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Rationality and the First Person

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In this paper, I will argue that a prominent theory of rationality could ground an argument for the existence of a self. Specifically, a self that is only captured in first- personal beliefs, and which is hence distinct from the physical body, in so far as the latter can be captured in third-personal beliefs. First-personal beliefs are beliefs characteristically expressed with first-personal utterances. Perry has argued that first- personal beliefs are necessary for certain actions. On closer examination, the appropriate conclusion of Perry's arguments is that first-personal beliefs are necessary for rational actions. If one adopts a popular view of rationality according to which it consists in the coherence of one's attitudes, one can give first-personal beliefs a unique role in rationality without giving them a unique content. However, recently it has been argued that rationality consists in responding appropriately to the world. According to this latter theory of rationality, a belief is only necessary for a rational action in so far as one must have a belief in order to be aware of and respond to the world. On this latter theory, if first-personal beliefs are to have a unique role in rationality, first-personal beliefs must capture something unique about the world. The conclusions of the paper are twofold. Firstly, we ought to see the problems surrounding essential first-personal beliefs as bound up with rationality. Secondly, if we follow current trends in the philosophical study of rationality we could be led into conflict with common responses to these problems and towards the existence of a non-physical self.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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