Knowing Your Own Beliefs

Eric Schwitzgebel

Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 35 (2011), supplement 41-62.  (Belief and Agency, ed. D. Hunter.)

Abstract:  To believe is to possess a wide variety of dispositions pertinent to the proposition believed.  Among those dispositions are self-ascriptive dispositions.  Consequently, being disposed to self-ascribe belief that P is partly constitutive of believing that P.  Such self-ascriptive dispositions can be underwritten by any of a variety of mechanisms, acting co-operatively or competitively.  But since self-ascriptive dispositions are only partly constitutive of belief, there can be cases in which the self-ascriptive dispositions splinter away from the remaining dispositions.  It is then an empirical question how often our self-ascriptive dispositions diverge from the remaining dispositions constitutive of belief.  The dispositions will tend to align reliably when possession of the belief in question is normatively neutral, straightforwardly connected to behavior, and most centrally manifested in explicit assertions or judgments.  When these three conditions are not met, self-ascription, self-conscious avowal, sincere utterance, and explicit judgment will often diverge from the various other dispositions constitutive of belief.  Even self-knowledge of explicit judgment can be problematic when we are attracted to half-empty forms of words or when we are not entirely persuaded of what we are saying.

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