Privileged access and epistemic transparency are very interesting ideas. They deal with the idea of individual truths. These truths focus mainly on things that can be true to you, but false to others and can encompass things that may momentarily appear true, yet are generally false. The question philosophers have focused on is as follows: How can something as solid as a “truth” vary from person to person, and mind to mind? The general idea behind this topic is, as discussed in class, that some mental states belong to an individual because only that individual can access them. One can hypothesize others mental states based on how they act, however one can not really know the true state of mind.
According to Descartes we have direct access to our experiences, thoughts and emotional states. This results in a transparent mind. Transparency is the idea that if you believe something, then it is true. For Descartes, this was a no brainer, a completely obvious point. It seems logical that one’s own mental states are transparent to one because they are conscious of them. This follows his Cogito argument, where one can be certain of their existence because they are thinking. We can have knowledge of our self existence only as far as being a thinking thing, carrying out mental acts such as judging, wondering and being afraid. To Descartes, the transparency of mental events, such as the Cogito argument, form the basic principles upon which all human knowledge can be based, and go hand in hand as fundamental ideas.
While Descartes believes this to be incredibly fundamental to human knowledge, there have been several critiques of this over the years. One example that goes against mental transparency is Freud’s idea of the unconscious mind. The unconscious does not include what is in the conscious, but rather looks at what is repressed from a knowing conscious. Things repressed can include unacceptable ideas, wishes or desires, traumatic memories as well as painful emotions. He argues that unconscious thoughts are not directly accessible to ordinary introspection, but can only be tapped into with special methods and techniques that the ordinary conscious mind cannot reach without direction. These unconscious thoughts can be viewed as cryptic with special meanings that the conscious mind cannot easily decode. This makes Descartes claims a bit sticky. Because Freud argues that we have biologically based instincts that are part of the human mind, like urges, as well as uncontrolled repression, which are these things found in the unconscious, it causes individuals to not be consistently aware of their mental state. His argument therefore displaces Descartes claim of transparency of mental states.
Transparent epistemic rules allow us to figure out what is true from the evidence available to us. They are rules that rely on an individuals privileged access, or ability to have a good understanding of himself or herself. They access an individuals mental state...