Interim Workshop 2 Abstracts

Eli Alshanetsky: “Making Our Thoughts Clear: The Role of Language in the Pursuit of Self-Knowledge”
We often make our thoughts clear to ourselves in the process of putting them into words. In this talk I introduce a new puzzle about this process – one that’s reminiscent of the famous paradox about inquiry in Plato’s Meno. The puzzle is that, on the one hand, coming to know what we’re thinking seems to require finding words that would express our thought; yet, on the other hand, finding such words seems to require already knowing what we’re thinking. After considering and rejecting some straightforward solutions to this puzzle, I suggest a positive account of the role of language in self-knowledge, on which language mediates between two different “formats” or modes of thought. I then point out some possible implications of this account for broader issues in epistemology.

Dorit Bar-On & Jordan Ochs: “Speaking Your Mind in Your Mind: Inner Speech and Self-Knowledge”
How do you know what you’re thinking? Neo-Ryleans have sought to explain the special knowledge we seem to have of our own thoughts by appealing to our inner speech episodes. We have recently argued against two neo-Rylean accounts and identified several desiderata for a satisfactory account of basic self-knowledge of thoughts that features inner speech. Two of our desiderata demand the resolution of a major puzzle that confronts any account of basic self-knowledge: how to reconcile its (apparent) baselessness with its substantiveness. Familiar attempts to achieve this reconciliation – whether ‘epistemic’ or ‘metaphysical’ – face various difficulties. Moreover, they do not make contact with our concern here, namely, the role of inner speech in basic self-knowledge. Taking a lead from a recent metaphysical account (due to Matthew Boyle), we argue that being in a state of mind cannot suffice for knowing that you are in it; the latter requires, in addition, having an active, occurrent self-belief. Such self-beliefs, we submit, are implicated in certain acts of inner speech. These are acts of speaking your mind in your mind. We offer a neo-expressivist account of these acts and argue that it has the resources for satisfying the desiderata we have laid down.

Paul Boghossian: “Intuition, Understanding and the A Priori”
I explore both understanding-based and intuition-based accounts of the a priori. I argue that intuitions have an indispensable role to play in accounting for the a priori justification that we have.

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa: “Intuition, Rationality and Normative Criticism”
The talk has two main aims. First, it will articulate what I take to be one of the main motivations for the widespread view that intuitions have a central role to play in the epistemology of the a priori. I think the popularity of this view is driven in significant part by what I call the “what else? argument” (WEA) — the idea that something must play a role in the a priori analogous to the role of sensory experience in perceptual knowledge. In previous work I have argued that intuitions do not play such a role, so one important job for someone with a view like mine will be to outline avenues of resistance to the WEA. I take up this job in the first part of the talk, giving a catalogue of options for one wishing to deny a central role to intuition. My own view is one in which nothing plays the role in question. An implication of the view is that rationality is demanding—that rational failures are ubiquitous. This implication is unpopular, but I think that resistance to it may be partially attributable to a systematic first-personal bias against normative critique. The second part of the talk outlines this line of thought.

Walter Pedriali & Peter Sullivan: “Keeping Genealogies at Bay: Frege on Logical Content”
In this paper, I articulate a novel reading of Frege’s conception of the a priori with regard to logical content. I take some remarks by Tyler Burge as my starting point. I then move on to defend a notion of a priori singular judgement formulated in terms of procedural containment, whereby a thinker detects and extracts a logical procedure from the content of a thought through acts of intellectual understanding. In closing, I consider the question of whether Frege’s conception of the a priori, so characterised, has the resources to exclude those genealogical considerations that for Husserl leave a constitutive trace in the content of every act of cognition, including those involving purely logical content.

Lea Salje: “The Inside-out Binding Problem”
For the animals that we are, our modes of bodily self-perception can roughly be grouped in two: the exteroceptive senses like vision, touch and smell, through which one’s body is perceived as an object among others; and the interoceptive senses like proprioception, kinaesthesia and nociception, through which a subject can perceive her own body and its parts only. Through interoception one perceives a body as one’s own, while through exteroception one perceives a body as one worldly object among many. In this talk I ask what grounds our perceptual sensitivity to the sameness of the body (or body-parts) perceived through both sets of senses, such that such cross-modal bodily perception can feed into our de se conceptions of ourselves as ordinary worldly objects.

Joshua Thorpe: “Who’s afraid of the contingent a priori? A response to the McKinsey paradox”
Externalism about thought content and the thesis of privileged access are independently plausible, and yet when endorsed together seem to entail that a priori knowledge of certain contingent environmental propositions is possible. This conclusion is widely thought to be unacceptable, thus the McKinsey paradox. In this paper I argue that this conclusion is in fact acceptable, thus solving the paradox. Properly understood, the conclusion of the paradox is that it is possible to have merely superficially contingent a priori knowledge of the environmental propositions in question, that is, a priori knowledge that is contingent, and yet semantically guaranteed to be true by an a priori available indexical understanding of the concepts involved. This renders the conclusion of the paradox acceptable for two reasons. First, it is explicable how merely superficially contingent a priori knowledge arises. Second, such knowledge is unexciting, because the subject who has it is able to make few, if any, interesting deductions from it. I then reply to the major arguments in the literature that the conclusion of the paradox is unacceptable. These arguments implicitly rest on the assumption that the conclusion of the paradox is that it is possible to have deeply contingent a priori knowledge, that is, a priori knowledge that is contingent and not semantically guaranteed. This assumption is false, and so the arguments that the conclusion is unacceptable fail.