The First Person (pages 23-38)

James Cargile

ABSTRACT: Many languages have a first person singular subject pronoun (‘I’ in English). Fewer also have a first person singular object pronoun (‘me’ in English). The term ‘I’ is commonly used to refer to the person using the term. It has a variety of other uses. A normal person is able to refer to theirself and think about their self and this is of course an important feature of being a person. For any person x, no one other than x can possibly think about x and by that alone, qualify as thinking about theirself. Perhaps this is special. However, there is a strong tendency to conflate this important capacity with capacities of grammar, such as thinking first person thoughts or ‘I thoughts.’ This leads to attempts to establish necessary truths about persons on the basis of rules of grammar which are not logically necessary. Thinking about oneself does not logically require a first person linguistic capacity. This essay is criticizing various tendencies to overlook this.

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