Friday, April 27, 2007

A Flurry of Essays

In the last few weeks I've had four essays come out -- a flood, really. (I published six essays total in the four years from 2003-2006.) These essays had all been cooking for at least two years. Philosophical publishing is molasses-slow! (A warning to new assistant professors.) I started working on the HPQ essay in 1998. One essay I've been working on (sporadically) since 1993 still isn't out. (Well, it is on decision theory, which is pretty low in my research priorities these days.)

For a general list of on-line essays in philosophy, not confined to Schwitzgeblia, I recommend Jonathan Ichikawa's conscientiously-maintained (but oxymoronically titled) Online Papers in Philosophy. (Don't see the oxymoron? Look at the second word. I'm trying to jettison the habit of referring to essays as "papers", for pointlessly priggish etymological reasons I suppose -- the same sorts of reasons that make me resist pronouncing "processes" with a long final "e" [as though the singular were "processis"], the same sorts of reasons that make me wince when people speak of "steep learning curves" without realizing that steepness in traditional behaviorist learning curves indicates learning quickly.)

Okay, enough free association. Here are the essays. Their topics should be clear enough from their titles. They develop ideas about conscious experience, self-knowledge, and moral development that are among the frequent themes of this blog.

Human Nature and Moral Education in Mencius, Xunzi, Hobbes, and Rousseau. History of Philosophy Quarterly, 24 (2007), 147-168.

Do Things Look Flat? Philosophy & Phenomenological Research, 72 (2006 - yes, they're a bit behind!), 589-599.

Do You Have Constant Tactile Experience of Your Feet in Your Shoes? Or Is Experience Limited to What's in Attention? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 14 (2007), no. 3, 5-35.

No Unchallengeable Epistemic Authority, of Any Sort, Regarding Our Own Conscious Experience -- Contra Dennett? Phenomenology & the Cognitive Sciences, 6 (2007), 107-112.


Justin Tiwald said...

Hey, congratulations! Both for the papers as well as for the blog's first birthday.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks. It's delightful to know that interesting scholars like you are visiting!

Neil said...

Congratulations on all the publications. I'm sure they'll be as good as the ones already out. A quick question on the Dennett (which, unfortunately, I don't have time to read right now). Are you claiming that there is no first-person authority at all? That doesn't seem right. There does seem to be some kind of incorrigibility, or even infallibility, about some kinds of first-person thoughts. No one is better placed than me to say what I am thinking about, and if I think I am thinking about red socks, rather than the red sox, I am thinking about red socks. (or at least the chances that I am mistaken are vanishingly small). Do you reject this claim? Or have some account of the epistemic privilege we actually have?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the kind words, Neil.

While I think we have a unique and important perspective on our own flow of conscious experience, I don't think that introspection yields any *unchallengeable* epistemic privilege -- no incorrigibility or infallibility, for example.

Some of our reports of mental states are infallible; but that infallibility is the infallibility of self-fulfillment -- nothing introspective, nothing epistemic. If I say "This sentence has five words" my statement is necessarily true wherever uttered -- infallible through self-fulfillment, whether it arises from reflection, stroke, or quantum accident. Likewise, if I say "I am thinking of red socks", if we're liberal about what counts as "thinking", that judgment is true in the same way.

Most introspective claims -- that I'm having a visual experience of red, that I'm entertaining a visual image of such-and-such, that I have an emotional experience of anger -- are not plausibly self-fulfilling in this way. We can go wrong about them, and we often do go wrong when asked about anything other than the grossest content. Or at least that's my view.

My essay "The Unreliability of Naive Introspection" (in draft, available from my homepage) develops the ideas I've expressed here in more depth.

Kevin Winters said...

I just read your "Do Things Look Flat?" and really liked it. I think it helps to further demonstrate the force that some metaphors have in how we both see and think about things, even to the point where it seems 'obvious' that such is the case. I think that many philosophers and most psychologists are simply unaware of the metaphors they use, or at least unaware of when they are taking them too far. I will definitely be using this paper in my next work on perception (whenever that will be; it's not a topic I'm currently working on, but certainly one I plan on doing more on in the future). Thanks for posting it.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for much for the kind remarks, Kevin. They mean a lot! (Do they mean too much? I worry, here, that I might be susceptible to flattery....)

Kevin Winters said...

Maybe that can be your next paper: "Do Things Look Flattery?" ;o)

Honestly, though, you've provided some resources on how the ancients talk about perception that I wouldn't have known to look for (and which I've been curious about). I've been finding similar things in relation to pre-modern science, spurned by Heidegger's discussion of it in What Is a Thing? (ok, more correctly, excerpts from that in "Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics" in Basic Writings; finding a copy of that text, without paying an arm and a leg, is difficult!).

I think these kinds of accounts are more important today than ever before, particularly since some of the metaphors and paradigms that are prominent today (like the one you talk about) have such a strong hold on our thought and make dismissing other perspectives (e.g., Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, etc.) all too easy, and that with a surge of Amens! from others in the academic community (yes, the tie to a fanatical kind of religious devotion is intended). I would like to see this paper expanded to include more sources to drive home the point...but maybe that's just me. :o)

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

I agree with all that. I hope to do a post some time in the next few weeks on history of philosophy as a kind of anthropology -- an anthropology that can help reveal the diversity and limits of diversity of human thought and some of the sources of our own philosophical views.

That is, I think, just to make explicit the methodological aspects of "Do Things Look Flat?"