Please email me for manuscripts: peacocke@berkeley.edu.

"Embedded mental action in self-attribution of belief" (Philosophical Studies, 2017)

Published version here (please cite this version). Download the penultimate draft here.

You can come to know that you believe that p partly by reflecting on whether p and then judging that p. Call this procedure ‘‘the transparency method for belief.’’ How exactly does the transparency method generate known self-attributions of belief? To answer that question, we cannot interpret the transparency method as involving a transition between the contents p and I believe that p. It is hard to see how some such transition could be warranted. Instead, in this context, one mental action is both a judgment that p and a self-attribution of a belief that p. The notion of embedded mental action is introduced here to explain how this can be so and to provide a full epistemic explanation of the transparency method. That explanation makes sense of first-person authority and immediacy in transparent self-knowledge. In generalized form, it gives sufficient conditions on an attitude’s being known transparently.

Dissertation: Knowing Yourself is Something You Do

You know your mind better than anyone else. What explains that? You don’t have an inner sense of introspection. Rather, I argue, you know your mind best because your thoughts are not just happenings in a passing show: some are intentional actions performed for reasons. In those cases, your own understanding of what you are doing in thought partly determines what you are actually doing in thought. For example: when you judge that p in order to self-attribute a belief on the matter, your judgment that p is itself a self-attribution of a belief that p. When generalized, this model of ‘transparent’ self-knowledge applies to several mental attitudes, acts, and events—with a few surprising consequences. It identifies moments of fleeting, fragile infallibility. It provides a recipe for producing new Moorean paradoxes. And it inverts received wisdom about the importance of self-knowledge to a life well lived: self-knowledge may be the reward of integrity, and not its source.

Manuscript: Five ways of thinking about Moorean absurdities for intention

Traditional Moorean absurdities for belief are sentences like “p, but I don’t believe that p,” or “p, but I believe that it’s not the case that p.” They have certain distinctive features: they can be true, but they are absurd to assert—but only in such first-personal, present-tense forms. Are there any analogous Moorean absurdities for intention? I examine five different kinds of candidate Moorean absurdities for intention. I reject three kinds of candidates that do not share the fundamental features of Moorean absurdities for belief. The remaining two kinds of candidate are promising: they provide sentences involving intention attributions that can be true, but are absurd to assert—but only in first-personal, present-tense forms. Recognizing that these really could be Moorean absurdities for intention does not require committing to any particular explanation of the absurdity involved in asserting them—or in asserting the classical Moorean absurdities for belief.

Manuscript: How to imagine experiences you've never had

Philosophers often claim that you must have firsthand experience involving some sensible quality to imagine what it is like to experience it. Yet authors often claim that reading literature can genuinely expand your phenomenal imagination. This paper reconciles these two claims by using a model of imaginative extrapolation found in Hume. I argue that appreciating literary comparisons allows readers to notice new dimensions of similarity between sensible qualities, thus expanding readers’ capacities for imaginative extrapolation to unfamiliar sensible qualities. I analyze specific examples of literary comparisons to explain how this works.