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Immunity to Error through Misidentification
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Immunity to error through misidentification is recognised as an important feature of certain kinds of first-person judgments, as well as arguably being a feature of other indexical or demonstrative judgments. In this collection of newly commissioned essays, the contributors present a variety of approaches to it, engaging with historical and empirical aspects of the subject as well as contemporary philosophical work. It is the first collection of essays devoted exclusively to the topic and will be essential reading for anyone interested in philosophical work on the self, first-person thought or indexical thought more generally.


'… highly recommend[ed] … to those interested in this topic, and I consider it essential reading to those who follow and participate in recent discussions in self-knowledge.'

George Lăzăroiu Source: Review of Contemporary Philosophy

'This excellent volume offers thirteen new essays on IEM, which collectively attempt to get clearer on the nature and scope of the phenomenon … the volume as a whole stands as an important contribution to scholarship on immunity to error through misidentification and neighbouring philosophical questions. It will no doubt be a major source of ideas and inspiration for future work on these issues.'

Source: Philosophy in Review

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  • Chapter 7 - Action and immunity to error through misidentification
    pp 124-143
  • View abstract


    The use we make of 'I' is not explained by the way in which it refers to an object. In this the first person contrasts sharply with other referring terms. There are deep connections between the way in which the reference of a term is fixed and the immunity to error though misidentification (IEM) of judgments containing that term. The first person operates on a quite different basis than a descriptive name. If the first person has a reference, it is specified by a simple rule, the token-reflexive rule: Any token of 'I' refers to whoever produced it. The aspect of the pattern of use of 'I' cannot be validated simply by appealing to the token-reflexive rule. In general, what happens ultimately is that we regard the pattern of use of 'I' as not standing in need of validation by an account of the nature of the self.
  • Chapter 8 - Explaining de se phenomena
    pp 144-157
  • View abstract


    There is a deeper reason why immunity to error through misidentification cannot easily be discarded while trying to account for the illusions of transcendence. Although it has been widely remarked that self ascriptions based on somatic proprioception, perception and first personal memories are also immune to error through misidentification, it has somehow been overlooked. The logical immunity to error through misidentification characterises only psychological self-ascriptions based on introspective awareness. The logical immunity to error ultimately depends on the fact that in introspection one is presented to oneself as the subject of psychological properties only. Thus, it can be acknowledged that the de facto/logical distinction is totally compatible with holding that the relevant judgments are about a living human being with physical and psychological properties, who can be presented to himself either through his physical attributes or through his psychological ones.
  • Chapter 9 - Sources of immunity to error through misidentification
    pp 158-179
  • View abstract


    This chapter considers, relying in part upon comparative semantic evidence from English and Romanian, two contrasting dimensions of the sense in which the authors' thoughts, including the contents of imagination and memory, and objects of fear, may be distinctively first-personal, or de se, to use the terminology introduced in Lewis, and exhibit the phenomenon of immunity to error through misidentification (IEM) in the sense of Shoemaker. There are de se triggers in Romanian, but they do not behave as uniformly as unpronounced (PRO) subject does in English. This difference suggests that context showing IEM or being intrinsically de se is to be explained by appealing to different linguistic considerations. The linguistic parameters of the de se are variable, and that elements of thought as reported in language may be de se, and so subject to IEM, where they are taken from other points of view than that of the experiencer.
  • Chapter 10 - Immunity to error through misidentification: what it is and where it comes from
    pp 180-201
  • View abstract


    It is often claimed that there is a range of self-ascriptions that are immune to error through misidentification (IEM) relative to the first-person pronoun. The more abstract perspective allows us to see IEM as an instance of a much more general phenomenon having to do with the interaction between representational media. There is some dispute about which self-ascriptions are properly classed as IEM. Some claim that only mental self-ascriptions are IEM, others claim that some non-mental self-ascriptions are IEM. Among mental self-ascriptions, we can distinguish self-ascriptions of experiences and self-attribution of intentional states. IEM is a formal product of the translation between media with different representational scope, together with the representationally unmediated character of reflexive identification. It has nothing in particular to do with mental representation and carries no implication of a special ontology for the self.
  • Chapter 11 - I and I: immunity to error through misidentification of the subject
    pp 202-223
  • View abstract


    This chapter first reviews Wittgenstein's distinction between use of 'I' "as subject" and use of 'I' "as object" in the Blue book. Then, it explains what Immanuel Kant meant by "consciousness of oneself as subject". The chapter argues that Kant's notion offers resources for understanding a heretofore unexplored aspect of the use of 'I' as subject. The chapter offers empirical-psychological support for the distinctions, and for the dependence relation suggested between the different kinds of self-consciousness grounding the uses of 'I' as subject. It draws on a clinical example borrowed from Oliver Sacks in his book The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat to illustrate the relation between the two quite different uses of 'I' as subject and the two corresponding kinds of immunity to error through misidentification (IEM) relative to the first-person pronoun analyzed in the first two parts of the chapter.
  • Chapter 12 - Bodily immunity to error
    pp 224-246
  • View abstract


    The Simple Explanation just consists in the observation that a judgment will be immune to error through misidentification (IEM) when it is not based on an identification. The Simple Explanation does not itself rule out any candidate theory of de se thought. This chapter discusses IEM relative to the first person more than any other kind of error through misidentification. For convenience, the author uses fp-immunity as an abbreviation (and fp-immune as an abbreviation for the corresponding adjective). James Higginbotham and François Recanati mostly speak of 'thoughts' as exhibiting or failing to exhibit IEM. It is clear that both beliefs and judgments can exhibit IEM. The most plausible explanation of fp-immunity, the Simple Explanation, imposes no tight constraints on an account of the de se. Constraints on such an account need to be gathered from somewhere else.
  • Chapter 13 - Reflections on François Recanati's ‘Immunity to error through misidentification: what it is and where it comes from’
    pp 247-280
  • View abstract


    This chapter examines a claim made about the kind of immunity to error through misidentification (IEM) relative to the first person that attaches to action self-ascriptions. The argument for transparent IEM (TIEM) for action self-ascriptions seems to rest on the assumption that information from bodily awareness is neutral between action and bodily movement. The feedback from bodily awareness was supposed to be insufficient for the subject to determine whether someone moved her body, or whether her body moved. The chapter also examines whether there are resources to construct better cross-wiring cases to challenge the claim that agents' awareness is TIEM than those that appeal to bodily awareness. It explores what direct arguments are there for or against the necessity of first-personal contents to agents' awareness. A helpful way to get at the character of an agent's awareness may be to consider a case in which it is missing.
  • Bibliography
    pp 281-290
  • View abstract


    The rival approach to immunity does not come out of the blue, as an isolated proposal. Such proposals are of most interest when they are offered as an instance of the more general thesis, the thesis that there are no phenomena distinctive of ordinary uses of the first person, in a philosophical theory, to postulate a special de se notion or concept. The three salient issues in assessing the more general thesis are: the possibility of giving an account of a subject's file on himself that does not appeal to a first-person concept; the alleged dispensability of a first-person notion or concept in basic cases of action and perception; and the feasibility of treatments that attempt to explain away the role of the first-person concept or notion in imagination. The self-files and the phenomena they help to explain cannot be properly characterized without using the de se notion or concept.


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