Bodily Self-Knowledge as a Special Form of Perception

Disputatio 11 (20) (2022)
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We enjoy immediate knowledge of our own limbs and bodies. I argue that this knowledge, which is also called proprioception, is a special form of perception, special in that it is, unlike perception by the external senses, at the same time also a form of genuine self-knowledge. The argument has two parts. Negatively, I argue against the view, held by G. E. M. Anscombe and strengthened by John McDowell, that this knowledge, bodily self-knowledge, is non-perceptual. This involves, inter alia, rescuing from McDowell’s attack the very idea of receptive self-knowledge. On the positive side, I develop, by drawing on the work of Brian O’Shaughnessy, a detailed account of bodily self-knowledge as a special form of perception. This account spells out how this special form of perception is epistemologically mediated by sensations of a special class of primary qualities—vital-dynamic sensations as I call them—in one’s limbs.

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Hao Tang
Tsinghua University


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