Interpretation and Assessment of First Person Authority in the writings of philosopher Donald Davidson

Author: Balsvik, Eivind
First-person authority is the thesis that subjects have a privileged non-evidence-based form of epistemic warrant for self-ascriptions of psychological concepts that does not attach to third-person evidence-based ascriptions of the same concepts. Davidson thinks the fact that we do have first-person authority over self-ascriptions of psychological concepts gives rise to two connected philosophical problems. The epistemic problem: How can non-evidence based self-ascriptions of psychological concepts be more justified than third-person ascriptions that are evidentially based? The skeptical problem: Why are we warranted in thinking that the psychological concepts we ascribe to ourselves without appeal to evidence are the same as the corresponding psychological concepts others ascribe to us on the basis of evidence?


“We can garner some indication of how pivotal the problem of accounting for knowledge of one’s own mind can be when we consider just some of the topics in Davidson’s philosophy with which it is deeply entangled. These include: the externalist/internalist debate about the content of belief and desire; the relation of thought and language; radical interpretation; the indeterminacy of interpretation; the publicity of meaning; and the intelligibility of self-deception. It is a considerable merit of Balsvik’s study that he is keenly sensitive to the ramifications of Davidson’s views on self-knowledge for such a variety of key issues. We will deepen our appreciation of their interconnections, and improve our ability to evaluate Davidson’s achievement by working through Balsvik’s reconstruction of his views…..Balsvik’s book deserves the serious attention of those interested in basic issues in the philosophy of mind and language.” – Charles Siewert, Associate Professor Philosophy, University of Miami

“…a brisk, clear and stimulating discussion of both Davidson’s philosophy and the problems of first-person authority and knowledge of our own minds. Balsvik elaborates carefully what Davidson has contributed to our understanding of what first-person authority amounts to, or rather, ought to amount to, and of how this type of phenomenon can be made compatible with Davidson’s general philosophical views and strategies. Balsvik is very illuminating both about how various criticisms of Davidson‘s view work and about how they may be countered by Davidson.” – Olav Gjelsvik, Professor of Philosophy, University of Oslo, Norway

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface; Foreword
1. What is First-Person Authority?
2. The Skeptical Problem
3. In Search of Semantic Asymmetry that Can Explain the Psychological Asymmetry
4. Davidson’s Explanation of First-Person Authority
5. A Discussion of Objections to Davidson’s Explanation of First-Person Authority
6. The Strength of First-Person Authority
7. First-Person Authority and Externalism
8. First-Person Authority and the Indeterminacy of Interpretation
9. The Scope of Davidson’s Explanation
Bibliography; Index