Exploring the issue of self awareness and languageWritten by: Shawn MonaghanMarch 30, 1995The article which I am using as a vehicle for this opinion essay is "A Child's Second Birth" inTime, published on June 19, 1978 (attached and subsequently lost). This article is basically anexposition and advertisement for Louise Kaplan'sOneness and Separatenessthe author (of thearticle) is not mentioned. I have outlined (in yellow ink) the key claim of the article which drawsout the issue of most interest to me -- self awareness and individuality through language (or through the use of 'I').
This magazine article goes about explaining the process of individualization and self awarenessof children as a function of language use:As the child moves toward psychological birth, and the first use of the word 'I',...
This quotation is describing the child's first use of 'I' as one of the most important events in childself awareness, that is, actual realization of the child that s/he is self aware, and conscious of thatfact. The sense of self awareness that is meant in the article is that of 'objective self awareness'which is defined by Shelley Duval and Robert A. Wicklund inA Theory Of Objective Self Awareness:Consciousness [that] is focused exclusively upon the self and consequently the individual attendsto his conscious state, his personal history, his body, or any other personal aspects of himself.
This definition is perhaps better understood in opposition to its opposite 'subjective self awareness'. A subjectively self aware person is only aware of her self in the sense of 'peripheralfeedback' from her actions, feelings, and all other internal states of awareness.
Usually 'I' is simply used as a pronoun, meaning the person who is speaking or writing. In order to consider the utterance of 'I' as a definite declaration of self awareness, certain very specificconditions must apply: the speaker must expressly say something to the effect that they areconsciously self aware, anything else leads the listener much doubt as to what exactly is beingdeclared. It is possible thatTimebelieved that any use of 'I'impliesobjective self awareness, butit is not clear that such is a viable claim.I do not believe the use of 'I' in a common everyday sentence implies the speaker is self awareand conscious of this, over and above the literal meaning. Consider, "I want that ball". Does thissentence mean the speaker wants the ball and that the speaker intends to inform the audience thats/he is consciously self-aware, in addition to having a desire for the ball? When considering achild just barely able to use the language, certainly not. The importance of intentions can betraced back to a philosopher named Grice who posited that meaning in communication is oftendependent on intention,that is, the meaning of a statement is derived in many cases from theintentions of the utterer.
In the Gricean formulation of a promise for example, the speaker has the intention to induce the belief in the listener that s/he is making a promise, this as well as a number of different levels of intention are involved in everyday communication. If the promise was not intended then it would be an insincere promise and arguably not a promise whatsoever. However, intention is notabsolutely necessary to meaning, consider a formulation of Gricean intention:S1.Can you reach the salt.