Two uses of ‘i’ as subject?

Béatrice Longuenesse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction We inherit from Wittgenstein's Blue Book a distinction that Wittgenstein did not take up again in other writings but which subsequently acquired a life of its own: the distinction between use of ‘I’ “as subject” and use of ‘I’ “as object.” It is tempting to connect this distinction with one we inherit from Kant: the distinction between consciousness of oneself “as subject” and consciousness of oneself “as an object.” The connection between the two distinctions has played an important role in many recent analyses of the use of ‘I’ as subject as well as in recent interpretations of Kant's view. I agree that the connection is illuminating. Nevertheless, I will argue that the two distinctions do not exactly map. There is no question that the proposition “I think,” which, in Kant's analysis, is an expression of consciousness of oneself as subject, is, in the terms of the Blue Book and those of later analyses inspired by it, an instance of the use of ‘I’ as subject. But the converse is not true. Most of the examples of use of ‘I’ as subject we find both in the Blue Book and in subsequent literature are, in Kant's terms, expressions of consciousness of oneself as an object. Explaining why this is so helps bring to light the existence of two quite different uses of ‘I’ as subject. Both meet the criterion of “immunity to error through misidentification relative to the first person pronoun” by which Shoemaker, taking his inspiration from Wittgenstein's explanations in the Bue Book, defined the use of ‘I’ as subject. But they meet it for quite different reasons. Or so I shall argue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationImmunity to Error Through Misidentification
Subtitle of host publicationNew Essays
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781139043274
ISBN (Print)9780521198301
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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