Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 December 2011
As it is silly to ask somebody, ‘How do you know you are in pain?’ it is equally foolish to ask, ‘How do you know that you want to go to the movies?’Vendler (1972, 50)
Knowing that one wants to go to the movies is an example of self-knowledge, knowledge of one’s mental states. It may be foolish to ask the man on the Clapham Omnibus how he knows what he wants, but the question is nonetheless important – albeit neglected by epistemologists. This chapter attempts an answer.
Before getting to that, the familiar claim that we enjoy “privileged access” to our mental states needs untwining (section 1). A sketch of a theory of knowledge of one’s beliefs that has received some attention in the recent literature (section 2), and the case for extending that account to self-knowledge in general (section 3), sets the stage for our answer to the main question (section 4).