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My topic is the kind of knowledge that the Cartesian tradition takes to be the most basic and unproblematic: knowledge of one’s own mind—both of one’s phenomenal experience, and of the contents of one’s thought. But my strategy is to approach this kind of knowledge from the outside, asking what a thing in the objective world must be like to be a subject—to have a point of view on the world, and to have the capacity to think about it. The aim is to get clearer about the relation between a conception of the world as it is in itself (an absolute conception, to use Bernard Williams’s term) and the perspectives of subjects who have, or purport to have, such a conception.
After a preliminary sketch of the externalist approach, illustrated with some examples from recent philosophical debates, I begin with a critical discussion of three responses to Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument. While I think there is something right about each of these responses, I argue, first, that the notion of...