Conscious Belief and Access Internalism

This is a follow up from the previous post.  I’m considering not using ‘occurrent belief’ talk anymore since it either just stipulatively means conscious belief (in which case, we should just use ‘conscious belief’) or it’s just not clear what it means.  (I assume that, in these discussions, the relevant kind of consciousness is phenomenal consciousness.)  Let me know if you think throwing out ‘occurrent belief’ is a bad idea.  (David Chalmers mentions in the comments in the previous post that phil. mind people have already gone in this direction.)

I’d like a definition of ‘conscious belief’ that gets at what epistemologists care about and also avoids difficult issues in philosophy of mind.  How does this sound?

1) S’s belief that p is conscious IFF S believes that p AND S has the feeling of an endorsement that p that is a direct result of S’s belief that p.

We can also negate the second conjunct of the analysans to get the conditions for a belief’s not being conscious.

I think these issues are relevant to epistemology in the following way.  When internalists talk about mental states that are accessed or accessible, I believe they are talking about mental states that are conscious or can be made conscious.  This is because access internalists care about the person’s perspective on the world, what is in the person’s mind’s eye, and that is just her conscious experience.  To them, unconscious mental states are  relevant to epistemic justification insofar as they are accessible (can be made conscious).  (Of course, mentalism leaves open the possibility that unaccessible mental states are epistemically relevant.)  So, as access internalists understand ‘accessed’,

2) S’s mental state is accessed IFF S’s mental state is conscious.

3) S’s mental state is accessible IFF S’s mental state can be made conscious by S.

Let me know if anybody sees anything problematic here.


Comments

Conscious Belief and Access Internalism — 4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Philosophy News | Conscious Belief and Access Internalism

  2. I see some problems here, but they’re probably not yours:

    “This is because access internalists care about the person’s perspective on the world, what is in the person’s mind’s eye, and that is just her conscious experience.”

    I think the natural gloss on how things stand from the subject’s perspective isn’t limited to that which supervenes upon a subject’s non-factive mental states (e.g., various objects and their qualities figure in my experience), but I think that lots of internalists (apart from McDowell and like-minded folks) want to limit things to exclude cups, chairs, etc.

    It would help if the notion of access was cashed out a bit. Again, that’s not your problem, but I think it’s a problem.

    • Clayton,
      Hmm, you know, I wasn’t going in that direction, but it looks like there might be a problem for access internalists’ notion of access. They don’t want to say that we have access to cups and chairs, but they do want to say that we have access to beliefs. But what’s the difference? We are related to both, probably, via a causal relation, where the object of awareness causes in us an experience.

      Is that the problem you were thinking about, Clayton?

  3. That’s one problem, certainly. Another problem is that the kind of access we have to cups and chairs isn’t anything like the kind of access we have to beliefs because of significant differences in the kinds of entities accessed. (Cups might be objects of awareness, but beliefs?) And another problem is that there are certain things that the access internalist shouldn’t invoke to explicate the notion of access. For example, they shouldn’t invoke the concept of knowledge to explicate access. If they were to do that, they couldn’t then use the notion of access to explicate other notions without going K-first. They’d also face the challenge of explaining why access should be limited to something internal if knowledge isn’t. Lots of problems, I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *