Agent-Awareness in Reflective Knowledge


I argue that current discussions of the epistemological significance of reflection have entangled concerns about one’s awareness of the epistemic status of one’s beliefs, which do not require the ability to take any sort of agential stance toward one’s own attitudes, with other concerns that do require the ability to take an agential stance toward one’s beliefs. I begin by proposing that a traditional internalist critique of externalism can be fruitfully described as the idea that externalism is (in some sense) unsatisfactory because it fails to provide a particular kind of self-knowledge: knowledge about the epistemic status of one’s own beliefs. This description of the objection in terms of self-knowledge is fruitful because it allows us to make use of new conceptual resources. I employ one of these resources—Richard Moran’s distinction between mere reflective awareness of one’s attitudes and agent-awareness of one’s attitudes—to reveal a deep motivating concern for agency that has thus far been underappreciated in Ernest Sosa’s work on reflective knowledge. Sosa motivates his account of reflective knowledge by claiming that, among other things, reflective knowledge has enhanced coherence, is defensible, and in some sense aids agency. I show that mere reflective awareness is not sufficient to provide these goods; each one requires agent-awareness of one’s beliefs. While I focus on Sosa’s epistemology, the point extends more generally to a particular way of motivating traditional internalism.
View full manuscript