"The Paradox of Self-Consciousness" by José Luis Burmùdez [Book Review]

Philosophical Review 1 (4):624 (2001)
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What José Luis Bermúdez calls the paradox of self-consciousness is essentially the conflict between two claims: (1) The capacity to use first-personal referential devices like “I” must be explained in terms of the capacity to think first-person thoughts. (2) The only way to explain the capacity for having a certain kind of thought is by explaining the capacity for the canonical linguistic expression of thoughts of that kind. (Bermúdez calls this the “Thought-Language Principle”.) The conflict between (1) and (2) is obvious enough. However, if a paradox is an unacceptable conclusion drawn from apparently valid reasoning from apparently true premises, then Bermúdez’s conflict is no paradox. It is rather a conflict between the view that thought must be explained in terms of language, and the view that first person linguistic reference must be explained in terms of first-person thought. Neither view is immediately obvious, and nor is it obvious that the arguments for either are equally compelling. What we have here is a difference of philosophical opinion, not a paradox.

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Tim Crane
Central European University


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