How to Read a Mind

We think we know our own minds - are we deluded?

In Julian Barnes’s novel Staring at the Sun, teenage Jean Serjeant is struck by the firmness of her parents’ moral views. Their opinions seem to her like ‘honking frogs’ compared with her own ‘twitching, vulnerable tadpoles’. How can people be so sure of what they think, Jean wonders: ‘How could you know your own mind without using your mind to discover your mind in the first place?’ It seems almost circular, putting Jean in mind of ‘a dog circling in pursuit of its own cropped tail’.[1]

Jean’s questions provoke further questions. How do we discover what we think? If we must use our minds to discover our minds, then can we make mistakes about them? Can you be wrong about what you think, just as you can be wrong about what somebody else thinks? I express liberal views on most political and social issues, but can I be sure I really believe the things I say? Perhaps I just say them to

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Mark Hoskins 15 August 2017

Can I have a belief about a belief without knowing it?