The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Thu Apr 14, 2011
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
Philosophy Colloquium
Beatrice Longuenesse (NYU)
Two uses of ‘I’ as subject?

Many philosophers have drawn comparisons between Wittgenstein’s distinction, in the Blue Book, between use of ’I’ “as subject“ and use of ’I’ “as object“ on the one hand; and Kant’s earlier distinction, in the Critique of Pure Reason, between consciousness of oneself “as subject“ and consciousness of oneself “as an object,“ on the other hand. I argue that there are indeed interesting connections between the two distinctions, but they do not exactly map. Kant’s “I think“ is an instance of use of ’I’ “as subject“ in Wittgenstein’s sense. But most of Wittgenstein’s examples of use of ’I’ as subject are expressions of consciousness of oneself as object, in Kant’s sense. Explaining this point brings to light the existence of two quite different uses of ’I’ as subject. And this in turn may shed light on the nature and import of first person thought. I conclude by offering an illustration drawn from clinical psychology: Oliver Sacks’ case study of the “disembodied lady.“