Persons, Social Agency, and Constitution
Wilson (Robert)
Source: Paul, Miller & Paul - Personal Identity, 2005
Paper - Abstract

Paper SummaryNotes Citing this PaperText Colour-Conventions

Author’s Introduction

  1. In her recent book "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View" (hereafter PB), Lynne Rudder Baker has defended what she calls the constitution view of persons. On this view, persons are constituted by their bodies, where "constitution" is a ubiquitous, general metaphysical relation distinct from more familiar relations, such as identity and part-whole composition.
  2. The constitution view answers the question "What are we1?" in that it identifies something fundamental about the kind of creature we are. For Baker, we are fundamentally persons. Persons are not capable simply of having mental states, nor merely of having a first-person perspective, a subjective point of view. Rather, persons are creatures that can conceive of themselves as having (or, presumably, lacking) a perspective: they have an awareness of themselves as beings with a first-person perspective. This is what, extending Baker's terminology, we might call having a strong first-person perspective, and it is this capacity that demarcates persons from other kinds of things in the world (PB, 64). Persons thus stand in contrast with most if not all non-human animals, and our status as persons entails that we are not merely animals. Thus, the constitution view contrasts both with more standard psychological views of what is special about human beings (views that have their historical home in Cartesian dualism and in John Locke's discussion of personal identity in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding), as well as with animalist views, which hold that we are, fundamentally, animals.
  3. All of these views have implications for how we should think of diachronic identity – what it is that makes me today the same individual as I was yesterday or will be tomorrow. But Baker is concerned chiefly to defend the constitution view as an answer to the question "What am I2 most fundamentally?" I am a person; a person essentially has a (strong) first-person perspective and is related to her body constitutively. Thus, in contrast with classic dualism, the constitution view purports to be materialist. Yet in contrast with both “psychological” and “bodily” forms of materialism, the constitution view claims that we are neither simply psychological creatures, nor creatures identical with our bodies. Rather, we are a certain kind of psychological creature, one that is also embodied in (but not identical to) the material stuff of the body.
  1. Introduction
  2. Constitution: An Introduction
  3. The Constitution View: Some Elaboration
  4. Constitution and Pluralism
  5. Agency, the Mind, and Social Action
  6. The Constitution View and the Social Domain
  7. Collective Social Agents and the Constitution View
  8. Conclusion

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - April 2018. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page