Some kinds of thing are interpretive objects: instead of being unified by physical continuity, function, artifice, or social construction, they are unified by the best interpretation of what is there. In these lectures I will endeavor to convince you not only that there are such things, but that we find them in many places – that words, novels and philosophy journal articles, constitutional traditions, and even you and I, are in fact interpretive objects. Interpretive objects, I’ll ultimately argue, are where we find meaning.
Words are not the only kind of interpretive object. In this lecture I’ll argue that you and I are interpretive objects, because being a person is being a particular kind of interpretive object. I’ll show that this view has promising applications both for traditional questions about personal identity over time and for questions about where you are located in space, including whether you have parts that are not part of your biological body or your body has parts that are not parts of you. But I’ll argue that its chief motivations and greatest fruits lie in the work that it can do for making sense of the role of the self in concepts like attributability (truly yourself), authenticity (true to yourself), and autonomy (self-governance). And since persons are not just interpretive objects, but what I’ll call interpretive works-in-progress, we can also make sense of the role of choice in self-determination.