History of European Ideas 28 (1-2):51-75 (2002)

An analysis of Mark Bevir's account of the role of language and tradition on the one hand, and the individual on the other in the generation of ideas, and proposal of an alternative account It endorses Bevir's project of finding a middle way between individualism and collectivism, but finds that Bevir exaggerates the role of the individual. It argues that human selves always remains dependent on language even to articulate their own intentions to themselves. Whilst they have a capacity to create new linguistic expressions, this is always limited to the exploration of possibilities already latent in the language. However, no one is a mere recipient and conduit of a given language: everyone hands it on transformed by their unique appropriation of it. The antifoundationalist analyses of Wittgenstein, Newman Collingwood, and Neurath are invoked to argue that this state of affairs also applies to the individual's relation to the beliefs and values inherited traditionally: there is no possibility of a wholesale rejection of what is received; no individual can reject all received traditions, and erect an entire belief structure from scratch, but can only modify it on a piecemeal basis, so that received tradition always remains constitutive of the individual mind. It is also argued that human self-consciousness is always socially formed, and no person ever completely integrated, and stabilized. No one is ever therefore in a state of complete self-possession. One therefore must reject Bevir's claim that the historian of ideas must initially presume that individuals are sincere, conscious and rational in their expressed beliefs: ‘sincere’ self-consciousness is an ideal never fully achieved, and beliefs as to what constitutes ‘rationality’ are so varied that specific presumptions cannot be made
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DOI 10.1016/S0191-6599(02)00008-6
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Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry Frankfurt - 2004 - In Tim Crane & Katalin Farkas (eds.), Metaphysics: A Guide and Anthology. Oxford University Press.

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