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Vietnamese mode of self-reference: A model of Buddhist egology

by Steven W. Laycock

Asian Philosophy, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1994, Pp.53-70

ABSTRACT- Buddhist egology concurs with the Husserlian claim that the empirical ego is 'constituted'. The Buddhist 'deconstruction' of the ego will not, however, pace Husserl, permit the pronoun 'I' to refer to a purported extra-linguistic entity. The insights here distilled from the unique mode of self-reference functional within the Vietnamese language secure for us an unmistakable confirmation of the Buddhist thesis and have profound consequences for the philosophical problems surrounding the existence and nature of the self and the existence of other minds.

To my knowledge, the Vietnamese language is utterly unique among languages in its mode of self-reference. I wish to explore self-reference in Vietnamese, but neither for its intrinsic linguistic interest alone, nor solely for the sake of illuminating a significant aspect of a rich cultural heritage. The mode of self-reference operative within the Vietnamese language has a decidedly philosophical import, and can be generalised to extend our contemporary understanding of self-reference. Moreover, as I hope to "how, the Vietnamese-or more generally, a Vietnamese-like-use of self-reference may have profound consequences for the philosophical problems surrounding the existence and nature of the self and the existence of other minds. In particular, the insights which we shall glean from our investigation of self-reference in Vietnamese will secure for us a clear and solid confirmation of the Husserlian doctrine that the empirical ego does not by any means comprise an ultimately founding stratum of sense, but is itself 'constituted' (functions, that is, as the selfsame identity revealed throughout a potentially endless manifold of profiles). [1] This confirmation can be purchased, however, only at the expense of rejecting certain early reflections of Husserl's regarding the logico-linguistic function of 'I'. We shall see, pace Husserl, that 'I' cannot serve as a referring expression. But this surface disagreement permits a more profound agreement of substance. It is precisely because 'I' does not refer to a purported extra-linguistic 'ego' that we can draw from Vietnamese the appropriate confirmation of its constituted character.

For Husserl, the empirical ego, the 'I' which we take, pre-reflectively and naively, to be immersed in the world alongside the objects which it confronts, [2] is, of course, phenomenal. But though I welcome certain aspects of Husserl's theory of ego-constitution, my own Buddhist predilections prevent acceptance of this phenomenon as benefundata, as founded, that is, in a unitary and basal stratum of lived subjectivity. [3] For at least a significant strand of Buddhist thought, the ego is 'empty', not merely 'constituted', but ontologically dependent upon an array of conditions external to itself. Its very being is 'borrowed', as it were, from these conditions, and there remains to it nothing which is properly 'its own'. There remains, that is, no 'own-being' (svabhava), no self-existence. [4] With only apparent paradox, we can say that the self 'itself' has no 'self'. Buddhist egology (or 'anti-egology' if you prefer) is vitally concerned to 'deconstruct' any notion of a unitary, language-independent self or ego (atman) which subtends or directs the flow of our conscious life. And while the Vietnamese language predates the reception of Buddhism, and cannot, then, be said to exhibit, in its structure, a pre-existing (anti-)egology, it is all the more remarkable, as I hope to demonstrate, that the Vietnamese mode of self-reference mirrors this deconstruction. The Buddha did not, of course, speak Vietnamese. And it would be hopelessly arrogant (if not irrepressibly comical) to suppose that the profound message of egolessness (Pali: anatta; sanskrit: anatman) could only be formulated in a language which the Tathagata did not speak. English, Pali and Vietnamese are equally efficient vehicles for expressing the ontology of egolessness. The uniqueness of Vietnamese lies, not in its capacity to articulate Buddhist doctrine, not, that is, in what it can say, but in the fact that egolessness is reflected in the semantic conditions for its 'saying' anything at all.

Vietnamese Self-Referential Pronouns

Remarkably, there is no self-referential expression in Vietnamese (no 'V-expression', as I shall affectionately call them) which can be translated (into English), without serious distortion, as 'I'. This is because, whereas the English pronoun, 'I' (along with its counterparts in the various Indo-European languages) is, as we might say, 'transcontextually invariant', the numerous self-referential expressions of Vietnamese depend, for the semantic correctness of their application, upon features of the context of utterance other than those determined by the English 'I'.

In Corless' priceless quip, "Descartes said, 'I think therefore I am,' but Buddhism replies, 'Think again.'" [5] Following the Buddhist advice, let us begin this rethinking by considering the Vietnamese counterparts of the Cartesian cogito. Each of the Vietnamese sentences,

Bo suy-nghi (spoken by a father)
Me suy-nghi (spoken by a mother)
Con suy-nghi (spoken by a child)
Anh suy-nghi (spoken by an elder brother)
Chi suy-nghi (spoken by an elder sister)
Em suy-nghi (spoken by a younger sibling)

in company with numerous similar variants, has its counterpart either in the English sentence, 'I think (am thinking)' or in 'You think (are thinking)', depending upon whether the first word of the sentence is used to refer to the speaker or to the person addressed. The word 'suy-nghi', (think) offers little resistance to translation. The words 'bo', 'me', 'anh', 'chi', 'em', etc., are particularly recalcitrant. Each is used self-referentially by the present speaker. Thus, each has its counterpart in the English 'I'. Yet each 'refers' [6] to the present speaker only within a certain delimited context in which speaker and interlocutor stand in a given familial relation.

This, of course, contrast vividly with the impoverished English 'I', which may be employed self-referentially with no more knowledge of the speaker's relationship to the person addressed than that the person addressed is, indeed, the person addressed. 'I' has a use in soliloquy, and may, it might be claimed, be gainfully employed even by the most rigorous of solipsists (were any extant). In Vietnamese, on the contrary, the self-referential use of 'me' by a child in addressing a parent is not merely an insufferable breach of etiquette, but a violation of semantic proprieties as well. While it is not a condition of the truth of a sentence such as 'me suy-nghi' (very roughly: 'I-as-your mother think') that the speaker is the addressee's mother, it is, as we shall see, an entailment of its use.

The Vietnamese language displays within its system of self-reference and address (loi xung-ho) a profoundly Confucian influence. For every type of familial relation which figures significantly in the Confucian scheme of things (e.g. being-the-father-of, being-the-mother-of, being-the-elder-brother-of, being-the-elder-sister-of, etc.), and its converse (being-a-child-of, being-a-younger-sibling-of, etc.), there exists a unique pair of self-referential/addressive expressions.

Nozick's unlikely "child who thinks his name is 'I'" [7] might, were he or she sufficiently precocious, take part in the following dialogue:

A: I'm thinking about the Cartesian cogito.

B: (the child): What makes you think I'm thinking about the cogito? I'm doing no such thing!

V-expressions are not, of course, proper names. [8] But our brief dialogue equally illustrates a principle which does govern the use of V-expressions: If speaker A uses a given V-expression for self-reference within a particular dialogical context, B cannot use the same V-expression for self-reference within that context (and conversely). One could imagine a comic variant of English purged of the second-personal pronoun, 'you', and employing 'I' to serve double duty as both a first-and a second-personal pronoun. We need go no farther than 'I love I' to appreciate the abundant confusions which such an 'English' would engender. Vietnamese first- and second-personal pronouns can, as in this fanciful variant of English, be used to refer to the speaker of the particular sentence in which they are embedded, as well as to the individual to whom the sentence is addressed. This, of course, stands in sharp contrast to the English 'I' which never refers--indeed, cannot refer--to anyone but the present speaker (or writer). Vietnamese escapes the perplexities caused by the employment of the same expression for both first-and second-personal reference, not by dividing personal pronouns into those used for first-, second-, and third-personal reference (as does English), but by prohibiting participants in a given dialogue from using the same self-referential expression and sorting personal pronouns into speaker/addressee pairs. Thus, for example, a mother speaking to one of her children would refer to herself by using 'me' (or one of several alternatives: 'ma', 'me', etc.) and would refer to the child by using 'con'. Symmetrically, the child would use 'con' for self-reference, and 'me' (etc.) to refer to the mother. Thus, the ordered pairs (me, con) and (con, me) determine unique familial relations. [9]

Accuracy demands some qualification of the claims thus far put forward. It might reasonably be suggested that Vietnamese does, in fact, contain several self-referential expressions (such as 'toi', 'ta' and 'minh') which offer considerably less resistance to straightforward translation as 'I', which do not imply that a given familial relation obtains between speaker and the person addressed, and which have an appropriate use within monologue and private musing. Indeed, the English 'I', employed within a wide range of contexts, is almost invariably rendered in Vietnamese as 'toi', and the two words thus seem, in some respects, likely candidates for synonymy. However, self-referential expressions such as 'toi', 'ta' and 'minh', while promising in the ways noted, nonetheless lack the crucial property of transcontextual invariance. 'Toi', for example, was originally used self-referentially by a subject in addressing the king. [10] Similarly, 'ta', suggesting a 'royal' plurality, is used by a superior in addressing an inferior. While the correct use of such expressions does not imply that the speaker bears a given familial relation to the person addressed, it does bear the implication that the speaker is not related to the person addressed via familial bonds. Thus, since there are contexts in which such expressions cannot be appropriately used in self-reference, they are not transcontextually invariant, and cannot be translated, without serious distortion, as 'I'.

There are, moreover, expressions in Viemamese signifying 'self' - 'ban-nga' usually translates 'ego' or the Vedantic 'atman'; 'vo-ban-nga' translates the Buddhist 'egolessness'--but nothing which corresponds precisely to 'myself'. Letting 'v' vary over V-expressions, the closest we can get to a literal translation of 'myself' into Viemamese is either 'chinh v' ('the very v'or 'v itself') or 'ban-nga cua v' ('the self of v'). But then there are as many senses of 'myself' in Viemamese as there are V-expressions.

The 'Reference' of Self-Reference

There is, it seems, no more fundamental epistemic principle governing analysis in general, and the analysis of self-referential expressions in particular, than that which demands that, in knowing the analysans, I thereby know precisely what I know in knowing the original pre-analytic analysandum. If:

(1) A am thinking is the correct analysis of (2) I am thinking (where 'A' represents an expression introduced by the analysis to replace 'I'), then surely, in knowing that (1), I thereby know that (2), and conversely. If not, (1) cannot be a correct analysis. However, the substitution of a referential term or phrase of any type whatever for 'A' in (1) will, I submit, cause the analysis straightforwardly to fail the epistemic exam.

On this issue, if not on others, I firmly endorse Zemach's pellucid argument:

Reference can be achieved by descriptions, names, or demonstratives. A purely qualitative definite description will never do, since one may fail to believe it applies to the object it denotes. It may also fail the uniqueness condition, and denote nothing. A name will not do either: although it may refer to the right object, the believer may not know, or forget, what this name denotes. An indexical will not do at all: although a semantic rule may determine its reference, the believer may not know this rule or confuse it with another. [11]

A somewhat livelier and certainly more concrete appreciation of the non-referential character of (purportedly) self-'referential' expressions may be elicited by reflection upon the imaginary tragedy which Nozick describes:

Imagine that you and two other persons have been in an accident and are lying completely bandaged on three beds in a hospital, all suffering from amnesia. The doctor comes in and tells what has happened, that examinations have been made, and that (where the three persons boringly are named X, Y and Z) person X will live, Y will die, and Z has a 50/50 chance. [12]

Clearly, as this sombre scenario illustrates, self-reference cannot be achieved in virtue of a definite description.

The situation is not helped if the doctor gives the full life histories of each of the three. Nor are you helped if she says the person closest to the window will live, to the door will die, for being completely bandaged, you still do not know which of these people you are. [13]

Nor is a proper name of any avail. "Since you are suffering from amnesia you do not remember your own name, so there is something important you don't know yet, namely what is going to happen to you." [14] Nor, finally, perhaps most surprisingly and most poignantly for our own present purposes, can self-reference be accomplished by means of a demonstrative or indexical expression. "It will not help if the doctor points you out and says 'here is what is going to happen to you'; for you won't know she pointed to you." [15] As Nozick ruminates, "it seems we each must have a kind of access to ourselves which is not via a term or referring expression, not via knowing that a term holds true (of something or other)." [16] 'I' cannot, then, function as a description, name, or, crucially, as an indexical. In short, 'I' cannot function referentially. [17]

The case at issue is, of course, Husserl's insistence that the word 'I' is an 'essentially occasional' expression, an indexical, referring to a given individual in virtue of certain information embedded in the context of utterance present on the 'occasion' of its utterance. In the Logical Investigations, the indexical, 'I', is governed by a semantic rule (or 'role', as Perry would have it [18]), the latter conceived as a function from occasional context to referent. Much later, in the Fonnal and Transcendental Logic, we learn that the 'occasion' of dialogue offers sufficient 'cues' to pin an indexical's reference to a particular individual. The later work offers a theory of 'constituting horizon-intentionality' which 'essentially determines the sense of occasional judgments-always, and far beyond what at any time is, or can be, said expressly and determinately in the words themselves'. [19] Indexicals refer, of necessity, only to items within the horizon of consciousness. Indexical reference to a given 'text' is specified by features of context. And the indexical reference to such contextual features may require, in turn, specification by features of a more encompassing context. The final fixation of indexical reference seems, thus, to be rooted in the pre-articulate fringe of intelligible richness delimited by the outermost context of conscious reference: the 'world-horizon'.

The precise specification of how the indexical 'I' functions attends, however, the recognition that, for Husserl, 'I' is a referring expression. And this, we have seen, is simply unacceptable. And, again, 'although a semantic rule may determine its reference, the believer may not know this rule or confuse it with another'. On the basis of no sentence of the form 'A am thinking', may I be said thereby to know that I am thinking. I must know significantly more than 'A am thinking' in order legitimately to infer that I am thinking (namely, that, given the present context, 'A' refers to me). And this, quite patently, I may, for whatever reason, fail to know while still knowing that I am thinking.

The Presentation of the Ego

Husserl finds that although self-reference is achieved by the individual ego, its expression is universally comprehensible, and thus distinguishes between the 'universal semantic function' [20] of the indexical, 'I', and the individual to whom it refers on any particular occasion, between its anzeigende Bedeutung and its angezeigte Bedeutung, [21] or again, as Tyler Burge would have it, between the 'sense' of the indexical and its (linguistic) 'meaning'. [22]

This segregation of the 'sense' and the 'reference' of 'I' is, of course, powerfully reminiscent of Frege's parallel distinction. It is not surprising, therefore, that Husserl also echoes Frege's view that the unique sense of 'I' is utterly incommunicable. [23] The 'echo', however, is not a straightforward reproduction. For it is vital to see that, in place of Frege's notion of the unique 'sense' that 'I' has for a given individual, Husserl substitutes the notion of a unique 'I-presentation': "Each man has his own I-presentation (and with it his individual notion of I)." [24] The language suggests that, whatever an 'I-presentation' might be, it may be accompanied by, but is not entailed by, a unique 'I-sense'. Thus, Husserl claims that the indexical, 'I', "has not itself directly the power to arouse the specific I-presentation". [25] As Mohanty speculates, it may well be that Husserl intends, by 'I-presentation', "an unvarying, non-conceptual, inarticulate self-understanding". [26] And perhaps, indeed, some such pre-conceptual self-understanding is precisely what Husserl means by 'individual notion of I'. If I might carry the speculation forward yet another small step, perhaps, despite Husserl's untoward commitment to the doctrine that 'I' is an indexical, and thus, a referring expression, one might envision Husserl as labouring to articulate, within the most useful logico-linguistic framework available to him, the insight that self-reference, while linguistically expressible, is itself pre-linguistic. And thus, perhaps, the pre-articulate self-understanding, the 'I-presentation' of which Husserl speaks, is best understood precisely as the self itself revealed in self-referential sentence. [27] ' is not a referring expression, we part company at precisely that corner at which his view is most saliently akin to that of Husserl. Zemach takes his cue from Strawson's discussion, in 'On Referring', of the sign, posted at a particularly ill-supported bridge, reading 'Unsafe for Lorries'. For both Strawson and Zemach it is the bridge itself, not some submerged linguistic item referring to it, which is the subject of this apparently truncated sentence. "The entity of which the referential part of the sentence is predicated is present in the sentence, so to speak, 'in person'. The grammatical subject of this sentence is the bridge itself." [28] A sentence of this sort, in which the subject is 'displayed', not 'referred to', is not inappropriately termed by Zemach a 'display sentence'. Self-referential sentences are display sentences. 'I' is either semantically pleonastic or functions merely to mark the pre-linguistic presence of the self to itself. The self is, then, a self-referential 'mental term' [29] which, as it were, displays itself to itself. [30] It is, more specifically, a 'mental description' which picks itself out. [31] Like 'Unsafe for Lorries', '[I] am thinking' displays its subject. The self (itself) is the very subject of the sentence. [32] And Zemach records a remarkable virtue of this ploy: "Display propositions cannot be erroneously believed, or disbelieved, due to misidentification of the subject." [33]

It is striking to find among the lucid and penetrating insights of the Neo-Vedantist, K. C. Bhattacharyya, commitments which run parallel to that of Zemach. And it is important to note that Buddhist 'anti-egology' grows in, but grows, nonetheless, from, the rich humus of accumulated insights represented by Bhattacharyya's remarks. For Bhattacharyya,

The "I" is not unmeanable nor is it meant-meant even as unmeanable ... Meaning is the thinnest presentation of the object, as existing apart from introspection. I has no meaning in this sense: it has not even the meaning of being unmeant or unmeanable... [34]

And we find here a distinctive resonance with the Husserlian notion of 'an unvarying, non-conceptual, inarticulate self-understanding': an introspective 'I-presentation'. Indeed, the word 'I' does not refer to the self, but rather expresses the self's qown reference to itself "The word", Bhattacharyya tells us, "has a meaning function but not a meaning: it is the expression of introspection or what may be called the I-function." [35] And remarkably akin to Zemach's self-referential 'mental term' is Bhattacharyya's understanding of the use of 'a word like I': "... which is like a pointing gesture at once self-evidencing and self-evident. My self-consciousness is not the understanding of the meaning of the word I: the word only reveals it to another." [36] Indeed, "The word may be said at once to symbolize and to be symbolized by my introspective self.... I, the speaker, symbolize it by myself or in a sense ... incarnate myself in it." [37]

One should expect, then, assuming the cogency of the Zemach/Bhattacharyya rendering, that precisely the same considerations would apply in the case of V-expressions. The replacement of a given V-expression by a description, name, or indexical straightforwardly violates our fundamental epistemic condition. Yet if '[me] suy-nghi, is, as the Zemachian-Bhattacharyyan analysis would have it, a display sentence, it cannot be the self which is displayed. For we would then have no way of distinguishing the two propositions, 'I am thinking' and 'me suy-nghi.' Whatever might be displayed in the Vietnamese sentence must be able to account for the fact that 'me suy-nghi, presupposes, as a condition of assertability that, if speaking candidly, the speaker believes herself to be the mother of the interlocutor, while 'I am thinking' is not supported by this condition. Does 'Me suy-nghi' display, then, the fact (or state-of-affairs) represented by this statement-condition? This, of course, will not do. It is not a fact, but a concrete individual person, who is thinking. Perhaps a more reasonable response to this quandary would be to suggest that what is displayed is not the-self's-being-your-mother (the fact), but rather the-self-as-your-mother. In vivid contrast to their English cousin, the statement-conditions presupposed by the Vietnamese mode of self-reference would seem to assume an ontology of 'ego-profiles', each revealing the self in one of its relational aspects. [38]

Yet again, Vietnamese has no pronoun which could represent the display of the ego itself in self-referential sentences. And it may therefore seem implausible that a Vietnamese ontology of self-reference could, by itself, accommodate the Husserlian insight that ego-profiles are the various manners in which a single ego exhibits itself to itself. And lacking any pronoun which could represent the ego simpliciter, the only sense of 'ego' accessible to speakers of Vietnamese might seem to be that of a mere collection, a mere bundle, of ego-profiles. The self appears to fragment into a multiplicity of externally related shards. [39] But in fact the typical Vietnamese has no difficulty at all in recognising the identity of a single self as given through the manifold of disparate ego-profiles. The-self-as-your-mother and the-self-as-your-child are not experienced as distinct selves, but as disparate modes of presentation of a single self. The unity of all is a unity present in each. Vietnamese stands in no need of a self-referential expression representing this unity as such, for the unity as such is an internal component of each ego-profile. The English 'I' (or Husserl's 'Ich') is lamentably impoverished. An ontology of ego-profiles entails an ontology of the ego, but the converse does not hold. The Vietnamese self-referential ontology thus enjoys a richness of content which vastly exceeds that of English.

Vietnamese does not allow a direct and undifferentiated access to the self, but requires rather that the self itself be variously presentable to itself. The Vietnamese ontology of self-reference features a type of self-referential act which is essentially 'mediated'. A significant footnote of Husserl's logical Investigations advances the insight that the self (ego) is as much an instance of transcendence as a table or a chair. [40] For Husserl, the empirical ego is a 'pole' of reflexive intentional reference, an 'object' (or objectivity), that is, constituted as an identity across a manifold of alternative manners of appearing. Yet though the Vietnamese language provides powerful confirmation of a certain egological unity laced through the manifold manners of its appearing, it is not clear that the pole-model of transcendence is adequate to account for it. The 'pole', stolid, uncompromised, indifferent to its modes of appearing, is an ideal candidate as a purported referent for the transcontextually invariant 'I'. I submit, however, that the unitary sense of self enjoyed by Vietnamese, no less than by speakers of English, cannot be accounted for by a 'maypole' which tethers the coloured streamers of alternative ego-appearances. Nor is the ego a mere button-collection of ego-profiles. It is, rather, their Gestalt: Each ego-profile discloses, not a pole, but rather the organically unified whole of ego-profiles itself.

The English 'I' and the self-referential expressions of Vietnamese are 'referential' only in a derivative and secondary sense. Neither 'I' nor 'me' refers, in the strict and proper sense. Such expressions serve rather to 'reveal' or 'mirror' the self's reference to itself. The Vietnamese mode of self-reference illustrates the self's capacity, not merely to refer to itself simpliciter, but to refer to itself as ... Were it possible for 'reference-as' to be construed in terms of simple reference, the V-expressions might be absorbed without remainder into English with the simple deployment of disjunction. And if so, then V-expressions would present no philosophical quandaries for self-reference beyond those that surround the analysis of 'I'.

'Me suy-nghi' does (propositionally) imply that I am thinking and, in the real-world context, that I believe myself to be your mother. It is the converse that we must reject as untenable. For what could account for the severance of what is, in appearance at least, a single Viemamese proposition into two English propositions? The predicate, 'suy-nghi' goes over without a complaint into the English 'am thinking'. Nothing about the meaning-content of the Vietnamese predicate could account for this curious episode of propositional mitosis. We must, then, look directly at the pronoun, 'me', for the answer. 'Me', however, if it were to refer (simpliciter) at all, could refer only to what 'I' refers to: my self. Without invoking 'reference-as', it is extremely difficult to see what basis might remain for the bifurcation, if not that 'I' and 'me' reveal different modes of self-reference. It is not that the two pronouns reveal different selves. The one rather purports to reveal the see and the other, the self-as. And this, of course, runs counter to an extensionalist concern to rid the discourse of self-reference of 'as'-talk. Yet in what could the difference of presentational mode consist if not in the fact that 'I' presents the self to itself 'as such', tout entier, whereas 'me' presents the self to itself as a single 'ray' of illumination, as it were, within an entire effulgence of 'ego-profiles'. There is, then, no more reason for regarding 'Me suy-nghi' as a single sentential mask concealing a diptych of propositional conjuncts than for the converse view whereby 'I am thinking' and 'I am your mother' are regarded as an illusory duality of sentences united in the mysterious depths by a single (Vietnamese) proposition. The English and Vietnamese self-referential expressions are simply irreducible to one another. [41]

Assertability and the Real World

We find, to be sure, a rough second-personal analogue of the V-expressions in German and in the romance languages. French, to take a familiar example, generally employs 'tu' in addressing familiars, and 'vous' in addressing those with whom a more formal and distant relationship is maintained. Do the sentences, 'tu penses' and 'vous pensez', express different propositions? Were this so, we should expect them to differ in truth-conditions. However, it would seem not to be a condition of the truth of 'tu penses', for example, that the interlocutor is a close friend or member of the speaker's family. It is entirely possible for 'tu penses' to be true while the individual addressed stands beyond the range of social familiarity. Thus, it would be inappropriate for the interlocutor to retort, 'What you say is false, because I do not know you'.

But if 'tu penses' does not of itself support the implication of familiarity, what does account for the offense which might be taken when one is addressed in the 'tu' form by a perfect stranger? Why do we assume a 'suggestion' of contempt or belittlement? Something, it seems, conveys to us the distinct impression that the other is 'saying': 'You are my social familiar'. And this we may find audacious and offensive. What, then, delivers the suggestion? It is neither the sentence, 'tu penses' nor the proposition expressed by it which bears the implication of familiarity, but rather certain propositions articulating features of the speech-act environment, analysable, perhaps, in terms of Grice's notion of the 'conversational implicature'. We must leave for others the presentation and defence of a thoroughly nuanced account. But it would not be out of place to nod to the obvious. If the offending suggestion is not implied by the proposition (or sentence) 'tu penses', we must find it in the 'assertion' (the use of the sentence in expressing the proposition) or in the contextual conditions of assertability. The relevance of these considerations to the V-indexicals is immediate. 'Me suy-nghi', and 'Con suy-nghi' have precisely the same propositional entailments, but differ sharply in 'assertion-entailment'.

Indeed, assertion-entailment is particularly relevant to self-reference. It is a condition of the assertion of 'I am thinking' that I produce (and can produce) the token, 'I', in the sentence (not, it would seem, an implication of the proposition). 'I can produce the token, "I",' is not logically tautologous, but pragmatically required. And 'I cannot produce the token "I"' does not represent a logical contradiction, but rather a pragmatic self-refutation analogous, perhaps, to the sentence 'Nothing is written on the blackboard' written on the blackboard. Though we do not accept the token-reflexive analysis of 'I' (as a theory of reference), [42] token-reflexivity does seem to be an assertion-condition.

Of course, there is more to the assertion-conditions of the V-indexicals than tokening capacity. At first thought, one might, for example, assume it to be a straightforward condition of the stating of 'me suy-nghi that the speaker actually be the addressee's mother. Yet there are contexts (such as that of make-believe) in which a statement of this sort does not require that 'me' be tokened by the mother. A Vietnamese child, for example, could always throw protocol to the winds and perversely use 'me' for self-reference in addressing a parent. The mere use of a given V-expressions such as 'me' for self-reference does not thereby guarantee that the speaker is the mother of the addressee.

Nothing about the Vietnamese mode of self-reference detracts in the least from the possibility of make-believe, imaginary conversations, role-playing, language-acquisition dialogues, etc. A Vietnamese child may, for example, address her doll as 'con' and refer to herself as 'me' implying only that, within this particular context of make-believe, the child is playing the role of mother, not that the child is, in the real-world context, quite literally the mother of the doll. Thus, we must recognise that the use of a V-expression determines a context, C, such that, in C, the speaker bears a given relationship to the addressee. And where 'C' designates the real world, the use of such an expression implies that, in reality, the speaker stands in that relationship.

Semantic correctness for real-world use involves, among other things, a belief on the part of the speaker that the implied relationship really obtains. 'Me' for example, cannot achieve self-reference in the real-world context unless the speaker believes that she is the mother of the person addressed. Without such a belief, the context of use becomes that of make-believe, imagination, insult, prevarication, etc. Yet it remains a strict condition of assertion that whenever the speaker believes herself to be speaking in the 'real world' context, she also believes herself to be the mother. The real world context is thus 'privileged'. One simply cannot believe oneself to be making the statement, 'me suy-nghi', in the real world context without holding the appropriate belief about oneself. In this sense, the real world context specifies, for each V-indexical, a certain range of beliefs concerning the speaker's identity. Vietnamese thus establishes determinate 'sincerity conditions' for certain of the assertion-entailments associated with its self-referential expressions. English does not.

The Impossibility of Solipsism

In the Fifth Meditation, Husserl confronts the question of the constitution of other minds within one's own subjectivity. To be sure "... if what belongs to the other's own essence were directly accessible, it would be merely a moment of my own essence, and ultimately he himself and I myself would be the same". [43] Husserl's problem is not that of how we know what the other is experiencing. He seeks, rather, to articulate the intuitively given conditions without which awareness of the other would be impossible. In order to bring these conditions to light, Husserl first limits his attention to the 'sphere of ownness' brought about by the 'egological reduction':

If I 'abstract' (in the usual sense) from others, I 'alone' remain. But such abstraction is not radical; such aloneness in no respect alters the natural world-sense, 'experienceable by everyone', which attaches to the naturally understood Ego and would not be lost, even if a universal plague had left only me. [44]

The 'sphere of ownness' leaves experience untouched. But the methodological exclusion of any pre-reductive reference to the other enables the phenomenologist to discover the constitutive conditions for our awareness of the other precisely within the residual field of experience thus disclosed. Husserl is now prepared to pose the question to which the Vietnamese ontology of ego-profiles provides an admirably feasible response: "How can appresentation of another original sphere, and thereby the sense 'someone else', be motivated in my original sphere and, in fact, motivated as experience ...?" [45] The theory of appresentational 'pairing' developed in the Cartesian Meditations is, and has frequently been argued to be, unsuccessful. [46] This is not the place to expand on that issue. But I do want to suggest that the theory of ego-profiles meets a crucial desideratum implicit in Husserl's description of pairing as involving an 'intentional overreaching' [47] conceived as 'a living mutual awakening and an overlaying of each with the objective sense of the other'. [48] We shall see that the Vietnamese mode of self-reference requires a surprisingly intimate, and surprisingly significant, 'overlaying' of the senses of self and other.

We have thus far presented the various V-expressions as representing ego-profiles of the form, 'the-self-as-your...' this formulation is, in fact, elliptical. For as noted earlier in passing, there are as many addressive expressions in Vietnamese as self-referential expressions. And any expression used for self-reference can be used for address. There is, in Vietnamese, no word which can be straightforwardly translated as 'you'. And thus, to characterise 'me', for example, as referring to the-self-as-your-mother, while harmless given our earlier purposes, is nonetheless misleading. Just as Vietnamese self-referential expressions represent the various ways in which a given ego presents itself to itself, Vietnamese addressive expressions represent the various ways in which a given alterior ego appears to oneself 'Me', used addressively, represents the-other-as-my-mother.

But a curious difficulty arises at this point. 'My', of course, means 'of, or belonging to 'me'' and 'me' differs from 'I' only in grammatical case. Despite the grammatical awkwardness, and ignoring whatever contribution the case may make to the meaning of the expression, 'my' can quite legitimately be said to mean 'of, or belonging to, I'. Vietnamese, in fact, does not distinguish cases, and, for every V-expression, there is a distinct and corresponding expression for 'my'. For 'me' there is 'cua me'; for 'con' there is 'cua con', etc., 'cua' being unproblematically translatable as 'of' or 'belonging to'. Now the problem is this: We have claimed that 'me' represents 'the-self-as-your-mother' and must now substitute for 'your' an expression representing an 'other-profile'. Suppose, then, that for 'your' we substitute 'the-other-as-my-child'. 'Me' thus represents the self as the mother of the-other-as-my-child. But now 'my' has not yet been accommodated. Suppose, then, that for 'my' we substitute 'of the-self-as-your-mother'. 'Me' then represents the self as the mother of the-other-as-the-child of the-self-as-your-mother. We need not proceed much farther to see that we have thus initiated an infinite regress.

The runaway regress is unavoidable so long as we insist upon surreptitiously concealing 'I' within 'me', as patently we have done by (1) formulating 'me' as the-self-as-yourmother, and then (2) substituting for the transcontextually invariant 'your' an expression representing the-other-as-my-child (i.e. with apologies to grammarians, the other as the child of I). We can respond to the regress in one of two ways: First, we might insist that there exists, concealed within the dark and hidden tissue of the V-expression's meaning, a meaning-component semantically equivalent to 'I'. But we have already seen that this supposal leads to its own regress problems. Thus, second, it seems that we are compelled to acknowledge once again that V-expressions are primitive, logically indefinable in terms of the semantic resources of English.

'Me' and 'con' (in company with the numerous other self-referential/addressive pairs of Vietnamese) are, however, interdefinable expressions. 'Me' represents the-self-as-the-mother-of-con; and 'Con' represents the-other-as-the-child-of-me. It is impossible, in the real-world context, to refer to oneself as 'me' without assuming the existence of a 'con'. And this curious feature of V-expressions has decided relevance to the problem of other minds. It might, of course, be claimed that something similar holds in the case of the English 'I' and 'you'. The English expressions are conceptually linked in such a way that it is impossible to understand the one without understanding the other. While this is undeniably true, the point I wish to make cuts deeper. The well-bred solipsist could assuredly maintain that, while 'I' and 'you' are necessarily interdefined, this is merely a consideration of language or of conceptual scheme, and not a consideration of existential status. The self, regardless of the semantic connections among terms invoked to denote it and its purported complement, may nonetheless exist while the other fails to exist. The conceptual connections obtain, that is, between the 'mental representations' of self and other which enter into self-referential and addressive propositions. They may not obtain between the self and other themselves which are displayed 'in person' in self-referential and addressive sentences. And if not, there is no reason to suppose that the existence of the one entails the existence of the other. The case of Vietnamese ego-profiles is radically different. What is displayed 'in person' in the sentence, 'Me suy-nghi,, is the-self-as-the-mother-of-con. The connection with the other is not merely a matter of semantic relationships which hover over the heads of me and con. In her very being, me is inseparable from con. What we have called an 'ego-profile' cannot be conceived on the order of a monadic property exemplified by an ego, but must, rather, be understood as a relational entity capable of being considered in two alternative ways, or possessing a duality of aspects or 'nuances'. The self, then, in Buddhist terms, arises dependently as a certain node in a complex tapestry the filaments of which we have called 'ego-profiles', but might now more appropriately consider as modes of intersubjective relatedness. The interpersonal precedes the personal. The ego is a derivative construct presupposing a network of intersubjective filaments.

In referring to the ill-fated 'pairing' theory of the Cartesian Meditations, Fink objects that "Husserl's analysis remains caught in the reduplication of the ego". [49] The problem is that Husserl there fails to see that self and other are ontologically integral, assuming rather an ontological chasm between one monadic ego and the next. As the Vietnamese mode of self-reference makes plain, however, the-self-as-the-mother-of-con is not entitatively distinct from the-other-as-the-child-of-me. The empirical ego, then, as an ideal 'pole' unifying the manifold of ego-profiles, embraces the other within itself in a strikingly intimate way. In presenting itself to itself in a given manner, it thereby inescapably presents the other to itself. It is only fair to point out that the theory of the Cartesian Meditations is not Husserl's final word on the constitution of the other. In the posthumous intersubjectivity texts Husserl reverses his earlier disposition to consider self and other as ontologically distinct. He there speaks of a primordial intersubjective impulse, analogous to the sexual impulse. "A relation to the other as other is found in the impulse per se and to its correlative impulse." [50] In its "primal fulfillment we do not have two fulfillments that must be separated into the one and the other primordialities, but a unity of both primordialities which produces itself through the interpenetration of fulfillments." [51] The unitary 'primordiality' of which Husserl here speaks can be illustrated by that single relational entity indifferently nuanced as 'the-self-as-the-mother-of-con' or 'the-self-as-the-child-of-me'.

If, within Vietnamese every reference to oneself within the real-world context involves not only a reference to the interlocutor, but a belief in his or her existence, the question of the mother's existence cannot arise in the real-world context. Since self-reference via the English 'I' does not, in virtue of its very logic, involve belief in the existence of the person addressed, one is free in English (though not in Viemamese) to entertain the possibility that solipsism might be true of the real world. The Vietnamese child, speaking to an imaginary playmate, certainly need not believe in this playmate's existence. But the same child, in addressing her parents, cannot escape belief in their existence. Solipsistic doubts can arise, for the speaker, in the very presence of the (apparent) Other. Such doubts can arise, for the speaker of Vietnamese only in a context other than that of the real world. Solipsism, then, cannot be taken seriously by the Vietnamese speaker (as such). It is not, of course, that speakers of Vietnamese are endowed with insufficient imaginative or conceptual power. Surely, any Vietnamese can conceive the possibility that the individual addressed is merely fictional. But an address to the fictional other is, in principle, an address within a fictional, not the real-world, context. Nor are speakers of Vietnamese afflicted with a curious psychological inability to believe that the individual presently addressed fails to exist. An address to an individual whom one does not believe to exist, however, may involve make-believe, role-playing, etc., but assuredly cannot take place within the real-world context. The possibility that others might not exist is, for the Vietnamese, both conceivable and believable (though, as it is for the speaker of English, implausible). Yet the addressive employment of a V-indexical as in 'me do not exist' cannot occur within the real-world context. By definition, the real-world context is such that 'me do not exist', if believed, is semantically excluded. Solipsism thus appears to be a language-relative philosophical problem.


[1] An initial caveat regarding the Husserlian notion of 'constitution' is called for here. While the etymological overtones of this term may seem irresistible, constitution, in the phenomenological sense, is by no means to be conceived by analogy with the construction of a house out of boards. In its strict application, the constitution of an object through its 'profiles' signifies no more than the evident fact that a single and selfsame object is variously presented, that its 'look' is different from here than from there, but that one and the same object is presented throughout the manifold of alternative 'looks'. In its strict application, the notion of constitution is ontologically neutral.

[2] In Lispector's graphic portrayal, "'I' is merely one of the world's instantaneous spasms". LISPECTOR, CLARICE (1988) The Passion According to G. H., trans. Ronald W. Sousa (Minneapolis, MN, University of Minnesota Press) p. 172.

[3] Dogen is clear that "There is a 'who' in beyond-thinking. That 'who' upholds the self'. DOGEN, Shobogenzo Zazenshin, as quoted in MENZAN, ZUIHO OSHO (1988) Jijuyu-zanmai [Same & of the self], in: SHOHAKU OKUMURA & DAITSU TOM WRIGHT, trans. Dogen Zen (Kyoto, Kyoto Soto-Zen Center) p. 95. Yet the response to this 'who?' can only be 'no one!' The 'who' is not a self or ego.

[4] As Nagarjuna expresses it: "Whatever comes into existence presupposing something else is without self-existence (svabhavata)." NAGARJUNA (1967) Fundamentals of the Middle Way: Mulamadhyamika-Karikas, in: FREDRICK J. STRENG, trans. Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning (New York, Abingdon Press) 7:16, p. 191.

[5] CORLESS, ROGER J. (1989) The Vision of Buddhism: The Space Under the Tree (New York, Paragon House) p. 125.

[6] Later we shall see that no expression can, in any straightforward, literal sense, refer to oneself. As employed in this context, the 'reference' of an expression to the self is more accurately understood as the 'representation' (or, as we shall say, 'revelation') of pre-linguistic self-reference. In this connection, let me invoke the wisdom of Fa-yen Wen-I (885-958) concerning reference in general:

A monk asked, "As for the finger, I will not ask you about it. But what is the moon?" The Master said, "Where is the finger that you do not ask about?" So the monk asked, "As for the moon, I will not ask you about it. But what is the finger?" The Master said, "The moon!" The monk challenged him, "I asked about the finger; why should you answer me, 'the moon'?" The Master replied, "Because you asked about the finger."

CHANG CHUNG-YUAN, trans. (1971) Original Teachings of Ch'an Buddhism (New York, Vintage) p. 242.

[7] NOZICK, ROBERT (1981) Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press) p. 77.

[8] The hunchback, Igor, refers to himself as 'Igor'. And thus, according to Lycan and Boer, could all of us follow suit, dropping the word 'I' from our disparate ideolects, and replacing it with our own proper name. Cf. BOER, S. E. & LYCAN, W. G. (1990) 'Who Me?', The Philosophical Review, 89, pp. 427-466. The proposal, while intriguing in certain respects, is, nonetheless, unacceptable. My own name, 'Steve', is almost embarrassingly common. (I have, on occasion, wished that at least my name were logically proper.) Suppose, however, that we lived in a world in which 'Steves' did not so exuberantly proliferate. Suppose, in fact, that am the only 'Steve'. On the Lycan-Boer account this latter supposal permits the elimination of the word 'I' in favor of my name: Steve is (uniquely) named 'Steve'. In a 'logically perfect language', this sentence is, of course, a tautology. But 'I am (uniquely) named "Steve" ' is far from tautological-a disparity which of itself entails a negative assessment of the Lycan-Boer proposal.

[9] In Mu-mon's report, "Old Zuigan sells out and buys himself. He is opening a puppet show. He uses one mask to call 'Master' and another that answers the master.... If anyone clings to any of his masks, he is mistaken." REPS, PAZ (Ed.) (n.d.) Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings (Garden City, KA, Anchor), pp. 99-100.

[10] The compounds 'toi-doi' and 'toi-to' mean 'servant'; and 'toi-moi' carries the additional connotation of 'slave'.

[11] ZEMACH, EDDY M. (1985) De Se and Descartes: A New Semantics for Indexicals, Nous, 19, p. 194.

[12] NOZICK, op. cit., note 7, p. 73.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., p. 81.

[17] I am indebted to Professor William Vallicella for his very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Vallicella formulates the implicit assumption of this argument thus: 'I' is a referring term only if it can be replaced salva significatione by a referring term. To negate this assumption, however, one must assert that 'I' is a referring term and that 'I' cannot be replaced salva significatione by a referring term. Needless to say, I reject the first conjunct. And I think there is good reason to reject the second as well. I must say, paraphrasing Voltaire, that if a synonym for 'I' does not exist, we shall have to invent one. Let it be 'J'. If 'I' refers, so does 'J', and conversely. I see no reason to frown upon this supplementation. Surely, I have not thereby shifted to a different language (an 'English*'). Thus, 'I' can be replaced salva significatione with 'J'. If 'I' refers (and thus, if'J' refers), it cannot be impossible to replace 'I' by a referring expression. Of course, it might be countered that 'J' is no more than an orthographical variant of 'I', or simply an alternative acoustical or inscriptional realisation possessing precisely the same meaning as 'I'. But what else could synonymy amount to? If we replace 'I' with any expression salva significatione, surely that expression must be a synonym. The denial of my assumption would thus seem to entail an intriguing, but patently untenable, theory of the relationship between meaning and realisation. If synonymy is impossible for 'I', it would seem to be so because the inscriptional/acoustical realisation is taken to be essential to the meaning.

[18] Cf. PERRY, JOHN (1977) Frege on Demonstratives, Philosophical Review, 86, pp. 474-497; (1979) The Problem of Essential Indexicals, Nous, 13, pp. 3-20.

[19] HUSSERL, Edmund (1969) Formal and Transcendental Logic, trans. Dorion Cairns (The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff) p. 199.

[20] HUSSERL, EDMUND (1970) Logical Investigations, I, trans. J. N. Findlay (New York, Humanities Press) p. 315.

[21] Cf. MOHANTY, J. N. (1982) Husserl and Frege (Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press) p. 59.

[22] Cf. BURGE, TYLER (1979) Sinning against Frege, Philosophical Review, 88, p. 398-32.

[23] Cf. PERRY, Frege on Demonstratives, op. cit., note 18.

[24] HUSSERL, op. cit., note 20, p. 316.

[25] Ibid.

[26] MOHANTY op. cit., note 21, p. 61. It may not be excessively naive to presume a certain resonance with Mu-mon's 'true self' given poetic expression in the following verse:

You cannot describe it, you cannot picture it, You cannot admire it, you cannot sense it, It is your true self, it has nowhere to hide. When the world is destroyed, it will not be destroyed. REPS, op. cit., note 9, p. 109.

[27] Here we echo Suzuki's query: "Where is this 'I'? What does it look like?" Suzuki, DAISETZ TEITARO (1981) The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind: The Significance of the Sutra of Hui-Neng (Wei-Lang), Christmas Humphreys (Ed.) (New Beach, Samuel Wiser), p. 115.

[28] ZEMACH, op. cit., note 11, p. 195.

[29] Ibid., p. 200.

[30] Rather than positing, with Husserl and with Zemach, an extra-linguistic ego as the locus of self-reference, Merleau-Ponty, concurring in the language-relative character of the self, rather discloses, at the heart of consciousness, a certain ineliminable anonymity:

I read, let us say, the Second Meditation. It has indeed to do with me, but a me in idea, an idea which is, strictly speaking, neither mine nor, for that matter, Descartes', but that of any reflecting man. By following the meaning of the words and the argument, I reach the conclusion that indeed because I think, I am; but this is merely a verbal cogito, for I have grasped my thought and my existence only through the medium of language, and the true formula of this cogito should be: 'One thinks, therefore one is.'

MERLEAU-PONTY, MAURICE (1962) Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul) p. 400.

[31] Consider, in contrast to Zemach's self-displaying thought, the structurally similar, but phenomenologically quite different, self-feeling thought of Merleau-Ponty: "I am not simply a constituted happening; I am not a universal thinker [naturant]. I am a thought which recaptures itself as already possessing an ideal of truth (which it cannot at each moment wholly account for) and which is the horizon of its operations. This thought, which feels itself rather than sees itself, which searches after clarity rather than possesses it, and which creates truth rather than finds it ..." MERLEAU-PONTY, MAURICE (1964) The Primacy of Perception (Evanston, MI, Northwestern University Press) p. 22. In a more literary vein, Clarice Lispector contributes: "as for myself, I have always kept one quotation mark to my left and another to my right." LISPECTOR, op. cit., note 2, p. 23. She speaks, accordingly, of "the quotation marks that made me a reference to myself". Ibid., p. 34.

[32] Nozick articulates a view substantially similar to that Zemach:

If a nonlinguistic item can be used to refer, then, why cannot the self place itself into the blank [of, e.g. '-- is (am) tired'[, and in so doing refer to itself? The word "I" might be the marker for the blank, holding space in which the self can appear. The self would thus be part of a reflexively self-referring thought; it, not another mental item, refers to the self.

NOZICK, op. cit., note 7, p. 83.

[33] Ibid., p. 196. Zemach's 'display sentence' seems akin to and may simply coincide with what is sometimes called a 'concrete proposition', i.e. a sequence containing an object and a property attributed to that object. To circumvent possible confusion from the outset, it is important to distinguish the display sentence from the display proposition. In the Zemachian view:

The meaning of a sentence is a proposition. Now if the meaning of a display sentence includes such hefty items as bridges, how can we understand it? Surely we cannot take it, so to speak, into our heads: There is not enough room there for a bridge, a cereal box, or even for written words. Instead, we do as Strawson suggested: the subject of the display sentence is "understood"; i.e., we make a "mental word" or "mental picture" to represent it in a certain way. Thus the proposition we understand and believe when we encounter most display sentences is usually not the meaning of the displayed sentence itself, but a counterpart proposition: a proxy which includes the sense of some mental representation of the bridge, instead of the bridge itself.

ZEMACH, op. cit., note 11, p. 196. Accordingly, we should, perhaps, speak of 'I' as representing the self, not as referring to it, meaning by this that the word 'I' serves as a 'proxy' bearing the sense of a mental representation of the self.

[34] BHATTACHARYYA, K. C. (1976) Search for the Absolute in Neo-Vedanta, George Bosworth Burch (Ed.) (Honolulu, HI, The University Press of Hawaii) p. 159.

[35] Ibid., p. 160.

[36] Ibid., p. 162.

[37] Ibid., p. 160.

[38] Casteneda, with his doctrince of 'I-guises', seems, at least prima facie, to approximate a recognition of ego-profiles. 'I', on each occasion of its use, refers to a distinct 'I-guise', an ontological constituent of the 'I' (the self) canonically designated by a definite description. Thus, for example, Jocasta's son and Jocasta's second husband are distinct, but 'consubstantiated', guises ontologically comprising Oedipus. 'I' could, on a given occasion, refer to the father of the addressee--surely a viable candidate for I-guise status. Or, on another occasion, 'I' might refer to the child of the addressee (yet another I-guise). Setting aside whatever differences we might have with Casteneda's account of self-reference (including the problem of who a self composed of such consubstantiated I-guises might be), we might initially be tempted to identify I-guises and ego-profiles. After all, 'the father of the addressee' and 'the-self-as-your-father' seem, at the level of surface grammar, remarkably similar. But this turns out to be illusory. 'Bo', of course, is an expression which represents the 'display' of the self-as-your-father. Were we to identify this ego-profile with its associated I-guise, 'Bo' would then function, within Casteneda's scheme of things, as a name, or covert description, denoting a given I-guise. Barring Casteneda's theory of 'consubstantiation', we seem to be faced with the dissolution of the self into fragments. But even should such shards be consubstantiated to comprise a single self, the resultant 'self' would be the product of a peculiar logical or ontological operation, not the principle whereby such 'pieces' of the self are gathered in attendance upon this operation. If 'Bo' 'represents, as Casteneda's view itself would seem to demand, an item of 'grist' for the consubstantial 'mill', then ego-profiles can be identified which I-guises only at the cost of forfeiting the very pre-operative unity which would deliver them from the unfortunate status of a rattling assemblage of extensionally denotable, externally related items. If ego-profiles are conceived as merely analytically atomic 'bricks' which lend themselves to certain manipulations, the resultant 'brick wall' patency does not possess the integral internal unity of the Husserlian empirical ego. And, despite our tentative expectations to the contrary, Casteneda has not, then, embraced an ontology of ego-profiles. Cf. CASTENEDA, HECTOR-NERI (1981) The Semiotic Profile of Indexical (Experiential) Reference, Synthese, 49, pp. 275-316; (1977) Perception, Belief, and the Structure of Physical Objects and Consciousness, Synthese, 35, pp. 285 - 351; Cf. also ADAMS, R. M. & CASTENEDA, HECTOR-NERI (1983) Knowledge and Self (a correspondence), in: JAMES E. TOMBERLIN (Ed.) Agent, Language, and the Structure of the World: Essays Presented to Hector-Neri Casteneda, with his Replies (Cambridge, MA, Hackett) pp. 293-309.

[39] Judge William of Kierkegaard's Either/Or levels the sobering query,

... can you think of anything more frightful than that it might end with your nature being resolved into a multiplicity, that you really might become many, become like chose unhappy demonics, a legion, and you thus would have lost the inmost and holiest thing of all in a man, the unifying power of personality?

KIERKEGAARD, SOREN (1959) Either/Or, II (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press), p. 163.

[40] HUSSERL, Logical Investigations, II, p. 544, n. 1. Though Sartre is often credited as the original exponent of this thesis, it is interesting to find chat Husserl gave voice to this view over a decade before the publication of The Transcendence of the Ego.

[41] Analogously, Vietnamese uses a single word, 'xanh', to refer to the range of colour which English would denote by 'green' and 'blue'. Yet it is simply untenable to suppose that, in referring to the 'xanh' of a given object, a Vietnamese means 'either green or blue'. Disjunction does not enter in any way into the sense that 'xanh' has for the Vietnamese.

[42] In the sentence, 'I'm dirty', etched in the dust on the back of a truck by some furtive would-be calligrapher, the 'I' represents, not the tokener of 'I', but the truck. Thus, of course, derives the humour of the sentence. Moreover, if the voice-synthesiser at the local supermarket can produce a token of 'thank you for shopping with us', after tallying the cost of groceries, there would seem to be no special difficulty in its announcing: 'I hope to see you again soon'. A significant lesson to be drawn from illustrations such as these is that we can quite readily understand a self-referential sentence even though there is, properly speaking, no self to be referred to. The meaning of 'I' cannot, then, coincide with its (purported) referent. Derrida advances "A more or less argot translation of the cogito", namely: "I am therefore dead." "This," he tells us, "can only be written." DERRIDA, JACQUES (1986) Glas, trans. J. P. Leavey and R. A. Rand (Lincoln, NB, University of Nebraska Press) p. 92. Blanchot supplements: "When the Cartesian 'I think, therefore I am' is written it is, in effect, rewritten as 'I think, therefore I am not' " BLANCHOT, MAURICE (1973) Thomas the Obscure, trans. R. Lamberton (New York, David Lewis) p. 99.

[43] HUSSERL, EDMUND (1970) Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology, trans. Dorion Cairns (The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff) p. 109.

[44] Ibid., p. 93.

[45] Ibid., p. 109.

[46] See, for example, Chapter V, Husserl's Fifth Cartesian Meditation, in: PAUL RICOEUR (1967) Husserl: An Analysis of His Phenomenology (Evanston, MI, Northwestern University Press), pp. 1 15-142.

[47] Ibid., p. 112.

[48] Ibid., p. 113.

[49] Cited from Schutz's paper, The Problem of Transcendental Intersubjectivity in Husserl, in: ALFRED SCHUTZ, Collected Papers, III, p. 84.

[50] Husserliana, XV: pp. 593ff. Cited in LANDGREBE, LUDWIG (1977) Phenomenology as Transcendental Theory of History, trans. Jose Huertas-Jourda and Richard Feige in: FREDERICK A. ELLISTON & PETER MCCORMICK (Eds) Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals (Notre Dame, IN, University of Notre Dame Press) p. 111.

[51] Ibid.

Professor Steven W. Laycock,
Department of Philosophy, The University of Toledo,
Toledo, OH 43606, USA.

Source: Center for Buddhist Studies, National Taiwan University.
http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/ and http://sino-sv3.sino.uni-heidelberg.de/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/jeffrey2.htm

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last revised: 18-04-2005