At least since Descartes, philosophers have been interested in the special knowledge or authority that we exhibit when we speak about our own thoughts, attitudes, and feelings. Expression and the Inner contends that even the best work in contemporary philosophy of mind fails to account for this sort of knowledge or authority because it does not pay the right sort of attention to the notion of expression. Following what he takes to be a widely misunderstood suggestion of Wittgenstein's, Finkelstein argues that we can make sense of self-knowledge and first-person authority only by coming to see the ways in which a self-ascription of, say, happiness (a person's saying or thinking, "I'm happy this morning") may be akin to a smile--akin, that is, to an expression of happiness. In so doing, Finkelstein contrasts his own reading of Wittgenstein's philosophy of mind with influential readings set out by John McDowell and Crispin Wright. By the final chapter of this lucid work, what's at stake is not only how to understand self-knowledge and first-person authority, but also what it is that distinguishes conscious from unconscious psychological states, what the mental life of a nonlinguistic animal has in common with our sort of mental life, and how to think about Wittgenstein's legacy to the philosophy of mind.
This book is an important contribution to a group of problems which have a central place in philosophy of mind. Here I am taking "philosophy of mind" in a broad sense; Finkelstein's book and the problems he discusses have implications for philosophy of language, metaphysics, and epistemology. The book is written with intelligence and verve. Very few works in philosophy have anything describable as "narrative tension," but Finkelstein's certainly does. He draws the reader into the problems he is attempting to solve with the skill of a writer of detective stories; he leads his readers down paths that appear inviting, only then to demonstrate why the apparent solutions on offer down those paths won't do; and his arguments for the solution he himself offers at the end have the force, and the place in the book, of the denouement of a good thriller.
This is an excellent product of philosophical reflection.
What begins as a discussion of a somewhat suburban issue in the philosophy of mind—the problem of first-person authority—turns out to have surprisingly far-reaching implications. Expression and the Inner brings out the fatefulness of a host of deeply entrenched assumptions about a wide range of philosophical topics—topics such as what it takes to understand an utterance or to read a facial expression, the relation between sentience and sapience, the nature of psychoanalytic discovery, and the character of an animal's mental life. Finkelstein shows that making sense of first-person authority requires that one give up these assumptions and that doing so transforms the entire landscape of philosophy of mind in a dramatically illuminating way. Many of the book's central arguments draw upon Wittgenstein's writings. It is a strange feature of contemporary philosophy of mind that Wittgenstein is usually taken to have been among the most significant philosophers of the twentieth century, and much of his writing concerns philosophy of mind, yet we have no good understanding of what the importance of his work for philosophy of mind really is. This book is a major contribution to filling that gap. In the scope of its reach, the extent of its ambition, the thoroughness of its conception, and the elegance of its presentation, it is an exemplary piece of philosophy.
This delightful book takes the reader on an entertaining tour of some of the key issues in the philosophy of mind and language, while offering an appealing new account of self knowledge and consciousness. I loved this book!
Finkelstein’s book opens up new and promising directions of thought on some old philosophical topics.
- 194 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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