The Intrinsic Value of Self-Knowledge

Eric Schwitzgebel

in draft

Although this paper is intended for presentation at the April 2, 2015, Pacific APA Author-Meets-Critics session on Quassim Cassam's Self-Knowledge for Humans, it should be independently comprehensible to those who don't antecedently know Cassam's work.

Abstract: I offer three arguments for the intrinsic value of self-knowledge.  1. The Argument from Addition and Subtraction.  If we imaginatively subtract substantial self-knowledge from the world, holding constant everything else to the extent possible, we imagine the world as a worse place.  If we imaginatively add substantial self-knowledge to the world, we imagine the world as a better place.  2. The Argument from Nearby Cases.  Knowledge in general is intrinsically valuable.  Psychological knowledge specifically of your intimate friends and family is intrinsically valuable.  It would be odd if self-knowledge weren't therefore also intrinsically valuable.  3. The Argument from Identity.  To have psychological knowledge is to have a structure of dispositional capacities of attunement to one's own psychological states.  Those capacities are intrinsically valuable and not ontologically distinct (as they might be on some representationalist views of knowledge) from psychological self-knowledge.

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