Descartes’ substance dualism can be plausibly seen as an ontological solution to epistemic puzzles surrounding the seemingly privileged, first-person access we have to our own minds. His is an attempt to answer the question: What must (or could) a Self be so that each of us could have the sort of privileged basic self-knowledge – knowledge of all (and only) our own present states of mind – that we appear to have?
I begin by juxtaposing two dilemmas concerning this question, which have informed my own treatment of “I” and of avowals (in 2004 and elsewhere). The first dilemma can be found in Elizabeth Anscombe (cf. “The First person”), the other is due to Richard Rorty (cf. “Incorrigibility as the Mark of the Mental”). After presenting the two dilemmas and disentangling various semantic and epistemological issues surrounding uses of “I” and first-person mental self-attributions (in Sections 2 and 3), I offer my preferred neo-expressivist approach to avoiding the dilemmas. I conclude with some comments on potential implications of neo-expressivism for our understanding of the metaphysical nature of mental states and the mental/nonmental divide.