Colloquium Series

Colloquium: Rick Grush (UC San Diego)

Date Range
Fri April 28th 2023, 3:30 - 5:30pm
Bldg 90-92Q and via Zoom
Title: Someone discovered the use as subject of "I", but was it Wittgenstein?
Abstract: In the Blue Book Wittgenstein distinguished the use as subject of "I" (e.g. "I have a toothache") from its use as object (e.g. "I have a bump on my forehead"). And he suggests that the possibility of an error of identification is diagnostic. (Briefly, "Someone has a toothache, but is it me who has a toothache?" makes no sense, but "Someone has a bump on her forehead, but is it me who has a bump on her forehead?" makes perfect sense.) This phenomenon has of course been explored and developed by Shoemaker, Anscombe, and Evans. And it has also found a life of controversy in Kant scholarship. But despite the impact Wittgenstein's brief remarks have had, there there has been essentially no exploration of what prompted Wittgenstein here; no exploration of specifically what, if anything, was he responding to. I will show that there was a very specific line of exploration of the nature of self-awareness that began with Russell, and extended through McTaggart and Broad, and that Wittgenstein had this line of exploration in mind. The point is not of merely historical interest, but it allows us to direct new light on some recent controversies. I will touch briefly on only one, the question whether the 'use as subject' and Kant's 'I think' are or are not getting at the same phenomenon, and I will suggest that a fuller understanding of the background and point of the 'use as subject' shows it to be more closely connected to the relevant Kantian phenomena than some recent commentators have suggested.
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