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Avowals and First-Person Privilege

Dorit Bar-On and Douglas C. Long
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Vol. 62, No. 2 (Mar., 2001), pp. 311-335
DOI: 10.2307/2653701
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2653701
Page Count: 25
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Avowals and First-Person Privilege
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Abstract

When people avow their present feelings, sensations, thoughts, etc., they enjoy what may be called "first-person privilege." If I now said: "I have a headache," or "I'm thinking about Venice," I would be taken at my word: I would normally not be challenged. According to one prominent approach, this privilege is due to a special epistemic access we have to our own present states of mind. On an alternative, deflationary approach the privilege merely reflects a socio-linguistic convention governing avowals. We reject both approaches. On our proposed account, a full explanation of the privilege must recognize avowals as expressive performances, which can be taken to reveal directly the subject's present mental condition. We are able to improve on special access accounts and deflationary accounts, as well as familiar expressive accounts, by explaining both the asymmetries and the continuities between avowals and other pronouncements, and by locating a genuine though non-epistemic source for first-person privilege.

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