DS-2021-12: Dynamic Introspection

DS-2021-12: Cohen, Michael (2021) Dynamic Introspection. Doctoral thesis, University of Amsterdam.

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In this dissertation, I study an under-appreciated type of introspection that helps explain how we can come to know the world around us. Much of today's epistemology can be traced back to the work of Rene Descartes, and to the skeptical challenge he posed: what can we know beyond doubt? A longstanding response to Descartes' challenge is to locate the underlying assumptions that drove him, and others, to their skeptical conclusion; Descartes reached his skeptical position while assuming that subjects have clear and direct access to their own minds, that they have full introspection. During the last 70 years, philosophers have challenged these assumptions, developing tools in epistemology and philosophical logic to study the kind of ignorance subjects have about their own knowledge.

Nevertheless, there is a type of introspection, which I call dynamic introspection, that has not caught the attention of epistemologists. This introspection is about, on the one hand, what we know about the way new experience will affect our future knowledge and on the other hand, what we know about the ways we got our current knowledge. Many epistemological debates either ignore such questions or implicitly assume that we are always certain about these matters. Do I need to have the prior certainty that my sources of information are trustworthy in order to gain knowledge from them? The answer to such questions depends on the dynamic introspective abilities we assume we have. Understanding the nature of dynamic introspection can vindicate our reliance on ordinary knowledge in the face of skeptical doubt. A subject might know that there is a tree in front of her (as a result of her perceptual experience) without having the ability to explain the exact source of her knowledge. I argue that this lack of dynamic introspection is natural, and does not lead to skeptical problems.

In this dissertation, I introduce a new logical framework for analyzing and modeling dynamic introspection. After introducing the logical framework in Chapter 2, I use it to analyze important debates from the contemporary epistemological literature in which, I argue, dynamic introspection principles implicitly play a key role, and much can be learned by making them explicit. One debate concerns the skeptical challenge to the possibility of our perceptual knowledge about the external world: how can we answer the skeptic who doubts the possibility of perceptual knowledge? The second debate concerns the limits to which we can know and access our own internal mental world: what can we know about our own knowledge? By making the underlying dynamic introspection principles explicit in such debates, I hope to make a meaningful contribution to our understanding of our own knowledge.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Report Nr: DS-2021-12
Series Name: ILLC Dissertation (DS) Series
Year: 2021
Subjects: Logic
Depositing User: Dr Marco Vervoort
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 15:17
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 15:17
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/2198

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