Alex Byrne and Brie Gertler

Alex Byrne (left) and Brie Gertler (right) on self-knowledge of beliefs.

In this conversation, Byrne and Gertler closely examine Gareth Evans’s “transparency procedure” for gaining self-knowledge of beliefs. According to the transparency procedure, one determines whether one believes that p simply by considering whether p is true (rather than via direct access to one’s own beliefs). At first glance, the transparency procedure looks reliable. It also seems to capture ordinary thinking about one’s own beliefs. (For instance, the question “Do you believe that there will be a third world war?” typically prompts consideration of whether there will be a third world war.) However, the transparency procedure involves an invalid inference: from p, it does not follow that I believe that p. Given this, can the transparency procedure be a way to gain genuine self-knowledge?

Related works

by Byrne:
Knowing That I am Thinking” (forthcoming)
Knowing What I See” (forthcoming)
Introspection” (forthcoming)

by Gertler:
Self-Knowledge (2010)
Self-Knowledge and the Transparency of Belief” (forthcoming)

See also:
Gareth Evans, The Varieties of Reference (1982)

2 comments to Alex Byrne and Brie Gertler

  • Scott B.

    Would love to see you have Alex & Brie back on, as this excellent, thoughtful discussion took place almost a year ago now.

    I was unfamiliar with the literature surrounding ‘the transparency procedure’, but couldn’t have wished for a better 101.

    Only thing that left me puzzled was that Alex, after seeming to interpret the procedure as equivalent to introspective access to personal belief via memory, then accepts Brie’s criticism’s that this process of RE-consideration is, naturally enough, only reliable for beliefs formed during the very process of applying the procedure,

    but then further concedes that this leaves the bulk of beliefs unjustified by the procedure, instead of simply re-asserting the memory method as a commonsense explanation for knowing – unreliably, but what other option is there – what our pre-existing previously considered beliefs are. (But as this area of epistemology is new to me, doubtless some important subtle distinctions sailed by me.)

  • Scott B.

    ..I realize that, when pressed at the end, Alex says that a panoply of epistemic justifications can be used to determine what one’s already-formed beliefs are; but why couldn’t the reflexive recalling of what one previously considered p to be, which Alex seemed to think perfectly adequate in all cases, at least be sufficient in all cases other than those where memory offers no guide to beliefs that have been newly-formed?