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Self-knowledge and its anomalies
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 19:36 authored by Julie Germein
My thesis is that the practical irrationalities that we call anomalies are failures of the rational agent to know her own mind in situations where what she believes or intends or desires seems not to be rationally connected with how she acts. I take Richard Moran’s 2001 account of self-knowledge as the basis for my argument that self-deception and akrasia, in particular, are better explained this way than as irrationalities unconnected with self-knowledge. Moran’s account is written from the first-person perspective of the active agent, conceived as asymmetric with the third-person perspective. It sets out authority and estrangement as conceptual opposites. Estrangement, Moran argues, is usually caused by our ‘burying’ some thought that we find unacceptable: that is, by rendering it in some way unconscious. We can also be estranged from our attitude when we can think about it consciously, on Moran’s account, by knowing it only theoretically, rather than immediately, for ourselves. Because she is estranged in some way from her real reason for her belief or intention, the subject suffers an unavoidable lack in her wholehearted knowledge of why she has the attitude, causing her to act with a degree of passivity concerning it. The passivity reduces her capacity actively to control her decision to believe that p or to do a on the basis of reasons. The consequence is that her self-ascription, although agential, is not fully self-determined. In both cases it has only third-person authority; she has failed to achieve normal, first-person authority over it. Having defended Moran’s account against deflationary objections, I then argue that estrangement renders all self-deceived self-ascriptions, all serious akratic self-ascriptions, and many everyday akratic self-ascriptions necessarily less than fully self-determined; that the relevant acts that follow are therefore necessarily to some degree psychologically unfree and thus that they have third-person rather than first-person authority.