On the Concept of “I”

On the Concept of “I”

Posted on:Nov 03 2014
Captured by:Jon P

The metaphor by which we understand ourselves stimulates both enlightenment and confusion. If we think in terms of multi-plexity, we think in terms of aggregate parts, which implies multiple units. If we think in terms of zone, we think in terms of area, which implies the movement of a point across a space.

Either metaphor is flawed.

Sartre is valuable in that he breaks down a single conception of “I”. His understanding, or misunderstanding, of Kierkegaard provides the lever with which he moves this mountain. And his adaption of Husserl teases out the implications of the “so moved mountain.”

But phenomenology begins not with what the writer is writing about, but with that which the “I” is in the present tense of the writing. It is more productive to contemplate the “I” of its writing, than the conclusions which are argued for. My predicate is my subject. My subject is my predicate. Predication creates the subject from reverse perspective. 

Consider the application to a single predicated condition: “I am guilty.” What does this mean?

It implies that “I” is the same as “guilty.” But I cannot use the two interchangeably. What’s more, it does not clarify if as to whether or not all of “I” is guilty, or just part of “I” is “guilty, or whether the action of “I” is guilty quite apart from the essence of “I.” The problem isn’t “guilty”, the problem isn’t “I”; the problem is “am.”

The only meaningful word in this three part phrase is the word “am.” And on this word all of the problems hinge.

It is difficult to separate my “am” from my “am-ing.” It’s like trying to reach into a stream and grasp the same water twice. I am not a point. I am the stream.  And guilt cannot flow in the same way as my “am-ing.”

Does this mean that there is not some approximation of some wrong doing that equivocates with a charge “guilty?” It does not. But it creates untenable problems.  For instance, how do I punish the guilty? If the “I,” which was “am-ing,” predicated in a form that can be condemned as guilt, then the only way to punish the “I” is to be able to grasp the water from the stream again.

Am I against all forms of punishment? No. I am against the darkness which oversimplifies the condition within which I must survive. And in saying so, I resort either to pathos, or to irony.  For the “I’s” which load the previous three sentences may not even be one in the same. I am this which is “is-ing.” And I cannot be captured by the cartoon of conceptualized existence.

I am both more and less. 


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