Notes for Class 6 (today). Improved!
More on Self-Constitution
A few points.
The skeptical solution to the skeptical paradox, possibly even in W.’s own version of it, seems only to push the problem of rules and reasons, which is crucial for any theory of meaning, thought, cognition, and action, one step back.
Kripke: There is actually no conceptual room for normativity. As we are, in our practices and communal forms of living, we are all we ought to be (at the second order).
W.: (a) Rules and reasons are merged together in our practices; insofar as practices provide reasons, this is a fact without further explanation; (b) There are no rules at all.
The skeptical solution thus seems to be a nihilist solution; an elimination of the connection between rules and reasons. W.’s own solution, as he himself somewhere remarks (“at this transition all rules leave me in the lurch … in the end I must make a leap”, MS 129, cited in Baker & Hacker 1985:148), is ultimately to trust or rely on our inclusion in a rule-constituted practice. Also: § 289, ohne Rechtfertigung / zu Unrecht. At the fundamental (closing) level, rule-following is without justification (rules are divorced from reasons); but this is not the same with saying that it is unjustified or that it goes against right. But then we are dangerously close to the no-distinction, no-normativity, no-rules position.
One reaction to this might be that, if this is the price to pay for addressing the difficulties with a subjective grounding of meaning and normativity, of the sort self-constitution would provide; the price for gaining objectivity, may be it is not worth paying. But, then, we are at a stalemate.
A related reaction might to point out that there are important conceptual and theoretical areas, that of the first person and personal identity and that of agency, which seem to resist to the skeptical solution. That seem to require special treatment.
To begin exploring the second reaction, we may consider why Kripke’s of W.’s resorting to practices should not itself be regarded as a case of self-constitution.
After all, practices (as understood) seem to be self-individuating (nothing defines the practice from the outside), to bring about their on contents (be this in the guise of rules or not), and to define their own conditions of correctness or reasons. The fact that practices are social seems only to make the self-constitution insight more plausible in their case. (See Kripke.)
What is missing from this conception of practices (self-supporting practices, let us say) to make it count as a form of self-constitution, then?
I think that the root of the problem is the kind of contingency (non-necessity) that goes with such conception of practices. Ultimately, there is no necessity, and apriority, to what form and content practices have (on this conception). To what they are. Their self-individuation is, so to say, only necessary from inside the practice; there are no further grounds for it. This was the aim of the conceptions examined; but we may ask whether this is the source of the nihilism, we have detected. The same holds of normative conditions, which are, ultimately, simply what they happen to be.
The self-constitution insight, by contrast, gives expression to a concern for necessity and a priority (check Leibniz on individual substances) both in individuation and normativity. Some sort of grounding, not only of happening. This is a demand for objectivity, as we have seen from the beginning. The interesting, if frustrating complication is that such grounding should not be external; necessity and a priority should issue from the subject itself (be it individual or collective), the adequate conception of which precisely requires them.
W. (and perhaps Kripke) is not insensitive to this point: see what he says about the first person and agency. Why do personal identity and agency lend themselves so naturally to a self-constitutive understanding? Without anticipating on what we are going to see, the core consideration is that who we are and what a doing is (differently, say, from what we are or what is brought about) are matters with some sort of necessity. I could be different from what but not from who I am (I would not be there). A doing could fail to bring something about but not fail to be the doing it is (it would not take place). These are also matters that seem scrutable a priori. If these conditions simply follow on I being myself and on this being the doing, the pull of a self-constitution insight is very strong.