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Understanding the Social Constitution of the Human Individual

Koo, Jo-Jo (2011) Understanding the Social Constitution of the Human Individual. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Despite a growing appreciation in recent decades for the significance of the social in many areas of philosophy, most philosophers today have not adequately examined their assumptions about how human beings are fundamentally social, in particular, how they are socially constituted. This dissertation argues that the human individual is socially constituted because her very capacity to be a self and agent must draw on a shared public understanding of the interwoven practices, norms, and roles that enables her to exercise this capacity in general. In Part I of the dissertation, I explicate and adopt Philip Pettit's suggestion about how to define the thesis of the social constitution of the individual and the general form that the argument for this thesis should take, even though I find Pettit's own argument for this thesis to be wanting. I then consider how Martin Heidegger's conception of human social existence in Being and Time - when properly understood - can significantly improve Pettit's argument. I elaborate and defend the view that the human individual is socially constituted because she always initially and mostly shares a public understanding of the world, including of herself and her relations with others, that is (in the first instance) normalized. In Part II of the dissertation, I make explicit and criticize the dominant understanding of human sociality in many strands of contemporary philosophy. This understanding assumes (roughly speaking) that the fundamental or primary way in which human beings are social consists in modes of interpersonal interactions (IPIA). I critically engage three varieties of IPIA in contemporary philosophy: (1) prominent theories of collective intentionality; (2) Donald Davidson's conception of social interaction in successful linguistic communication and of triangulation as a necessary condition of the objectivity of thought; and (3) accounts of normativity that stem from standard communalist readings of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. I argue that these versions of IPIA are problematic not only in their own terms, but also inadequate precisely because they fail to take into account the social constitution of the individual.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcDowell, Johnjmcdowel@pitt.eduJMCDOWEL
Committee MemberThompson,
Committee MemberBrandom, Robertrbrandom@pitt.eduRBRANDOM
Committee MemberSchatzki,
Date: 28 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 10 August 2011
Approval Date: 28 September 2011
Submission Date: 19 August 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: collective intentionality; Davidson; Heidegger; Pettit; social ontology; Wittgenstein
Other ID:, etd-08192011-105521
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:00
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:49


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