Incorrigibility and causal theories of the mind

Kaufman, Frederik Alexander, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia
Thomas, George, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia

Incorrigibility with respect to sensations can be understood as the claim that if a person believes he is experiencing a particular sensation, then that sensation belief must be true. A person might go on to express this belief by means of a sensation avowal which, as an expression of the belief, is held to be true as well. Incorrigibility is sometimes used in an argument for a theory of mind which views sensations as private objects of inner recognition: if a person could be mistaken about physical states, but not about whether he is experiencing a particular sensation, it looks like sensations are not physical states. Consequently, physicalists have tended to reject incorrigibility. I examine several rejections and consider the general difficulty physicalist have had with incorrigibility. Often incorrigibility misconceived. In order to ensure the truth of sensation beliefs, incorrigibility must be a logical thesis, and as such. metaphysically neutral. The truth of sensation beliefs can be ensured by making the sensation a logically necessary condition for a state mind to be correctly described as a belief. Wittgenstein is frequently thought to have advanced a similar view by holding that truth is a feature of the grammar of sensation concepts when they are ascribed to oneself. But it is also common to think Wittgenstein denied that a person can believe he is experiencing a particular sensation; this would mean that a Wittgensteinian conception of incorrigibility could not be formulated in terms of belief. This is a misunderstanding based on a failure to appreciate the sense of 'believe' employed by Wittgenstein in the passages at issue, and there is some question whether Wittgenstein is an incorrigibilist at all. But advanced by Wittgenstein or not, the 'necessary truth' account of incorrigibility must be considered by those who want to give a causal account of the mind. It seems that the necessary truth account contains a suppressed causal claim to the effect that in order for a state of mind to be correctly described as a sensation belief, it must be caused by the sensation. However, insisting on such a causal connection can appear arbitrary. Though describing a state of mind as a sensation belief is conceptually connected with the sensation, making the sensation a logically necessary cause of the sensation belief is too strong. I argue that the demands of a causal account of mentality make a criterial relation here more plausible.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Senses and sensation, Belief and doubt
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