Evans and First Person Authority

Martin Francisco Fricke


In The Varieties of Reference, Gareth Evans describes the acquisition of
beliefs about one’s beliefs in the following way: ‘I get myself in a
position to answer the question whether I believe that p by putting into
operation whatever procedure I have for answering the question whether p.’
In this paper I argue that Evans’s remark can be used to explain first
person authority if it is supplemented with the following consideration:
Holding on to the content of a belief and ‘prefixing’ it with ‘I believe
that’ is as easy as it is to hold on to the contents of one’s thoughts when
making an inference. We do not, usually, have the problem, in going, for
example, from ‘p’ and ‘q’ to ‘p and q’, that one of our thought contents
gets corrupted. Self-ascription of belief by way of Evans’s procedure is
based on the same capacity to retain and re-deploy thought contents and
therefore should enjoy a similar degree of authority. However, is Evans’s
description exhaustive of all authoritative self-ascription of belief?
Christopher Peacocke has suggested that in addition to Evans’s procedure
there are two more relevant ways of self-ascribing belief. I argue that
both methods can be subsumed under Evans’s procedure.

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