On Knowing One's Own Language

In Crispin Wright, Barry C. Smith & Cynthia Macdonald (eds.), Knowing Our Own Minds. Oxford University Press. pp. 391--428 (1998)
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We rely on language to know the minds of others, but does language have a role to play in knowing our own minds? To suppose it does is to look for a connection between mastery of a language and the epistemic relation we bear to our inner lives. What could such a connection consist in? To explore this, I shall examine strategies for explaining self-knowledge in terms of the use we make of language to express and report our mental states. Success in these strategies will depend on the view we take of speakers' understanding of the words they use to speak their minds. The key is to avoid circularity in the account of how they know what they mean; for if knowing what one is saying in speaking a language provides a means of knowing one's own mind, it cannot simply be a part of it. I shall look at ways in which we might proceed here, and examine whether the strategy can make room for a genuinely first-person point of view. But first let me try to motivate the problem of self-knowledge.

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Barry C. Smith
School of Advanced Study, University of London


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