TRAMES 1, 1, 1997

Bruno Mölder. First-person authority about one's own mind


According to the thesis of first-person authority, my knowledge of my own mental states is substantially different from my knowledge of the mental states of others. In this paper the thesis of first-person authority is examined and refuted. The thesis consists of four different theses: self-intimacy, infallibility, indubitability and incorrigibility. It is possible to develop counter-arguments to all of them. Also, I attempt to show that ineffable awareness could not guarantee first-person authority. An alternative account to first-person authority is suggested that is free of the Cartesian Model of Mind. The account rests upon the folk theory of mind and on the nature of interpretative practice. We ascribe first-person authority to ourselves and interpret other people as if they would enjoy privileged access to their own mental states. Although first-person authority forms the central part of folk psychology, it lacks metaphysical power — i.e., one cannot build coherent metaphysical systems based on folk-psychologically interpreted first-person authority. The reason for this is first, that folk psychology as a theory need not be true and second, that the first-person authority that belongs to the folk psychology is only contingent.

Back to contents or to the first page.

Authors address:
Mõisavahe 26-15
EE2400 Tartu