Interpretive sensory-access theory and conscious intentions

Philosophical Psychology 27 (4):583–595 (2014)
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It is typically assumed that while we know other people’s mental states by observing and interpreting their behavior, we know our own mental states by introspection, i.e., without interpreting ourselves. In his latest book, The opacity of mind: An integrative theory of self-knowledge, Peter Carruthers (2011) argues against this assumption. He holds that findings from across the cognitive sciences strongly suggest that self-knowledge of conscious propositional attitudes such as intentions, judgments, and decisions involves a swift and unconscious process of self-interpretation that utilizes the same sensory channels that we employ when working out other people’s mental states. I provide an overview of Carruthers’ book before discussing a pathological case that challenges his account of self-knowledge and mentioning empirical evidence that undermines his use of a particular kind of data in his case against introspection of conscious attitudes.

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Uwe Peters
Utrecht University


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