It is one of the most common things for us to think and talk about ourselves. We refer to ourselves when we describe our past, present, or future, and when we report our own physiological or psychological states. In this philosophical research project, we investigate self-ascriptions of mental states, utterances such as “I wish that the sun were shining,” “I believe that it is raining,” and “I am in pain.” More specifically, we explore Psychological Expressivism, i.e., the thesis that such utterances are, typically, psychological expressives: rather than being assertions about the speaker and his or her mental states, they express these states.
While the basic idea of psychological expressivism has a venerable history, e.g., in Wittgenstein’s later writings, there is no systematic exposition of the theory. One major purpose of the project is to fill this gap and embed psychological expressivism in a general theory of expressive acts. In addition, the idea that mental states are expressed, rather than described, by avowals also promises novel insights into important philosophical debates involving first-person reference. For instance, we apply the theory of psychological expressivism to the problem of self-knowledge and to a number of puzzle cases such as Evans’ Transparency and Wittgenstein’s two uses of “I”; we also examine the possibilities and consequences of expressivist analyses of Kant’s “I think” and of Descartes’ Cogito.