Humanese: Disambiguation of 'self/Self'

I2 am the referent of 'I2' whenever I2 say 'I2 am'. I2 am, therefore, self-designating.

§1: the ambiguity of 'self'

in VE [vernacular english], 'I am self-aware' is highly ambiguous; and, paradoxically, while many would say that this brief statement is self-verifying or is self-evidently true, any attempt to articulate its meaning illuminates the quagmire of ambiguity in which the field of psychophilosophy is presently situated:

  1. 'I' - it is not clear whether 'I' refer to the entire human individual who is speaking/writing or to a particular component of that human individual. in the latter case, to which component does 'I' refer? even if we assumed or somehow concluded that the referent of 'I' was a reality of type existential (eg the human body), we still wouldn't know whether 'I' referred to the whole body, just the brain or just the group of neurons that generates the sense of self.

  2. 'am' - it is unclear as to what, if anything, is asserted by 'am'.

  3. 'self' - it is not clear whether 'self' is used as a noun, a pronoun or both simultaneously; nor, if 'self' is used as a noun, which of the many alternate definitions is intended; so, we not only don't know what its referent is, we don't even know what reality type its referent has.

  4. 'aware' - is ambiguous as to whether awareness that I am or awareness of what I am is intended.

translating VE into HE [humanese english] does not reduce the variety of meanings that can be expressed; but, will reduce the ambiguity inherent in a statement such as 'I am self-aware' because HE has the tools to clearly distinguish these meanings. for example, the following nuances of meaning would most likely generate different degrees of controversy:

the resulting clarity of thought will facilitate the critique of psychophilosophical arguments concerning the self, self-awareness, the first-person perspective, etc.

§2: awareness that vs awareness of

the way out of the quagmire lies in clarifying the distinction between awareness that and awareness of.

there is a moment in Descartes' second meditation when he concludes that not even a malicious demon of supreme power and cunning could falsely convince him that he is something when he was, in fact, nothing.1 at this point, he can say 'I2 know that I2 am'; and, he knows he can say this with the utmost certainty. but, as Descartes readily admits, "I do not yet have a sufficient understanding of what this 'I' is".

at this precise moment, Descartes has awareness that without awareness of.2

awareness of what I2 am requires more knowledge than awareness that I2 am. awareness that I2 am merely requires that I2 select the pronoun by which I2 refer to I2. for awareness of what I2 am, I2 need to have awareness that I2 am plus enough knowledge (about the properties, qualities or attributes of the I2) to identify the noun of which I2 am a referent --- self (or soul, mind, spirit, brain, ghost in the machine, a ba or a ka, a psyche or whatever).

Descartes is saying (in effect): I2 am certain that I2 am whenever I2 say 'I2 am'. since I2 know that I2 am the referent of 'I2' when I2 say 'I2 am', it follows that I2 am self-aware. since there is not yet any basis for identifying the noun of which I2 am a referent, the 'self' in 'I2 am self-aware' is restricted to its pronoun useage.

consequently, awareness that is associated with the pronoun useage of 'self' while awareness of is associated with the noun useage of 'self'.

as I2 see it, the problem of translating a particular psychophilosopher's text into HE turns on the ambiguity of 'aware' in the phrase 'self-aware'. is the author describing or referring to awareness that or awareness of. one must clarify this ambiguity before one knows whether the noun useage or the pronoun useage of 'self' is intended.

§3: useage notes

§3.1: the pronoun use of 'self'

in VE and in HE, 'self', can be a pronoun - as in 'I2 am self-aware'; meaning, I2 am aware that I2 am.

§3.1.1: linguisitic properties of the pronoun useage

'self' is generally a pronoun in constructions such as 'self-aware' or 'self-awareness'; and, as a pronoun, 'self' is indexical; meaning, that its referent is context dependent. specifically, 'self' is anaphoric; meaning, that it takes the referent of a previous term as its own referent.

anaphoria3 can be easily demonstrated with pronouns like he, she and it; for example, in 'John ran up to me and said that he had been looking for me', the anaphoric pronoun, 'he', takes the referent of John as its own referent. thus, in 'I2 am self-aware', the anaphoric pronoun 'self' takes the referent of 'I2' as its own referent; and, therefore, is already implicitly subscripted as to asserted reality type.

because 'self' as a pronoun is anaphoric, 'I2 am self-aware' literally means 'I2 am I2-aware'; and, since nothing unreal is self-aware, one may transform 'I2 am self-aware' into 'I2 am aware that I2 am'.

§3.1.2: translating the pronouns of HE into nouns

converting a pronoun into a noun with consequences to the anaphoric connection.
Humanese English
Pronoun Form Pseudo-Noun Form Noun Form
expressions that preserve the anaphoric connection

I2 am aware that I2 am

I2 am aware that there is an I2

I2 am aware that there is an I2 and that it is a <some noun>

expressions that break the anaphoric connection

I2 am aware that there is an I0

I2 am aware that there is an I0 and that it is a <some noun>


I2 am aware that there is an I1

I2 am aware that there is an I2 and that it is a <some noun>


I2 am aware that there is an I3

I2 am aware that there is an I3 and that it is a <some noun>

it is important to note certain things about this table:

  1. it is intended to show that, in HE, there is a single correct expansion/transformation of the pronoun form into pseudo-noun and noun forms, the form that preserves the anaphoric connection present in the pronoun form.

  2. in HE, the statements listed in lines 2 thru 4 above are legitimately expressed in the pseudo-noun or noun forms given.

  3. there are three other analogous tables for the indexical/anaphoric expressions using the other subscripted first-person pronouns of HE, I0, I1 and I3; and, perhaps, even more tables if one constructs similar tables for conflated pronouns as discussed elsewhere on this page.

  4. anything that can be said about the properties of the noun used to identify the preudo-noun can be said about the pseudo-noun itself; and, thus, the noun form could easily be avoided; thus, eliminating disputes about which noun to use and how to define it. for example, one could discuss the phenomenology of the experiences by which the I3, if there is an I3, allegedly makes its presence known to the I2 without getting into a dispute about whether the I3 is best described as a soul, a spirit, a mind or a manifestation of an archetype.

  5. specifying which noun is used to identify a pronoun in the rightmost column in the above table is a highly problematic4 affair. it is unfortunately the case that 'self' is one popular choice despite the problem of confusing the noun use with the pronoun use. as if this were not enough, 'self' as a noun has been used to designate each of the pronouns of HE, thus promoting maximum possible ambiguity. other nouns are typically also used to designate different pronouns although I2 can think of no other that has been used to designate all of them; for example, 'soul' is typically used to designate the I3; and, has been used to designate the I2; but, isn't used to designate the I1 or the I0.

in HE, the pronoun useage should never be explicitly subscripted as this might suggest the noun useage. 'I2 am self0-aware' and 'I2 am self3-aware' clearly suggest a noun useage of 'self' as the anaphoric connection with the pronoun subject (in these cases, 'I2') is broken; and, thus, it would be difficult to argue that 'I2 am self2-aware' maintained the pronoun useage of 'self'. one can maintain the mixed pronoun useage by writing 'I2 am aware that I1 exist and that I3 be'.

§3.2: the noun use of 'self'

(note: in light of issues discussed in the section above on translating pronouns into nouns, this section on the noun use of 'self' assumes the convention wisdom: that one should conserve maximum ambiguity by translating each of the 4 subscripted first-person singular pronouns used in HE into the same noun.)

in VE and in HE, 'self', can be a noun - as in 'I2 am aware of the self'; meaning, I2 am aware of what I2 am -- a self2.

the noun useage of 'self'.
Vernacular English Humanese English
I am aware of the self Ix am aware that there is an Iy and of what it is, a selfy, as defined by ... <some definition>

notes as to this table of the nouns useage of 'self':

  1. the HE version is a schematic of the variations that can be clearly specified in HE despite being conflated in VE.

  2. Ix designates the subject and Iy designates the object. thus, this schematic makes obvious the traditional opposition between claims of knowledge of Ix as subject vs claims of Iy as object --- in VE, self-as-subject vs self-as-object.

  3. the 'it' is an anaphoric reference to the the Ix-object. the appositive 'selfx' clearly refers to the the Ix-object; and, thus, indicates that speaker/writer is identifying the Iy-object as an instance of that set of entities which are referents of the noun 'selfy' (as the speaker/writer defines 'selfy').

  4. subject and object are independently subscripted resulting in 16 variations of the claim that the Ix as subject can have knowledge of the Iy as object. while some of these may not make much sense to a particular speaker/writer, given the enduring truth of Cicero's indictment (no idea is so absurd that it hasn't been advocated by some philosopher), it is unreasonable to attempt to rule out any of these variations .

  5. there would be many more variations possible once the schema depicted above is generalized to allow for subject and object to represent coalitions and conflations.

  6. using this schema, one may identify the particular aspect of it that is at issue in a dispute concerning self-awareness, self-knowledge, etc. --- for example, the following are among the disputes that are possible:

    1. there may be a dispute as to whether there is an Iy as object.

    2. there may be a dispute as to whether the Ix as subject can know (rather than have a belief) that there is or may be an Iy as object.

    3. there may be a dispute as to whether the Ix as subject can have any knowledge let alone complete knowledge of the Iy as object.

    4. there may be a dispute as to whether the Ix as subject can have any knowledge about the Ix as subject.

    5. there may be a dispute as to whether the Ix as subject can communicate its knowledge about the Ix as subject or must rely on apophatic communication.

    6. there may be a dispute as to whether the body of evidence together with the arguments given support an identification of the Ix as object as a referent of a noun; and, if so, which noun; and, even then, how that noun is to be defined.

in HE, when 'self' is used as a noun, it must be subscripted as to asserted reality type since it can refer to entities of any reality type as well as a composite entity such as the I0. this is in sharp contrast to nouns such as 'soul' which usually, but not always, refers to the I3. in VE, this ambiguity is partially addressed by using capitalization as a meaning carrier. thus, a contrast between self/Self would indicate a contast between the everyday personality and somthing that is a metaphenomenal entity or the ultimate jungian archetype.

nouns that arguably correlate with more than one of the pronouns that, in HE, are subscripted as to asserted reality type should themselves be subscripted to facilitate clarity of thought and expression.

§3.3: the noun/pronoun use of 'self'

in VE only, 'self' can be a noun and pronoun simultaneously - because, in 'I am self-aware', 'aware' is unspecified as to the type of awareness.

this bizarre superposition of simultaneous noun/pronoun useage is analogous (in a metaphorical sense) to the claim by physicists that a particle can exist in a superposition of states. the superposition of particle-states is collapsed to a single, definite value when the particle is observed or measured. the superposition of noun/pronoun uses of 'self' collapses to a single useage when a statement of the form 'I am self-aware' is transformed in a way that specifies the useage of 'aware' --- something metaphorically analogous to an observation.

if the evidence for 'Ix am self-aware' is only sufficient to support the pronoun use of 'self', transforming 'Ix am self-aware' thru a noun-collapse to 'Ix am aware of the selfx' will have the effect of 'creating' knowledge not supported by the evidence; and, this effect is greatly intensified when the superposition collapses to 'Ix am aware of the selfy'.

in VE, this superposition is especially problematic in the context of psychophilosophical arguments wherein a fact expressed via the pronoun useage supports, implies, entails or is otherwise linked to a conclusion expressed via the noun useage; for example, an argument of the form 'I am self-aware; therefore, I am aware of the self' --- particularly the context or content of the argument indicates that the appropriate translation into HE would be 'I2 am self-aware; therefore, I2 am aware that there is an I3 and I2 am aware of what it is: a meta-phenomenal entity I2 define as a "Self"'.

the pronoun collapse specifies awareness that.
Vernacular English Humanese English
I am self-aware → I am aware that I am I2 am self-aware → I2 am aware that I2 am

the noun collapse specifies awareness of and comes in two forms which are depicted here to show why the noun collapse is disallowed in humanese english
Vernacular English Humanese English
I am self-aware → I am aware of the self

Lessor: I2 am self-aware → I2 am aware that I2 am & I2 am sufficiently aware of the properties of the I2 to concluded that the I2 is a self2 (as defined by ... <some definition>)

Greater: I2 am self-aware → I2 am aware that I2 am & I2 am sufficiently aware of the properties of the I2 to concluded that the I3 is a self3 (as defined by ... <some definition>)

it is important to note that the use of HE does not ban conclusion of the type listed above. by banning the noun collapse of the noun/pronoun superposition, the intention is simply to require psychophilosophers to account for the additional knowledge required for a statement using 'self' as a noun compared to the amount of knowledge required to support the pronoun use of 'self'.

thus, in HE, 'self', in constructions such as 'self-aware', is a pronoun only. this eliminates the ambiguity inherent in the noun/pronoun superposition of meaning (without actually eliminating either meaning); and, thus, 'I2 am self-aware' can only be transformed thru the pronoun-collapse into: I2 am aware that I2 am (or 'I2 am aware that there is an I2').

§3.3.1: other concerns about translating first-person singular pronouns into nouns

there are additional concerns, particularly when one is attempting to link the pronoun useage of 'self' with one version of the noun useage of 'self'. with regard to the I3:

  1. when translating the pronoun 'self' into a noun, there is no reason for favoring the noun 'self' as opposed to 'mind', 'soul', 'spirit', 'being' or whatever.

  2. whichever noun is chosen would have various definitions; for example, different schools of psychology would define 'self' differently.

  3. whichever noun is chosen would have a quantumized/individuated interpretation, a collective interpretation and, possibly, an interpretation that is both individuated and collective. sometimes this difference is represented typographically as 'awareness of Self' vs 'awareness of the self'.

  4. there is clearly a difference of opinion about whether there is a I3; but, even those who accept that there is a I3 don't always accept that we can have awareness of I3 as opposed to awareness that there is a I3. the distinction between awareness of selfx and awareness that there is a selfx is sometimes described as the difference between self-as-subject and self-as-object. in any event, this concern is not addressed by translating the pronoun, I3, into a noun --- any noun.

with regard to the I2, there are some analogous concerns when translating the pronoun into a noun. 'phenomenal awareness', 'ego', 'empirical ego' (as opposed to 'transcendental ego') each mean different things but the referent of each one is most likely the referent of 'I2'.

the ambiguities and difficulties just mentioned are consistent with the assumption that there is a one-to-many mapping between the first-person triplicate pronouns and nouns; but, not everyone uses the same mapping scheme. while there are those who use might map 'ego/Self' to 'I2/I3', there are also those who would map 'self/Ego' to 'I2/I3'.

finally, there are useages of 'self' that challenge the assumption of a one-to-many mapping between pronouns and nouns. there are a number of pairs of terms such as:

in each case, one might map these terms onto 'I3/I2'; but, one might equally well map each pair onto '(I3 & I2)/(I2 & I1)'. This latter mapping captures the sense of inner conflict that may have inspired Plato's theory of the tripartite soul. Plato's images (the lion, the man and the dragon) might be mapped onto the pronouns (I3, I2 and I1). Plato's exhortation to play coalition politics (the man must make an alliance with the lion to keep the dragon in check) results in the contrast/conflict between 'greater self / lessor self' and similar dualities.

§4: the solution

among psychophilosophers, eliminative materialists often allege that the terminology of 'folk psychology' is so hopelessly ambiguous or otherwise useless that it should be eliminated from the technical vocabulary of consciousness researchers; but, while I2 do believe that we ought to get our own house in order first, there is a less orwellian solution than swallowing the medicine prescribed by eliminative materialists.

the simple solution to the problem of the ambiguity of 'self' is to disambiguate our useage of that word; and, I2 am offering a set of linguistic conventions for doing this --- the conventions of humanese english outlined above.

the task of demonstrating the value of these linguistic conventions remains; and, to that end, I2 will translate into humanese english a selection of past and present speculations of psychophilosophers concerning the structure of the human individual.

§5: clarifications

1. the Descartes/Hume/Kant axis

2. Steven Laycock and the no-self theory

[1]: Descartes is clearly correct in suggesting that not even a demon of supreme power and cunning could make nothingness experience self-awareness. in this moment, Descartes reveals that he has caught a glimpse of the first law of reality, FLoR: nothing unreal is self-aware. [Back]

[2]: the distinction between awareness that I2 am and awareness of what I2 am correlates with the difference between Ix-as-subject and Ix-as-object, a common psychophilosophical concern. I2 will leave that topic for another day. [Back]

[3]: anaphoria is sometimes referred to as reflexivity. in an influential essay, John Perry wrote: "Now in what sense are indexicals reflexive? The most familiar use of 'reflexive' is for 'reflexive pronouns', such as 'myself', 'yourself' and 'itself'. A reflexive pronoun is one that designates the subject of the clause in which it occurs; it is the particle 'self' that secures this result. The initial 'my', 'your' or 'it' further constrains the reference indexically, so, for example when I say 'I gave it to her myself' the 'myself' is constrained to desingate both the speaker and the subject, who are thereby constrained to be the same." [Perry, John. 2000. What are Indexicals? The Problem of the Essential Indexical and Other Essays (Expanded Edition). Stanford, CA: CSLI. Publications. @320.] [Back]

[4]: 'problematic' is defined to mean 'problem-solving or problem-creating depending on ones point of view'; and, is intended to connote whatever may be suggested by the contraction of 'automatic' and 'problems'. [Back]