Re-reading Anscombe on 'I'
Robert Stainton (University of Western Ontario)

September 28, 2018, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Department of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario

University College 2105
1151 Richmond Street


According to a certain “Straight Reading” of Elizabeth Anscombe’s “The First Person”, she holds a Radically Non-Referring view of ‘I’. Specifically, ‘I’ is analogized to the expletive ‘it’ in ‘It’s raining’. I argue that this is not her position. Her substantive view on ‘I’, rather, is that if what you mean by ‘referring term’ is a certain rich and recherché Frege-inspired notion, then ‘I’ is not one. Her methodological point is that one shouldn’t be bewitched by language into thinking that ‘I’, because of its syntax and logical role, must exhibit “reference” in this sense. Anscombe uses this insight to defang a neo-Cartesian semantic argument for dualism, itself based on an alleged Frege-style sense for ‘I’.

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