, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 53–71 | Cite as

First-Person Authority: Dualism, Constitutivism, and Neo-Expressivism

  • Dorit Bar-OnEmail author
Original article


What I call “Rorty’s Dilemma” has us caught between the Scylla of Cartesian Dualism and the Charybdis of eliminativism about the mental. Proper recognition of what is distinctively mental requires accommodating incorrigibility about our mental states, something Rorty thinks materialists cannot do. So we must either countenance mental states over and above physical states in our ontology, or else give up altogether on the mental as a distinct category. In section 2, “Materialist Introspectionism—Independence and Epistemic Authority”, I review reasons for being dissatisfied with materialist introspectionism as a way out of the dilemma. In section 3, “Constitutivism”, I outline two constitutivist alternatives to materialist introspectionism. In section 4, “A Neo-Expressivist View”, I offer my neo-expressivist view (defended in Bar-On, Speaking my mind: Expression and self-knowledge. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2004), according to which the distinctive status of mental self-ascriptions is to be explained by appeal to the expressive character of acts of issuing them (in speech or in thought). This view, I argue, allows us to stay clear of eliminativism without committing to Cartesian substance dualism, thereby offering a viable way of slipping between the horns of Rorty’s dilemma.


Mental State Natural Expression Epistemic Authority Ethical Sentence Cartesian Dualism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I wish to thank Matthew Boyle and Ted Parent, as well as two anonymous referees, for helpful comments on earlier drafts and to Ted Parent for much-appreciated editorial work. Earlier incarnations of the paper were presented at the “First-Person Authority” conference in Duisburg, Germany (Sept 2007), the Auburn University Colloquium (Oct 2007), and the “Self-Knowledge and the Self” conference in London, England (May 2008); I thank the audiences at these talks for helpful discussions. I have also benefited from written and oral exchanges with Quassim Cassam, Eric Marcus, Ram Neta, Jim Pryor, Sidney Shoemaker, and Keith Simmons.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentChapell HillUSA

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