Thursday, September 27, 2007

"I" Must Exist

In the English language the word “I” never denotes anything other than the entity which happens to be employing it in thought or speech at a particular time. “I” references one and only one thing – the self. This self-referential aspect of the word's usage automatically imports the concept of being into its meaning. In fact, a proper use of “I” requires the existence of something. The same cannot be said of those words frequently used in third-person contexts, or even those commonly called “nouns”. Saying “I exist” isn’t the same as saying “horse exists,” or better yet, “chimera exists,” because the nouns “horse” and “chimera” do not carry the added implication of existence. Horses and chimeras may not exist. The referent to which “I” refers, on the other hand, cannot be non-existent, at least not at the time the reference is made. In fact, one cannot say “I do not exist” without entering upon a contradiction.

As previously stated, the chimera may not exist, but then again, it didn’t assert its own existence now did it? Whatever deliberately thinks “I exist” must exist, and this applies to the chimera as much as it does anything else. If the chimera asserts its own existence using the formula “I exist,” then it must exist for it has declared it so, albeit in a pleonastic fashion. The chimera (or any other entity for that matter) really only needs to say “I” in order both to state the fact of its own existence and avoid the embarrassment of speaking redundantly, because the “I” can never be used properly without the added implication of being. In other words, it need not use the fomula “I exist,” which really means that “this entity, which must exist in order to use the term ‘I’ properly, exists.” The chimera should just say, "I," and nothing more.


Dan said...

I think I get what you are saying here: when one says "I eat" or something like that what it means is the entity speaking eats. For "I" to work there MUST BE an entity speaking therefore that entity must exist. Is this kinda in the right direction? great post. Short and sweet and to the point w/ a little added chimera love. You should use Unicorns though, "Charlieeeeeeeeeeee!"

Alan Knox said...


How is this different from cogito ergo sum... "I think, therefore I am"?


Gary Harris said...


You might say that my post is an explanation of cogito ergo sum. In other words, the post could be viewed as a short answer to the question, “Gary, what do you think that Descartes meant when he said, ‘I think, therefore I am?’” Personally, I think it goes a step further. I think that it acknowledges the power and unavoidable implications of stating “I”. Saying “I think” is as redundant as saying “I am.” “I”, however, is all that one needs to reassure himself of his own existence. I don’t want to get too caught up in language and letters of the alphabet here. What I am talking about is the fact that when one uses “I” properly, an unavoidable internal process of self-reflection has taken place whereby I have acknowledged my own existence. Some might say that it is the most basic underlying assumption behind every thought, but I don’t think that there is an assumption here at all. I know that I exist. I know it. I have absolute cognitive certainty that I exist. I may not know exactly what “I” is, but whatever else it may entail, it most certainly entails being. I know because I have to acknowledge its existence even before I attempt to deny it, which is exactly what Descartes was attempting to convey. Perhaps I have merely restated cogito ergo sum in a different way. For me, however, it goes deeper than that.


Gary Harris said...


I think you have it. Look at the comment that I posted in response to Alan. I make the bold statement that I have absolute cognitive certainty that I exist. I think this is the main idea underlying my post, and I will ask the skeptics if they dare to be so bold as to state, "I don't believe I have absolute cognitive certainty about my own existence." After that, I will "shhuuuuunnnnnnnnnn-a" the non-believers.