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Volume 48 • Number 1

January 2011



An Epistemological Approach to Essential Indexicality

by Jeremy Morris

The prevailing notion that the problem of essential indexicals must be solved through the theory of meaning of attitude ascriptions is incorrect. Well-known attempts to solve the problem along those lines, e.g., the proposals of Lewis (1979) and Perry (1979), have rested on the overly optimistic assumption that there is no limit in principle to the access one may have to the contents of someone else’s thoughts, including their knowledge. That assumption is challenged in this essay. The hazards associated with limited accessibility can be and indeed must be alleviated by an epistemological theory in such a way that allows for a new nonsemantic approach to the problem. The following is an outline of the arguments in favor of this approach. In the first part, the problem of essential indexicals and the familiar corollary thesis that such indexicals are not reducible to nonindexicals is briefly reviewed. In the second part, indexical irreducibility is shown to hold for a range of explanations of theoretical rationality in addition to the basic explanations of action in which the irreducibility is typically illustrated.

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ISSN: 2152-1123