June 21, 2005

Jay Atlas, Pomona College

What do Reflexive Pronouns Tell Us about Belief?

Abstract: G.E. Moore's Paradox sentences, (a) "It's raining, but I do not believe it" and (b) "I believe it's raining, but it isn't", have been discussed by Anglophone philosophers for sixty years. What has never been discussed are Moore's Paradox sentences when the belief-content clause contains an essential occurrence of the first-person singular pronoun 'I'; for example, suppose the former governor of California Gray Davis had uttered after his re-election, "I believe that I was re-elected governor of California, but I was not." I shall argue that if one distinguishes between sentence-types and utterance-types, the usual forms of Moore's Paradox are not linguistically deviant to assert, that the serious form of Moore's Paradox is one that has never been analyzed, namely the first-person reflexive pronoun case "I believe that I myself F, but I do not F," that uses of Moore's Paradox by Harvard philosopher of mind Richard Moran to defend the primacy of the subjective in one's account of self-knowledge fail, that famous arguments in the philosophy of mind by Cornell University philosopher Sydney Shoemaker to defend by appeal to Moore's Paradox a doctrine of "privileged access" to one's own mental states also fail, and that the first-person cases offer a semantic counter-example, not merely the usual epistemological counter-intuition, to the doctrine of "privileged access" to the mental.