About the Project

There is a deep disagreement over the philosophical significance of first-person thought. Many philosophers take it to be well-established that thoughts about the self fundamentally differ in nature from thoughts about other individuals and raise deep philosophical questions. Others maintain that their colleagues have succumbed to an attractive, yet unmotivated, myth and in fact there is nothing special or philosophically profound about first-person thoughts.

This radical difference of opinion cries out for further exploration: is there really something special about first-person thought?

This project brings together researchers from the UK, Europe and US who are at the forefront of research into the nature of first-person thought and the self. Our purpose is to investigate the topic by facilitating extended, constructive dialogue between researchers with conflicting views on the philosophical significance of first-person thought.

The Structure of the Project

The project is structured into three phases, each attempting to answer distinct questions about the nature of first-person thought:

Year one. What is the Problem of First-Person Thought?

The first phase of the project will aim to clarify and demarcate what unique problems are raised by the phenomenon of first-person thought. One point that the sceptics have successfully made is that precisely what the problem is has not been clearly defined, and literature on first-person thought often vacillates between distinct issues. Thus, the main objective of the first phase of the project is to precisely outline and individuate the problems for traditional accounts that are alleged to arise from the phenomenon of first-person thought and the arguments in favour of special kinds of content for such thoughts.

Year two. First-Person Thought and Frege Puzzles.

The second phase of the project will consider the relation between the phenomenon of first-person thought and the more general phenomenon arising from so-called Frege puzzles. Having seemingly distinct and conflicting beliefs about one and the same individual is a familiar and much discussed phenomenon in philosophy. Lois Lane believes that Superman can fly but she does not believe that Clark Kent can fly. Can the case involving first-person belief be subsumed under this sort of phenomenon? Or are first-person beliefs indeed deserving of special treatment?

Year three. First-Person Thought and the Nature of the Self.

The third phase of the project will employ the results of the first two phases to address implications for the nature of thought and the self. Is there a fundamental distinction between thoughts about ourselves and thoughts about others? What implications does the proper theory of first-person thought have for self-knowledge and competing theories of the self? A thorough examination of the nature of first-person thought will provide insights into perennial issues in philosophy concerning the nature of the self and the role of the first-person perspective in our understanding of the world.

Research activities of the network will include annual workshops and conferences, public lectures, research visits and an online reading group. For more information please check out the Events section.