Logics of Selfhood


Why is it that you are disappointed when you order fish and chips but receive a coke-float instead? The cause of your disappointment is the receipt of the wrong item but the reason you’re disappointed is that you thought: “If I order fish and chips then I must receive fish and chips.” Why might you have such a queer idea? Do you also think if you mustn’t receive fish and chips then you do not order fish and chips? You might. If you didn’t, then you wouldn’t think you must receive fish and chips if you order fish and chips; and, so, you would have neither cause nor reason to be disappointed. Thus, prima facie, it appears you have very elaborate ideas about what else must happen if anything does at all. You have an implicit belief architecture comprised of implicit axiom and rule schemes, whose instances, jointly or singly, determine what you think you say and do when you think you say and do anything. You are a logic. But, which logic? It depends on who you are, and what it is to be yourself.


The self is a house of many mansions. In biology, the self is the locus of individuating differentia: anatomic borders, harmonious communication between organs, hierarchical systems of dominance and control, and division of labour between parts that distinguish it from other organisms. In immunological terms, it is the privileged recipient of protection and beneficiary of concinnity. In an economic idiom, the self is an agent willing [and able] to supply [demand] a specified amount of some good in exchange for a specified amount of another. Self-determination theory identifies the self as an endowment of autonomy, competence, and relatedness in service of a cluster of goals, which may be externally or internally motivated. In daily life, the self is a token of account for commitments and entitlements attributed to it by others.


Although these disparate accounts of what it is to be a self are replete with uniquely salient details, their compossible elements cohere to furnish a rich picture of selfhood. The biological notion of selfhood is minimally relevant to self-definition, and so to the present inquiry. However, the immunological, economic, psychological, and practical notions of selfhood are of obvious interest. Specifically, the expanded vocabulary and theoretical constraints and affordances afforded by the combination of the compatible aspects of immunological, economic, psychological, and practical notions of selfhood furnish a more nuanced way to conceive of selves than provided by blind intuition, or any single disciplinary orientation.

Loosely speaking, an expanded vocabulary of the sort alluded to can be fleshed out by bringing the keystone concepts of each disciplinary account into interaction with the others. Social selves attribute to each other deontic statuses which settle or change matters of fact about who is entitled or committed to say what about themselves, others, or anything. Economic selves transact with each other to maximize the receipt of goods they value most in exchange for goods they values less. Psychological selves manage their endogenous budget of constraints and affordances to detect, appraise, pursue, or abandon autonomy, competence, and relatedness maximising goals-by selecting and executing tasks associated with goal attainment or abandonment. Thus, we may use the notion of immune selves as an organising principle around which assessments of the performances of other self-conceptions are normed.

Immune selves in such an expanded sense might be thought to protect economic selves from hazardous transactions and mismanagement, while promoting informed market participation. Analogously, they might be thought to protect social selves from the immediate and distal consequences of others’ negative deontic status attributions. The performances of immune selves, then, would be subject to assessment with respect to their influence on selves’ economic and social well-being. Obviously, not just immune selves but any other coherent self-conceptions are apt for duty as organising principles, or fixed points, for further theorising, and promise differentially individuated patterns of insight into the hydra-headed phenomenon that is selfhood.


In subsequent posts this blog will bring psychology, economics, management science, and classical and non-classical logic, into conversation on matters salient to informed self-management. The purpose of these inquiries is to understand functional aspects of selfhood as manifested in agenda setting, goal identification, and, task selection and execution behaviours with a view to managing oneself better.


Brandom, R. (1994). Making it Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment. New York, NY: Harvard University Press.

Gagné, M. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Work Engagement, Motivation, and Self-Determination Theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Gabbay, Dov, M., Gerbrandy, J., & Mineur, A-M. (1994). I am a Logic. < http://icr.uni.lu/Gabbay_interview.html >.

Mankiw, G. (2011). Principles of Economics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Cengage Learning.

Tauber, A. (2015). The Biological Notion of Self and Non-self. Updated: May 21, 2015. Retrieved: November 27, 2016. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/biology-self/ >.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s