Reference, Representation and the Meaning of the First Person Singular Pronoun

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Philosophers in the Western and Eastern traditions have been concerned with the question: What, if anything, does the term ‘I’ refer to? This article investigates reasons offered for a negative answer to this question. Western philosophers argue that the descriptive content associated with the term ‘I’ is too minimal to support reference to a reidentifiable particular. Classical Buddhists in the Indian tradition offer a novel reason for why the term lacks a reference. The term ‘I’ does not have a referent not because it is unmediated by representations but because the representations (in the Buddhist case the exclusions) associated with the term ‘I’ systematically misrepresent or mis-describe the object it supposedly refers to. There are no reidentifiable particulars.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-56
Number of pages19
JournalPhilosophy East & West
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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