Class 15 Lecture Notes (very preliminary)

Class 15         
            Locke and Kant have taught us that the first person: ways of thinking that can only be formed in the first person, as expressing self-consciousness in a reflexive, subjective mode (“consider myself as myself”, “I think”) have special importance. Respectively, with regard of being a self and of personal identity (Locke); or of the very possibility of experience, understanding, and knowledge (Kant). Therefore, first personal thoughts and attitudes, regarded as giving expression of the subjective I and to self-constitution, are held to be semantically, epistemically, and ontological (for their ontological implications) in order. In effect, they have some sort of foundational position.
            This is not to say that Locke or (especially) Kant did not regard the first person as in some respects problematic. Much less that their views are not in themselves problematic. But certainly they regarded first personal thinking as sound enough to perform such foundational roles. And they make theoretically important moves to prove this. Now I want to consider some important views that, in different ways, deny precisely that the first person has the logical character and force that philosophers like Descartes, Locke, and Kant ascribe to it. Interestingly, Wittgenstein voiced one such position.
 
            (1) Wittgenstein on the First Person
            W.’s discussions of rule following et similia are often framed in the first person (see BB, § 62, for instance). Now, the point of such discussions is to locate correctly the normative force of rules et similia. We have seen that W. in particular wants to show that the source of such normativity is not in the minds of the agents or speakers (no matter who or how many), but rather in shared practices concerning the relevant subject matters. W. is not of course denying that we have mental states. He is denying that such mental states have normative force per se, or independently, or in a self-constituting way. (Practices are not self-constituting either, because normativity ultimately emerges from their factual character, not in a foundational way.)
            Now, the use of the first person in W.’s framing of such discussions aims precisely to emphasize the internal, “solipsistic” character of these presumptive foundational consideration. In fact, a first personal claim (“I know how to go on”) seems to express some sort of (illusory) justification from what one does next. It is thus no wonder that W. addresses directly the first person, with an analysis of its uses (that is, of its semantics) and with the aim of dispelling the illusion of its authority, of its being a special, self-constituting source of normativity.
            The general principle of W.’s discussion of the first person (and of his later philosophy in general) is that a word is used “in a typically metaphysical way” when it is used “without an antithesis” (BBB, 46). Metaphysics aims to absoluteness and necessity. But if these are at the cost that there is no room for alternatives, denial, and error, we plunge in lack of meaning. Now, this is precisely the case with certain uses of “I”.
            (i) There is no special epistemic or ontological privilege of the first person. The point of the example at BBB, 66 is this. Suppose that I climb on top of a tree. Now I can justifiably say “Only I really see”, because of my position. And I have some sort of authority with regard to others (“so and so is really seen”, i.e., this is how things are).  But the justification and the authority do not depend of the first personal character of the claim, on a special character of the fact that it is I who is seeing. They depend on the perfectly ordinary fact that I am on the top of the tree (and that my eyesight is normal). Even in relation to me, I have reason to trust what I see as really seen not because it is I who is seeing (“from my heart”), but because of the position I am occupying and so on. To do otherwise, would be to ascribe to the I a special nature, different from my body and mind. It would be a special entity, which only inhabits myself as mind and body. This is a presumptive ground of justification that W. considers senseless (also with regard to oneself, I would add).
            (ii) As it is usual with him, W. regards this piece of metaphysics as issuing from a misunderstanding of grammar, of the logical grammar of “I”. There are two different uses of “I”: as object and as subject.
            (a) The first difference, and the point of the examples, is that in the first case there is room for possibility of error, in the second, no such possibility is provided for. Possibility of error is linked to recognition. As we know, possibility of error is crucially linked, in W., with meaning and objectivity. As W. says, the cases in which no mistakes with regard of a move are possible are possible are cases in which there is no move of the game. (A rule which cannot be broken is a rule that makes the game exist, not a rule according to which the game can be played well or badly.)
            (b) W. articulates this point by equating the uses of “I” where no recognition and no mistakes are possible with non-linguistic, expressive acts (moaning). A first personal statement in which “I” is used as subject is no statement at all: it is an expressive gesture. Expressive of a feeling or of some other claim. In this use, “I” is not referential; it is not about a particular person.
            (c) The difference between first person pronoun and proper not is not in their reference, it is in their role or use in language. “I” used as a subject is a tool of expression for purposes of saliency. Not a referential expression. And not a demonstrative. We do not use “I” as a subject to pick up a person among others. “I” can be abolished from that use.
            (d) This explains the metaphysical illusions associated to the first person. In using the “I” as a subject, we are somehow aware that no recognitional reference to any person (no empirical recognition) is involved. This creates the illusion that we are referring to a non-empirical something, the real I who inhabits the person who is speaking, with special ontological and epistemic properties.
 
            (2) Some First Remarks
            (i) The phenomena of the first person pointed out by W., in particular its redundancy and its expressive use, are certainly important. (Compare with truth.)
            (ii) The distinction between the two uses of “I” and its connection with identification is also right and important. This is also true with regard to demonstratives and proper names.
            (iii) The restriction of the use of “I” as a subject to expression and avowal or to the pragmatics of salience, however, seems to have a controversial basis.
            (iv) The rationale for W.’s treatment of the use of “I” as a subject depends on its distinctive treatment of issues of foundationalism. On the one hand, it is (correctly) that lack of possibility of error and objectivity debunks any pretense to a foundational role. On the other, it is (problematically) that this confines discussions of normativity to actual, shared practices.
            (v) There might the possibility of a transcendental, constitutive use of “I”, connected to agency, perception, and consciousness, which makes room for objectivity and for possibility of mistakes (without itself being possibly mistaken.
            (vi) The role of I as a subject in agency or perceptual experience or consciousness, as per se normative domains, is also unexplored.             
             Class 15         
            Locke and Kant have taught us that the first person: ways of thinking that can only be formed in the first person, as expressing self-consciousness in a reflexive, subjective mode (“consider myself as myself”, “I think”) have special importance. Respectively, with regard of being a self and of personal identity (Locke); or of the very possibility of experience, understanding, and knowledge (Kant). Therefore, first personal thoughts and attitudes, regarded as giving expression of the subjective I and to self-constitution, are held to be semantically, epistemically, and ontological (for their ontological implications) in order. In effect, they have some sort of foundational position.
            This is not to say that Locke or (especially) Kant did not regard the first person as in some respects problematic. Much less that their views are not in themselves problematic. But certainly they regarded first personal thinking as sound enough to perform such foundational roles. And they make theoretically important moves to prove this. Now I want to consider some important views that, in different ways, deny precisely that the first person has the logical character and force that philosophers like Descartes, Locke, and Kant ascribe to it. Interestingly, Wittgenstein voiced one such position.
 
            (1) Wittgenstein on the First Person
            W.’s discussions of rule following et similia are often framed in the first person (see BB, § 62, for instance). Now, the point of such discussions is to locate correctly the normative force of rules et similia. We have seen that W. in particular wants to show that the source of such normativity is not in the minds of the agents or speakers (no matter who or how many), but rather in shared practices concerning the relevant subject matters. W. is not of course denying that we have mental states. He is denying that such mental states have normative force per se, or independently, or in a self-constituting way. (Practices are not self-constituting either, because normativity ultimately emerges from their factual character, not in a foundational way.)
            Now, the use of the first person in W.’s framing of such discussions aims precisely to emphasize the internal, “solipsistic” character of these presumptive foundational consideration. In fact, a first personal claim (“I know how to go on”) seems to express some sort of (illusory) justification from what one does next. It is thus no wonder that W. addresses directly the first person, with an analysis of its uses (that is, of its semantics) and with the aim of dispelling the illusion of its authority, of its being a special, self-constituting source of normativity.
            The general principle of W.’s discussion of the first person (and of his later philosophy in general) is that a word is used “in a typically metaphysical way” when it is used “without an antithesis” (BBB, 46). Metaphysics aims to absoluteness and necessity. But if these are at the cost that there is no room for alternatives, denial, and error, we plunge in lack of meaning. Now, this is precisely the case with certain uses of “I”.
            (i) There is no special epistemic or ontological privilege of the first person. The point of the example at BBB, 66 is this. Suppose that I climb on top of a tree. Now I can justifiably say “Only I really see”, because of my position. And I have some sort of authority with regard to others (“so and so is really seen”, i.e., this is how things are).  But the justification and the authority do not depend of the first personal character of the claim, on a special character of the fact that it is I who is seeing. They depend on the perfectly ordinary fact that I am on the top of the tree (and that my eyesight is normal). Even in relation to me, I have reason to trust what I see as really seen not because it is I who is seeing (“from my heart”), but because of the position I am occupying and so on. To do otherwise, would be to ascribe to the I a special nature, different from my body and mind. It would be a special entity, which only inhabits myself as mind and body. This is a presumptive ground of justification that W. considers senseless (also with regard to oneself, I would add).
            (ii) As it is usual with him, W. regards this piece of metaphysics as issuing from a misunderstanding of grammar, of the logical grammar of “I”. There are two different uses of “I”: as object and as subject.
            (a) The first difference, and the point of the examples, is that in the first case there is room for possibility of error, in the second, no such possibility is provided for. Possibility of error is linked to recognition. As we know, possibility of error is crucially linked, in W., with meaning and objectivity. As W. says, the cases in which no mistakes with regard of a move are possible are possible are cases in which there is no move of the game. (A rule which cannot be broken is a rule that makes the game exist, not a rule according to which the game can be played well or badly.)
            (b) W. articulates this point by equating the uses of “I” where no recognition and no mistakes are possible with non-linguistic, expressive acts (moaning). A first personal statement in which “I” is used as subject is no statement at all: it is an expressive gesture. Expressive of a feeling or of some other claim. In this use, “I” is not referential; it is not about a particular person.
            (c) The difference between first person pronoun and proper not is not in their reference, it is in their role or use in language. “I” used as a subject is a tool of expression for purposes of saliency. Not a referential expression. And not a demonstrative. We do not use “I” as a subject to pick up a person among others. “I” can be abolished from that use.
            (d) This explains the metaphysical illusions associated to the first person. In using the “I” as a subject, we are somehow aware that no recognitional reference to any person (no empirical recognition) is involved. This creates the illusion that we are referring to a non-empirical something, the real I who inhabits the person who is speaking, with special ontological and epistemic properties.
 
            (2) Some First Remarks
            (i) The phenomena of the first person pointed out by W., in particular its redundancy and its expressive use, are certainly important. (Compare with truth.)
            (ii) The distinction between the two uses of “I” and its connection with identification is also right and important. This is also true with regard to demonstratives and proper names.
            (iii) The restriction of the use of “I” as a subject to expression and avowal or to the pragmatics of salience, however, seems to have a controversial basis.
            (iv) The rationale for W.’s treatment of the use of “I” as a subject depends on its distinctive treatment of issues of foundationalism. On the one hand, it is (correctly) that lack of possibility of error and objectivity debunks any pretense to a foundational role. On the other, it is (problematically) that this confines discussions of normativity to actual, shared practices.
            (v) There might the possibility of a transcendental, constitutive use of “I”, connected to agency, perception, and consciousness, which makes room for objectivity and for possibility of mistakes (without itself being possibly mistaken.
            (vi) The role of I as a subject in agency or perceptual experience or consciousness, as per se normative domains, is also unexplored.             
             Class 15         
            Locke and Kant have taught us that the first person: ways of thinking that can only be formed in the first person, as expressing self-consciousness in a reflexive, subjective mode (“consider myself as myself”, “I think”) have special importance. Respectively, with regard of being a self and of personal identity (Locke); or of the very possibility of experience, understanding, and knowledge (Kant). Therefore, first personal thoughts and attitudes, regarded as giving expression of the subjective I and to self-constitution, are held to be semantically, epistemically, and ontological (for their ontological implications) in order. In effect, they have some sort of foundational position.
            This is not to say that Locke or (especially) Kant did not regard the first person as in some respects problematic. Much less that their views are not in themselves problematic. But certainly they regarded first personal thinking as sound enough to perform such foundational roles. And they make theoretically important moves to prove this. Now I want to consider some important views that, in different ways, deny precisely that the first person has the logical character and force that philosophers like Descartes, Locke, and Kant ascribe to it. Interestingly, Wittgenstein voiced one such position.
 
            (1) Wittgenstein on the First Person
            W.’s discussions of rule following et similia are often framed in the first person (see BB, § 62, for instance). Now, the point of such discussions is to locate correctly the normative force of rules et similia. We have seen that W. in particular wants to show that the source of such normativity is not in the minds of the agents or speakers (no matter who or how many), but rather in shared practices concerning the relevant subject matters. W. is not of course denying that we have mental states. He is denying that such mental states have normative force per se, or independently, or in a self-constituting way. (Practices are not self-constituting either, because normativity ultimately emerges from their factual character, not in a foundational way.)
            Now, the use of the first person in W.’s framing of such discussions aims precisely to emphasize the internal, “solipsistic” character of these presumptive foundational consideration. In fact, a first personal claim (“I know how to go on”) seems to express some sort of (illusory) justification from what one does next. It is thus no wonder that W. addresses directly the first person, with an analysis of its uses (that is, of its semantics) and with the aim of dispelling the illusion of its authority, of its being a special, self-constituting source of normativity.
            The general principle of W.’s discussion of the first person (and of his later philosophy in general) is that a word is used “in a typically metaphysical way” when it is used “without an antithesis” (BBB, 46). Metaphysics aims to absoluteness and necessity. But if these are at the cost that there is no room for alternatives, denial, and error, we plunge in lack of meaning. Now, this is precisely the case with certain uses of “I”.
            (i) There is no special epistemic or ontological privilege of the first person. The point of the example at BBB, 66 is this. Suppose that I climb on top of a tree. Now I can justifiably say “Only I really see”, because of my position. And I have some sort of authority with regard to others (“so and so is really seen”, i.e., this is how things are).  But the justification and the authority do not depend of the first personal character of the claim, on a special character of the fact that it is I who is seeing. They depend on the perfectly ordinary fact that I am on the top of the tree (and that my eyesight is normal). Even in relation to me, I have reason to trust what I see as really seen not because it is I who is seeing (“from my heart”), but because of the position I am occupying and so on. To do otherwise, would be to ascribe to the I a special nature, different from my body and mind. It would be a special entity, which only inhabits myself as mind and body. This is a presumptive ground of justification that W. considers senseless (also with regard to oneself, I would add).
            (ii) As it is usual with him, W. regards this piece of metaphysics as issuing from a misunderstanding of grammar, of the logical grammar of “I”. There are two different uses of “I”: as object and as subject.
            (a) The first difference, and the point of the examples, is that in the first case there is room for possibility of error, in the second, no such possibility is provided for. Possibility of error is linked to recognition. As we know, possibility of error is crucially linked, in W., with meaning and objectivity. As W. says, the cases in which no mistakes with regard of a move are possible are possible are cases in which there is no move of the game. (A rule which cannot be broken is a rule that makes the game exist, not a rule according to which the game can be played well or badly.)
            (b) W. articulates this point by equating the uses of “I” where no recognition and no mistakes are possible with non-linguistic, expressive acts (moaning). A first personal statement in which “I” is used as subject is no statement at all: it is an expressive gesture. Expressive of a feeling or of some other claim. In this use, “I” is not referential; it is not about a particular person.
            (c) The difference between first person pronoun and proper not is not in their reference, it is in their role or use in language. “I” used as a subject is a tool of expression for purposes of saliency. Not a referential expression. And not a demonstrative. We do not use “I” as a subject to pick up a person among others. “I” can be abolished from that use.
            (d) This explains the metaphysical illusions associated to the first person. In using the “I” as a subject, we are somehow aware that no recognitional reference to any person (no empirical recognition) is involved. This creates the illusion that we are referring to a non-empirical something, the real I who inhabits the person who is speaking, with special ontological and epistemic properties.
 
            (2) Some First Remarks
            (i) The phenomena of the first person pointed out by W., in particular its redundancy and its expressive use, are certainly important. (Compare with truth.)
            (ii) The distinction between the two uses of “I” and its connection with identification is also right and important. This is also true with regard to demonstratives and proper names.
            (iii) The restriction of the use of “I” as a subject to expression and avowal or to the pragmatics of salience, however, seems to have a controversial basis.
            (iv) The rationale for W.’s treatment of the use of “I” as a subject depends on its distinctive treatment of issues of foundationalism. On the one hand, it is (correctly) that lack of possibility of error and objectivity debunks any pretense to a foundational role. On the other, it is (problematically) that this confines discussions of normativity to actual, shared practices.
            (v) There might the possibility of a transcendental, constitutive use of “I”, connected to agency, perception, and consciousness, which makes room for objectivity and for possibility of mistakes (without itself being possibly mistaken.
            (vi) The role of I as a subject in agency or perceptual experience or consciousness, as per se normative domains, is also unexplored.             
             Class 15         
            Locke and Kant have taught us that the first person: ways of thinking that can only be formed in the first person, as expressing self-consciousness in a reflexive, subjective mode (“consider myself as myself”, “I think”) have special importance. Respectively, with regard of being a self and of personal identity (Locke); or of the very possibility of experience, understanding, and knowledge (Kant). Therefore, first personal thoughts and attitudes, regarded as giving expression of the subjective I and to self-constitution, are held to be semantically, epistemically, and ontological (for their ontological implications) in order. In effect, they have some sort of foundational position.
            This is not to say that Locke or (especially) Kant did not regard the first person as in some respects problematic. Much less that their views are not in themselves problematic. But certainly they regarded first personal thinking as sound enough to perform such foundational roles. And they make theoretically important moves to prove this. Now I want to consider some important views that, in different ways, deny precisely that the first person has the logical character and force that philosophers like Descartes, Locke, and Kant ascribe to it. Interestingly, Wittgenstein voiced one such position.
 
            (1) Wittgenstein on the First Person
            W.’s discussions of rule following et similia are often framed in the first person (see BB, § 62, for instance). Now, the point of such discussions is to locate correctly the normative force of rules et similia. We have seen that W. in particular wants to show that the source of such normativity is not in the minds of the agents or speakers (no matter who or how many), but rather in shared practices concerning the relevant subject matters. W. is not of course denying that we have mental states. He is denying that such mental states have normative force per se, or independently, or in a self-constituting way. (Practices are not self-constituting either, because normativity ultimately emerges from their factual character, not in a foundational way.)
            Now, the use of the first person in W.’s framing of such discussions aims precisely to emphasize the internal, “solipsistic” character of these presumptive foundational consideration. In fact, a first personal claim (“I know how to go on”) seems to express some sort of (illusory) justification from what one does next. It is thus no wonder that W. addresses directly the first person, with an analysis of its uses (that is, of its semantics) and with the aim of dispelling the illusion of its authority, of its being a special, self-constituting source of normativity.
            The general principle of W.’s discussion of the first person (and of his later philosophy in general) is that a word is used “in a typically metaphysical way” when it is used “without an antithesis” (BBB, 46). Metaphysics aims to absoluteness and necessity. But if these are at the cost that there is no room for alternatives, denial, and error, we plunge in lack of meaning. Now, this is precisely the case with certain uses of “I”.
            (i) There is no special epistemic or ontological privilege of the first person. The point of the example at BBB, 66 is this. Suppose that I climb on top of a tree. Now I can justifiably say “Only I really see”, because of my position. And I have some sort of authority with regard to others (“so and so is really seen”, i.e., this is how things are).  But the justification and the authority do not depend of the first personal character of the claim, on a special character of the fact that it is I who is seeing. They depend on the perfectly ordinary fact that I am on the top of the tree (and that my eyesight is normal). Even in relation to me, I have reason to trust what I see as really seen not because it is I who is seeing (“from my heart”), but because of the position I am occupying and so on. To do otherwise, would be to ascribe to the I a special nature, different from my body and mind. It would be a special entity, which only inhabits myself as mind and body. This is a presumptive ground of justification that W. considers senseless (also with regard to oneself, I would add).
            (ii) As it is usual with him, W. regards this piece of metaphysics as issuing from a misunderstanding of grammar, of the logical grammar of “I”. There are two different uses of “I”: as object and as subject.
            (a) The first difference, and the point of the examples, is that in the first case there is room for possibility of error, in the second, no such possibility is provided for. Possibility of error is linked to recognition. As we know, possibility of error is crucially linked, in W., with meaning and objectivity. As W. says, the cases in which no mistakes with regard of a move are possible are possible are cases in which there is no move of the game. (A rule which cannot be broken is a rule that makes the game exist, not a rule according to which the game can be played well or badly.)
            (b) W. articulates this point by equating the uses of “I” where no recognition and no mistakes are possible with non-linguistic, expressive acts (moaning). A first personal statement in which “I” is used as subject is no statement at all: it is an expressive gesture. Expressive of a feeling or of some other claim. In this use, “I” is not referential; it is not about a particular person.
            (c) The difference between first person pronoun and proper not is not in their reference, it is in their role or use in language. “I” used as a subject is a tool of expression for purposes of saliency. Not a referential expression. And not a demonstrative. We do not use “I” as a subject to pick up a person among others. “I” can be abolished from that use.
            (d) This explains the metaphysical illusions associated to the first person. In using the “I” as a subject, we are somehow aware that no recognitional reference to any person (no empirical recognition) is involved. This creates the illusion that we are referring to a non-empirical something, the real I who inhabits the person who is speaking, with special ontological and epistemic properties.
 
            (2) Some First Remarks
            (i) The phenomena of the first person pointed out by W., in particular its redundancy and its expressive use, are certainly important. (Compare with truth.)
            (ii) The distinction between the two uses of “I” and its connection with identification is also right and important. This is also true with regard to demonstratives and proper names.
            (iii) The restriction of the use of “I” as a subject to expression and avowal or to the pragmatics of salience, however, seems to have a controversial basis.
            (iv) The rationale for W.’s treatment of the use of “I” as a subject depends on its distinctive treatment of issues of foundationalism. On the one hand, it is (correctly) that lack of possibility of error and objectivity debunks any pretense to a foundational role. On the other, it is (problematically) that this confines discussions of normativity to actual, shared practices.
            (v) There might the possibility of a transcendental, constitutive use of “I”, connected to agency, perception, and consciousness, which makes room for objectivity and for possibility of mistakes (without itself being possibly mistaken.
            (vi) The role of I as a subject in agency or perceptual experience or consciousness, as per se normative domains, is also unexplored.             
             

Data inizio: 
Martedì, 30 Novembre, 2021
Data fine: 
Mercoledì, 30 Novembre, 2022

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