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KOSTAS ESSAY ON THE PARADOX OF SELF CONSTITUTION

Introduction
In this essay I will attempt to characterize and clarify what is decisive for mans
actions. However in order make clear this point, at first sight it is very crucial to
explain the paradox of self constitution and secondly I will explain those aspects of
Korsgaards view which relate directly in the solution of the problem.
I will begin by declaring the view that self constitution is mainly referred to the
demonstration on how people could determine their own actions. This view is directly
related to one of Korsgaards crucial claims is that action is self-constitution. Thereby,
Korsgaard declares ones identity to be constituted by ones choices and actions (p.
19). For instance she is aware position, which she presents in the guise of the
paradox of self-constitution, namely that it is difficult to grasp how a person may
thus constitute his/her own identity if he/she does not yet exist as a fully fledged
agent. In other words, we can see that there is a circular causality that actions could
produce an agent and also that an agent could produce his actions (Korsgaard, 1999).
Following the previous considerations, Korsgaard holds the view that What makes an
action mine, in the special way that an action is mine, rather than something that just
happens in me? That it issues from my constitution, rather than from some force at
work within me; that it is expressive of a law I give to myself, rather than a law
imposed upon me from without (p. 160). Hence, it appears that the contrast is drawn
between ones own constitution and some force which is not crucial in the coming
about of an action. This is not very clarifying, since all that is said here is that an
action is mine if it is mine (Korsgaard, 1996).
Thereby, this passage suggests that this difficulty can be evaded not by identifying
with the constitution, but rather by taking it as something that belongs to oneself, such
as to use a somewhat trite simile, one (presumably) doesnt identify with ones
material possessions. Such an approach would, however, only add to the vagueness of
the self. In addition to them, the location of identity is not easily found and it seems to

be further eroded by her following notion that what counts as me, my incentives, my
reasons, my identity, depends on, rather than precedes, the kinds of choices that I
make (p. 199). Thus, we could defend the idea that if ones identity depends on ones
choices, there is no criterion for these choices to be made that would qualify as ones
own (Korsgaard, 1996).
In terms of wider implications, she tries to resolve this paradox by artificially
introducing a secondary notion of autonomy, which means that the agent is merely
governed by his/her own causality. However, this view appears as not satisfactory,
as this would again erode a notion, in this case that of autonomy, which would
become meaningless. At any rate, maintaining the previous idea to make it clear how
self-constitution should be considered to be action itself appears not to be fulfilled.
Nevertheless, one possible solution for this paradox could be related to an active
dynamic and systemic process between the actions and the agent (Korsgaard, 1999).
Thus, this kind of solution could be supported by previous Aristotelian view of living
things nature, because a living thing is engaged in a continuous activity of self
constitution. Thereby, it is plausible that a living thing could be considered as a thing
that is constantly making itself into itself. So, because a living thing seems to be
constituted in this process, it could be argued that the notion the paradox of selfconstitution could emerge. Nevertheless, the idea here is the process of selfconstitution which is the importance or the essence of life. Hence, is very possible that
paradox of self-constitution may be no paradox at all (Schechtman, 1996).
Although I find that the previous considerations provide a quite convincing argument
for this, there is a problem about the emptiness of self in some extent just as someone
could have no reason to do one thing than another. While, even someone can find
some specific reasons about his choices, there is also a problem about commitment.
The point here is how can someone be a true father, a true Muslim or a true Citizen, if
the relevant commitments are always up for question and open to choice? Thereby,
the self, should be not empty but rather determinate and full because it must take
certain identities and relationships as unquestionable law (Korsgaard, 1999).
Extending this previous claim we can see that there are also two problems with the
determinate self. In the first place, the determinate self is not free for its conduct,

because it is governed by a principle or a law which is not reasons own. Secondly, the
determinate self must in the end be unjust. More specifically, for tolerance the self
requires exactly that distance from our roles and relationships that the defenders of the
determinate self deplore (Schechtman, 1996).
Conclusion,
In conclusion, we could argue that endorsement of our identities, our self-constitution,
is a state rather than an activity. Hence, if self-constitution was a state, humans would
be stuck on the horns of this dilemma. Also, we must already have constituted
ourselves in which case the self would be full and determinate, or we must not have
done so yet in which case the self would be empty. However, I will now defend the
view that we dont have to choose between these two options, because self
constitution is not a state that we achieve and from which action then issues.

References
Korsgaard, Ch. M. (1999). Self-Constitution in the Ethics of Plato and Kant. The
journal of Ethics, 3, 1-29.
Korsgaard, Ch. M. (1996). The Sources of Normativity, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Schechtman, M. (1996). The Constitution of Selves, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.