Summary for our First Class
Self-Constitution: Being Myself, Doing Actions
(1) Self-constitution is the property, primarily of mental states, of determining their individuation, their contents, and their conditions of correctness. Self-constitution can be discussed at a metaphysical, semantic and epistemic, and normative level. “Self” in “self-constitution” denotes, in the first place, a condition of reflexivity: the determination of such states necessarily involves reference to those very states. “Constitution” means that such determination has to do with the very nature or essence of such states.
(2) Self-constitution is a property primarily of mental states because it involves a metaphysical dimension, a dimension of individuation, which we understand well only in connection with actual particulars (thoughts, attitudes, actions). But it has natural extensions to contents (the determination of what such states are about and makes them correct or incorrect) and to subjects (who have such states). In particular, by having self-constituting mental states, subjects are themselves self-constituting. In this way, “self” in “Self-constitution” takes up a meaning of ultimate, irreducible subjectivity. Making oneself what one is, what thoughts one thoughts, one’s own goodness or rightness.
(3) The examples of self-constitution that we will discuss are first personal states: thoughts, attitudes that can only be intelligible as first personal and that one can have and express only by some use of the first-person pronoun. Also actions: changes in the state of the world that are performed rather than only happening. The study of the self-constituting character of such states is naturally extended to the study of first personal contents and of practical contents, as well as to that of personal identity and of agency.