First-Person Authority: An Epistemic-Pragmatic Account


  • Thanks to Emma Borg, Rachel Cooper, Cain Todd, and Nick Unwin, and audiences at UCL and Lancaster for comments on earlier versions of this paper. Special thanks to an anonymous, but incisive and patient, Mind & Language referee for a wide range of useful criticisms and suggestions.

Neil C Manson, Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University, LA1 4YG, UK.


Some self-ascriptions of belief, desire and other attitudes exhibit first-person authority. The aim here is to offer a novel account of this kind of first-person authority. The account is a development of Robert Gordon's ascent routine theory but is framed in terms of our ability to bring it about that others know of our attitudes via speech acts which do not deploy attitudinal vocabulary but which nonetheless ‘show’ our attitudes to others. Unlike Gordon's ascent routine theory, the theory readily applies to attitudes other than belief, avoids a need to appeal to processes of making up one's mind, and does not rest upon a distinction between ‘outward looking’ and ‘inward looking’ processes.