Authority and Estrangement: An Essay on Self-Knowledge

Princeton University Press
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Since Socrates, and through Descartes to the present day, the problems of self-knowledge have been central to philosophy's understanding of itself. Today the idea of ''first-person authority''--the claim of a distinctive relation each person has toward his or her own mental life--has been challenged from a number of directions, to the point where many doubt the person bears any distinctive relation to his or her own mental life, let alone a privileged one. In Authority and Estrangement, Richard Moran argues for a reconception of the first-person and its claims. Indeed, he writes, a more thorough repudiation of the idea of privileged inner observation leads to a deeper appreciation of the systematic differences between self-knowledge and the knowledge of others, differences that are both irreducible and constitutive of the very concept and life of the person.

Masterfully blending philosophy of mind and moral psychology, Moran develops a view of self-knowledge that concentrates on the self as agent rather than spectator. He argues that while each person does speak for his own thought and feeling with a distinctive authority, that very authority is tied just as much to the disprivileging of the first-person, to its specific possibilities of alienation. Drawing on certain themes from Wittgenstein, Sartre, and others, the book explores the extent to which what we say about ourselves is a matter of discovery or of creation, the difficulties and limitations in being ''objective'' toward ourselves, and the conflicting demands of realism about oneself and responsibility for oneself. What emerges is a strikingly original and psychologically nuanced exploration of the contrasting ideals of relations to oneself and relations to others.

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About the author

Richard Moran is Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 6, 2012
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9781400842971
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Epistemology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Philosophical Imagination brings together several of Richard Moran's essays, ranging over a remarkable variety of topics in philosophy of mind and action, aesthetics, and moral psychology. A theme connecting several of the essays is the different ways our capacity for imagination is drawn on in our responsiveness to art, to literature, to the lives of other persons, and in the practice of philosophy itself. Topics explored here include our emotional responses to mimetic works of art, the nature of metaphor as a vehicle of thought and in the work of rhetoric, and the understanding of the concept of beauty, as that is developed in contrasting ways in the work of Immanuel Kant and Marcel Proust. Several of the essays respond to the work of recent and contemporary philosophers such as Bernard Williams, Stanley Cavell, Harry Frankfurt, and Iris Murdoch, in the context of such themes as the philosophical problem of 'other minds', love and practical reason, the legacy of Sartrean existentialism, and the role of history in the disciplinary self-understanding of philosophy. The final group of essays focuses on questions about self-knowledge and the importance of the first-person perspective, developing ideas from Moran's influential book Authority and Estrangement (Princeton 2001). Topics discussed here include the nature of a person's 'practical knowledge' of her own action, the concept of the mental and the differences between self-understanding and the understanding of others, and the ambiguous role of narrative as a form of self-understanding. Throughout there is an attempt to draw out the connections between topics that are often discussed in isolation from each other, and to pursue them in the context of the recognizable human situations and questions which ground them. The essays are written in a vivid, humane, and accessible style which should attract a broad readership, both inside and outside the academic discipline of philosophy.
The Philosophical Imagination brings together several of Richard Moran's essays, ranging over a remarkable variety of topics in philosophy of mind and action, aesthetics, and moral psychology. A theme connecting several of the essays is the different ways our capacity for imagination is drawn on in our responsiveness to art, to literature, to the lives of other persons, and in the practice of philosophy itself. Topics explored here include our emotional responses to mimetic works of art, the nature of metaphor as a vehicle of thought and in the work of rhetoric, and the understanding of the concept of beauty, as that is developed in contrasting ways in the work of Immanuel Kant and Marcel Proust. Several of the essays respond to the work of recent and contemporary philosophers such as Bernard Williams, Stanley Cavell, Harry Frankfurt, and Iris Murdoch, in the context of such themes as the philosophical problem of 'other minds', love and practical reason, the legacy of Sartrean existentialism, and the role of history in the disciplinary self-understanding of philosophy. The final group of essays focuses on questions about self-knowledge and the importance of the first-person perspective, developing ideas from Moran's influential book Authority and Estrangement (Princeton 2001). Topics discussed here include the nature of a person's 'practical knowledge' of her own action, the concept of the mental and the differences between self-understanding and the understanding of others, and the ambiguous role of narrative as a form of self-understanding. Throughout there is an attempt to draw out the connections between topics that are often discussed in isolation from each other, and to pursue them in the context of the recognizable human situations and questions which ground them. The essays are written in a vivid, humane, and accessible style which should attract a broad readership, both inside and outside the academic discipline of philosophy.
The capacity to speak is not only the ability to pronounce words, but the socially-recognized capacity to make one's words count in various ways. We rely on this capacity whenever we tell another person something and expect to be believed, and what we learn from others in this way is the basis for most of what we take ourselves to know about the world. In The Exchange of Words, Richard Moran provides a philosophical exploration of human testimony as a form of intersubjective understanding in which speakers communicate by making themselves accountable for the truth of what they say. The book brings together themes from literature, philosophy of language, moral psychology, action theory, and epistemology, for a new approach to this fundamental human phenomenon. The account developed here starts from the difference between what may be revealed in one's speech (like a regional accent) and what we explicitly claim and make ourselves answerable for. Some prominent themes include: the meaning of sincerity in speech, the nature of mutuality and how it differs from 'mind-reading', the interplay between the first-person and the second-person perspectives in conversation, and the nature of the speech act of telling and related illocutions as developed by philosophers such as J. L. Austin and Paul Grice. Everyday dialogue is the locus of a kind of intersubjective understanding that is distinctive of the transmission of reasons in human testimony, and The Exchange of Words is an original and integrated account of this basic way of being informative to and in touch with one another.
The capacity to speak is not only the ability to pronounce words, but the socially-recognized capacity to make one's words count in various ways. We rely on this capacity whenever we tell another person something and expect to be believed, and what we learn from others in this way is the basis for most of what we take ourselves to know about the world. In The Exchange of Words, Richard Moran provides a philosophical exploration of human testimony as a form of intersubjective understanding in which speakers communicate by making themselves accountable for the truth of what they say. The book brings together themes from literature, philosophy of language, moral psychology, action theory, and epistemology, for a new approach to this fundamental human phenomenon. The account developed here starts from the difference between what may be revealed in one's speech (like a regional accent) and what we explicitly claim and make ourselves answerable for. Some prominent themes include: the meaning of sincerity in speech, the nature of mutuality and how it differs from 'mind-reading', the interplay between the first-person and the second-person perspectives in conversation, and the nature of the speech act of telling and related illocutions as developed by philosophers such as J. L. Austin and Paul Grice. Everyday dialogue is the locus of a kind of intersubjective understanding that is distinctive of the transmission of reasons in human testimony, and The Exchange of Words is an original and integrated account of this basic way of being informative to and in touch with one another.
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