Self-directed and self-evaluative attitudes are often connected to one’s social position. Before investigating the dependence relations between individual self-evaluation and social positioning, however, there is a prior question to answer: What are the conditions under which an individual can have any self-directed attitudes at all? In order to be the subject of self-directed or self-evaluative attitudes, I shall argue, an individual must have linguistic and social relations. I’ll discuss the first-person perspective1, self-concepts and their acquisition — all from a radically non-Cartesian, externalist point of view. This paper will combine my work on first-person perspectives2 with my work on “content externalism” in the philosophy of mind in order to understand how someone can have self-directed attitudes at all.
- Having self-directed attitudes — attitudes about oneself — is a precondition for making any individual self-evaluation. Self-directed attitudes and self-evaluative attitudes — such as self-love, self-esteem and self-loathing — “are [in the words of our organizers] often closely tied to the position one occupies within a network of social relations.” Quite so. But before investigating the particular dependence relations between individual self-evaluation and social positioning, there is a prior question to answer: What are the conditions under which an individual can have any self-directed attitudes at all? That is the question that I want to address here. Then, I want to draw a moral about what it is to be a human person.
- In order to be the subject of self-directed or self-evaluative attitudes, I shall argue, an individual must have linguistic and social relations. Some self-directed attitudes obviously require the subject to have linguistic and social relations. For example, pride in one’s class rank requires comparison between oneself and others (as well as having the concept class rank.) By contrast, other attitudes of self-satisfaction (such as one’s self-satisfaction in sticking to a healthful diet) do not obviously require one to have linguistic and social relations. However — as I shall argue — obvious or not, self-satisfaction in anything (even in having a healthful diet) does require that one have linguistic and social relations in a less specific way. Indeed, anyone who has any self-directed attitudes has linguistic and social relations.
- All self-directed attitudes are reflexive in that their object is always the person who has the attitude. But some self-directed attitudes are individuated not only by object (the person who has the attitude) but also by content. What makes pride in one’s class rank and pride in one’s social standing different attitudes is that they have different contents. Other self-directed attitudes, such as narcissism and self-esteem, do not seem to require such specific content. But, as I said, my aim here is to show that every self-directed or self-evaluative attitude requires that its subject have linguistic and social relations — regardless of whether or not the attitude is individuated by specific content (like pride in one’s social standing) or is more generalized (like narcissism) and regardless of whether or not the attitude is tied to the position that the subject occupies within a network of social relations.
Footnote 3: The text was continuous with the above paragraph, but – because of the repetition – I’ve assumed this division is the correct.
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