The Epistemic Role of Consciousness

ISBN : 9780199917662

Declan Smithies
424 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Oct 2019
Philosophy of the Mind
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What is the role of consciousness in our mental lives? Declan Smithies argues here that consciousness is essential to explaining how we can acquire knowledge and justified belief about ourselves and the world around us. On this view, unconscious beings cannot form justified beliefs and so they cannot know anything at all. Consciousness is the ultimate basis of all knowledge and epistemic justification.
Smithies builds a sustained argument for the epistemic role of phenomenal consciousness which draws on a range of considerations in epistemology and the philosophy of mind. His position combines two key claims. The first is phenomenal mentalism, which says that epistemic justification is determined by the phenomenally individuated facts about your mental states. The second is accessibilism, which says that epistemic justification is luminously accessible in the sense that you're always in a position to know which beliefs you have epistemic justification to hold. Smithies integrates these two claims into a unified theory of epistemic justification, which he calls phenomenal accessibilism.
The book is divided into two parts, which converge on this theory of epistemic justification from opposite directions. Part 1 argues from the bottom up by drawing on considerations in the philosophy of mind about the role of consciousness in mental representation, perception, cognition, and introspection. Part 2 argues from the top down by arguing from general principles in epistemology about the nature of epistemic justification. These mutually reinforcing arguments form the basis for a unified theory of the epistemic role of phenomenal consciousness, one that bridges the gap between epistemology and philosophy of mind.


0.1. What is Consciousness?
0.2. The Significance of Consciousness
0.3. The Hard Problem of Consciousness
0.4. Putting Consciousness First
0.5. An Overview of this Book
0.6. Chapter Summaries
1. Representation
1.1. Representationalism
1.2. Unconscious Mental Representation
1.3. Grounding Representation in Consciousness
1.4. Grounding Thought in Consciousness
1.5. Grounding Epistemic Justification in Consciousness
2. Perception
2.1. Blindsight
2.2. Concepts of Consciousness
2.3. Presentational Force
2.4. Skeptical Scenarios
2.5. Duplication Scenarios
2.6. Conclusions
3. Cognition
3.1. The Epistemic Role of Belief
3.2. Beliefs and Subdoxastic States
3.3. Inferential Integration
3.4. Conscious Accessibility
3.5. The Cognitive Experience of Judgment
3.6. Conclusions
4. Introspection
4.1. The Simple Theory of Introspection
4.2. The Reliability Challenge
4.3. Rationality and Self-Knowledge
4.4. The Scope Question
4.5. The Role of Conscious Judgment
4.6. Conclusions
5. Mentalism
5.1. Evidentialism
5.2. Mentalism
5.3. Phenomenal Mentalism
5.4. The Phenomenal Conception of Evidence
5.5. The Explanatory Challenge
6. Accessibilism
6.1. What is Accessibilism?
6.2. Explaining Accessibilism
6.3. Clairvoyance and Super-Blindsight
6.4. The New Evil Demon Problem
6.5. Answering the Explanatory Challenge
7. Reflection
7.1. Justification and Reflection
7.2. An Argument from Reflection
7.3. The Over-Intellectualization Problem
7.4. The Regress Problem
7.5. The Empirical Problem
7.6. The Value Problem
7.7. Conclusions
8. Epistemic Akrasia
8.1. What is Epistemic Akrasia?
8.2. An Argument from Epistemic Akrasia
8.3. Moore's Paradox
8.4. Knowledge as the Aim of Belief
8.5. Justification and Reflection
9. Higher-Order Evidence
9.1. A Puzzle About Epistemic Akrasia
9.2. Solving the Puzzle
9.3. The Certainty Argument
9.4. Ideally Rational Agents
9.5. Rational Dilemmas
9.6. Epistemic Idealization
10. Luminosity
10.1. Luminosity Defined
10.2. The Problem of the Speckled Hen
10.3. The Anti-Luminosity Argument
10.4. Epistemic Iteration Principles
10.5. The Puzzle of the Unmarked Clock
10.6. What's at Stake?
11. Conclusion
11.1. Phenomenal Conservatism
11.2. Seemings
11.3. Problems about Evidence
11.4. Problems about Evidential Support
11.5. Phenomenal Accessibilism
11.6. Conclusions

About the author: 

Declan Smithies is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Ohio State University. He works primarily on issues at the intersection between epistemology and the philosophy of mind. He is co-editor of Introspection and Consciousness (Oxford, 2012) and Attention: Philosophical and Psychological Essays (Oxford, 2011).

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