Authority and Estrangement

Authority and Estrangement: An Essay on Self-Knowledge

Richard Moran
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Authority and Estrangement
    Book Description:

    Since Socrates, and through Descartes to the present day, the problems of self-knowledge have been central to philosophy's understanding of itself. Today the idea of ''first-person authority''--the claim of a distinctive relation each person has toward his or her own mental life--has been challenged from a number of directions, to the point where many doubt the person bears any distinctive relation to his or her own mental life, let alone a privileged one. InAuthority and Estrangement, Richard Moran argues for a reconception of the first-person and its claims. Indeed, he writes, a more thorough repudiation of the idea of privileged inner observation leads to a deeper appreciation of the systematic differences between self-knowledge and the knowledge of others, differences that are both irreducible and constitutive of the very concept and life of the person.

    Masterfully blending philosophy of mind and moral psychology, Moran develops a view of self-knowledge that concentrates on the self as agent rather than spectator. He argues that while each person does speak for his own thought and feeling with a distinctive authority, that very authority is tied just as much to the disprivileging of the first-person, to its specific possibilities of alienation. Drawing on certain themes from Wittgenstein, Sartre, and others, the book explores the extent to which what we say about ourselves is a matter of discovery or of creation, the difficulties and limitations in being ''objective'' toward ourselves, and the conflicting demands of realism about oneself and responsibility for oneself. What emerges is a strikingly original and psychologically nuanced exploration of the contrasting ideals of relations to oneself and relations to others.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4297-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Outline of the Chapters
    (pp. xi-xxvi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xxvii-xxxvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxxvii-xl)
  6. CHAPTER ONE The Image of Self-Knowledge
    (pp. 1-35)

    The question of the nature of first-person relations has not suffered from philosophical neglect in recent years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, attention has tended to concentrate on the particular relation ofknowledge; and even more particularly, on the specifically first-person awareness we normally take ourselves to have of our own mental life. This chapter attempts to reorient some of our thinking about self-knowledge and place the more familiar epistemological questions in the context of wider self-other asymmetries which, when they receive attention at all, are normally discussed outside the context of the issues concerning self-knowledge. This task is really the concern of...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Making Up Your Mind: Self-Interpretation and Self-Constitution
    (pp. 36-65)

    We have seen how natural it is to think that if self-knowledge is something substantial at all, it must be something that corresponds at least roughly to the Perceptual Model of it. We speak of the “realm” of the mental, and one of the more innocent things suggested by this way of speaking is that if we are to speak of awareness here, it must be like any other awareness of any other realm of empirical phenomena. At this point in the argument it hardly matters whether we think of this realm as containing states, processes, objects, or whatever. We...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Self-Knowledge as Discovery and as Resolution
    (pp. 66-99)

    It was argued in the previous chapter that the “transparency” of the first-person, as described by Edgley and Evans, is not a logical feature of first-person discourse that applies across the board, but rather a matter of a particular (although natural) stance taken toward oneself. With respect to the attitude of belief, the claim of transparency tells us that the first-person question “Do I believe P?” is “transparent” to, answered in the same way as, the outward-directed question as to the truth of P itself. But only if I can see my own belief as somehow “up to me” will...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Authority of Self-Consciousness
    (pp. 100-151)

    In the previous chapter I sketched out a picture of self-knowledge as involving the ability toavowone’s state of mind and not merely to attribute it to oneself; and I argued that it is this feature of the first-person position that accounts in part both for the way in which first-person reports are made without appeal to evidence, and why the ability to make reports of just this sort should be bound up with the rationality of the person. All of these claims require further development, both to clarify this line of thought and to relate these basic ideas...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Impersonality, Expression, and the Undoing of Self-Knowledge
    (pp. 152-194)

    This final chapter does not so much continue the argument of the previous four as bring the foregoing account of first-person authority into contact with a few of the wider problems in moral psychology which that account should help us to consider with greater specificity—problems that lie beyond the basic question of self-knowledge of beliefs. In the epigraph above, for instance, the connection being drawn in passing by both Stevens and I. A. Richards, between a point of view on the self that is at once objectifying (“merely as goings-on”) and undermining (“self-dissolvingintrospection”), is, in one way, familiar...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 195-200)
  12. Index
    (pp. 201-202)