, Volume 191, Issue 15, pp 3685–3710 | Cite as

In my ‘Mind’s Eye’: introspectionism, detectivism, and the basis of authoritative self-knowledge

  • Cynthia MacdonaldEmail author


It is widely accepted that knowledge of certain of one’s own mental states is authoritative in being epistemically more secure than knowledge of the mental states of others, and theories of self-knowledge have largely appealed to one or the other of two sources to explain this special epistemic status. The first, ‘detectivist’, position, appeals to an inner perception-like basis, whereas the second, ‘constitutivist’, one, appeals to the view that the special security awarded to certain self-knowledge is a conceptual matter. I argue that there is a fundamental class of cases of authoritative self-knowledge, ones in which subjects are consciously thinking about their current, conscious intentional states, that is best accounted for in terms of a theory that is, broadly speaking, introspectionist and detectivist. The position developed has an intuitive plausibility that has inspired many who work in the Cartesian tradition, and the potential to yield a single treatment of the basis of authoritative self-knowledge for both intentional states and sensation states.


Introspection Detectivism Authoritative self-knowledge Constitutivism Specious present Same-order view 



I would like to thank Tim Bayne, Eve Garrard, Kathrin Glüer-Pagin, Ben Jarvis, Lawrence Lombard Graham Macdonald, Asa Wikforss, Daniel Whiting, and audiences at the Universities of Glasgow, Hertfordshire, Southampton, Dublin, Canterbury, New Zealand, and anonymous referees for this journal, for very helpful comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ManchesterManchester UK

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