Tito Magri

Esperto di alta qualificazione
M-FIL/01 ( Filosofia teoretica )
Filosofia
Visualizza programmi a.a.  2021-2022
Ricevimento

Ricevo per appuntamento, da prendere per via email a tito.magri48@gmail.com.
 

First Class Tomorrow
Dom 02 Ott 2022 lun 02 Ott 2023

Tomorrow we will have our first class. 12:30/14:30, Room XI.

 

Check in Materiale Didattico for lecture notes and other stuff. 

 

We will discuss some passages from Kant's Groundwork. Here is a text you can check.

https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/blog.nus.edu.sg/dist/c/1868/files/2012/12/Kant-Groundwork-ng0pby.pdf

Classes Begin!
Mar 27 Set 2022 Mer 27 Set 2023

Our course will begin

Monday, October 3, 12:30, Room XI

Check here for materials. 

Theoretical Philosophy Course, Fall Term, 2022 - Representation and Agency. An Overview of Metaethics
Gio 08 Set 2022 Ven 08 Set 2023

Due to problems with Sapienza administratives, I am posting here for now the program and some information about my next Course.  

 

Docente: Tito Magri

 

Titolo dell’insegnamento: Theoretical Philosophy

 

Livello: LM

 

CFU: 12 CFU

 

 

 

OBIETTIVI FORMATIVI

 

Aside from generic and indispensable goals like the understanding of philosophical discourse, the aim of the course is to introduce the students to the main topics of metaethics in a historical and in an analytic perspective. The course will have the character of a seminar and will require the participants to engage in weekly readings and to give their own presentations of selected topics. All participants are expected to take part to the discussion of each one’s presentations and of the lectures given by the instructor. To pass the course the students will have to write a final paper, to be discussed with the instructor. Altogether, this should ensure that the student are thoroughly trained in metaethics and in philosophical analysis, discussion, and writing. 

 

 

 

 

PREREQUISITI

 

Reading and speaking knowledge of the English language. BA level knowledge of the History of Philosophy and of Theoretical Philosophy.

 

 

PROGRAMMA DELL’INSEGNAMENTO (minimo 700 caratteri, spazi inclusi)

 

Representation and Agency. An Overview of Metaethics

 

Ethics is ancient. Not only social practices in terms of recognizably moral rule have been with humankind since time immemorial, but ethics as a discipline has marked the very birth of western philosophy. By contrast, metaethics is modern. The semantic, ontology, metaphysics, and epistemology of ethical thought and discourse have become problematic only in modern philosophy. This seems to reflect general and deep intellectual and social changes, which it will be interesting to touch upon. Philosophically, in the analytic tradition, metaethics has even threatened to replace ethics ad a philosophical subject.

 

The importance of metaethics in modern and contemporary philosophy can be explained with the consideration that the relation between facts and values, properties and norms, nature and goodness, which has long been one of continuity if not of identity, becomes problematic on either side. Facts, properties, and nature become the exclusive domain of empirical cognition and of scientific laws. Values, norms, and goodness must find a location in subjectivity, without losing their authority and their objective import.

 

More deeply, in modern and contemporary philosophy, representation and agency, the conditions for reference, truth, and knowledge, on the one side, and those for desire, preference, and action, on the other, seem to come apart. Once the two fall apart, ethics is torn between the representation and agency. We look outside, to how things are and to matters of fact, in assessing what is valuable and what we should do; but preference, intention, and action are subjective conditions and primarily sensitive to internal considerations.

 

Metaethics has been and is the philosophical attempt to ease or solve this tension, by providing a semantics, an ontology, a metaphysics, and an epistemology of ethical discourse and practice that in one way or another can restore its coherence. Metaethics therefore has to do, along different theoretical dimensions, with the possibility of ethics. That we think and act morally (sometimes, at least) is a fact; understanding and articulating this fact is the task of ethics; explaining how this fact is possible, the task of metaethics.

 

The course will address metaethics in a historical and analytic fashion.

 

Historical

 

(a) The Dawn of Metaethics: D. Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, Book 3, Part 1.

 

(b) The Rise of Metaethics: G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica, and other metaethical writings.

 

(c) The Heyday of Metaethics: (i) Emotivism (Ayer, Stevenson, Hare)

 

(d) The Heyday of Metaethics: (ii) Intuitionism (Ross, Ewing, Pritchard)

 

(e) The Heyday of Metaethics: (iii) Expressivism (Blackburn, Gibbard)

 

(f) Contemporary Naturalistic and Non-Naturalistic Realism

 

 

 

Analytic

(a) The Dimensions of Metaethics: Semantic, Ontology, Epistemology

 

(b) The Fundamental Problem: Normative Objectivity and Necessity

 

(c) The First-Order Conception of Ethical Authority

 

(d) The Possibility of Ethical Normativity

 

 

 

 

MODALITA’ DI SVOLGIMENTO

 

Classroom lectures and discussion sessions. Students are expected to present their views in a formal way.

 

 

Frequenza:

 

It is strongly recommended to attend classes.

 

 

 

MODALITA’ DI VALUTAZIONE

 

The students will prepare a final paper under my supervision. The papers will deal with issues discussed in the course. It is expected that it be an exercise in philosophical analysis. It is expected but not required that it be in English. The final grade will depend on the quality of the paper (80%) and on the participation to the discussions (20%)

 

TESTI ADOTTATI E BIBLIOGRAFIA DI RIFERIMENTO

 

Our main reference text is:

 

A. Miller, An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics (2003)

 

M. Schroeder, Noncognitivism in Ethics (2010)

 

The historical part of the course will focus on:

 

D. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1740)

 

G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica (1902) and other essays (1922)

 

C. Stevenson, Ethics and Language (1944)

 

R.M. Hare, The Language of Morals (1952)

 

D. Ross, Foundations of Ethics (1939)

 

S. Blackburn, Essays in Quasi-Realism (1993)

 

A. Gibbard, Thinking How to Live (2003)

 

J. McDowell, Mind, Value, and Reality (1998)

 

For the analytic part:

 

Lecture notes

 

 

Bibliografia di riferimento

 

 

See the above list

 

 

Orari delle Lezioni

 

Monday 12:30-14:30 Aula XI

 

Tuesday 14:30-16:30 Aula XI

 

Thursday 13:30-17:30 Aula XI

 

The course will begin on Monday, October 3

Summary information
Gio 08 Set 2022 Ven 08 Set 2023

My course will be on Analytic Metaethics. Heady stuff but interesting. 

Lessons will start on Monday, October 3. 

The schedule is: 

Monday 12:30-14:30 Aula XI

Tuesday 14:30-16:30 Aula XI

Thursday 13:30-17:30 Aula XI

Feel free to email me for further information. And stay tuned. 

Since One of You Asked How It Was Then
Mer 08 Dic 2021 Gio 08 Dic 2022

It was just like this. (Well, at its very best, it was just like this).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVYXWVs0Prc

 

No Class Tomorrow (12/8) + Lecture Notes
Mar 07 Dic 2021 Mer 07 Dic 2022

Tomorrow is a religious holiday, which is celebrated on a national basis. 

We'll have our last class on Thursday, 12/9.

Look in Materiale Didattico for the last Lecture Notes. 

Lecture Notes on Anscombe (Preliminary)
Gio 02 Dic 2021 Ven 02 Dic 2022

(3) Anscombe and the First Person

            It is of great interest to discuss A.’s conception of the logic (in a broad sense: the grammar, the epistemology, the function) of the first person and, in this context, to point out how A.’s views of the first person differ from W.’s.

            A. has very firm grasp on the concept of the first person. As we will see, she individuates a deep, logical connection between the first person and the constitution of agency. Therefore, she clearly and explicitly entertains a view of the first person of a self-constituting, Augustinian or Cartesian character (“The First Person”, 21). Relatedly, A. makes very strong the important point that the intrinsic difference between the first person and same-referring expressions (proper names, demonstratives) lies in the first constitutively requiring and making possible self-consciousness in a strict and explicit sense, consideration of myself as myself. (This, of course, in the uses of “I” as subject. But other uses (as object; fictional) are not first personal and are derivative.)

            A. makes this point in terms of the category of the indirect reflexive (22). (Of the plural forms, ?μ?ν α?τ?ν, etc. may be either emphatic or reflexive; α?τ?ν ?μ?ν, etc. are emphatic only; but σφ?ν α?τ?ν is only reflexive (α?τ?ν σφ?ν is not used). In Hom. α?τ?ν may mean myself, thyself, or himself, and ? α?τ?νο? α?τ?, etc. are either emphatic or reflexive.) The substance is that this form of the reflexive pronoun “–self” adds, so to say, a reflexive qualification to the reflexive character of the verb. In this way, not only the object of the verb is the same with the object; but the reflexive character is explicitly posited and expressed, with the reflexive pronoun and a preposition like “as” or “to”. With this reflexive form, the use of “I” goes with a necessary and immediate (non-separable) knowledge one is thinking and talking of oneself. I am present to myself as myself (23).

            Of the first person, of “I” understood in this way, which is certainly an understanding close to W.’s use of “I” as subject, A. says that it is different from any proper name, precisely because of its connection with self-consciousness; even from a proper name that one uses only to refer to oneself. Like Eliot’s secret names of the cats (T.S. Eliot, The Naming of Cats, 1939:

But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
     And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover—
     But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
     The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
     Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
          His ineffable effable
          Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular name.

 

            The difference between “I” and a proper name is not the only pragmatic one that “I” is used only to refer to oneself. A. asks us to imagine a society with two names, “B” &c., which is only publicly inspectable and different for each one; and “A”, which is the same for everyone, which everyone knows it refers to oneself from inspecting his own wrist. From the viewpoint of information and function, of privateness and exclusivity, “A” looks like “I”. But A. remarks that “A” can be used without self-consciousness, only on the basis of observation of one’s conduct and information from others (which use one’s public name). The possibility of using “A” in this third personal way (it is a way in which it can be used), with cognition of oneself but without self-consciousness, marks it off “I”. (24-25). (This, of course, is only an illustrative example, pointing to the necessity of going beyond superficial linguistic and functional resemblances.)

            Let me pause to remark how in this A.’s positions is already different from W.’s conception of “I” as subject, which does not give special place to self-consciousness.

            The question then becomes that of characterizing this sort of self-consciousness and, thereby, the logic or grammar of the first person, on this strict and exact understanding of it. A.’s fundamental point, about this, is in line with W.’s orientation. Such self-consciousness is not a representation of one’s self as if I were an object. And the first person is not a referential form, like a sort of proper name, or like a sort of singular demonstrative, only with a special kind of object.

            The impossibility of error is once more the fundamental consideration. A.’s general argument against the referential understanding of the first person is a reductio. “I” is not a referring expression at all. If it were a referring expression, then, given the immediate recognition of its referent as oneself that necessarily goes with its use (and not with the use of “A”) and the impossibility of being mistaken about it, only the Cartesian ego would be the right referent. But this is an illusion. In fact, it is a contradiction, between the Cartesian ego lacks individuality and this would have the consequence that diffetrent usese of “I”, which is inherently individuating because of its use, would refer to the same object (31). Just as it is an illusion that “I” refers somehow to any special object at all. The impossibility of referential failure does not entail that referential success is guaranteed. It entails that no reference is made (32).

           

            (4) What I-Thoughts are About

            Now, the crucial point becomes: If the first person is not a referential form, what kind of form it is, what kind of logical and linguistic form does it make possible, or is it required for? We know already W.’s answer: no kind of logical and linguistic form; this use of “I” is purely symptomatic of some psychological going on. It is not different from blushing, or moaning, or feeling exalted.

            Right at this juncture, and in connection with her focus on self-consciousness in relation to the first person, A. parts ways from W. in a philosophically important fashion.

            Up to now, following W.’s approach, I have concentrated on the linguistic form “I” and its uses. In particular, I have marked off the use of “I” as subject, which is thematically at the core to A.’s, in terms of its independence of recognition and of its immunity to error. Now, this is certainly correct: it is a feature of the logical grammar of “I” used to express subjectivity or self-consciousness.  However, W. puts forward this right and important point is a too restrictive fashion. Notice that, in order to distinguish the two uses of “I”, we must look beyond what is strictly the use of the first personal pronoun. In fact, to understand the difference, which comes to fore in the structure of the corresponding sentences (whether they include an identification or not), we must look at the predicates. The difference between “_have a broken arm” and “_try to lift my arm” does all the work. The content of the first mandates a recognitional use of “I”; the content of the second precludes such use.

            In this way, of course, I am not jettisoning the distinctness and the importance of the first person. Rather, I am widening and articulating the conception of it: there are kinds and guises of content that are specifically and necessary first personal, which can only come to expression in the subjective “I”. But notice that while W. may give the impression that it is the use of “I” as subject that, so to say, imparts first personal character to the predicates, I now would say that it is the fundamental first personal character of predicates (their contents and guises) that comes to expression in that use. Why is this important? Quite simply, because we can now disassociate the first person from the kind of (private, solipsistic) predicates that W. chooses. These are not the obligatory form of the first person: the first person, I-thoughts (as A. calls them) may take different forms and contents. Therefore, W.’s symptomatic conception of the “I” as subject, which depends on the internal connection he establishes between such use of “I” and internal experiences and feelings, is not mandatory. It is not that such use makes sense only in connection with this kind of interiority or subjectivity: that it must be conceived only in the light of those predicates.

            This is precisely the position taken by A., in a firm and explicit way. This comes to full expression at 35: Cartesian (but we might say, Wittgensteinian) I-thoughts are not the mandatory or even the prominent domain of the first person. It is actions, intentions, movements, that are the relevant topic for the analysis of the first person. This priority of agency is important both in regard of the analysis of the first person and of the analysis of agency.

            One first consequence that A. draws from this dramatic theoretical shift from Descartes and W. is that, on the basis of the agential interpretation of the essentially first personal predicates, we can answer easily to the question of what object such I-thoughts or such uses belong to and are about: This one, TM, his actual mind and body (35). Agency and action are mundane exercise: if they make available forms of thinking, they do not require any special kind of object. Only agents and their acts and their properties. In this way, we come to locate the first person again in the domain of objective content and of fully significant, conceptually articulated language. But haven’t we re-instated a referential use of “I”? By introducing something we talk about in the first person, aren’t we re-introducing the Cartesian ego and aren’t’ we contradicting the idea that the object in question is the mundane, empirical person?  

            Not really. Because while I-thoughts, in this first personally subjective, self-conscious sense, have objective content, are about something (which means that they respond to something being the case), their contents do not consist in referents and truth-conditions. This is a crucial point. We must follow A. in the attempt to keep together the irreducibly subjective first person with objectivity, in such a way as to make sense (inter alia) of its self-constituting features. To do this, we can take a start from what A. says at the close of the text we have read from 35.

            (i) Agentially grounded I-thoughts “are directly verifiable or falsifiable about the person E.A.”. The nature of first personal agential contents and thoughts is such that the individuation and re-identification of the subject is in terms of what it takes to be acting. And there is no necessity for this to be a private, experiential matter. Quite the contrary, it is plausible that actions, the changes in the world that have certain intrinsic conditions of correctness and incorrectness, are fundamental in the practical domain. The conception of agents and agency, with its essential first personal dimension, must be tailored on this fact.

            (ii) What is distinctive of the objectivity of the first person, on A.’s agential account of it? In particular, what is for the content of I-thoughts to be objective, object-related, without being referential? This is the hardest problem. An indication about how to address it comes from one thing A. says, that agential I-thoughts are “un-mediated, non-observational”. The non-observational condition is the crucial one. This notion is at the core of A.’s philosophy of action. Non-observational knowledge is the knowledge we have of our actions in the context of our doing such actions. It is practical knowledge. It is objective, since we may be mistake about what we do and about our doing it. But it is not referential or truth-apt, because its correctness and incorrectness are not determined by objects or facts that are independent from their being known but by what object or facts are determined by acting. This is the non-observational character of I-thoughts. Of course, these are only preparatory notes for further work. But 33 indicates clearly that this is what A. has in mind. And it is a way of making sense of self-constitution.

 

Class 15 Lecture Notes (less preliminary)
Mer 01 Dic 2021 Gio 01 Dic 2022

            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.

 

            (iii) The difference between the two uses of first person pronoun thus 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. In principle, the use of “I” as subject could be abolished. 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) Summary and Some First Remarks

            (A) To sum up.

            (i) W. wants to dismantle some illusions concerning the epistemic authority of the first person. There are situations in which we have justifiable, individual claims to epistemic authority (to the exclusion of any other). But these claims are based on our objectively having a privileged access to information. This is different from any claim to epistemic authority we make only because of our first personal subjectivity: things are so-and-so because I think/see/feel they are. This second kind of claims presupposes a metaphysical conception of the real (spiritual, intellectual) I, only contingently connected to my subject (compare with Kant’s noumenal self and intellectual intuition). This is illusory.

            (ii) To explain this illusion with the grammar of “I”, W. draws a distinction between two uses of “I”, as object and as subject. The distinction is based on this difference: uses of “I” as object require a separate act of self-identification and self-recognition. That is: I make a statement about myself in the first person; but the justification of such statement requires that I recognize and identify some object with myself. That is, the same object can be individuated in the first person and in some other way. In the uses of “I” as subject, no such step (in content-determination and justification) is required or even possible: the linguistic role of the “I” (whatever it turns out to be) cannot be performed by any sort of concept or demonstrative. Therefore, there is nothing which can be alternatively identified in the first person and in some other way.

            (iii) This difference in the content-determination of sentences in which “I” is used in these ways goes with another one, in terms of possibilities of error. Uses of “I” as object allow for two different possibilities of error. One is about the topic or matter of the sentence: whether what is ascribed to its object is the case or not. The other is about the object itself, whether it is correctly recognized as and identified with me (by the use of “I”). Uses of “I” as subject allow only for possibility of erro about the topic or matter. Errors of individuation and identity connected to the use of “I” make no sense. Possibilities of error define language games or grammars. Therefore, the use of “I” as object, for which there is possibility of error and which therefore counts as a move in a certain language game, belongs to a different grammar or language game with respect to the use of “I” as subject, for which there is no such possibility of error.

            (iv) The different grammars can be captured by considering the different logical-linguistic functions of “I”, which follow on the structure of the sentences and are manifest in the respective possibilities of error. The use of “I” as object is, by construction, referential. This is because of the structure of the corresponding sentences, which involve identifying one object (myself) under a first personal specification and under some other description. The possibility of error springs from and manifest this referential role (error about referring in two ways to the same object). Starting from this, we can reverse-engineer the nature of sentences with a use of “I” as subject. There is no possible error of identification and recognition in the use of “I” as subject. Therefore, such use of “I” is not identifying and recognitional: it is not referential. Therefore, the grammar of such sentences is not that of making a statement, of talking about some object and saying something true or false. What we do with such sentences is, rather, to give indirect expression to some feeling that we have in connection with the topic or matter and that we could express also non-linguistically.

            (v) This is the source in language of the metaphysical illusions about the “real I”. We have a use of “I” (as subject) that may be taken to be referential but that fails to refer determinately to anything (no possibility of error; no antithesis). Misunderstanding the nature of such use and the grammar of the corresponding sentences, we think that with such uses of “I” we refer to, identify, and recognize a special, undetermined (non-empirical) object: the real I, the noumenal self.

 

            (B) Some remarks.

            (i) The phenomena of the first person pointed out by W., in particular its possible redundancy and its expressive use, are certainly real and important. The distinction between the two uses of “I” and the connection of one such use with identification and recognition is also right and important.

            (ii) The restriction of the use of “I” as a subject, of its non-identification dependent use to expression and avowal or to the pragmatics of salience, however, seems to be controversial. It is revealing that W.’s examples are all about internal feelings, about what-is-it-likes and experiences. In this domain, there is some interchangeability between utterances and avowals. But this does not seem to be the primary area of the first person.

            (iii) There might the possibility of a transcendental, constitutive use of “I”, connected to agency, perceptual experience, and consciousness, which makes room for conceptual articulation, objectivity, and for certain sorts of possibility of error. (Without this implying that itself can be possibly mistaken. But the consideration of the possibility of error is more complex that simply pointing at an antithesis.)

            (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) The role of I as a subject in agency or perceptual experience or consciousness, as per se normative domains, is also unexplored.  I want now to show that Anscombe takes a step beyond W.           

              (3) Anscombe and the First Person

            It is of great interest to point out how A.’s views of the first person differ from W.’s. A. has very firm grasp on the concept of the first person.

            She clearly and explicitly in mind the first person in a self-constituting, Augustinian or Cartesian sense (“The First Person”, 21). And she recognizes that the difference between the first person and potentially same-referring expressions (proper names, demonstratives) lies in its involving and making possible self-consciousness in a strict and explicit sense, consideration of myself as myself. This point she makes in terms of the category of the indirect reflexive (22). But the substance is that this use of “I” goes with a necessary and immediate (non-separable) knowledge one is thinking and talking of oneself. I am present to myself as myself (23).

            Of the first person, of “I” understood in this way, which is certainly an understanding close to W.’s use of “I” as subject, A. says that it is different from any proper name, even of a proper name that one uses only to refer to oneself (like Eliot’s names of the cats), precisely because of its connection with self-consciousness. (Notice how this is already different from W.’s conception of “I” as subject, which does not give special place to self-consciousness.)

            The question then becomes that of characterizing this sort of self-consciousness and, thereby, the grammar of the first person, on this strict and exact understanding of it. A.’s fundamental point, about this, is in line with W.’s orientation. Such self-consciousness is not a representation of one’s self as if I were an object. And the first person is not a referential form, like a sort of proper name, or like a sort of singular demonstrative, only with a special kind of object.

            The impossibility of error is again the fundamental consideration. More precisely: “I” is not a referring expression at all. If it were a referring expression, then, given the immediate recognition of its referent as oneself and the impossibility of being mistaken about it, only a Cartesian ego would be the right referent. But this is an illusion (31). Just as it is an illusion that “I” refers somehow to any special object at all. The impossibility of referential failure does not entail that referential success is guaranteed. It entails that not reference is made (32).

           

            (4) What I-Thoughts are About

            Now, the crucial point becomes: If the first person is not a referential form, what kind of form it is, what kind of logical and linguistic form does it make possible, or is it required for? We know already W.’s answer: to kind of logical and linguistic form; this use of “I” is purely symptomatic of some psychological going on. It is not different from blushing, or moaning, or feeling exalted.

            Right at this juncture, and in connection with her focus on self-consciousness in relation to the first person, A. parts ways from W. in a philosophically important fashion. W.’s symptomatic conception of the “I” as subject, which is close in kin to the phenomena of subjectivity identified by A., depends on the internal connection he establishes between such use of “I” and internal experiences and feelings. It is as if such use made sense only in connection with this kind of interiority or subjectivity.

            This is an assumption against which A. takes a firm stand: this comes to full expression at 35. It is actions, intentions, movements, that are the relevant topic for the analysis of the first person. This priority of agency is important both in regard of the analysis of the first person and of the analysis of agency. Then, we can answer easily to the question of what object such I-thoughts or such uses are about: This one, TM, his actual mind and body.

            In this way, we have located the first person again in the domain of objective content and of fully significant, conceptually articulated language. But haven’t we re-instated a referential use of “I”? By introducing something we talk about in the first person, aren’t we re-introducing the Cartesian ego and aren’t’ we contradicting the idea that the object in question is the mundane, empirical person?   Not really. Because while I-thoughts, in this first personally subjective, self-conscious sense, have objective content, are about something (which means that they respond to something being the case), their contents do not consist in referents and truth-conditions.

            This is a crucial point. We must follow A. in the attempt to keep together the irreducibly subject first person with objectivity, so as to make sense of its self-constituting features. To do this, we can take a start from what A. says at the close of the text we have read from 35.

            (i) I-thoughts “which are directly verifiable or falsifiable about the person E.A.”.

 

Today's Class
Mar 30 Nov 2021 Mer 30 Nov 2022

Today our Class will deal with some (somewhat) skeptical views concerning the First Person and (implicitly and explicitly) self-constitution. I will introduce and discuss some texts by Wittgenstein and Anscombe. I have not been able to locate a PDF of Wittgenstein's Blue and Brown Books. I will summarize the parts of concern for us. Here is a link to Anscombe's "The First Person".  

https://ifac.univ-nantes.fr/IMG/pdf/Anscombe-The_First_Person.pdf

Later on I will post some lecture notes for today. 

 

Wittgenstein, Blue and Brown Books
Mar 30 Nov 2021 Mer 30 Nov 2022

Posted in Materiale Didattico 4 pages from Wittgenstein, Blue and Brown Books

Class 15 Lecture Notes (very preliminary)
Mar 30 Nov 2021 Mer 30 Nov 2022

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.             

             

Lecture Notes on Kant & the First Person in "Materiale didattico"
Gio 25 Nov 2021 Ven 25 Nov 2022

I am uploading the Lecture Notes on Kant & the First Person in "Materiale didattico". Keep present it is strictly for your use (and it is also a very rough text). 

No Class on Thursday, 11/25
Mar 23 Nov 2021 Mer 23 Nov 2022

No  Class on Thursday, 11/25

Lecture Notes for Class 12 (Today)
Mar 23 Nov 2021 Mer 23 Nov 2022

            The Paralogisms        

            Not only the analytic “I think” but also the synthetic unity of apperception, the spontaneous, active ground of the first, seem to leave first personal thoughts empty of content. Pure self-consciousness is not a case of conceptual thinking (let alone, nonconceptual intuition).

               The subject of the categories cannot by thinking the categories acquire a concept of itself as an object of the categories. For in order to think them, its pure self-consciousness, which is what was to be explained, must itself be presupposed (377)

 

            The spontaneity of synthetic apperception, also, seems ineffable. What we come to think about or be conscious of ourselves through it, is the spontaneous activity itself. «I exist as an intelligence which is conscious solely of its power of combination» (169); «all that I can do is to represent to myself the spontaneity of my thought» (169 fn.).

            This points to a complication in Kant’s conception of the first person. Since such conception is an instance of self-constitution, this is of great interest for us.               

 

            (1) Tensions in Kant’s “I”

            Our discussion of the first person in the Transcendental Deduction can be summarized in five points.

            (a) The demand for a logically irreducible first person (as a kind or form of representation) arises at the deepest foundational or transcendental level of Transcendental Logic, in connection with the possibility of conceptual, discursive thought and thereby of knowledge.

            (b) The necessarily first personal character of Kant’s foundational construct is grounded in the nature of the foundational demand itself: what is required is a non-intuitive, non-object dependent possibility of thought that is conceptual but non-categorial. The first personal presence of one’s own thinking, the indirect reflexive “I think”, according to Kant, satisfies these requirements.

            (c) Kant’s first person is thin as to its contents; both as analytic and as synthetic condition on representations, as an expression of spontaneity,  it is objectless and identification-free; its representational character is that of a viewpoint and not of a view.

            (d) The “I think” as a conceptual mode of representation must make possible: (i) self-individuation, presence to myself as myself. (ii) Self-re-identification, the consciousness of myself as one and the same across representations (one common consciousness). (iii) The bare thought of my existence, modeled on Cartesian cogito.

            (e) The first-personal viewpoint and the view of an objective world of spatial and temporal objects and events and of their laws (nature, which includes the self or subject) mutually imply each other, analytically and transcendentally. The first person should not be subjective in any sense that excludes the thought and cognition of the world import or involves privacy and ineffability.

 

(2) Semantic Tensions

Now, these requirements raise contrasting demands on the conception of the first person.

The representational character of “I think” does not consist in securing intuitive acquaintance with or conceptual identification of any object. On this standard, the “I” of the “I think” seems empty of content: it does not allow referring in a determinate way to any object. However, Kant must keep firm that the “I think” is a representation. There is the familiar Cartesian and token-reflexive point that, by the use of a token of “I”, we indeterminately but assuredly refer to ourselves as the authors of that token. This is, of course, in keeping with the general semantic rule for “I”: with an occurrence of use of “I”, I refer to myself.

However, also this bare referential import cannot exhaust the representational properties of “I” of the “I think”. Kant introduces it as a necessary accompaniment of all my representations. We have excluded that this makes of I or self an element of the content of any and each of my representations; or an element of content with which any representation of mine has a necessary relation (this was Hume’s lesson; Locke was somewhat ambiguous on this point).

I can perfectly well express my own representations with a sentence like “I think so and so”. But this explicit reflective form is not necessary for representations to be mine. Rather, as we have seen, representations are possible for me because of the first-personal manner in which their occurrence, and thereby their contents, are present to me. “I” in “I think” represents my own self only in that it makes representations present as mine.

Thus, not only token-reflexive reference is not all there is to “I think”; it also seems to be a misguided way of reading Kant. The representational property of “I” in “I think”, which can make a difference as to the possibility of representations and of the understanding, should secure self-consciousness in thinking and representing. This goes well beyond the fundamental semantic rule for “I”.

It indicates that the representation “I” in “I think” should not be characterized in terms of reference but rather of an irreducibly individual manner of self-presentation. This means that “I” in “I think”, while bare, identification-free at the level of reference, must express an individual, immediately and uniquely mine, well-determined manner of self-representation. Otherwise, it could not perform its transcendental role.

Therefore, there is not only a tension between the purely formal character of this use of the first person and its necessary individuating import with regard to myself; there is also a tension between the referential and the mode of presentation dimensions of such individuating import.

 

            (3) Epistemic and Ontological Tensions

              Rightly on account of its transcendental role, the “I think” is in two respects an epistemically formal principle.

            In the first place, it is put forward as simply analytic: If a representation of so and so is mine, one I have, the first-personal consciousness of thinking that representation must accompany it. No real knowledge is delivered in this way.

            In the second place, the synthetic activity of the thinking subject, manifested in the analytic “I think”, figures at the foundational level only in the abstract guise of the activity of judging, articulated in its logical forms and the categories. Nothing is postulated about its content and this includes the nature of the judging agent: its existence, quality, and persistence or identity.

            At the same time, the “I think” must express a legitimate and recognizable individual viewpoint in cognition: one falling short of self-knowledge but summing up to self-consciousness, to my possible identification and re-identification as myself.

            In this way, it is a problem (not one that cannot be solved by Kant: but still a problem deserving attention) how to draw the distinction between this sort of self-consciousness and self-knowledge; the “I think” cannot be empty but must deploy first-personal cognitive content.

The “I think” also involves an ontological commitment, since in the «synthetic original unity of apperception, I am conscious of myself, not as I appear to myself, not as I am in myself, but only that I am» (168). Kant remarks that this representation is a thought, not an intuition; which is how we can know and assert existence. Still he insists on the Cartesian insight that «my existence is not indeed appearance (still less an illusion) » (168-169). But it is not easy how to accommodate existence in the first person in a ‘middle ground’ between existence as appearance and existence in itself.

 

(3) Rational Psychology and Kant’s Philosophy of the Subject

              These considerations introduce Kant’s criticism of the rationalist (or empiricist: but rationalism is prominent) metaphysics of the subject, what Kant calls Rational Psychology, in the Paralogisms, the second Book of the Transcendental Dialectic, Kant’s criticism and reassessment of metaphysic in the Critique.

            The formal, logical, functional character of analytic and synthetic transcendental apperception or “I think” is prominent in Kant’s discussion of the metaphysics of subject: Rational Psychology has been oblivious to the true character of the “I” and has mistaken logical properties of it for metaphysical ones.

            The prominence assigned to the logical character of the “I think” in the discussion of Rational Psychology must be kept together with its necessary first-personal character. After all, we have seen that Kant derivesthe first personal character of pure, primitive, or transcendental apperception precisely from its logical-transcendental position and function. Rational Psychology has misunderstood the first person just as it has misunderstood the demand for transcendental apperception.

But, on the other hand, the mistakes of Rational Psychology are not accidental or whimsical. Quite the contrary: as it is in general the case with the dialectical employment of reason and its ideas, they have natural and unavoidable grounds; they express natural epistemic illusions, which can be kept under critical control but cannot be dissolved.

What I want to suggest is that the tensions that can be easily detected in Kant’s own construal of the first person are also in many respects the roots of the illusions of the traditional metaphysics of the subject. In these respects, Rational Psychology is a simplified and erroneous response to the semantic, epistemic, and ontological complications of a conception of the subject that takes into account and aims to include its logical and first personal dimensions.

We could say that Kant’s Paralogisms have in his theory a role somewhat resembling Locke’s «strange suggestions»: the strangeness of the suggestions, just as the illusions of Rational Psychology, indicate and express the intrinsic complexity of the first personal concept of self or subject. Rational Psychology opts out of these complications by reifying the first person. But also Kant’s positive theory must find a way to frame a full, coherent, and robust conception of the subjective I.

This can also be gathered from Kant’s general attitude to the metaphysics of the subject. Kant’s discussion of the nature of the subject of thought and action; its existence, quality, and identity; the concept of person, are not part of his foundational doctrine but of his critical discussion of traditional (rationalist) metaphysics (323, 325).

Kant’s attitude to this sort of metaphysics is complex. He wants to dismiss any claim to a full understanding and knowledge of its subject matters, including the thinking subject. But he also wants to carve out a role for some the concepts addressed in these metaphysical doctrines. In particular, he wants to show how such concepts can have a second-order application, in correcting and improving our first order conceptual apparatus.

Kant also wants to make room for non-epistemic applications of these concepts, for instance, in belief or faith; or in assuming certain practical postulates; and also in outlining, if only indeterminately and problematically, an immaterialist conception of the subject. Therefore, his very aim to a different use of the concepts of the metaphysics of subject, of Rational Psychology, require Kant to provide a consistent and adequate formulation of the semantics, epistemology, and ontology of the first person.

 

(3) The Aims and Structure of Rational Psychology

Kant singles out soul, a strictly metaphysical notion, to connote Rational Psychology. More in particular, Kant’s name for it, «transcendental doctrine of the soul», points to the inner tension that ultimately dooms this metaphysical enterprise: the apparatus of a priori, transcendental concepts is applied to generate a substantive doctrine of a non-empirical object, the soul.

This is in contrast with applications that generate knowledge  but only of empirical objects or that are not empirically restricted but do not generate knowledge. In the first respect, rational psychology is to be contrasted with empirical psychology, based on introspection or inner sense. In the second respect, rational psychology is to be contrasted with the transcendental conception of the subject of thought, considered only in its logical- transcendental function of securing the unity of representations in experience.

This second contrast is theoretically the most important one, because it unveils the conceptual structure of the rationalist metaphysics of the subject and allows pointing to the logical fallacies it harbors.

First. The transcendental concept or principle that underlies Rational Psychology is the “I think”. This is a formal representation expressing the logical function of the first person or of self-consciousness, which is required for the possibility of a priori cognition. In fact, in the first edition of the Critique, the “I think”, which is prominent and crucial in the Transcendental Deduction of the second edition (the one I have followed in my presentation), is only introduced in the first Chapter of the Paralogisms.

We now come to a concept which was not inserted in the general list of transcendental concepts, and yet must be reckoned with them, but at the same time without in the least altering, or indicating a deficiency in that table. This is the concept, or, if the term is preferred, the judgement, "I think." But it is readily perceived that this thought is as it were the vehicle of all concepts in general, and consequently of transcendental concepts also, and that it is therefore regarded as a transcendental conception, although it can have no peculiar claim to be so ranked, inasmuch as its only use is to indicate that all thought is accompanied by consciousness (A 329)

 

Second. This formal, transcendental representation (which is also distinctly and recognizably expression of the first person) is taken and treated by rational psychologists as the concept of an object. This is the crucial and wrong turn taken by the metaphysics of self.

The structure of Rational Psychology consists in aiming to integrate the conception of the self or subject that is articulated in terms of consciousness and the first person (including the concept of self-affection) with a corresponding ontological commitment. In Rational Psychology, the “I think” counts as the presumptive source of a completely a priori representation of the I as object: as a simple and identical substance. The only input it recognizes is the “I think” and it attempts to derive from it substantive cognitive conclusions. 

We have thus before us a pretended science, raised upon the single proposition, "I think," whose foundation or want of foundation we may very properly, and agreeably with the nature of a transcendental philosophy, here examine (329)

            "I think" is therefore the only text of rational psychology, from which it must develop its whole system. It is manifest that this thought, when applied to an object (myself), can contain nothing but transcendental predicates thereof; because the least empirical predicate would destroy the purity of the science and its independence of all experience (330)

 

The independence from empirical, intuitive content of the representation “I think”, if associated to the supposition of its immediate entailment of real existence, leads to the Cartesian view that by thought and consciousness we can know our nature as simple and identical subjects. But to achieve the aim of Rational Psychology, we should have intellectual intuition of ourselves, that is, of ourselves as noumenal objects. But we lack this form and source of knowledge in all cases, including our self. We are restricted to the empirical intuition of ourselves.

Now, as I do not possess another intuition of self which gives the determining in me (of the spontaneity of which I am conscious), prior to the act of determination, in the same manner as time gives the determinable, it is clear that I am unable to determine my own existence as that of a spontaneous being, but I am only able to represent to myself the spontaneity of my thought, that is, of my  determination, and my existence remains ever determinable in a purely sensuous manner, that is to say, like the existence of a phenomenon (169 footnote)

 

            Without intellectual intuition and not being in a position to resort to sensible intuition, Rational Psychology can derive from the “I think” existential conclusions that are restricted to the content of that principle; which is not as of an object. It only moves in a circle. «And this inconvenience we find it impossible to rid ourselves of, because consciousness in itself is not so much a representation distinguishing a particular object, as a form of representation in general, in so far as it may be termed cognition; for in and by cognition alone do I think anything» (331).

Rational psychology falls between three stools. (i) A priori apperception represents to my consciousness only my spontaneity, my activity, and my bare existence, without even specifying whether it is as appearance or as noumenon. (ii) I exist as subject or in the first person empirically, as an appearance in time and with substantive a posteriori knowledge of myself and mental states. (iii) A priori apperception is necessary and sufficient for individuating and re-identifying myself in the first person, indirect reflexively, as self and myself. These commitments, while not inconsistent (at least, this is the supposition that Kant’s own theory of the first person and of the self aims to make good) certainly seem to display some tensions among them.

Rational Psychology fails to see Kant’s way out of the difficulty: (i) is consistent with (ii) and (iii) because I can be first personally conscious in the guise both of a posteriori self-knowledge and of the a priori thought of my necessary subjectivity (transcendental and practical). However, but only in the first way can the real existence of the self-conscious subject, of the I, be asserted. There is no knowable subject matter left for the robust metaphysics of the self or soul. But Rational Psychology, so to say, invents one, by collapsing (ii) and (iii) in the idea of I as simple, identical substance, on the (presumptive) basis of (i).

This comes in view in the general form of the fallacy on which Rational Psychology is based. the contrast between third and first personal claims, respectively in the first and in the second premise (both correct: the fallacy is formal) is crucial. This is the inference in the first edition.

               That, the representation of which is the absolute subject of our judgments and cannot therefore be employed as determination of another thing, is substance.

               I, as a thinking being, am the absolute subject of all my possible judgments, and this representation of myself cannot be employed as predicate of any other thing.

               Therefore I, as thinking being (soul), am substance (A 333)

 

The major premise is definitional: it states the concept of substance and therefore is perfectly third personal. The minor is first personal: it is a statement of the content of “I think”, which is paradigmatically first-personal («Now in all our thought the 'I' is the subject, in which thoughts inhere only as determinations; and this 'I' cannot be employed as the determination of another thing», 333). The only conclusion we can draw from these premises is that, from the first personal viewpoint, I cannot but think of myself as substance; this is just a specification of “I think”: «Everyone must, therefore, necessarily regard himself as substance, and thought as [consisting] only [in] accidents of his being, determinations of his state» (333). The rational psychologists think they can conclude to my necessary existence as substance because they neglect the first-personal character of the minor.

               However, as we will see, some difficulties with the first person remain in with Kant’s philosophy. Rational Psychology is rooted in complications of the first person (on Kant’s own conception of it): in particular, in the character of the transcendental unity of apperception and the distinction between the two kinds of object, of self as object, it leads to. In this way, the paralogisms are «grounded in the nature of human reason» (329). And Kant’s criticism of them is at the same time a further exploration into the logic of the first person.

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come scrivere il saggio finale (Italian version, for now)
Mer 17 Nov 2021 Gio 17 Nov 2022

1. In Generale

    L'esame di Theoretical Philosophy si supera preparando e discutendo un saggio su un argomento attinente il corso. Il saggio deve essere di 10/12 pagine (interlinea 1,5, dimensioni carattere 12, margini normali) per 12 CFU. (Si prega di usare word o un programma di scrittura compatibile con word.) Il saggio può essere scritto in italiano o in inglese, a scelta dello studente e senza che la scelta dell'inglese influisca sul voto. L'intento che mi ha guidato nello scegliere questa modalità di esame e' di farvi familiarizzare con la e farvi esercitare nella scrittura filosofia.
 
2. La procedura


  Già durante il corso e comunque al momento dell'elaborazione del saggio, seguiremo questa procedura.


   2.1 La scelta


    La scelta dell'argomento tocca allo studente. Questa e' una parte importante dell'esercizio: mettere bene a fuoco i propri interessi. Io approverò  o respingerò o correggerò tale scelta. L'argomento deve essere in stretta relazione con i temi affrontati nel corso.


  2.2 Elaborazione e valutazione


  Lo studente deve quindi procedere ad una prima stesura, che e' importante sia già accurata: non un semplice abbozzo, ma un tentativo onesto di dare una versione compiuta e chiara delle proprie idee. Molto semplicemente, non sono in grado di leggere e correggere utilmente testi soltanto abbozzati, e li rinvierò subito all'autore. Io correggerò questa prima versione, che avrò ricevuto e rispedirò per email. Lo studente farà una seconda versione, definitiva, tenendo conto delle mie osservazioni. Io valuterò il saggio in questa seconda versione. Non c'è una seconda correzione. In sede di verbalizzazione discuteremo il lavoro, i suoi meriti e demeriti.


  2.3 I tempi


  E' importante che tutto questo avvenga con tempestività. Gli studenti dovrebbero sbrigarsi non solo a scegliere un buon argomento ma anche a preparare la prima, accurata, versione del saggio - idealmente ciò dovrebbe avvenire già durante la parte conclusiva del corso. Se molti saggi mi arrivano insieme, mi ci può volere del tempo per leggerli e correggerli. La versione definitiva del saggio mi dovrebbe arrivare almeno una settimana prima dell'appello. Considerate che tutta la procedura prende almeno un mese. Prenotatevi all'appello che volete dopo avere spedito la seconda versione, ma è di aiuto se mi dite per email quando volete fare l'esame.


 
3. Osservazioni Generali


 3.1 E' un saggio di filosofia


  Il punto di tutto questo esercizio e' l'addestramento alla teoria e alla scrittura filosofica. Quindi e' importante che lo studente abbia ben presente che si tratta di un impegno analitico, non descrittivo o narrativo. Nel saggio deve essere individuato un problema filosofico, deve essere proposta o ricostruita un'argomentazione filosofica che lo riguarda, se ne deve proporre una valutazione e una critica. Ne deve essere presentata la struttura, individuati i passi logici. Ovviamente, tutto questo può essere fatto in riferimento a uno o più dei testi discussi nel corso. Ma e' importante che lo studente non scambi l'uso delle idee di filosofi in un contesto filosofico-teorico con il loro esame in un contesto storico-filosofico.


  3.2 Cosa conta


  Sono importanti, e tenute in gran conto, la chiarezza degli scopi e della struttura del saggio, che devono essere brevemente presentati all'inizio del testo. E' importante la correttezza dei singoli passaggi logici e la pertinenza dell'argomentazione nel suo complesso. E' meno importante, ma e' sempre benvenuta, l'originalità. Mi aspetto però che gli studenti esprimano con chiarezza, e sostengano con buone ragioni, il loro punto di vista sul problema o l'argomentazione analizzati. E' anche essenziale che tutte le fonti utilizzate per il lavoro - libri, articoli - siano citate accuratamente. Se in generale ci si ispira ad una certa discussione dell'argomento su cui si scrive, si deve riconoscere esplicitamente quale è la propria fonte di ispirazione.


3.3Come deve essere scritto il saggio


Con ordine e con chiarezza, fin dalla prima stesura. Il testo deve essere suddiviso in paragrafi e sottoparagrafi, titolati - come quello che state leggendo. All'inizio del testo devono essere indicati il nome e il cognome dell'autore, il suo anno di corso (I, II, III). Si devono formulare chiaramente, all'inizio, gli intenti del saggio e, alla fine, le conclusioni raggiunte. Questo deve essere fatto fin dalla prima stesura, proprio per consentirmi di capire e valutare meglio il vostro lavoro. Rispedirò agli autori i lavori che si discostano troppo da queste indicazioni.

An impossible object (and the unity of experience)
Mer 17 Nov 2021 Gio 17 Nov 2022

Ennyman's Territory: Impossible Objects

Lecture Notes for Class 11
Mar 16 Nov 2021 Mer 16 Nov 2022

            The Transcendental Deduction and the “I think”

            (1) The Transcendental Deduction Outlined

            The ground of proof of the validity of a priori concepts, of course, must be a priori. Kant seems to hold that, in order to prove that the application of a priori concepts is valid objectively or about reality (not just by convention, say), the a priori ground of proof must have a constitutive-existential character. That is, the proof must consist in establishing that a priori concepts make exist (individuate and ground) what they are applied to. However, since the distinction of concepts and intuitions must be preserved (otherwise, apriority and analyticity would be the same), the constitutive-existential condition must not regard objects, which can exist without being individuated and conceptualized. The line of the argument is more or less as follows:

            (i) B is a certain necessary feature of A (something that is beyond doubt);

            (ii) C is a subjective condition necessary for the possibility of B;

            (iii) D is what makes it so that C brings about B.

            Therefore, D holds of, because constitutively explains, A.

            The key to this is: A, our experience, our having representations; B, the unity of experience and representations; C, a first-personal, subjective condition; D, the application of a priori concepts. C is what really interest us; but we have to put in place some background.

            (i) We have a view of the empirical world, the manifest image; a complex of particulars, arranged in space and time, related causally, persisting; this is phenomenologically unquestionable (A). This worldview, given its analysis, can only be a combination of representations, a synthesis. This synthesis, in order for it to give a worldview, to be contentful and intelligible by us, must be present as some sort of unity (B).

            The concept of combination includes, besides the concept of the manifold and of the synthesis of it, that of the unity of it also. Conjunction is the representation of the synthetical unity of the manifold. This idea of unity, therefore, cannot arise out of that of conjunction; much rather does that idea, by combining itself with the representation of the manifold, render the conception of conjunction possible (152)

 

            This indicates a constitutive-existential condition. The idea of unity renders the conception of the conjunction of a manifold (the representation of a complex of representation) possible, makes it exist. Therefore, if we would to understand the ground of proof of the transcendental deduction of a priori concepts, we must understand the nature and grounds of this unity (which must not be located within the objects, as if it were a part of it). We will see this. Right now, we can say that the logical level of the ground of proof must be higher than that defined by a priori concepts or categories.

This unity, which a priori precedes all conceptions of conjunction, is not the category of unity; for all the categories are based upon logical functions of judgment, and in these functions we already have conjunction, and consequently unity of given conceptions. It is therefore evident that the category of unity presupposes conjunction. We must therefore look still higher for this unity (as qualitative, in that, namely, which contains the ground of the unity of diverse conceptions in judgments, the ground, consequently, of the possibility of the existence of the understanding, even in regard to its logical use) (152)

           

            The conclusion of the quoted text makes clear what is its logical level. The unity here in question is the qualitative unity that grounds all synthesis or conjunction and all concepts applied in judgment, including the a priori ones. The idea of this unity is therefore at the right logical level for Kant’s attempted proof, since it would ground, rather than be grounded on, the application of a priori concepts. Kant also says, if only allusively, that this unity is the «ground» of the «possibility of the existence of the understanding, even in regard to its logical use». This indicates a constitutive-existential condition, which is of the right general sort to ground a transcendental proof. The understanding, as a function or capacity we manifestly have, has a reciprocal connection with an intelligible, empirical world, a represented conjunction of representations. The first is the right kind of representational faculty for the second; the second is the right kind of content for the first (this is derived from the analysis of experience). The idea of unity is thus a condition of possibility, counts as (B), in both regards.

 

            (ii) We will examine C, the nature and grounds of the constitutive-existential condition, and its relation to B later. The completing step of the argument is that the unity of the synthetic activity that produces the primitive combination of representations in a worldview and the possibility of the understanding the logical character of act of judgment, which in its turn consists in the application of a priori concepts or categories to the manifold of intuition (D).

The manifold content given in a sensuous intuition comes necessarily under the original synthetical unity of apperception, because thereby alone is the unity of intuition possible (§ 17). But that act of the understanding, by which the manifold content of given representations (whether intuitions or conceptions) is brought under one apperception, is the logical function of judgments (§ 19). All the manifold, therefore, in so far as it is given in one empirical intuition, is determined in relation to one of the logical functions of judgment, by means of which it is brought into union in one consciousness. Now the categories are nothing else than these functions of judgment so far as the manifold in a given intuition is determined in relation to them (§ 13). Consequently, the manifold in a given intuition is necessarily subject to the categories of the understanding (160)

 

            The last sentence is the QED of all the Transcendental Deduction. Kant’s proof of the objectively valid application of a priori concept to intuitions, and thereby to objects of experience, derived as (D) or at the step from (C) to (D), hinges on both the possibility of a certain kind of a cognitive faculty (understanding), of a cognitive state (experience), and of a certain kind of content (an empirical world). The constitutive-existential condition of possibility comes in view as (C), what makes (B) and therefore (A) possible, because and insofar as it entails (D), the application of a priori concepts. This latter is thereby justified.

 

            (2) The Subjective Constitutive-Existential Condition

            It is now well time that we address (C). The nature of the pre-categorial principle of the unity of conjunction, synthesis, and a priori concepts or categories is that of an a priori, necessary first-personal condition on the possibility of any sort of representation, either intuitive or conceptual. More exactly, and to anticipate: the pre-categorial principle of unity consists of two, logically and functionally distinct (one is analytic and one is synthetic; one relates to awareness and one to thinking activity) a priori first personal conditions on the possibility of representing.

            The two conditions are internally and indissolubly connected and together they define a necessary condition for the possibility of thinking and cognition, for the possibility of the understanding in its logical use. This must be understood both in regard of the possibility of a subject of thinking and representation and in regard of the possibility of there being anything represented to it. Again, together they define a constitutive-existential requirement, which according to Kant comes to expression and to realization in the application of a priori concepts to objects of experience and thus is the ground of proof of the validity of such application.

            This is quite a mouthful but it indicates to the way in which Kant identifies first personal thinking at the deepest foundational level of his theory and engages into an account of its character.

 

(3) “I think”

Kant introduces the analytic first person, as the core of the argument of the second Transcendental Deduction, with the claim that all representations that can constitute thought and cognition must be present to the thinking and cognizing subject in such a way that he can recognize them as its own. This means that they must be present to the subject, to the understanding, in an indirect-reflexive way, which (as we have seen with Locke) is internally related to and especially expressive of self-consciousness.

The first-personal presence of representations and apperception or self-consciousness constitutes one dimension of the pre-categorial unity that is the ground of proof in the Transcendental Deduction and that is implied both by being a thinking and cognizing subject and by counting ass a representation.

The "I think" must accompany all my representations, for otherwise something would be represented in me which could not be thought; in other words, the representation would either be impossible, or at least be, in relation to me, nothing. That representation which can be given previously to all thought is called intuition. All the diversity or manifold content of intuition, has, therefore, a necessary relation to the "I think," in the subject in which this diversity is found. But this representation, "I think," is an act of spontaneity; that is to say, it cannot be regarded as belonging to mere sensibility. I call it pure apperception, in order to distinguish it from empirical; or primitive apperception, because it is self-consciousness which, whilst it gives birth to the representation "I think," must necessarily be capable of accompanying all our representations. It is in all acts of consciousness one and the same, and unaccompanied by it, no representation can exist for me. The unity of this apperception I call the transcendental unity of self-consciousness, in order to indicate the possibility of a priori cognition arising from it. For the manifold representations which are given in an intuition would not all of them be my representations, if they did not all belong to one self-consciousness, that is, as my representations (even although I am not conscious of them as such), they must conform to the condition under which alone they can exist together in a common self-consciousness, because otherwise they would not all without exception belong to me. From this primitive conjunction follow many important results (152-153)

 

The constitutive-existential condition that is the ground of proof is expressed in the modal assertion or principle: «The "I think" must accompany all my representations». This is the form in which the condition of unity, B, the unity of synthesis/conjunction, can be realized; it is one dimension of C.

In order to understand its role in the Transcendental Deduction and, thereby, its role in the Paralogisms, I will proceed to discuss (i) the character of “I think”; (ii) why Kant resorts to first-personal consciousness; (iii) its logical and epistemological status; (iv) its constitutive import; and (v) its normative import.

(i) Character of “I think” As he explicitly says and his use of quotation marks indicates, Kant’s demand is that an occurrent, first-personal representation of one’s own thinking accompany all of one’s own representations. This is an indirect reflexive, essentially first-personal representation: representing myself thinking my representation must accompany all of them. The force of this “must” is that the possibility of such an occurrent first-personal thought about my thinking is required for the possibility of there being representations that are my representations at all and for the possibility that I am a representing subject at all. This suggests a constitutive-existential condition.

Kant is here considering representations not as to their contents (empirical objects, phenomena) but as to their presence or existence in the mind. His point is that, even if I am not conscious of my representations «as such», qua representations, but only as to their contents (qua sensible objects, appearances), they can exist in my mind as representations only if they satisfy the condition under which they exist together in one self-consciousness.

The representation “I think” is not the representation whose content is a specification or description of one’s own self or subject. Kant denies that we have any such representation, unless it is an empirical one: the representation of ourselves as we appear in inner sense. This, as we will see, is one of his main claims in the Paralogisms. Such an empirical representation, however, would make nothing to the present context, which is that of the pre-categorial, first personal unity of self-consciousness and of the very possibility of any representation.

In relation to the self or subject, what “I” stands for, however, we should say that “I think” is identification-free. It does not include any distinct description or specification of self or subject, which would allow making reference to it, to the I, as an object; that, as something on which we can have an independent cognitive take. The representational import of “I” in “I think” should rather be understood in terms of a first-personal conceptual perspective, under which representations are present. What takes the place of any identification of the subject is the indirect reflexive mode of presentation, the consciousness that we ourselves are thinking these representations. At the same time, the representation “I” in “I think” is not undetermined: to perform its function of qualitative, higher, a priori unity, it must be meaningfully related to myself, it must be individual (self-consciousness) and re-identifiable (one common consciousness).

            The constitutive-existential condition, which is the ground of conceptual thinking, is therefore self-constituting.

            (ii) Why first personal consciousness Kant does not only shift from objects to representations and from representational contents as of objects to manners in which objects are represented; but, more determinately, to the first-personal mode in which representations are present in the mind and to awareness. This is explained by Kant’s theoretical context, which is individuating a constitutive-existential ground of proof for the validity of the application to objects of a priori concepts.

            The ground of proof for the validity of the application to objects of a priori concepts must be sought after in the fundamental unity deployed in thought and in intuition by all representations. This unity is pre-categorial: it is presupposed by the validity of categories. This means not only that it is subjective (as anything a priori is) but that it cannot consist in and be understood as any formal dimension of the constitution and specification of objects.

            At this deepest, pre-categorial level of the Transcendental Logic, Kant is left with a characterization of a priori subjectivity only in the bare terms of the first-person and must reconstruct the a priori validity of the application of concepts to objects on the ground of a constitutive-existential condition framed only in first-personal terms. Pure apperception, primitive perception, the transcendental unity of self-consciousness, the pre-categorial subjectivity that comes to expression in “I think”, can only be first-personal, reducible to indirect reflexive manner of representation, because all the formal dimensions (space, time, categories) that otherwise articulate our thinking and cognizing subjectivity have been overstepped.

            The “I think” can be the ground of a priori conceptualization and judgment and thereby of objective epistemic validity but only by not including anything objective itself: only the distinctness, identity, and authority of the first-personal perspective. This is also the thought that comes to the fore in Kant’s claim that “I think” is «an act of spontaneity»: it is not conditioned by any presupposed formal condition.

            This also is an insight of self-constitution.

            (iii) Logical status and constitutive role On the proposed, strictly first-personal and thin reading of Kant’s “I think”, the modal principle «The "I think" must accompany all my representations» turns out to be analytic. «This principle of the necessary unity of apperception is itself, indeed, an identical, and therefore analytic, proposition» (154-155), «this proposition […] is, as already stated, itself analytic. For it says no more than all my representations in any given intuition must be subject to that condition under which alone I can ascribe them to the identical self as my representations» (157). This is the Cartesian basis for Kant’s argument in the Transcendental Deduction: I am thinking; my thinking consists in my having representations; such representations would not be my representations if I were not conscious of them as mine (if consciousness of representations did not include self-consciousness); therefore, The “I think”, etc. 

            Notice this. The pre-categorial status of pure, or primitive, or transcendental subjectivity is the reason of its necessary and irreducible first-personal character; of its consisting of apperception or self-conscious thinking alone. However, “I think”, no matter how thinly representational and how strictly a matter of modes and not of objects of conception, must still be such as to make possible susceptible to re-identification and therefore to some form of individuality.

            The first person (“I think”) thus includes a referential role, since it secures the relation of acts of thinking to their subject (to the subjective I). But only by referring to one self as “I” and with “I think”, rather than by any uniquely (even necessarily uniquely) satisfied description, the subject can relate to his thoughts so as to be conscious of them as his own and of himself as their subject. This means that self-reference in the first person, as it is deployed at the pre-categorial level, is not self-knowledge. At the same time, to perform its logical role, “I think”, fist-personal consciousness, must be the same in all acts of representation of a subject; and this means that it must be individual and first-personally individual. These mandatory features of the first person, taken together with its independence from acquaintance and description, point to a deep tension in Kant’s and ours conception of it, something in the area of the problems of emptiness and of indispensability.

 

(4) The Synthetic Unity of Apperception

            The second dimension of the first-personal constitutive-existential condition, the ground of proof of the Transcendental Deduction, is explicitly self-constitutive. The analysis of the understanding delivers the conclusion that it is possible only if representations exist together in a common first-personal consciousness. This is the condition for subjects to engage in thinking with representations and for representations to belong to a subject. The sine qua non of understanding and of the unity of conjunctions.

We must see what can put in place a condition that satisfies this analysis, making it so that representations are first-personally mine and that the same “I think” characterizes their consciousness. This is strictly a question about existence: about the obtaining of a first personal condition. In this way we can parse Kant’s account of the ground of proof into a strictly constitutive dimension: the analysis of the pre-categorial unity of the conjunction of representations; and a strictly existential one: the obtaining of the conditions individuated by such analysis. The «identical, and therefore analytical» unity of apperception «explains» (manifests, expresses) the «necessity for a synthesis of the manifold», «without which the identity of self-consciousness would be incogitable» (154-155).

Such existential condition can only be identified as an act of synthesis, an «act of spontaneity» (154). The necessity of the first person, in the foundational context of the Transcendental Deduction, is not only formal or logical but transcendental: an act of synthesis, the consciousness of which can only be first-personal and, being first personal, can be unitary.

This universal identity of the apperception of the manifold given in intuition contains a synthesis of representations and is possible only by means of the consciousness of this synthesis. For the empirical consciousness which accompanies different representations is in itself fragmentary and disunited, and without relation to the identity of the subject. This relation, then, does not exist because I accompany every representation with consciousness, but because I join one representation to another, and am conscious of the synthesis of them. Consequently, only because I can connect a variety of given representations in one consciousness, is it possible that I can represent to myself the identity of consciousness in these representations; in other words, the analytical unity of apperception is possible only under the presupposition of a synthetical unity. The thought, "These representations given in intuition belong all of them to me," is accordingly just the same as, "I unite them in one self-consciousness, or can at least so unite them" (153-154)

 

            This is Kant’s full insight of self-constitution. At the most fundamental, grounding level, the first person is articulated as a synthetic principle, a principle of intellectual agency or spontaneity, which makes sense of the “I think” as a necessary, analytic dimension of consciousness and of the understanding.  The synthetic unity that underlies the unity of the analytic apperception is also essentially first-personal, but in an agential sense: it is my connecting representation, and my consciousness of my synthetic activity.

I am, therefore, conscious of my identical self, in relation to all the variety of representations given to me in an intuition, because I call all of them my representations. In other words, I am conscious myself of a necessary a priori synthesis of my representations, which is called the original synthetical unity of apperception, under which rank all the representations presented to me, but that only by means of a synthesis (155)

 

            «The first pure knowledge of understanding, then, upon which is founded all its other exercise, and which is at the same time perfectly independent of all conditions of mere sensuous intuition, is the principle of the original synthetical unity of apperception» (156). This completes Kant’s construction of an a priori constitutive-existential condition relating to the subject of thinking and cognition (the understanding) rather than to objects give in sensible experience.

            The idea of the first-personal synthetic unity of apperception is the culmination of Kant’s account of the a priori because it fully spells out its connection with subjectivity. Thinking and cognition are subjective in their highest-level, a priori conditions of possibility. The notion of subjectivity, however, is not that of a merely self-referential character or (even less) that of a restriction of thought and cognition to subjective seemings to the exclusion of objective reality (this would be empirical, not transcendental idealism).

            The relevant notion of subjectivity, here, is the first personal one: what can ground the a priori dimension of discursive cognition is that any representation as such is included in first-personal consciousness or is present from the first-personal viewpoint, because any representation (this includes both intuitions and concepts) can only be of synthetic activity, of first personal intellectual agency. Ultimately, it is this agency, which is conditioned by but not grounded on sensibility that explains the a priori.

            First personal intellectual agency and consciousness is all is left of the logical, theoretical domain, once we look for its pre-categorial conditions. Such first personal intellectual agency is what Kant calls spontaneity: this marks its link with the a priori and subjectivity (in the relevant sense). Kant characterizes the “I think” as an «act of spontaneity», but meaning primarily that it does not belong to sensibility (or, for that matter, to discursive cognition). But the spontaneity of the “I think” is grounded on the synthetic unity of apperception, in my being «conscious to myself a priori of a necessary synthesis of representations» - consciousness grounded on my very bringing about such synthesis (155). Self-constitution is the key explanatory notion of the a priori, of transcendental logic.

            The spontaneity or self-constituting character of the synthetic activity of apperception also marks and restricts its character and contents. The synthetic activity, as we know, is through a priori concepts. At the transcendental pre-categorial level which we are considering, however, such concepts are only forms of thought: rather than referring to objects, «the synthesis or combination of the manifold in them relates only to the unity of apperception»; it is «at once transcendental and purely intellectual»; it is «the understanding, as spontaneity» (164). But if this is what is for the synthetic unity of apperception to be spontaneous, then its content, what we come to think of ourselves through it, is only my spontaneous activity. «I exist as an intelligence which is conscious solely of its power of combination» (169); «all that I can do is to represent to myself the spontaneity of my thought» (169 fn.). The threats of emptiness and of indispensability still loom.

Lecture Notes for Class 10
Mer 10 Nov 2021 Gio 10 Nov 2022

            Kant and the “I think”

 

            (1) Summary

            I am providing a quick and focused summary of Kant’s philosophy in the first Critique because I want to locate with precision where and how the need arises in his philosophy for a conception of self-constituting subjectivity.

            This is also what we did with Locke and his theory of self and personal identity. As we will see, also in Kant concern for self-constituting subjectivity takes a first personal form and raises some of the same concerns, about emptiness and indispensability, which it raises in Locke. This is interesting, because Kant’s philosophy is systematically and deeply committed to explain objectivity: theoretical, practical, and aesthetic objectivity. It is a question worth enquiring why, in this context, a role for the first-personal subject arises and is important; and what are the implications of this.

            To sum up, what we have seen so far is:

            (i) The central problem of the first Critique is the possibility of knowledge, as a normatively grounded correspondence between our representations and their objects.

            (ii) The normative grounding is in terms of objectivity, that is, of the necessity and universality of such correspondence; this requires that some constitutive conditions of knowledge are a priori.

            (iii) The relevant notion of the a priori is not analytic, not by conceptual analysis; a priority must be synthetic, have content as of and epistemic bearing for the objects.

            (iv) This is because cognitive content is in general dual in kind: it is conceptual (descriptive and inferential) and intuitive (immediately object-related). In the case of our cognitive nature, immediate acquaintance with objects is only sensible, by sense-experience.

            (v) The problem with this dual kind of cognitive content is that, if both kinds are necessarily constitutive of knowledge and knowledge is constitutively the a priori correspondence of objects (intuitions) and representations (concepts), sensibility should involve an a priori element.

            (vi) This is possible by distinguishing a material (qualitative) and formal (relational) dimension in sensible content (the second is a priori) and by interpreting the a priori as subjective (coming from the mind and not from the objects).

            (vii) If the a priori or the forms of sensibility are subjective, a problem arises as to how they can apply to objects of experience. The answer is that there would be no such objects, unless the a priori forms applied to them. This means that empirical objects are mind-dependent.

 

            (2) A Priori Concepts

            The question now becomes how mind-dependent empirical contents (objects) can attain objectivity and thereby be knowable at all (not just present, but known). Kant’s answer is that this may be because we possess and master a priori concepts. Such concepts are independent of experience and, if applied to objects of experience, allow us to come to know and to assert something objective about them. Say, if we apply the concept of substance to an object of experience, we can say that it has a certain kind of persistence in time and a certain kind of priority on other objects (its properties, for instance). If his claim is true, then we know something objective about it (if it is false, we are objectively mistaken about it).

            For Kant it is not problematic that we have and apply a priori concepts. Already Hume had given principled arguments to establish that some concepts (cause, substance, for instance) cannot be derived from experience and yet have a role in our cognitive practices. He also had explained this by their having a subjective source, a source in mental activity. Kant systematizes Hume’s insight, giving a table of categories; and interprets such mental activity in terms of judgment and reasoning, that is, of intellectual, rational capacities (not the imagination).

            Keep present the complex cognitive structure and epistemic import of empirical cognition as we have it, which both go way beyond sensible acquaintance with particulars. «Now all experience does indeed contain, in addition to the intuition of the senses through which something is given, a concept of an object as being thereby given, that is to say, as appearing. Concepts of objects in general thus underlie all empirical knowledge as its a priori conditions» (126). Kant is assuming that objects of empirical cognition are taken and treated as persisting individuals, endued with properties and connected causally, in a determined order of temporal succession and coexistence. Objects of experience or empirical cognition are not only given but thought and judged – and in this way only can be known.

            The possession and application of a priori concepts is a fact. But, for the theoretical aims of Kant’s philosophy, this is not sufficient. The analysis of the experience in which the a priori is met with is not a proof of the validity of its application. «Concepts which yield the objective ground of the possibility of experience are for this reason [on account of their making experience itself possible] necessary. But the unfolding of the experience wherein they are encountered is not their deduction; it is only their illustration. For on any such exposition they would be merely accidental» (126-127). Knowledge is not a fact, it is the satisfaction of certain normative conditions. Therefore, just as it was with the a priori forms of sensibility, the account of knowledge is not complete until it has been explained that a priori concepts are validly applied to objects; that their application can be universally and necessarily justified. It is only at this condition that we can say that the correspondence of representations and objects is objective.

            The problem, again, is with the subjective character and source of the a priori (sensible or intellectual subjectivity): how can subjective conditions deliver objective cognition? However, the problem of subjectivity/objectivity raised by a priori concepts is different from that of a priori intuitions. It is here that things become really interesting for us.

 

            (3) By What Title?

            In the case of the sensible a priori, the problem of validity is solved by resorting to its domain and mode of application. The domain is that of empirical reality, of objects of experience with which we are acquainted (and of course we would not be acquainted with them, if they were not present). The mode is distinctive as well: the a priori forms are not concepts, which have semantic application to objects. They are intuitions in their turn, a priori objects; and their relations to objects is mereological: they are parts of objects and objects are parts of them. The a priori forms of space and time therefore contribute to the constitution or composition of objects of experiences or intuitions; there would not be such objects without such forms; this makes them mind dependent but also secures that the forms validly apply to intuitions and objects: they constitute and make them exist.

We have been able, with very little trouble, to make it comprehensible how the conceptions of space and time, although a priori cognitions, must necessarily apply to external objects, and render a synthetical cognition of these possible, independently of all experience. For inasmuch as only by means of such pure form of sensibility an object can appear to us, that is, be an object of empirical intuition, space and time are pure intuitions, which contain a priori the condition of the possibility of objects as phenomena, and an a priori synthesis in these intuitions possesses objective validity.

 

            In the case of intuition, as we have already seen, the ground for the valid application of a priori forms to objects of sense is a constitutive or existential one: if such forms did not apply to such objects, these latter, or intuitions, would not exist at all. Since objects are sensibly present or intuitions are enjoyed in experience, such forms must apply with objective validity. Since this conclusion is a matter of self-evidence rather than of inference, Kant regards it as a transcendental exposition rather than an argument. (Possible objection.)

However, this argument cannot apply to a priori concepts. If it applied, it would erase any difference between intuitions and concepts; and this would make pointless resorting to the construct of the synthetic a priori (we would know reality by analysis). A different argument or ground is required, which is the task of Transcendental Logic to provide.The way a priori concepts figure in the «grand problem» and how they contribute to its solution are markedly different. Kant remarks that the existence of objects of sense, intuitions, or phenomena, does not depend on understanding and its functions, a priori concepts or categories.

 

On the other hand, the categories of the understanding do not represent the conditions under which objects are given to us in intuition; objects can consequently appear to us without necessarily connecting themselves with these, and consequently without any necessity binding on the understanding to contain a priori the conditions of these objects. Thus we find ourselves involved in a difficulty which did not present itself in the sphere of sensibility, that is to say, we cannot discover how the subjective conditions of thought can have objective validity, in other words, can become conditions of the possibility of all cognition of objects; for phenomena may certainly be given to us in intuition without any help from the functions of the understanding (124-125)

 

If subjective conditions (representations, concepts) do not constitutively contribute to the existence of their objects, the ground of their objectively valid application to objects and, therefore, the possibility of their normative contribution to knowledge, remain elusive.

 

(4) The Transcendental Deduction

The general background of Kant’s demand for a transcendental deduction (transcendental: a necessity/possibility/necessity argument; deduction: an argument establishing the validity of a concept-application) is his fundamental conception of knowledge as the strictly universal and necessary correspondence between representation and object. «There are only two possible ways in which synthetic representations and their objects can establish connection, obtain necessary relation to one another, and, as it were, meet one another. Either the object alone must make the representation possible, or the representation must make the object possible» (125). The first of these two modal conditions obtains a posteriori with regard of the empirical matter of cognition (sensation). The second obtains with regard to the formal, a priori element of cognition, either for what concerns intuition or for what concerns concept (125-126; see 134-135). But how is this making-possible possible in the case of a priori concepts, which do not make objects exist?

A priori concepts are only necessary in order for empirical objects to be thought and, thereby, to be known; but not for them to be given or present (126). Therefore, we must look for a ground of proof that,

(a) is constitutively existential (so as to provide a necessary ground for application);

(b) is normative in an epistemic sense (so as to secure that the quid iuris, the validity of the application of concepts is addressed);

(c) is not referred to the existence of objects of experience (which can exist without being conceptualized).

            Kant looks for this ground of proof in the concept of possibility of experience, as a «third», a mediating concept, between a priori concepts and objects. «Save through their original relation to possible experience, in which all objects of knowledge are found, their relation to any one object would be quite incomprehensible» (127). But in what respect a constitutive role with regard to the possibility of experience can be a ground of proof for the validity of the application of a priori concepts? What else is implied by the possibility of experience, besides the possible existence of its objects? In some way, the constitutive condition that figures as ground of proof must refer to the subjective side of the epistemic relations, not (or not directly and primarily, as it is with space and time) with the conditions for the existence of its objects. The TD develops this insight.  

            The line of the argument is more or less as follows:

            (i) B is a certain necessary feature of A (something that is beyond doubt);

            (ii) C is a subjective condition necessary for the possibility of B;

            (iii) D is what makes it so that C brings about B.

            Therefore, D holds of, because constitutively explains, A.

            The key to this is: A, our experience, our having representations; B, the unity of experience and representations; C, a first-personal, subjective condition; D, the application of a priori concepts. C is what really interest us; but we have to put in place some background.

            (i) We have a view of the empirical world, the manifest image; a complex of particulars, arranged in space and time, related causally, persisting; this is phenomenologically unquestionable (A). This worldview, given its analysis, can only be a combination of representations, a synthesis. This synthesis, in order for it to give a worldview, to be understandable or intelligible, must be present as some sort of unity. This is a constitutive-existential condition. Since the understanding is inextricably connected with the intelligible, empirical world, this is also a condition of possibility of the understanding (B).

The concept of combination includes, besides the concept of the manifold and of the synthesis of it, that of the unity of it also. Conjunction is the representation of the synthetical unity of the manifold. This idea of unity, therefore, cannot arise out of that of conjunction; much rather does that idea, by combining itself with the representation of the manifold, render the conception of conjunction possible. This unity, which a priori precedes all conceptions of conjunction, is not the category of unity; for all the categories are based upon logical functions of judgment, and in these functions we already have conjunction, and consequently unity of given conceptions. It is therefore evident that the category of unity presupposes conjunction. We must therefore look still higher for this unity (as qualitative, in that, namely, which contains the ground of the unity of diverse conceptions in judgments, the ground, consequently, of the possibility of the existence of the understanding, even in regard to its logical use) (152)

           

            (ii) We will examine C and its relation to B later. But the conclusion of the quoted text makes clear what is its logical level. The unity here in question is the qualitative unity that grounds all synthesis or conjunction and all concepts applied in judgment, including the a priori ones. The concept of this unity is therefore at the right logical level for Kant’s attempted proof, since it would ground, rather than be grounded on, the application of a priori concepts. Kant also says, if only allusively, that this unity is the «ground» of the «possibility of the existence of the understanding, even in regard to its logical use». This points to a constitutive-existential condition, which is of the right general sort to ground a transcendental proof. The logical force of the conclusion is its role in securing a constitutive-existential condition that invests the possibility of knowledge (synthesis of representation).

 

            (iii)  The completing step of the argument is that unity of the synthetic activity that constitutes the primitive, transcendental unity of the combination of representations in a worldview has the logical character of act of judgment, which in its turn consists in the application of a priori concepts or categories to the manifold of intuition (D).

The manifold content given in a sensuous intuition comes necessarily under the original synthetical unity of apperception, because thereby alone is the unity of intuition possible (§ 17). But that act of the understanding, by which the manifold content of given representations (whether intuitions or conceptions) is brought under one apperception, is the logical function of judgments (§ 19). All the manifold, therefore, in so far as it is given in one empirical intuition, is determined in relation to one of the logical functions of judgment, by means of which it is brought into union in one consciousness. Now the categories are nothing else than these functions of judgment so far as the manifold in a given intuition is determined in relation to them (§ 13). Consequently, the manifold in a given intuition is necessarily subject to the categories of the understanding (160)

 

            The last sentence is the QED of all the Transcendental Deduction. Kant’s proof of the objectively valid application of a priori concept to intuitions, and thereby to objects of experience hinges on both the possibility of a certain kind of a cognitive faculty (understanding), of a cognitive state (experience), and of a certain kind of content (an empirical world).

No Class on Thursday, 11/11
Mar 09 Nov 2021 Mer 09 Nov 2022

Next Thursday, 11/11, there will be no class. 

Link to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason
Mar 09 Nov 2021 Mer 09 Nov 2022

This is a link to the translation of Kant's Critique I will be using. We will be discussing texts from:

 

(a) Transcendental Analytic, Analytic of Concepts, Chapter 2: The deduction of pure concepts of the understanding

(b) Transcendental Dialectc, The Dialectical Inferences of Pure Reason, Chapter 1: The paralogism of pure reason 

 

Link: http://strangebeautiful.com/other-texts/kant-first-critique-kemp-smith.pdf

Lecture Notes for Class 9
Mar 09 Nov 2021 Mer 09 Nov 2022

            Kant and the “I think”

 

            (1)Locke’s Legacy

            Locke’s groundbreaking theory of self and personal identity aims in the first place to draw borders between different ways of defining individuality and assigning criteria of identity in the domain of (broadly taken) human individuals.

            The background, which is itself deeply innovative, is to conceive of individuation as a function of ideas (sortals), rather than of any specific metaphysical category, i.e., substance.

            Against this background, Locke distinguishes, in the relevant domain, 3 sortals and 3 criteria of identity: Human being, Thinking substance, and Person or self. We have seen the contents of the corresponding sortals and the possible divergence between the identities that they mark. I want to say, conclusively, something about the inspiration for Locke’s philosophical operation and about its implications.

            Locke’s philosophical inspiration is in many respects anti-Cartesian. Locke recognizes the subjective or agential dimension of thinking and cognition, alongside the dimension of episodes and contents, ideas. But, on general grounds of skepticism about metaphysics, he refuses to equate it with some sort of substantial being. No res cogitans, no res the essence of which is cogitation.

            This clearly raises a problem about the individuation and the identity of thinking subjects, of persons: insofar as they are real, they must be individuated and re-identified independently of thinking substances; at least, in ways non-reducible to thinking substances. Locke’s sortal: Person or self, aims precisely to this. Self or person is individuated and re-identified by/as first-personal consciousness.

            The ontology of self or person, in this way, becomes extremely complex. We must distinguish, in its constitution, self-consciousness or first-personal consciousness, two aspects or dimensions.

            One is consciousness itself, the mental or thinking action. This is essentially dependent on the thinking substance: an action is a ‘part’ of a thinking substance, just as an idea is. The actions and ideas cannot be transferred from one thinking substance to the other: they are jointly individuated and re-identified as the thought x belonging to substance y.

            The other is the self-character or the first-person. This is difficult to capture in terms of Locke’s ontology. It is a mode, obviously; but this does not distinguish it from consciousness or reflex thought. Very tentatively, we may say that it is something like a manner of conception, or a viewpoint, a conceptual determination of consciousness, its immediate first-personal recognition – as myself.

            No matter how sketched is Locke’s ontology of the first person (ours is not much better, however), one point is very clear. Differently from acts of thought and ideas, the first person can be individuated and re-identified independently of thinking substances, it is self-individuated and self-identified (this is, after all, what makes it constitutive of selves and persons, in Locke’s theory).

            Then a problem arises. The first person is a manner of conception or viewpoint, something very thinly mental and cognitive, which by definition can be modally detached from any contentful thinking episode. This is entailed by its modal detachment from thinking substance. But then, how can it be individuated and re-identified as a manner of conception or viewpoint? Isn’t the first person too thin to support the substance-independent individuation and re-identification of a self or person? This is the emptiness problem.

            At the same time, the kind of subjectivity in thinking that Locke aims to keep apart from substantial determination seems to be an indispensable aspect of thought and cognition and of being a self, a subject, a person. This is the indispensability problem.

            The emptiness and the indispensability problems are Locke’s legacy about persona identity and the self. They depend on the underlying self-constitutive insight.

 

            (2) Kant: Philosophical Preliminaries

            (a) Kant regards the task of his theory as primarily epistemological and only derivatively content-explanatory. The task is to explain knowledge, not only ideas and beliefs, and knowledge is an essentially normative concept. To explain thought and cognition is to explain their forms and possibilities of being correct or incorrect, valid or invalid, justified or unjustified.

Kant’s concept of it that knowledge includes, constitutively, a necessary relation between representation and object. Kant is strongly committed to truth-makers. The correspondence of representation and objects, at the level of judgments and propositional contents, requires a grounding; such grounding is to make that correspondence necessary and intelligible. And he looks for this grounding in a necessary a priori dimension of knowledge.

            The question now is as to a criterion, by which we may securely distinguish a pure from an empirical cognition. Experience no doubt teaches us that this or that object is constituted in such and such a manner, but not that it could not possibly exist otherwise. Now, in the first place, if we have a proposition which contains the idea of necessity in its very conception, it is as if, moreover, it is not derived from any other proposition, unless from one equally involving the idea of necessity, it is absolutely priori. Secondly, an empirical judgment never exhibits strict and absolute, but only assumed and comparative universality (by induction); therefore, the most we can say is—so far as we have hitherto observed, there is no exception to this or that rule. If, on the other hand, a judgment carries with it strict and absolute universality, that is, admits of no possible exception, it is not derived from experience, but is valid absolutely a priori (43-44)

 

The a priori is what is strictly universal and necessary, and therefore objectively valid, in cognition: considered by itself, it is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for representation to count as knowledge. Therefore, in order to explain how knowledge is in general possible, Kant must explain whether and how representation can be a priori, in the different domains, under the different aspects, and at the different levels in which we claim to have knowledge. Because the a priori is the ultimate, if conditioned, source of the essential normativity of knowledge.

 

            (b) On account of its constitutive-explanatory role with regard to knowledge, Kant denies that analyticity, the inclusion of a concept in another, provides an adequate account of the a priori. Analyticity of conceptual inclusion is not productive of knowledge of objects, of real knowledge; as opposed to the subjective awareness, we can gain of these conceptual relations. Apriority, in the knowledge-constitutive sense, is not analyticity.

We must join in thought a certain predicate to a given conception, and this necessity cleaves already to the conception. But the question is, not what we must join in thought to the given conception, but what we really think therein, though only obscurely, and then it becomes manifest that the predicate pertains to these conceptions, necessarily indeed, yet not as thought in the conception itself, but by virtue of an intuition, which must be added to the conception (53-54)

 

As the closing of this text indicates, Kant is also committed to the view that reference to objects and specification of their properties can only be achieved in sense-experience, in particular, by direct cognitive contact or acquaintance. This is what Kant calls intuition, which, in the actual human case, is restricted to sensibility (to the exclusion of intellectual intuition: direct cognitive contact with objects as they are and not as they appear to us).

Taken together with the demand for a non-analytic a priori, this amounts to saying that the fundamental architecture of the content and of the validity of knowledge is rooted in two sources and is articulated in two forms of cognitive content and commitment, one receptive and one active, irreducible the one to the other: sensibility and understanding.

Our knowledge springs from two main sources in the mind, first of which is the faculty or power of receiving representations (receptivity for impressions); the second is the power of cognizing by means of these representations (spontaneity in the production of conceptions). Through the first an object is given to us; through the second, it is, in relation to the representation (which is a mere determination of the mind), thought. Intuition and conceptions constitute, therefore, the elements of all our knowledge, so that neither conceptions without an intuition in some way corresponding to them, nor intuition without conceptions, can afford us a cognition (92)

 

            The constitutive-explanatory task set by and addressed in Kant’s theory of knowledge is how receptivity or intuitions and spontaneity or understanding and concept contribute on a priori grounds to make possible the strictly universal and necessary, non-analytic correspondence of objects and representations that is the essence of knowledge.

 

            (c) The dual source explains why analytic reason is not productive of knowledge. But it seems also to make the problem of the a priori grounding of knowledge worse. The understanding requires objects in order to produce real a priori knowledge, that is, to secure a necessary and valid relation between thought and object. Sensibility only can give objects. Therefore, if sensibility is only a posteriori and objects are only specifiable a posteriori, there seems to be a clash between what is required for understanding to perform a substantive a  priori cognitive role.

Kant tries to solve the problem with the claim that there is an a priori element in sensibility; that objects of sense are not given completely a posteriori.

The effect of an object upon the faculty of representation, so far as we are affected by the said object, is sensation. That sort of intuition which relates to an object by means of sensation is called an empirical intuition. The undetermined object of an empirical intuition is called phenomenon. That which in the phenomenon corresponds to the sensation, I term its matter; but that which effects that the content of the phenomenon can be arranged under certain relations, I call its form. But that in which our sensations are merely arranged, and by which they are susceptible of assuming a certain form, cannot be itself sensation. It is, then, the matter of all phenomena that is given to us a posteriori; the form must lie ready a priori for them in the mind, and consequently can be regarded separately from all sensation (34-35)

 

This form a priori is identified in space and time, as principles of order and organization of sensations, as universal containers of any possible sensible experience.

Time and space are, therefore, two sources of knowledge, from which, a priori, various synthetical cognitions can be drawn. Of this we find a striking example in the cognitions of space and its relations, which form the foundation of pure mathematics. They are the two pure forms of all intuitions, and thereby make synthetical propositions a priori possible (80)

 

But how is it possible that a constitutive aspect of sensible objects, or of sensible experience actually presenting objects, be a priori? Kant answers by advancing a conception of space and time as forms of our sensibility, the necessary but subjective forms through or according to which we can only have intuitions of objects. In this way, he reconstructs the reality of the objects that can be given to us by sense to their being objects in our sensibility, to be a kind of representations. The objects we can be acquainted with and that can be the subject-matter of a priori cognition are representations. This is the first step of the Copernican Revolution.

Now, how can an external intuition anterior to objects themselves, and in which our conception of objects can be determined a priori, exist in the human mind? Obviously not otherwise than in so far as it has its seat in the subject only, as the formal capacity of the subject's being affected by objects, and thereby of obtaining immediate representation, that is, intuition; consequently, only as the form of the external sense in general (70)

 

            Kant’s fundamental epistemic requirement: that it be possible to have and to refer to objects a priori, so that the correspondence between representations and object have the strict universality that are implied by knowledge (and that can only be secured a priori), thus is only satisfied if the objects themselves be representations, have subjective nature.

            Notice how the satisfaction of the epistemic requirement is connected with the satisfaction of a constitutive-existential condition: we must give ourselves an object a priori; without a priori forms of spatial intuition, objects in space would not even be given. This is the ground of the objective validity of geometry and in general of spatial cognition in the Transcendental Aesthetic: objects located in space, external objects, are representations, that is, are mind-dependent. This gives an unprecedented prominence to subjectivity in thinking and cognition.  

Lecture Notes for Class 8 - Part Two
Mer 03 Nov 2021 Gio 03 Nov 2022

(9) Personal Self

Based on this sortal, we can address the individuation and the identity, that is, the constitution or metaphysics, of persons or selves. (The pattern is: Conceptual analysis individuates a sortal / Metaphysical reflection – drawing on all sorts of sources – enquires into what is to satisfy such sortal and what else follows from such satisfaction.)

Thus: What is the nature, or constitution, of a being that satisfies the sortal: Self or person? Suppose it is a mass of matter, a human being, a thinking substance: what else must it be to qualify as self or person? This is what determines individuation and identity.

This metaphysical pointy comes out in Locke’s claim that the name “person” is rightly ascribed «where-ever a Man finds, what he calls himself». In the claim that the indirect reflexive “as himself”, as it is realized in the first-personal consciousness inseparable from any act of thinking, is the ground of the right to the name “person”. The right to a name is the satisfaction of a sortal concept. The satisfaction of a sortal concept individuates the nature of beings of that sort. Therefore, to be, to have the nature of a person, is to be oneself to oneself (what a Man calls himself).

Now, what constitutes, what is the nature of being oneself to oneself? It is consciousness. Persons are the thinking substances that are selves; and thinking substances are selves in virtue of consciousness. Consciousness realizes the conditions of selfhood, makes it so that one is oneself to oneself. The nature of persons and selves is consciousness.

This leading thought is pervasive in E 2.27. Considering it self as it self is done by consciousness, (a «reflex act of perception», E 27.13). Consciousness, expressed in the relevant mode of self-reflexive consideration, grounds selfhood: «it makes a Man being himself to himself», so that «it is self to it self now» and «will be the same self» (E 2.27.10); «consciousness […] which is that alone which makes what we call self» (E 2.27.21); «So that self is not determined by Identity or Diversity of Substance, which it cannot be sure of, but only by Identity of consciousness» (E 2.27.23; Locke’s collective marginal title for E 2.27.23-25 is «Consciousness alone makes self»).

Consciousness is the constitutive, metaphysical differentia of self or person, in relation to any kind of thinking, living, material substance. Whatever it is that constitute a conscious being, «consciousness removed, that substance is no more it self , or makes no more part of it, than any other substance»; this also holds of immaterial substance, which one might suppose to be more ‘like’ selves or persons: «In like manner it will be in reference to any Immaterial Substance, which is void of that consciousness whereby I am my self to my self» (E 2.27.24). And consciousness or sensibility explain the self-centered character of the practical concerns of a thinking being: «This every intelligent Being, sensible of Happiness or Misery, must grant, that there is something that is himself,that he is concerned for, and would have happy» (E 2.25).

 

(10) The Reality of Persons

Consciousness is the nature of self or person, since it is crucial to the satisfaction of the corresponding sortal. Persons or selves are, constitutively, consciousness. Fine. But what is to exist or be real as consciousness? To begin discussing this, we must take a step back from metaphysics to ontology, from the study of the nature of things to that of their being.

The crucial point is that by constitutively explaining person or self by consciousness of oneself as oneself we do not add any new kind of substance to reality. What is substantial, in persons and selves, are matter (without which, nothing), individual life (without which, no thinking activity), thinking substance (without which, no perception and reflection). Consciousness, like thinking in general, is neither a substance on its own nor a constituent of a substance: it is a mode, action, or operation of a substance (material, human, thinking).

Now, this raises an ontological, and implicitly metaphysical, puzzle. Modes are and are recognized by Locke to be dependent beings. In this case, thinking and consciousness and thereby self and persons depend on thinking substance. Then, why is not the reality of self and person, and their individuation and identity, simply that of the thinking substance they depend on, which does the thinking and has the consciousness?

The crucial point is that of the modal relations between thinking substance and self or person. The individuation and the identity of two entities can be different even if they do not belong to the same ontological class and one could not exist without the other. Ontological asymmetry is consistent with distinct individuation; distinct individuation comes out in modal terms. It is not required that a actually exist without b; only that it is possible for a to exist grounded on c rather than b. (Being a Swiss Guard is dependent on being human; but there is no individual human who is necessary in order for anything to be a Swiss Guard.)

This comes out in a very complicated text, about identity of consciousness and thus personal identity. «But the Question is, whether if the same Substance, which thinks, be changed, it can be the same Person; or remaining the same, it can be different Persons?» (E 2.27.12). (Locke is putting forward his theory of Resurrection). «I grant, were the same Consciousness the same individual Action, it could not: [be the same across change of thinking substance] But it being but a present representation of a past Action, why it may not be possible, that that may be represented to the Mind to have been, which really never was, will remain to be shewn. […] But that which we call the same consciousness, not being the same individual act, why one intellectual Substance may not have represented to it, as done by itself, what it never did, and was perhaps done by some other Agent, why, I say, such a representation may not possibly be without reality of Matter of Fact, as well as several representations in Dreams are, which yet whilst dreaming, we take for true, will be difficult to conclude from the Nature of things» (E, 2.27.13).

The crucial point is that consciousness (=representation) might be in a thinking substance (in some thinking substance it must be) which is not the same with that which performed the actions it is the consciousness of. In this way, while individual actions cannot be even modally separated from the thinking substance that does them, consciousness (of them) can: it can be in a thinking substance as false consciousness but still consciousness and the same consciousness. Since consciousness is the nature or constitution of self and person, the same self or person can be in/can have different thinking substances.

«But yet to return to the Question before us, it must be allowed, That if the same consciousness (which, as has been shown, is quite a different thing from the same numerical Figure or Motion in Body) can be transferr’d from one thinking Substance to another, it will be possible, that two thinking Substances may make but one Person».

Now this entails: consciousness A is the same with consciousness B, but they are different individual actions. This neatly explains Locke’s text: individual actions cannot be separated from their agent, they cannot float free. Actions are fleeting, instantly perish and have reality only in that they terminate in substances (thinking substances, in this case). Thus, it is only if consciousness can be the same without being the same individual action that it might be in a thinking substance different from its actual one.

Consciousness, like life, belongs to the ontological category of modes, just as actions and motions do. But, within that category, a deep ontological distinction can be drawn between modes that persist, that is, exist across time or succession, like duration itself and life and consciousness; and purely successive, momentary ones, like actions and motions (E 2.27.2).

This however opens the problem of how consciousness can be the same without being the same individual action. Or, equivalently, of what constitutes the individuation and identity of consciousness/self/person, in positive and without being grounded in that of thinking substance.

 

(11) Self-constituting, First-personal Self or Person

Consciousness is first-personal and thus makes for a constitutive first-personal, de se dimension in all operations of the understanding and of the will. It is precisely this feature of consciousness that comes to expression in the consideration of one self as one self and in the notions of self and person: «When we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, meditate or will any thing, we know that we do so. Thus it is always as to our present Sensations and Perceptions: And by this every one is to himself, what he calls self» (E 2.27.9).

If we only consider the internal reflexivity of individual states or acts of thinking and willing, we certainly do not find any principle of individuation that is distinct from their unity in a thinking substance (soul, mind). But this is not all or the essential of what Locke has to say about consciousness, in this context. Locke’s conception of consciousness, in this context is as a de se, indirect-reflexive, first-personal mode of thinking, such that being conscious of an intellectual state or act is being conscious of oneself as its subject. It is under this guise that consciousness individuates something as a self and person, rather than a thinking substances and human being.

The analogy between the individuation of living beings and the individuation of selves and persons helps to see this. Individual life is a principle that excludes from a location in space and time every living being but one and thereby individuates as a certain living being the particles of a mass of matter. De se, first-personal consciousness is a principle that excludes from a location in space and time every other self and person but one and thereby individuate as a certain self and person a thinking being, through it plurality of thought and actions. (The living being and the self and person are composed of the masses of matter and of the thinking being, but not the same with them.)

The burden of exclusion and individuation is borne, in the case of living beings, by metabolic structural-functional organization. Only one such organization can be implemented by the same masses of matter at a time. Consciousness, in its turn, individuates and re-identifies because no two distinct first personal perspectives can be engaged by one thinking substance at the same time.

This is a logical, rather than a physical exclusion: the excluding fact is the non-communicability of the first person, which is implied by being oneself to oneself. Locke explicitly points to this: «That with which the consciousness of this present thinking thing can join itself, makes the same Person, and is one self  with it, and with nothing else» ( 2.27.17; see also E 2.27.9: «and ‘tis that, [consciousness] that makes every one to be, what he calls self; and thereby distinguishes himself from all other thinking things»).

Not surprisingly, because of this close correspondence, Locke combines, for the human case, individuation and unity by vital union and by de se consciousness, with the first intervening as a mediating factor between matter and consciousness. «In all which account of self, the same numerical Substance is not considered, as making the same self: But the same continued consciousness, in which several Substances may have been united, and again separated from it, which, whilst they continued in a vital union with that, wherein this consciousness then resided, made a part of that same self. Thus any part of our Bodies vitally united to that, which is conscious in us, makes a part of our selves: But upon separation from the vital union, by which that consciousness is communicated, that, which a moment since was part of our selves, is now no more so, than a part of another Man’s self is a part of me» (E 2.27.25).

The «several Substances», here, are masses of matter, which vital union turns into parts of «our Bodies» and, by acting as the vehicle of de se consciousness, «that, which is conscious in us», turns into «a part of our selves».  Persons, on Locke’s account, in our actual case, are human beings, rational and thinking living beings with bodies shaped in certain ways, individuated as selves by their consciousness that they are themselves perceiving and thinking and doing whatever they are perceiving and thinking and doing. The indirect reflexivity of de se consciousness, just like the individuality of metabolic organization, unifies in one self a plurality of mental episodes, in a way that is distinct from whatever unity they achieve by the agency and subjectivity of a thinking substance or soul or mind. A thinking thing comes to be an «inseparable Self» by being determined or bounded to «that with which the consciousness of this present thinking thing can join itself» (E 2.27.17).

Locke’s consciousness determines in this synchronic boundaries of persons, which are those of an inseparable self. A self is a self-individuating thinking being; self-individuation is by consciousness or thinking in the first person; and the self counts as a person precisely on this account. Self-individuation, as an act of indirect-reflexive thought, does not require the idea of an object but a mode of consideration.

First-personal, de se consciousness is also the principle of identity for selves and persons. The identity of persons is grounded on the identity of consciousness. «For it being the same consciousnesses that makes a Man be himself to himself, personal Identity depends on that only, whether it be annexed only to one individual Substance, or can be continued in a succession of several Substances. For as far as any intelligent Being can repeat the Idea of any past Action with the same consciousness it has of any present Action; so far it is the same personal self» (E 2.27.10) The same self is constituted by the same consciousness and constitutes the same person: personal self. To make clear that sameness of consciousness is not simply memory, Locke adds that the criterion applies «to Actions past or to come».

This is the core of Locke’s non-reductionist account of personal identity: something which is essential to personhood, consciousness and thereby self, or being «himself to himself», is the same; this is the ground of the identity of a person across time. «This may shew us wherein personal Identity consists, not in the Identity of Substance, but, as I have said, in the Identity of consciousness, wherein, if Socrates and the present Mayor of Quinborough agree, they are the same person» (E 2.27.19).

«For it is by the consciousness it [an «intelligent Being»] has of its present Thoughts and Actions, that it is self to it self  now, and so will be the same self as far as the same consciousness can extend to Actions past or to come; and would be by distance of Time, or change of Substance, no more two Persons than a Man to be two Men, by wearing other Cloaths to Day than he did Yesterday, with a long or short sleep between» (E 2.27.10; see also E 2.27.14, lines 28-34; E 2.27.16, lines 2-8; E 2.27.24, lines 15-18; E 2.27.25 lines 2-6, 15-20; E 2.27.26, lines 8-12).

Locke’s most important contribution to the philosophy of personal identity and to our understanding of subjectivity in general his is discovery that the first-person perspective, realized in consciousness and thereby in thinking and will, is the ground of the constitution, individuation, and re-identification of self and person. The notion of personal self unveils aspects of the mind and of the human being, that is, of the world as we have it, that are not captured by other notions, precisely in virtue of its subjective, first-personal constitution.

For Your Information: What Philosophers Believe!
Mar 02 Nov 2021 Mer 02 Nov 2022

A worldvide survey among philosophers! 

 

https://dailynous.com/2021/11/01/what-philosophers-believe-results-from-the-2020-philpapers-survey/?fbclid=IwAR1PD9pJdjIs0EyKkAsm3EAhYy0mbp7VJ-nJJ1gUlAkSqy8TLy0Zix-6i1k

 

 

Notes for Class 8 (Today!)
Mar 02 Nov 2021 Mer 02 Nov 2022

            Locke on Personal Identity and the First Person

           

            (7) The Sortals for Man and Soul

            One of the misconceptions Locke is most concerned with is the confusion of self and person with man. At the same time, the relations between self and person, on the one hand, and human being, on the other, are crucial to show whether and how Locke’s consciousness-based conception of self and person fits in the framework of natural and moral philosophy.

 

            (i) The content of the sortal: Man, or Human being is: a living organized being, an animal with a body of a certain shape and typically but not necessarily with distinctive mental capacities, including rationality and language. Such mental capacities are not necessarily part of the nominal essence of man.

            «I think I may be confident, that whoever should see a Creature of his own Shape or Make, though it had no more reason all its Life, than a Cat or a Parrot, would call him still a Man; or whoever should hear a Cat or a Parrot discourse, reason, and philosophize, would call or think it nothing but a Cat or a Parrot; and say, the one was a dull irrational Man, and the other a very intelligent rational Parrot» (E 2.27.8).

            Human beings are therefore primitively individuated as animals, in terms of their distinctive living bodies. Only this animal characterization of the identity of man allows giving the right answers to questions about the sameness of «an Embryo, one of Years, mad, and sober»; and avoid conflating in one and the same man a multiplicity of men supposedly sharing the same soul (by transmigration) (E 2.27.6). Locke’s critical target are those who hold that «the Identity of Soul alone makes the same Man» (E 2.27.6); or «a thinking and rational being alone».

 

            (ii) Just as in the case of human beings, it is crucially important for Locke to distinguish between selves and persons and thinking beings; and at the same time to specify rightly their relations.

            Locke is, on grounds of conceivability and in terms of metaphysical possibilities, a mind-body dualist. The soul is a substance, a thinking substance; this substance can be conceived as immaterial and only contingently conjoined to the body (E 2.23.32). Alternatively, the thinking substance can be conceived as material: but the capacity for thinking and rationality would still be only contingently conjoined to the human being, because it is only by a special decision of God that thinking can be superadded to matter (E 4.3.6).

            We are ignorant about the nature of the thinking substance, just as we are about the nature of substance in general. But we have a clear conception of its general character and of its properties, because we have the necessary ideas from reflection. «The substance of Spirit is unknown to us; and so is the substance of Body»; but «we know, and have distinct clear Ideas of two primary Qualities, or Properties of Spirit, viz. Thinking, and a power of Action; i.e. a power of beginning, or stopping several Thoughts or Motions» (E 2.23.30).

            The nominal essence of our thinking substance, what thinks in us (E 2.27.16), the sortal in whose terms we individuate and re-identify it, is the subject of our thoughts and the agent of our actions. The relations between the conscious self and this sort of thinking being (which Locke also regards as the mind, see for instance E 224.12) are central to the metaphysics of Locke’s account of personal identity.

 

            (iii) The crucial point in Locke’s theory of personal identity is his rejection of Descartes’ view that the soul always thinks or, equivalently, that thinking is the real essence and not only the operation of the soul. This may not be immediately clear. But it unveils, in Locke, a crucial distinction in the concept of thinking.

            Suppose the soul (the thing that thinks) always thinks: How could otherwise be a thinking substance? Then, some thinking activity should go on at any time such substance exists. How can Locke deny that this is so, while at the same time holding fast to the concept of a thinking being? Because he distinguishes, within the sortal: Thought, two different aspects.

            One is thought as a logical (semantic, cognitive) process, realized in operations over and relations among ideas, and bringing about interactions between mental states and actions. This is what the thinking substance does: the thinking substance that we are, not differently from how we are human beings.

            The other is thought as consciousness and subjective experience, the apprehension of ideas and the understanding of their relations, as well as feeling and willing things the sense of actions being our own.

            Let us call the first, thinking as process. In this sense, the thinking substance always thinks; and in this way, it is a thinking substance. But the thinking substance (soul or brain) does not always think in the second sense; and that sort of thinking is not essential to it and is not made necessary by it. In particular, thinking in the second sense does not entail that it is done by a substance. Let us call this thinking as consciousness.

            Descartes’ error was to fail to distinguish these aspects in the common genus of thinking and to conflate both in the essence of thinking substance. Locke, by contrast, distinguishes these two aspects of thinking and of the thinking subject. Thinking as process identifies and isidentified by thinking substance. The other aspect of subjectivity, thinking as consciousness, also must identify and be identified by some sortal. With a modal difference with thinking substance. This is the conceptual domain of self or person.

 

            (8) Self or Person

            «This being premised to find wherein personal Identity consists, we must consider what Person stands for;  which, I think, is [a] a thinking intelligent Being, [b] that has reason and reflection, [c] and can consider it self as it self, the same thinking thing in different times and places; which [d] it does only by that consciousness, which is inseparable from thinking, and as it seems to me essential to it; It being impossible for any one to perceive, without perceiving, that he does perceive» (E 2.27.9).

            [a] The sortal includes as the first condition for counting as a person  that of being a thinking intelligent being: that is, the kind of entity which can understand, that is, grasp ideas and operate discursively with them. This is the primitive ontological constraint on persons, the aspect of the content of the sortal that specifies how persons have their foothold in actuality: as thinking substances. (Compare: living beings are realized as masses of matter.)

            [b] Reason and reflection are specific and distinctive mental powers that enable a thinking substance to count as a person.  This seems to be a priori. Reflection, in particular, seems to be required for reason, for epistemic and practical enquiry and deliberation: being aware of one’s thoughts and actions is a condition for assessing them and deliberating about them. And it is, of course, the condition for thinking as consciousness.

            [c] The capacity for considering oneself as oneself is the differentia trait of the sortal: Person. Being a thinking substance, having reason and reflection, are enabling conditions for being a person. What makes it so that one thinking substance (or human being with a thinking part), endued with reason and reflection, is a person, is that it can consider it self as it self.

            What individuates a person, determining whether it is this or that person and whether, in certain circumstances, there is the same person as in certain others, is the character and the content of that consideration: its first-personal, immediately and consciously reflexive character; and its referential success, its capacity to pick up its subject in different circumstances and under different description.

            Persons are kinds of being that can individuate themselves by first-personal consideration of themselves. Since individuation is the ground of identity, this dimension of the content of the sortal also includes the consideration of oneself as the same across time, «the same thinking thing in different times and places».

            [d] The consideration of oneself as oneself, which determines individuation and identity as a person, is its in turn determined by and expressive of consciousness. This is not higher-order consciousness; it is not a separate act of perception by the understanding and it does not result in a distinct idea. Rather, it is the internal, inherent conscious dimension of any act of the understanding, which marks its nature of perception, that is, its very presence to and existence in the mind; its mental nature.[1] Consciousness, in this sense, is inseparable from and essential to thinking. (This was part of Locke’s intended reductio of the Cartesian view that the soul always thinks.)

            This internal, first-order consciousness of acts of perceiving and understanding is first-personal in character. When Locke says that «it is impossible for any one to perceive, without perceiving, that he does perceive»; or that «when we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, meditate, or will any thing, we know that we do so» (E 2.27.9), “he” and “we” must be understood with an implication of immediate self-presence: knowing it is oneself that is doing or experiencing that.

            [e] I want to say something about Locke’s formula, «consider it self as it self», as a dimension of the sortal: Person. What Locke aims to express with this formula is that an aspect of the nominal essence of person, captured by the sortal: the capacity for a special, highly distinctive mode of reflexive thought and of self-reference.

In this regard, the very structure of Locke’s formula is enlightening. The first occurrence of “himself” and “it self” («being himself», «consider it self») simply marks the self-referential character of the act of thinking under exam: what is perceived or thought of, with that act, is the subject that performs that act. That subject is a thinking substance, which can also be living being and, in our case, a human being.

On this restricted understanding, the reflexive character of such an act of thinking or consideration is (to put the point in our language) purely de re: its object is as a matter of fact the thinking substance that performs the act. But, unless more is added, such reflexivity is not de dicto: if we restrict our attention to the first occurrence of the reflexive pronoun, in Locke’s formula, we have said nothing about how, in terms of what idea or mode of consideration, we refer to our thinking or human substance. Even less is reflexivity or self-reference de se or first-personal: an act making oneself immediately and explicitly present as oneself.

It is in this stronger, de se sense that consideration of oneself or self-reference or reflexive acts of thinking are included in the content of the sortal. This is made perfectly clear by the second occurrence of the reflexive pronoun, in the context of the phrases constructed with the prepositions “as” or “to” («as it self», «to himself»), which marks the differentia of the mode of reflection or self-reference import that Locke regards as a dimension of the sortal: Person. In these contexts, the reflexive pronoun occurs as an indirect reflexive: a reflexive pronoun whose antecedent is the first occurrence of the same pronoun and indirectly the subject, who is having the idea or who is engaged in the consideration.

The subject is not only referring to itself by the use of the direct reflexive pronoun but also referring to itself as who is making such (self-) reference. This is what makes of it a self or person. This is quite clearly an insight of self-constitution.



[1]See Weinberg, 2016, 26-28, 32-33 (and the second Chapter of her book, passim) for a fully satisfying interpretation of Locke’s consciousness, including its first-personal dimension.

Notes for Class 7 (today). Complete.
Gio 28 Ott 2021 Ven 28 Ott 2022

Locke on Personal Identity and the First Person

            The best introduction to the self-constitutive character of personal identity is provided by Locke’s theory of personal identity (second edition, 1694. of the Essay, II, 27).

            Some background.

            (1)

            Personal identity is an important issue for and only for early modern, modern, and contemporary western philosophy.  (Together with self, self-consciousness; but I want to concentrate on personal identity.) Earlier stages of western philosophy (Aristotle) had a different agenda, concerning subjectivity (in a broad sense):

            (i) Making sense of the ontological status and of the nature of human beings: material substances (matter suitable for a living body; a living body); a form defined by biological and psychological functions (sensation, perception, imagination and memory, intellect);

            (ii) Making sense of rational thinking and rational action, their conditions and their limits.

            On this rich conception of subjectivity, the criteria of individuation and identity are all too evident. Notice also that individuation and identity of thinkers and agents/human being is not by self-constitution. It is a perfectly objective matter, continuous with the general metaphysics of material substances (even living beings grown and support themselves, but do not constitute themselves). The breakdown of hylomorphist metaphysics and the shift to a materialist, dualist, or idealistic one, applied to subjects of thought and action, changes the picture.

            Their individuation will now depend on the body, or on the unclear relations between the body and the mind, or on mental entities (like ideas). On all accounts, individuating a thinker and an agent and determining whether it is the same or not becomes a difficult question.

            Something about subjectivity that escapes the objective, real, metaphysical constitution of thinkers and agents, in all these views (and did not escape the earlier one). Something about the unity of the constituting elements and unity of thinking and acting humans.  This has put pressure on the philosophy of the individuation and identity of subjectivity. And this pressure has been in the direction of insulating some sort of pure element of subjectivity; and, ultimately, of self-constitution.

            (More or less from U. Thiel, The Early Modern Subject, 2011.)

 

            (2)

            Why does Locke give a decisive turn to the philosophy of thinking and acting subjects, in the directions of personal identity, of the first person, and of self-constitution? A complex combination of conceptual factors.

            (i) Locke is dissatisfied with all the alternative metaphysical views just mentioned. In particular, he is dissatisfied with Descartes dualism, which combines the contrast between thought and extension with the ascription of substantial status to thought. Basically, Locke thinks that we do not know enough to tell something sensible about substance in general, thinking substance in particular.

            (ii) Locke ascribes a crucial importance to consciousness, “perception”, or subjectivity, in thinking, acting, and cognition. Whatever can bear upon these functions (=the Human Understanding), does so because it is subjectively apprehended or present to awareness.

            (iii) It is this latter consideration, rather than any metaphysical construct, that should have priority in defining the individuation and identity of thinkers and agents. But consciousness, or awareness, seems to have a fleeting character: it essentially changes across time. The central problem of the philosophy of subjectivity then becomes that of identity across time. Locke addresses it in a way that goes in the direction of self-constitution.

 

            (3)

            Now, the basics.

            (i) Locke’s program in the Essay is to enquire into the origin, certainty, and extent of human knowledge, together with the degrees of belief, opinion, and assent. This task, which has the general aim of grounding our cognition of our moral obligations, is performed not by physical enquiry into the causes of mental events or how they depend on matter, but by direct observation of the notions with which the understanding deals and of its activities (E 1.1.2).

            Locke’s epistemological enquiry (mostly in Book 4) is preceded by an enquiry about the «notions», the contents of our minds, their sources and constitution, and how they shape and are shaped by the understanding (mostly in Books 2 and 3).

            (ii) The crucial feature of Locke’s enquiry about mental is that ideas stand in an internal relation with what Locke calls perception - a relation that is realized in episodes of subjective manifestation or coming to awareness. «Having Ideas, and Perception [are] the same thing» (E 2.1.9); «Whatsoever the Mind perceives in it self, or is the immediate object of Perception, Thought, or Understanding, that I call Idea», E 2.8.8).

            Ideas are essentially conscious; consciousness is the way in which ideas bear on mental activity. «Every Man being conscious to himself, That he thinks, and that which his Mind is employ’d about whilst thinking, being the Ideas, that thereare there, ‘tis past doubt that Men have in their Minds several Ideas», like whiteness, motion, elephant, and so on (E 2.1.1).

            (iii) Taxonomy of ideas: simple and complex. «When the Understanding is once stored with these simple Ideas, it has the Power to repeat, compare, and unite them even to an almost infinite Variety, and so can make at Pleasure new complex Ideas» (E 2.2.2). Complex ideas belong to three classes: modes, substances, relations (E 2.12.3).

            Book 2 of the Essay consist in a series of essays in which Locke attempts to explain in terms of simple ideas and of operations of the understanding these three kinds of contents and cognitions (see E 2.12.8 for a programmatic statement).

            The ideas of relations are different from those of the things related. Their «nature» consists «in the referring, or comparing two things, one to another; from which comparison, one or both comes to be denominated» - say, father and son, great and small, cause and effect (E 2.25.5). Ideas of relations are conditional on «respects» or «considerations», which allow to refer one thing to another. They realize an aspectual dimension of thinking and cognition. In this way, one thing thus can «sustain» a plurality of relations.

 

            (4)

            Identity and ideas. Identity is an idea of relation and is therefore relative to the ideas of relata. Locke’s general conception of individuation and identity is articulated in terms of ontological categories, captured by categories of ideas (primarily substances and modes). Within each category, different abstract ideas individuate different sorts and allow framing criteria of sameness and difference for individuals.  

            Identity is a fundamental ontological relation. The object of comparison in the relation of identity is the «very Being of things», the existence of things in time: the content of this idea one thing existing at a certain time and the same thing existing at a different time (E 2.27.1).

            Since identity is a relation between things, an account of the content of the idea of identity must include an account of the individuation of things presented by the ideas under comparison. We need the idea of what is one thing in order to consider whether one thing exists at different times.

            This is Locke’s conception of individuation. «From what has been said, ‘tis easy to discover, what is so much inquired after, the principium individuationis; and that, ‘tis plain, is Existence it self, which determines a being of any sort to a particular time and place incommunicable to two Beings of the same kind» (E 2.27.3). Existence individuates things because existence is necessarily individual: to exist is to exist at a certain place and time and as belonging to a certain sort or kind.  Everything exists as a Lewisian «lonely object», belonging to certain sorts or kinds.

            The principle of individuation is a priori, being based on considerations of conceivability. «For we never finding, nor conceiving it possible, that two things of the same kind should exist in the same place at the same time, we rightly conclude, that whatever exists any where at any time, excludes all of the same kind, and is there it self alone» (E 2.27.1).

            Notice that this conception of individuation is tacitly and broadly materialist. It only applies to entities located in space and time. The principle of beginnings also applies, in a somewhat obscure way, to God, who is without beginning and is everywhere; to finite spirits, who have all a «determinate time and place of beginning to exist». And to modes ad relations, which either begin to exist with their substances (and are susceptible to persistence) or have momentary existence (and cease to be in the moment they begin to exist (so that they can be individuated but do not persist) (E 2.27.2). Notice also that it is minimalist: whatever else we can say about beings and their individuation depends on the ideas of their sorts.

 

            (5)

            The relation of identity, based on the principle of individuation (same beginnings in space and time) is then defined for the different kinds of beings on the basis of their ideas. Kinds are crucial. «[O]ne thing cannot have two beginnings of Existence, nor two things one beginning, it being impossible for two things of the same kind, to be or exist in the same instant, in the very same place; or one and the same thing in different places» (E 2.27.1).

            On the simple, initial taxonomy of substances, it seems a priori that immaterial and material substances occupy space and time in different ways, corresponding to different causes and ways of exclusion; and thus do not exclude each other from a given place and time. This is also true of the more complex, fine-grained taxonomy of material substances (which potentially includes thinking substances and persons) that defines different principles of spatial-temporal exclusion based on differences of kind. It is not existence per se that individuates and identifies, but existence as a such and such.

            To sum up. «For whatever be the composition whereof the complex Idea is made, [a collection of qualities] whenever Existence makes it one particular thing [individuation by existence at a time and place] under any denomination, [individuation as being of a certain kind] the same Existence continued, [no interruption and no variation relatively to the kind] preserves it the same individual under the same denomination [identity as persistence in a kind]» (E 2.27.29).

            Locke’s programmatic claim. «Identity suited to the idea». «To conceive, and judge of it [identity] alright, we must consider what Idea the Word it is applied to stands for». Had this «been a little more carefully attended to, would possibly have prevented a great deal of that Confusion, which often occur about this Matter» (E 2.277; see also E 2.27.1).

Existence is in every case existence in space and time; but the grounds or conditions of loneliness differ according to the kinds. Such conditions can be nested: what is extensionally the same entity can fall under different sortals. In this case, their difference comes out in modal terms.

For instance, a mass of matter (an idea of kind) could constitute or fail to constitute an oak (a different idea of kind), while actually being one and the same mass of matter.  There is a non-eliminable modal and intensional dimensions in individuations and re-identifications, which are not substitutable salva veritate.

 

(6) Taxonomy of identities. Therefore, there is no one ontological category which can subsume all sorts of identity (not in any conceptually significant way). «’Tis not therefore Unity of Substance that comprehends all sorts of Identity, or will determine it in every Case: But to conceive, and judge of it alright, we must consider what Idea the Word it is applied to stands for: It being one thing to be the same Substance, another the same Man, and a third the same Person, if Person, Man, and Substance, are three Names standing for different Ideas; for such as is the Idea belonging to that Name, such must be the Identity» (E 2.27.7). This subversive idea of identity is the basis for an important taxonomy of ideas of identity.

Atoms and masses of matter

«Let us suppose an Atom, i.e. a continued body under one immutable Superficies, existing in a determined time and place; ‘tis evident, that, considered in any instant of its Existence, it is, in that instant the same with it self. For being, at that instant, what it is, and nothing else, it is the same, and so must continue, as long as its existence is continued; for so long it will be the same, and no other» (E 2.27.3).

. «In like manner, if two or more Atoms be joined together into the same Mass, every one of those Atoms will be the same, by the foregoing rule: And whilst they exist united together, the Mass, consisting of the same Atoms, must be the same Mass, or the same Body, let the parts be ever so differently jumbled: But if one of these Atoms be taken away, or one new one added, it is no longer the same Mass, or the same body» (E 2.27.3).

The individuation and identity of the mass are mereologically reducible to those of the component atoms.

Plants, brutes, and machines

Living bodies: plants and animals, as well as machines, all fall under the broad category of material substances.

«In the state of living creatures, their Identity depends not on a Mass of the same Particles; but on something else. For in them the variation of great parcels of Matter alters not the identity: An Oak, growing from a Plant to a great three, and then lopp’d, is still the same Oak» (E 2.27.3). The change of the parts does not imply a change in its individuality – being an oak and that oak – and therefore in its identity – being the same oak; although it does imply a change in the individuality and identity of the masses of matter that constitute it.

«The reason whereof is, that in these two cases of a Mass of Matter, and a living Body, Identity is not applied to the same thing» (E 2.27.3). The criterion of individuation and identity: not mereological but structural-functional. «We must therefore consider wherein an Oak differs from a Mass of Matter, and that seems to me to be in this; that the one is only the Cohesion of Particles of Matter any how united, the other is such a disposition of them as constitutes the parts of an Oak; and such an Organization of those parts, as is fit to receive, and distribute nourishment, so as to continue, and frame the Wood, Bark, and leaves, etc., in which consists the vegetable Life.» (E 2.27.4).

The material substance that is a plant could cease to be while the plant goes on existing; and the plant could cease to be while the material substance remains the same.

The same holds of animals and machines. «The Case is not so much different in Brutes, but that any one may hence see what makes an Animal, and continues it the same. Something we have like this in Machines, and may serve to illustrate it. For Example, what is a Watch? ‘Tis plain ‘tis nothing but a fit Organization, or Construction of Parts, to a certain end, which, when a sufficient force is added to it, it is capable to attain» (E 2.27.5).

Individual life

It is important to understand what is the idea grounding the individuation and identity of living beings. It is the idea of individual life.

«That being then one Plant, which has such an Organization of Parts in one coherent Body, partaking of one Common Life». Organization and coherent parts as the life that is common to the material elements of the plant/animal, and makes its individuality. What makes of something one plant is the common life its material parts have from this individual vital organization. The individuality of a plant, brute, or machine, simply consists in its « individual Life » (E 2.27.4).

This postulates than life can be individual. We can think in terms of biological individuality, in particular (in the light of how Locke characterizes vital organization) of metabolic individuality. Of course, Individual life, no matter how particularly specified, can provide only a necessary and not a sufficient condition for the individuation of a living being. The principle of individuation is existence in space and time and qualitatively identical instances of vital union, located in different places at the same time, would count as numerically different living beings. «For this Organization being at any one instant in any one Collection of Matter, is in that particular concrete distinguished from all other» (E 2.27.4).

The identity of a living substance across time and change consists in the persistence of an individual life across a multiplicity of masses of matter. A being «continues to be the same Plant, as long as it partakes of the same Life, though that Life be communicated to new Particles of Matter vitally united to the living Plant, in a like continued Organization» (E 2.27.4). The identity of living beings is the identity of individual life, is its being the «same Life».

«For this Organization being at any one instant in any one Collection of Matter, is in that particular concrete distinguished from all other, and is that individual Life, which existing constantly from that moment both forwards and backwards in the same continuity of insensibly succeeding parts united to the living Body of the plant, it has that Identity, which makes the same plant, and all the parts of it, parts of the same plant, during all the time that they exist united in that continued organization» (E 2.27.4). And conceiving identity of living beings in terms of sameness of life is, of course, alternative to conceiving of it in terms of substance (living or whatever):  «Animal identity is preserved in Identity of Life, not of Substance» (here substance stands for the animal-composing matter, which  is substantial as well (E 2.27.12).

Notes for Class 6 (today). Improved!
Mer 27 Ott 2021 Gio 27 Ott 2022

More on Self-Constitution

            A few points.

            (1)

            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.

 

            (2)

            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.

 

           

           

           

Notes for Class 7 (today). Interim.
Mer 27 Ott 2021 Gio 27 Ott 2022

            Locke on Personal Identity and the First Person

            The best introduction to the self-constitutive character of personal identity is provided by Locke’s theory of personal identity (second edition, 1694. of the Essay, II, 27).

            Some background.

            (1)

            Personal identity is an important issue for and only for early modern, modern, and contemporary western philosophy.  (Together with self, self-consciousness; but I want to concentrate on personal identity.) Earlier stages of western philosophy (Aristotle) had a different agenda, concerning subjectivity (in a broad sense):

            (i) Making sense of the ontological status and of the nature of human beings: material substances (matter suitable for a living body; a living body); a form defined by biological and psychological functions (sensation, perception, imagination and memory, intellect);

            (ii) Making sense of rational thinking and rational action, their conditions and their limits.

            On this rich conception of subjectivity, the criteria of individuation and identity are all too evident. Notice also that individuation and identity of thinkers and agents/human being is not by self-constitution. It is a perfectly objective matter, continuous with the general metaphysics of material substances (even living beings grown and support themselves, but do not constitute themselves). The breakdown of hylomorphist metaphysics and the shift to a materialist, dualist, or idealistic one, applied to subjects of thought and action, changes the picture.

            Their individuation will now depend on the body, or on the unclear relations between the body and the mind, or on mental entities (like ideas). On all accounts, individuating a thinker and an agent and determining whether it is the same or not becomes a difficult question.

            Something about subjectivity that escapes the objective, real, metaphysical constitution of thinkers and agents, in all these views (and did not escape the earlier one). Something about the unity of the constituting elements and unity of thinking and acting humans.  This has put pressure on the philosophy of the individuation and identity of subjectivity. And this pressure has been in the direction of insulating some sort of pure element of subjectivity; and, ultimately, of self-constitution.

            (More or less from U. Thiel, The Early Modern Subject, 2011.)

 

            (2)

            Why does Locke give a decisive turn to the philosophy of thinking and acting subjects, in the directions of personal identity, of the first person, and of self-constitution? A complex combination of conceptual factors.

            (i) Locke is dissatisfied with all the alternative metaphysical views just mentioned. In particular, he is dissatisfied with Descartes dualism, which combines the contrast between thought and extension with the ascription of substantial status to thought. Basically, Locke thinks that we do not know enough to tell something sensible about substance in general, thinking substance in particular.

            (ii) Locke ascribes a crucial importance to consciousness, “perception”, or subjectivity, in thinking, acting, and cognition. Whatever can bear upon these functions (=the Human Understanding), does so because it is subjectively apprehended or present to awareness.

            (iii) It is this latter consideration, rather than any metaphysical construct, that should have priority in defining the individuation and identity of thinkers and agents. But consciousness, or awareness, seems to have a fleeting character: it essentially changes across time. The central problem of the philosophy of subjectivity then becomes that of identity across time. Locke addresses it in a way that goes in the direction of self-constitution.

Notes for Class 6 (Today!)
Mar 26 Ott 2021 Mer 26 Ott 2022

More on Self-Constitution

            Two points.

            (1)

            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.

            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.

            Another 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.

 

            (2)

            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. A demand for objectivity. The (interesting) complication is that such grounding should not be external; necessity and a priority should issue from the subject itself (be it individual or collective).

            W. (and perhaps Kripke) is not insensitive to this point: see what he says about the first person and agency.

 

           

           

           

Notes for Class 5
Gio 21 Ott 2021 Ven 21 Ott 2022

Kripke on Wittgenstein on Rule-Following

              Kripke proposes a systematic interpretation of W.’s later philosophy. This is unusual and important. The focus of his interpretations are rules. In particular, the possibility of a divorce, in W.’s philosophy, between rules and reasons.

            On the face of it, rules and reasons seem to be inextricably connected. Rules give reasons, there are reasons for following rules. We have seen that for W. a wrong conception of the relation between rules and subjects of thought and agency, one according to which content and point of rules depend on the interpretations, of the meanings conferred by subjects, brings havoc on the concept both of rules and of reasons. We have also seen that W. contrasts that conception with one that merges rules, and the grasp and following of them, in ongoing, inclusive, shared practices. This leaves open different ways of understanding rules and practices.

            No, let us see Kripke’s version of W.’s theory.

 

            (1) Kripke reads W. as advancing a skeptical paradox about rules, reasons, and rule-following (4). It is questionable whether W. has skeptical aims in his arguments. But he certainly holds that a conception he is addressing critically has skeptical consequences. Kripke also holds that W. proposes a skeptical solution for the paradox (this is drawn from Hume on causation). This again is questionable, but W. certainly advances a conception that does not refute but rather dislodges the contrasting view.

 

            (2) The root of the paradox is in the contrast between the grasp of a rule, which is finite, and the infinitely many cases of its application (7-9). This contrast makes it so that the grasp of the rule cannot take up the queerness of the presence/not presence of the whole application of the rule, which conceals the skeptical implications of the conception that make rules depend on subjective meaning. This is the point of Kripke’s arithmetical example: a sum we have never computed. This is second order, not first order skepticism: not about arithmetic, but about the use of arithmetical terms (like “+”). This skeptical threat comes to expression in the regress of rules for interpretation (16-17).

 

            (3) A closer look at the paradox. Answering it in a direct, non-skeptical way, would require individuating a fact concerning past application of the rule that would prescribe how to apply it to a new case (11). It would have to be a fact that now gives a reason for an answer. The combination of factuality (to stop the skeptic and the regress) and of normativity (to stop them in the right way) is however difficult to individuate and make good. This is the root of the queerness. A fact about past meaning, application, use should provide justification for meaning, applying, using the rule in a certain way to a new case. But not even looking into the mind of a subject could such a fact be detected (12-15).

 

            (4) Kripke outlines and rejects different ways of understanding the fact that should provide a ground for rule-following. Facts about dispositions to certain applications (which however are finite and non-normative) (22-31). Facts about how a machine would apply the rule (either circular or non-normative) (33-37). Facts about a distinctive, irreducible experience (a feeling of conviction) (non normative – if it exists at all) (41-47). No such fact can halt skepticism and the regress. No application is right or wrong, no application is justified, therefore no rule is applied (23-24, 28, 30).

 

            (5) The common feature of the proposed (and rejected) facts-of-rule-following that should justify following a rule in a certain way is that they either are or are related to facts about the minds of subjects. (Mental history, 21. Something in my mind instructs me; I instruct myself, 22; and: Not even looking in the mind.) This makes me say that the demand for such a fact is a demand for self-constitution. And that Kripke, just like W., recognizes its impossibility, against the test of what is required for rule-following. A condition of self-constitution can be tracked down to (a) the (putative) grasp of a totality of cases without such cases being present and (b) the identification of such grasp to what connects thinkers or agents to rule (or make of these latter their rules). Kripke remarks that such a state is utterly mysterious (51); that it would be logically impossible: nothing mental and normative is self-interpreting (53-54).

 

            (6) No facts, no truth makers, but conditions of assertability, role within a practice (73). In particular, such conditions, with reference to assertions about meaning (77). Inclusion in a community of speakers; teaching and learning; reciprocal checking (87-91). This is all the justification there is (112).

No Class on 10/19 (only)
lun 18 Ott 2021 Mar 18 Ott 2022

Tomorrow, 10/19, there will be no Class. I have a medical appointment I cannot change or postpone right when we should meet.

See you on 10/20, and then 10/21.

Sorry for that!

Notes for Class 4
Mer 13 Ott 2021 Gio 13 Ott 2022

 Objectivity: Naturalism and Rule-Following

The semantic problem with self-constituting states or contents is that they do not seem to abide by the two main kinds of semantic determination, reference and description.

Since self-constituting thought, by construction, define their own aboutness, they are not semantically individuated in relation to objects in the world. Therefore, it is not clear how to understand them in terms of reference.

In a certain way, self-constituting states and contents are descriptive: they specify conditions individuating the states or contents they are. For instance, the specification of an action or of an intention individuates what action or intention it is (what mental state), by its very taking place or actualization.     But there are problems also in this respect. As just said, the descriptive specification is not all there is to the semantics of self-constitution: there is also an obvious reflexive dimension, which consists in some sort of indexical dimension. But unless we can relate self-constituting states and contents to the world, it is not clear how to specify this semantic dimension. (Think also of the first person.)

What is true of the semantics of self-constituting states, is true also of their intrinsic normativity. Mental states and contents are in part individuated by their conditions of correctness; this holds also of self-constituting ones; if there are problems with the semantics of those states, such problems naturally extend to their normativity, their possibilities of error and correctness.

This latter issue comes in full light in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy and in Kripke’s interpretation of it. Wittgenstein, like in a completely different respect Hume, is an arch-anti self-constitutionalist. Hume’s opposition to self-constitution is centered on the concepts of mind, self, and agency. Wittgenstein’s, on the concepts of language, rules, and meaning.

 

(2) Wittgenstein

I want now to summarize W.’s normative attack on self-constitution (of contents or meanings and of the corresponding mental states).

 

(a) Language as a Practice

Three features of a practice are important to understand W.’s views: It is systematic, ongoing, and shared. By systematic I do not mean orderly (language is messy!) but inclusive and (somehow) holistic. By ongoing I mean that it is present as an activity, not as a formal scheme. It is a social activity of a certain sort, with a certain point.

§§ 49, 50: Systematicity, Holism

                § 120: Ongoing, social character.

 

            (b) Rules

            If language is a practice, its basic, explanatory elements are not ideas or axioms but rules, ways of engaging in such practice with some sort of prescriptive force. Language is shot through with rules and rules are immersed in its practice.

             §§ 50, 54

 

            (c) Meaning

            However, there is something else we associate (apparently with justification) to language and which we require from its practice: meaning (by x I mean y) and understanding (I understand x as y). This demand seems to put more burden on the concept of a rule. In particular, it seems to take up a self-constitutive connotation. The state of mind, the flash, or the subject of it, makes itself understand or mean something by something-

            §§ 146, 147, 149: Language game of writing down series of signs according to a certain formation rule. Understanding as knowing one’s meaning, state of mind.

            §§ 159, 161: Was hast Du getan?

            § 197: Flash and self-constitution of meaning/understanding.

 

            (d) Interpretations and the Paradox

            That the self-constitutive insight does not work well for language and understanding becomes clear if we consider what would it be if rules were subjected to a condition of self-constitution (along the lines suggested by W.). That is, if the role of rules were a matter of conferring them a certain content or point by an act of thinking/decision by one or more subjects. This would raise the problem of many interpretations and interpretation of interpretations. Paradox: rules cannot operate as rules. If they are understood in a sort of self-constitutive way.

            §§ 198, 213

 

            (e) Error

            The possibility of a regress of interpretations gives place to a problem with the possibility of error or correctness in what is to follow a rule. This calls in question the individuation of what rules we are following and the objectivity of meaning (private language).

§§ 201.  202 (Rule following)

            §§ 243, 256, 258 (Private language)

 

            (e) Back to Practice

            W.’s asks to rethink the conception of language as a practice.                                                          §§ 197, 198, 199

Kripke on Wittgenstein
Mar 12 Ott 2021 Mer 12 Ott 2022

Uploaded in Materiale Didattico

Link to Classroom
Sab 09 Ott 2021 Dom 09 Ott 2022

This seems to be the right link. It works for me. You have to access with your Sapienza login and inroll (apparently). Let me know! 

https://classroom.google.com/c/Mjk1MjkxMjI5NDAz?hl=it&cjc=gxgara2

 

Recordings & Classroom
Gio 07 Ott 2021 Ven 07 Ott 2022

I am uploading the recordings of our Classes on October 5, 6, and 7. On Classroom. But I don't know how you can access it! I will look into this. But, anyway, it is comehow linked to our Meet link. See what you can do. 

This might be it!
Gio 07 Ott 2021 Ven 07 Ott 2022

https://classroom.google.com/c/Mjk1MjkxMjI5NDAz?hl=it&cjc=gxgara2

Uploading Handout 9
lun 29 Mar 2021 Gio 29 Mar 2029

Uploading Handout 9

Italiano

Sono nato a Roma nel 1948 e ho studiato all‘Università di Roma con Lucio Colletti. Sono professore ordinario dal 1987. Ho insegnato prima nell‘Università di Bari (Filosofia della storia) e poi, dal 1998, nell‘Università di Roma – La Sapienza, Antropologia filosofica e Filosofia teoretica. Nell‘autunno del 2006 sono stato visiting professor all‘Università del Michigan (Ann Arbor), nell‘inverno del 2007 sono stato fellow dell‘Italian Academy presso Columbia (New York). Ho tenuto talks e seminari in giro per il mondo.
In ambito teorico, mi sono occupato di filosofia politica, di filosofia della psicologia e delle emozioni, di fondamenti della razionalità pratica, di teoria dell‘azione e di teoria della conoscenza. In ambito di storia della filosofia, mi sono occupato di Hobbes, Rousseau, Hume, Locke.
Sto finendo di scrivere un libro su Hume e l'immaginazione. Ho in programma altri due lavori. Uno, di filosofia dell‘azione, propone una concezione realista, ispirata ad Aristotele, Frege e Anscombe, del contenuto e della normatività intrinseca delle azioni, delle cose che facciamo. L'altro, a cavallo fra metafisica generale e filosofia della mente, propone una revisione radicale del concetto di persona, di identita' personale, e di prima persona, lungo la linea di tensione fra una concezione aristotelica e una cartesiana di queste idee. Prima o poi scrivero' anche qualcosa di metaetica. Chi vivra', vedra'.
 


Inglese

 I was born in Rome in 1948. I was trained as a philosopher at the Università di Roma. Lucio Colletti was my advisor and my mentor. I have been a full professor of philosophy since dal 1987, first at the Università di Bari, then, from 1998 on, at the Università di Roma – La Sapienza. I have given courses (both at gradueate and undergraduate level) in moral and political philosophy, in the philosophy of mind, in the theory of knowledge, and in the philosophy of action.
 
I was visiting professor at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) in the Fall term of 2006 and a fellow of the Italian Academy at Columbia in the Winter term 2007. My research work has been mainly in political philosophy, in the philosophy of emotions, in the foundations of rational choice, in the philosophy of action. I also have interestes in the history of philosophy: I have done work on Hobbes, Rousseau, Hume, Locke.
 
I am sort of finishing writing a book on Hume's imaagination, focused on Book I of the Treatise. I have two ongoing projects. One is in the philosophy of action and attempts to provide a realist conception of the content and intrinsic normativity of actions, deeds, the things we do, along lines inspired to Aristotle, Frege, and Anscombe. The other straddles between general metaphysics and the philosophy of mind and attemps a deep revision of the concepts of person, personal identity and the first person, along the line of fracture between Aristotle and Descartes.
Sooner or later I will also do some work in metaethics. God helps! 


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