I—Knowing What You Believe


  • Meeting of the Aristotelian Society held at Senate House, University of London, on 11 October 2010 at 4:15 p.m.


A familiar claim is that knowledge of our own thoughts, beliefs and other attitudes is normally immediate, that is, not normally based on observation, inference or evidence. One explanation of the possibility of immediate self-knowledge turns on the transparency of the question ‘Do I believe that P?’ to the question ‘Is it the case that P?’ This paper explains why occurrent mental states such as passing thoughts do not fall within the purview of the transparency account and proposes a different account of how we know our own passing thoughts. It is also argued that the transparency account fails to explain how knowledge of our own beliefs can be psychologically or epistemically immediate. Finally, questions are raised about the presumption that knowledge of our own beliefs is epistemically immediate.