In ‘The First Person’ Anscombe argues that ‘I’ is not a referring expression: ‘I’ is neither a name nor another kind of expression whose logical role is to make a reference, at all. Her no-reference thesis has met with general incredulity. This chapter examines Anscombe’s argument and concludes, with the majority of commentators, that she is wrong to maintain this thesis. ‘I’ is a referring expression and should be grouped specifically with the pure or automatic indexicals, including ‘here’ and ‘now.’ But it is a consequence that self-reference (i.e., the self-conscious and successful use of ‘I’) need not involve what she describes as ‘the connection of what is understood by a predicate with a distinctly conceived subject.’ That is, in intending to refer to themselves (to use ‘I’ in accordance with its customary meaning) speakers need not form an intention to refer to the such-and-such, when ‘such-and-such’ provides an identification of the speaker, which singles out the speaker from everything else. It is a further consequence that ‘I’ is not guaranteed a reference and that a thinker of an ‘I’-thought need not be the reference of the thought even if there is one. In arguing these points, the chapter follows Evans and will appeal to work by Snowdon and Lewis. To a considerable extent this vindicates Anscombe.
Noonan, H. (2022). The First Person and ‘The First Person’. In R. Teichmann (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of Elizabeth Anscombe (397-412). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190887353.013.25