Michael Mitchell – What is Inferentialism about Self-Knowledge?

What is Inferentialism about Self-Knowledge? (Michael Mitchell – Deakin University).


This essay is the first part of an attempt to understand two kinds of inferentialism in philosophy, and the connections between them. These are inferentialism about self-knowledge, and inferentialism about semantics. In this essay, I explore the former. In particular, I will examine Quassim Cassam’s inferentialism as developed in Self-Knowledge for Humans. While there are a number of inferentialist accounts of self-knowledge, Cassam’s is of interest because it is one of the most developed, and because his account leans, in part, on a second important inferentialist theory – Peter Carruthers’ Interpretive Sensory Access theory. In this essay, I will explore Cassam’s view, and consider a number of important epistemic consequences it threatens. Some ambiguities I seek to clarify in this essay are – what counts as an inference? and just what is an inferentialist ‘all the way’ committed to in regard to self-knowledge? Answers to these questions will offer a clear reference point from which to consider inferentialism as an account of meaning in a future essay.