Knowledge of our own thoughts and beliefs

Project leader

Funding source

Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ)

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2003
End date: 31/12/2004
Funding: 1425000 SEK


The purpose of the project is to examine the knowledge we have of our own thoughts and beliefs. This knowledge has traditionally been assumed to be particularly direct and indubitable: I can doubt the truth of my thoughts, but not that I am thinking these thoughts. However, this traditional picture of self- knowledge has come under pressure during the past decade as a result of the widely-held view that thought content is to be given an externalistic account. According to this theory, thought content depends not on the internal properties of an individual but on his or her external environment. This implies that a change in the individual's environment may lead to a change in thought content, even though the individual is unaware of the change. The focus of the debate is whether externalism is compatible with a plausible account of first-person knowledge of thoughts and beliefs. Among the questions that will be discussed are the following: Is externalism really incompatible with self-knowledge? Is it correct that this knowledge is particularly direct and indubitable? Can we know the content of a thought that we only grasp incompletely? How is knowledge of thought content related to knowledge of beliefs and desires? Is scepticism with regard to first-person knowledge coherent? The central questions, therefore, are epistemological, but the ultimate goal is to formulate a plausible theory of thought content.

Last updated on 2017-24-03 at 13:01