The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Fri Apr 8, 2011
234 Moses Hall (Dennes Room), 2–4 PM
Working Group in the Philosophy of Mind
Matt Parrott (UC Berkeley)
Schizophrenia and Self-Knowledge

One way in which first-personal knowledge seems special is that although I can be mistaken about the existence or character of one of my psychological states, I cannot be right about what my psychological state is but wrong about whose psychological state it is. This idea that an individual cannot misidentify the owner of psychological states she access in a first-personal way I shall call the Immunity Thesis.

However, thought insertion is a symptom of schizophrenia where an individual experiences her own thoughts as alien, as thoughts that are not hers. A schizophrenic person seems to know these thoughts in a distinctively first-personal way but is mistaken about whose thoughts they are. This looks like a counterexample to the Immunity Thesis.

Recently, some philosophers and cognitive scientists have argued that the phenomenon of thought insertion is not an exception to the Immunity Thesis because in these cases a person does not access her thoughts in a first-personal way. Rather, she has a completely different kind of experience, one that lacks the privilege of immunity to error through misidentification. In this talk, I will discuss these views and argue that they have difficulties capturing what it is like to experience thought insertion. This motivates formulating an alternative account.

My suggestion will be that a person experiencing thought insertion does access her thoughts in the same first-personal way that we ordinarily do but that, contrary to how things may appear, this is consistent with the Immunity Thesis. The phenomenon of thought insertion would only be a counterexample to the Immunity Thesis if it served as a schizophrenic person’s basis for her judgments about her inserted thoughts. I shall argue that it does not and highlight other reasons to favor my account of what it is like to experience thought insertion.