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The First Person and ‘The First Person’

Noonan, Harold


Professor of Mind and Cognition


Roger Teichmann


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.

Online Publication Date Aug 18, 2022
Publication Date Aug 18, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 24, 2022
Publicly Available Date Aug 19, 2024
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages 397-412
Book Title The Oxford handbook of Elizabeth Anscombe
Chapter Number 18
ISBN 9780190887353
Public URL
Publisher URL


This file is under embargo until Aug 19, 2024 due to copyright restrictions.

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