge of one’s particular mental states, including one’s beliefs, desires, and sensations. It is also sometimes used to refer to knowledge about a persisting self—its ontological nature, identity conditions, or character traits. At least since Descartes, most philosophers have believed that self-knowledge is importantly different from knowledge of the world external to oneself, including others’ thoughts. But there is little agreement about what precisely distinguishes self-knowledge from knowledge in other realms. Partially because of this disagreement, philosophers have endorsed competing accounts of how we acquire self-knowledge. These accounts have important consequences for the scope of mental content, for mental ontology, and for personal identity.
Concerning models of self, five theories perceive self knowledge differently. For example, The Unmediated Observation Model which most current views define themselves against is associated with Descartes. The Unmediated Observation model of self-knowledge attributed to him holds that we observe our own thoughts. However, those who believe in self-foundation claim that all of our knowledge rests on a foundation of beliefs that are justified, but not justified by other beliefs. Which I believe is true. According to the model is conducive to foundationalism in that it provides for highly secure self-attributions, which could form part of the epistemic foundation.
The Inner Sense Model,Unlike Unmediated Observation model, seeks to minimize the anomalousness and associated mystery of self-knowledge by construing introspection as fundamentally similar to perception. Locke, an early champion of the Inner Sense model, described the introspective faculty as follows.
The Rationality Mode. Proponents of this model, reject the notion that self-knowledge consists in introspective access to evidence, or perception-like reliability. But this rejection leaves room for an alternative epistemic analysis of self-knowledge. Requiring an excessively high degree of rationality threatens to trivialize the model. For the more rational subjects are, the less surprising it is that they are self-aware.
When one becomes aware of one’s own mental states by attending to features of the world external to oneself, the Transparency Model in contrast with Inner Sense view, denies that there is a perception-like mechanism which is directed inward. Instead, the self-knowledge that the model accounts for requires an outward rather than an inward look. Dretske expresses this by saying that self-knowledge is “a form of perceptual knowledge that is obtained—indeed, can only be obtained—by awareness of non-mental objects” (Dretske 1994, 264).
A main difference between self-knowledge and perceptual knowledge, on Shoemaker’s account, is that the former is “immune to error through misidentification relative to the first-person pronoun”(Shoemaker 1968). Shoemaker (1994) offers a version of the Rationality model which is only partially epistemic. He argues that no rational person who had the concepts ‘belief’, ‘desire’,‘pain’, etc., could be incapable of self-knowledge—in his terms, “self-blind”. For a self-blind person would not function as a normal, rational person. He would (i) fall into certain conceptual errors, such as asserting transparency-violating sentences (“It’s raining but I believe that it isn’t raining”); (ii) lack the ability to share his beliefs with others, and hence to engage in cooperative endeavors; (iii) be devoid of true agency, since agency involves higher-order deliberation regarding lower-order states; and (iv) regard himself “as a stranger”, e.g., in observing his own pain-avoidance behavior without grasping his own pain.
The Expressive Model is non-epistemic model, It highlights the similarity between self-attributions and other modes of self-expression, such as shouting “waw!” or“ooh!” or “I like that!” These expressions or performances have no propositional content; they cannot be true or false. Furthermore, pure Expressivism, holds that self-attributions that appear to be propositional—such as“I am happy”, “I am in pain”, and “I want that”—are extremes devoid of propositional content, but express one’s mental states in much the same way that shouting“yay!” expresses joy, and blushing expresses embarrassment,
The last model on self knowledge in the literature, is The Commitment Model, where epistemic accounts seek to provide an epistemological picture that meshes with the special—in some cases, only slightly special—epistemic character of self-knowledge. Explaining this model, as I conceive of myself as a rational agent, my awareness of my belief is awareness of my commitment to its truth, a commitment to something that transcends any description of my psychological state. (Moran 1997, 151)
In fact, the Commitment model shares with other non-epistemic models the challenge of accommodating the strong intuition that what differentiates self-knowledge from knowledge in other realms is, first and foremost, an epistemic feature. For instance, it might be argued that an epistemic model will best explain what is special about self-knowledge, while the Commitment model pertains to distinct issues. These issues include: what is involved, conceptually and psychologically, in reflecting on one’s attitudes considered as one’s own; and what is required for avoiding self-alienation or maintaining agential integrity. (825 words) . www.hasanyahya.com