It is widely believed that people have privileged and authoritative access to their own thoughts, and many theories have been proposed to explain this supposed fact. The Opacity of Mind challenges the consensus view and subjects the theories in question to critical scrutiny, while showing that they are not protected against the findings of cognitive science by belonging to a separate 'explanatory space'. The book argues that our access to our own thoughts is almost always interpretive, grounded in perceptual awareness of our own circumstances and behavior, together with our own sensory imagery (including inner speech). In fact our access to our own thoughts is no different in principle from our access to the thoughts of other people, utilizing the conceptual and inferential resources of the same 'mindreading' faculty, and relying on many of the same sources of evidence. Peter Carruthers proposes and defends the Interpretive Sensory-Access (ISA) theory of self-knowledge. This is supported through comprehensive examination of many different types of evidence from across cognitive science, integrating a diverse set of findings into a single well-articulated theory. One outcome is that there are hardly any kinds of conscious thought. Another is that there is no such thing as conscious agency. Written with Carruthers' usual clarity and directness, this book will be essential reading for philosophers interested in self-knowledge, consciousness, and related areas of philosophy. It will also be of vital interest to cognitive scientists, since it casts the existing data in a new theoretical light. Moreover, the ISA theory makes many new predictions while also suggesting constraints and controls that should be placed on future experimental investigations of self-knowledge.
Peter Carruthers is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maryland. He has published widely across different areas of philosophy of mind and cognitive science. His books include The Architecture of the Mind: Massive Modularity and the Flexibility of Thought (Oxford University Press, 2006), Phenomenal Consciousness: A Naturalistic Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2000), and seven co-edited collections of original interdisciplinary essays.
The Opacity of Mind is a terrific book. In a nutshell, the plot is this: Gilbert Ryle meets contemporary cognitive science, and together they produce a novel and exciting theory of self-knowledge ... This hardly scratches the surface of Carrutherss rich and thought-provoking book. Many other topics are discussed at length: mental architecture, inner sense theories, third-person mindreading, alleged dissociations between self- and other-knowledge, the evidence for widespread confabulation, and much more. As is usual with Carrutherss work, the book is packed with numerous references to the empirical literature-a welcome corrective to work on self-knowledge which blithely disregards it. The Opacity of Mind contains much to disagree with, but also much to learn. Alex Byrne, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews The Opacity of Mind offers a vigorous defense of the startling view that self knowledge is based on error prone inferences from sensory experience rather than direct access to what we are thinking. Drawing heavily on cognitive science, Carruthers makes his radical thesis look eminently reasonable, and he delivers fatal blows to the competition. Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, City University of New York In this terrific book, Peter Carruthers aims to show that current theories of our knowledge of our own mental states dont sit at all well with our best theories of how the mind works. Carruthers also proposes and defends a radical alternative theory, which he succeeds in lending an impressive degree of support with appeal to both philosophical argumentation and a wealth of considerations drawn from recent work in cognitive science and related areas. In doing so, he offers a model of how an enduring and central philosophical issue can be fruitfully engaged in an empirically-informed manner. Philosophers of mind and epistemologists continue to be fascinated by our knowledge of our own mental lives; such readers will be fascinated by Carrutherss book, whether or not they agree with its deeply revisionary conclusions. Aidan McGlynn, Philosophical Quarterly The Opacity of Mind is a challenging and provocative book, informed by an extraordinary knowledge of scientific psychology and cognitive science. Carruthers certainly places a formidable burden on anyone challenging the key ideas of the ISA theoryin particular, to anyone who wants to maintain any sort of transparent access to propositional attitudes. Jose Bermudez, Mind