Suppose I attempt to justify trusting my own thoughts with an argument. Suppose I read the argument and find it compelling. The very process of reading an argument (presumably written in English or some other natural language), understanding it, and having the experience of the argument "clicking" or "making sense" in my mind involves thoughts. But if I have no justification for trusting those thoughts, I wouldn't have justification for trusting the conclusion of the argument, that is, that my thoughts are reliable. Conversely, I would need to presuppose that my thoughts are reliable in order to trust my understanding of the argument leading to the conclusion that my thoughts are reliable, but doing so would be a textbook example of begging the question (i.e., circular reasoning). In fact, the very act of asking a question here on Philosophy Stack Exchange is also an instance of begging the question, as I need to act as if my thoughts are reliable enough to let me compose a sensible question on the reliability of my thoughts that other minds will be able to read, make sense of, and respond to.

How can I justify trusting my own thoughts without begging the question?

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    You literally have no choice. You're stuck in your head with nothing but your own thoughts to rely on. This doesn't mean you trust all of them, but you're always relying on some of them. Even if you try to doubt everything, you're trusting the thought to doubt everything.
    – causative
    Commented Apr 20 at 21:26
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    Don't forget there exist paranoid schizophrenics who are deluded into believing all sorts of unfathomable ideas, of which they are as convinced as the most educated academics are about their ideas. Commented Apr 20 at 21:55
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    Suppose you do not try to justify trusting your own thoughts in ethereal generality that ignores what those thoughts are, what condition you are in, and so on. Suddenly, it gets much easier. Your reasoning equivocates on "my thoughts" that refer to different things in different parts. That you need more thoughts to understand thoughts is a dubious idea that leads to infinite regress, we would not understand anything at all if it worked that way. Thoughts better "rely" on something other than thoughts. "There is a way of grasping a rule which is not an interpretation" Wittgenstein, PI §201.
    – Conifold
    Commented Apr 21 at 1:13
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    @Conifold Any plans on translating comments into answers?
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 21 at 14:22
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    "I was left alone in my head without adult supervision."
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 21 at 20:16

2 Answers 2


Apply the same method as you apply to reduce the error probability in general: Doublecheck your result by several independent methods until they all lead to the same result.

Proceeding alike does not exclude errors but reduces their probability considerably.


Let's assume that you cannot trust your thoughts.

But, if you cannot trust your thoughts, then you cannot also trust the assumption above.

And, if you cannot trust the assumption above, then why posit it? Instead, posit the opposite - that you can trust your thoughts.

N.B. I find trust to be a somewhat vague term, less suitable here. Had you used the notions of your thoughts being true, it would have worked in a similar way, and would be a proof by contradiction.


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