Knowledge and Belief Seminar
Guest Speaker: Johannes Roessler (Warwick)
Title: 'Perceptual Self-Knowledge and Doxastic Self-Determination'
Abstract. According to a widely held view of the nature of belief (which I label the Activity thesis, AT), beliefs belong to the ‘active side’ of the human mind. In this paper I explore a challenge to AT. I argue that reflection on the distinctive immediacy of perceptual knowledge, as we ordinarily understand it, puts pressure on an assumption informing AT, viz. that reasons for belief can always coherently be treated as a basis for ‘making up one’s mind’. Our best reasons for perceptual beliefs, I suggest, manifestly entail that we hold the belief they support, and so imply that our minds are already made up. (For example, one's best reason for believing that p may be 'I can see that p'.) I do not mean to suggest that perceptual beliefs should therefore be classified as belonging to the 'passive side' of the human mind. Rather, I think we should question the exhaustiveness (and perhaps usefulness) of the active vs passive distinction, as it has been employed in the philosophy of mind.