The ‘Crux’ of Internal Promptings
In Self-Knowledge for Humans (2014), Cassam defends a quite broad inferentialist theory of substantial third-person self-knowledge, which he promises to extend to virtually all mental states, including the so-called “internal promptings” (Lawlor 2009). Internal promptings are spontaneous, self-intimated experiential episodes that may not always be phenomenologically salient, or conceptually clearly subsumed, to the extent that the subject may not always be able to identify them. According to Cassam, however, their spontaneous surfacing does not preclude our access to them actually being inferential.
I question the claim that internal promptings can really be covered by an inferentialist theory of self-knowledge. While I agree with Coliva (2016) that an inferentialist theory of self-knowledge does not in fact apply to self-knowledge of internal promptings, I show that this failure does not depend on lacking a story about how inferentialism can be extended to first-person self-knowledge, as Coliva diagnoses. Rather, Cassam’s theory is flawed by an independent, and precedent, amphiboly fallacy affecting the concept of self-knowledge he makes use of. That is why Coliva’s objection may not apply immediately, even if her verdict on the non-extensibility of an inferentialist theory of self-knowledge to internal promptings is unaffected.
I also raise and discuss the issue of under-determination of inner experience with respect to conceptual schemes. Finally, by taking stock of the intrinsically elusive nature of a vast portion of our own mental states, I express sympathy for a wider geography of the mental.
KeywordsThird-person self-knowledge First-person self-knowledge Self-interpretation Internal promptings Internal evidence Unconceptualized mental states
I thank Julie Kirsch for comments and revisions on an early draft of this chapter.
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