The transparency of intention

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The attitude of intention is not usually the primary focus in philosophical work on self-knowledge. A recent exception is the so-called “Transparency” theory of self-knowledge, which attempts to explain how we know our own minds by appeal to reflection on non-mental facts. Transparency theories are attractive in light of their relative psychological economy compared to views that must posit a dedicated mechanism of ‘inner sense’. However, it is argued here, focusing on proposals by Richard Moran and Alex Byrne, that the Transparency approach to explaining knowledge of our intentions fails. Considerations of economy therefore recommend an alternative approach: the Rylean Theory Theory. The particular view defended here is that one way of coming to know what we intend is to self-ascribe an intention on the basis of making a conscious decision about what to do. This view requires that there are such things as conscious decisions, and so the existence of conscious decisions is defended against skeptical worries raised by Peter Carruthers. The conclusion is that we know of our intentions by theorizing about ourselves, but that this knowledge can still be first-personally privileged, authoritative, and non-alienated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1529-1548
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 18 2015


  • Decision
  • Intention
  • Self-knowledge
  • Theory Theory
  • Transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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