Self-identification and self-reference

Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy 6 (1998)
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[1] To know who one is, and also know whether one's experiences really belong to oneself, do not normally present any problem. It nevertheless happens that people do not recognise themselves as they walk by a mirror or do not understand that they fit some particular description. But there are situations in which it really seems impossible to be wrong about oneself. Of that, Ludwig Wittgenstein once wrote: " It is possible that, say in an accident, I should feel pain in my arm, see a broken arm at my side, and think it is mine, when really it is my neighbour's. And I could, looking into a mirror, mistake a bump on his forehead for one on mine. On the other hand there is no question of recognising a person when I say I have toothache.... it is as impossible that in making the statement "I have toothache" I should have mistaken another person for myself, as it is to moan with pain by mistake, having mistaken someone else for me. " In the passage in which this remark is found, Wittgenstein distinguishes between two kinds of use of "I". The first use, as object, as in "I have broken my arm" or "The wind is blowing in my hair", he holds, involves the recognition of a particular person, and there is the possibility of error as concerns the identity of the person. In the other use, as subject, as in "I think it will rain" or "I am trying to lift my arm", no person is recognised. No mistake can be made about who the subject is



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Ingar Brinck
Lund University

References found in this work

The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Attitudes de dicto and de se.David Lewis - 1979 - Philosophical Review 88 (4):513-543.
The Varieties of Reference.Louise M. Antony - 1987 - Philosophical Review 96 (2):275.
Reference and definite descriptions.Keith S. Donnellan - 1966 - Philosophical Review 75 (3):281-304.

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