Privileged Access to Information: Dretske’s Accounts of Self-Knowledge

Kai-Yuan Cheng


Fred Dretske (1981, 1988) is noted for his vigorous project of naturalizing the mind.
In his representational theory, a mental state is characterized as a physical state
of a person, which has a certain function of carrying information about aspects of
the environment, to which the person is causally related. So construed, a mental
state is an objective item in the world, which shall be accessible to both its
possessor and external observers in a similar way. This, however, seem to conflict
with our observation that we have a privileged and immediate access to our own mental
states, an access which no other people share. Dretske (1995, 1999, 2000) has taken
up the challenge to solve this daunting problem by offering some ingenious and
illuminating accounts of introspection. This paper aims to discuss how, and whether,
those accounts work, and to the extent that they do not, whether they can be


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; information; self-knowledge; displaced perception; privileged access

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