Questions of Reference and the Reflexivity of First-Person Thought

Journal of Philosophy 119 (11):628-640 (2022)
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Tradition has it that first-person thought is somehow special. It is also commonplace to maintain that the first-person concept obeys a rule of reference to the effect that any token first-person thought is about the thinker of that thought. Following Annalisa Coliva and, more recently, Santiago Echeverri, I take the specialness claim to be the claim that thinking a first-person thought comes with a certain guarantee of its pattern of reference. Echeverri maintains that such a guarantee is explained by a fairly flatfooted interpretation of the thinker-reflexive rule. I argue, however, that the explanatory aspirations of the thinker-reflexive rule are fulfilled only if we accept an epistemically loaded gloss on the notion of a thinker of a thought featuring the rule. That gloss is unpacked in terms of the subject’s ability to be acquainted with the phenomenal character of their thoughts.

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Michele Palmira
Complutense University of Madrid


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