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I am using as a vehicle for this opinion essay is "A Child's Second Birth" in Time, published on June 19, 1978 (attached and subsequently lost). This article is basically an exposition and advertisement for Louise Kaplan's Oneness and Separateness the author (of the article) is not mentioned. I have outlined (in yellow ink) the key claim of the article which draws out the issue of most interest to me -- self awareness and individuality through language (or i through the use of 'I'). This magazine article goes about explaining the process of individualization and self awareness of children as a function of language use: ii 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 child self awareness, that is, actual realization of the child that s/he is self aware, and conscious of that fact. 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 in A Theory Of Objective Self Awareness: Consciousness [that] is focused exclusively upon the self and consequently the individual attends iii to 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 'peripheral iv feedback' 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 specific conditions must apply: the speaker must expressly say something to the effect that they are consciously self aware, anything else leads the listener much doubt as to what exactly is being declared. It is possible that Time believed that any use of 'I' implies objective self awareness, but it 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 aware and conscious of this, over and above the literal meaning. Consider, "I want that ball". Does this sentence mean the speaker wants the ball and that the speaker intends to inform the audience that s/he is consciously self-aware, in addition to having a desire for the ball? When considering a child just barely able to use the language, certainly not. The importance of intentions can be traced back to a philosopher named Grice who posited that meaning in communication is often dependent on intention, v is, the meaning of a statement is derived in many cases from the that intentions 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 not absolutely necessary to meaning, consider a formulation of Gricean intention: S1.Can you reach the salt.
A person uttering the sentence S1 is said to hold many complicated intentions concerning the statement which give it its meaning. The speaker intends to induce the belief in the audience that she wants the salt passed, also the speaker intends the audience to recognize her intention to induce the above belief. This sentence is also an indirect speech act in that it seems to only indirectly get at the meaning of the speaker. A speech act is a particular form of act through language, it is not just performing an act through language it is a linguistic action. For example, when a man utters "I do" at a wedding (and he is the groom and it is done at the appropriate time) he is actually getting married and not merely talking about getting married. What is really being asked in S1 is not whether the listener can reach the salt, but if the listener will "please pass the salt", this meaning is understood on a regular basis often without any thought involved. I hardly think a child new to the language or even the average adult holds all of the intentions or consciously thinks about the literal versus the actual meaning of the sentence, but does this mean that unintentional meaning has no meaning? Intentions of this sort need not be consciously considered by the speaker in the meaning of the average use of this sentence. The basic intention of the speaker in uttering s1 can be considered a blanket intention that she has the wish to communicate, which is really the same thing as wishing to induce belief that she has intentions and etcetera. Now consider S1 when uttered by a child barely two years of age, it is not likely that the child has all of the requisite Gricean intentions, after all until I read Grice's work I do not think I was conscious of any such intentions either. Conceivably, the child and I both mean the same thing by sentence s1 even though I can formulate the various intentions and meanings of such a statement and the average child can not. Does it follow then that a child has the same meaning as me despite different intentions? S2. I want the ball. When I use sentence s2 I certainly do not think I ever intended to imply that I am objectively self aware, but the knowledge of my self awareness would be inescapable. Can we say that the child's use of the word 'I' is evidence that she is self aware? If the child used the phrase "want ball" only yesterday and as a result of parental scolding and tutelage reproduces S2 today, I would say most definitely the child is not more likely to be self aware today than s/he was yesterday. In the regular use of the pronoun 'I' we consider the speaker to be implicitly self aware as it seems perfectly ludicrous to deny self-reflection to the average adult. This does not necessarily mean that use of 'I' requires self awareness, as the conclusion that anyone who uses 'I' is self aware does not obtain from the premise that the average adult is self aware. When the object of our investigation is a child's self awareness we should definitely not assume the presence of self reflection, but should seek explicit demonstration. It is generally assumed that we are not born self aware in the sense that we know ourselves as a separate individual and are conscious that we are self aware, in fact Duval and many others claim that self awareness is learned. As to how we can know when an individual has become a self aware individual, Duval asserts that a child becomes objectively self aware when certain conditions of learning are fulfilled: The necessary condition for differentiating the causal agent self is that the child becomes aware vi that there are perceptions, thoughts, and behaviours that differ from his own.
The process of becoming self aware then is a process of learning that the experiences, thoughts, behaviours and perceptions of the self are not the only ones and that the world is different from and exists outside of the self. Duval uses the example of transparencies to illustrate the process: one transparency has the image of the un-self-aware child's view of an object and the other transparency has the image of an adult or another child printed upon it. When the two transparencies are overlapped the differences become evident and the child becomes aware that its point of view is not the only way to see things. The eventual result according to Duval is learned self awareness for the child. It is interesting to note that Duval claims the process of vii learning self awareness is most certain to occur through direct contact with others , speech and gestures allow for the risk of a, "time-gap between the child's focus of attention upon the target viii object and his awareness of the parent's [conflicting] attitude". The implication here is that non-humans and inanimate objects could possibly be used in the process of learning self awareness. As for the question of whether the child requires a language to properly self-reflect, Duval is silent. Is it possible that the word 'I' somehow contains the meaning 'self aware' within its larger context of meaning? I do not imply here that a word has a meaning of its own, but perhaps Time magazine does believe that words contain meaning. According to the Empirical Idea Theory of Meaning it is quite possible that words somehow mean something in and of themselves. A word, so the hypothesis goes, is a symbol of an idea and this word somehow carries the meaning of the idea it is attached to, so perhaps some property of the idea is contained within the word itself. The word 'chair' could perhaps somehow have the sense of chair within its phonetic or written form. Perhaps in this estimation 'I' contains the property of self awareness. This type of theory has a great number of problems however, first, it is not intuitively correct to myself and a great number of other philosophers, second, the problem arises as to how can words have a sense or property. The description of 'sense' is sketchy at best and it is nearly impossible to study the phenomena, often being dependent on the individual user. One observer might assert that 'chalk' contains a sort of chalky property, while another denies that 'chalk' means anything independent of its use. Language is a very tricky subject to deal with. We use it to get married (speech acts), we use it to communicate, and many would argue we use it to think. The problem is, using the word 'chalk' to think about the thing chalk clouds up our perception of what we are really doing. Certainly few wish to claim that the word 'chalk' existed before language, and at the same time few wish to claim that 'chalk' was somehow designed to refer to the substance. What does 'chalk' look and sound like? The obvious answer is Chalk, but this definition is far to circular to be evidence that 'chalk' contains the property of chalk, perhaps we only think it does ix because the symbol is so inextricably connected to the substance in our minds. It seems quite likely that we think in our 'natural' language (ie. English, Spanish, Bantu). Such claims are very difficult to prove or even support however as we can not get inside of our heads and demonstrate the thinking process. It would seem however that the claim, that words or language are important to the way we think, is a reasonable claim. After all, it is considered enriching to learn a second language, as it is said that by doing so we learn to think in a different way. If it is true that language is the vehicle of thought, perhaps it is possible that what Time claims about language is correct after all -- that use of the word 'I' is integral to self awareness. The implication of this sort of argument would be that thought is impossible without some sort of language, and perhaps it would follow that thinking about complex things is impossible without
use of the word that signifies that complex idea. The major problem with this hypothesis is that we know that the process of learning is not merely a tabula rasa (clean slate). That is, children are not empty slates that are simply filled with knowledge, they actually go through the process of learning and learning itself is a cognitive task. It seems most likely that a child's ability to x learn is innate, the mechanisms or ability to have at least simple thought are considered inborn. Language is a mechanism of thought that can be said to allow forms of great abstract thought of an increasing complexity nature, my favourite example is: xi S3. Particle accelerators cost millions of dollars. Without language this thought would likely be impossible to have, it is far too abstract. The words in S3 are essential to the process of dealing with the idea, how else could one possibly communicate or grasp the idea of a 'particle accelerator'? The method and the possibility of doing so without the very words seems impossibly complex. Perhaps the word 'I' is similar to "particle accelerators" in this sense. xii Anne Ferry in her book The "Inward" Language , investigates the above consideration with regard to Shakespearean Sonnets. According to Ferry, Shakespeare appears to do the job of describing the self and dealing with concepts of self-reflection without the help of the modern terms for such ideas: The question this book attempts to answer is whether sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century writers, without modern vocabularies for describing what we call the real self or the inner life, nevertheless conceived of inward experience in any sense to which our terminologies can intelligibly be applied. The question grew out of direct response to the speaker in Shakespeare's sonnets, who seems to be endowed with a more modern consciousness than can be explained by xiii now long-familiar studies of Elizabethan psychology (her emphasis). Ferry's conclusion is that Shakespeare was endowed with a very modern understanding of selfreflection and self awareness and he was able to use and communicate these ideas without our modern terms. The point to keep in mind here is that Shakespeare did use words to communicate concepts of complex self-reflection, but he did not use our words, in fact our words did not exist. Thus it appears conceivable that a child can be self aware without need of the term 'I'. This demonstrates that the first use of the word 'I' is not necessarily the point at which the child first has attained self awareness, however, the child may have required the use of some other word with which to grasp the concept of self awareness. Duval's claim that self awareness is best achieved through direct contact and not through language or gesture is not relevant to this concept as he does not allude to 'thought' per se, merely the process of learning self awareness. In conclusion, a child's state of self-reflection is neither necessarily indicated nor precipitated by his/her use of the word 'I', because; 1)'I' is not commonly used to indicate a state of self awareness so much as it is used as a pronoun. 2)When it is considered that use of this pronoun can imply self awareness, this is only pertinent in reference to those who are very likely to be self aware and should not be taken as a given. 3)The process of becoming self aware is probably a process of learning, just as language use is a process requiring learning. 4)When it is considered that language in general is necessary for complicated and abstract thought, words in specific (like 'I') do not seem essential to certain thought processes.
iA distinction between use of a word and mention of a word should be made here. When a word is merely used for the purpose of communication it appears as normal but when a word is the object of consideration it is said to be mentioned and is signified by single quotation marks. iiFrom the Time article third column. iiiShelley Duval, Robert A. Wickland, A Theory Of Objective Self Awareness, Academic Press: New York, 1972. p. 2 ivDuval p. 2-3 vConsidering the intended audience of this paper; "a philosopher named Grice" is hardly appropriate, but according to the assignment this paper is to be written as a Opinion/Editorial piece as though it were to be published in a regular newspaper. viDuval p. 42 viiDefined as a communication of a negative attitude through direct means, such as physical or psychological punishment ("not necessarily corporal punishment") Duval p. 51 viiiDuval p. 49 ixOf course this example and the problem with this conceptualization of it is derived from class lectures, along with most of my examples. xNoam Chomsky in Martinich, on I-language and innateness. The complexity of learning a language is not reflected in the amount of time a child requires to learn it, this sort of evidence reflects that the child must get some sort of 'head start' or have an inborn ability to learn language quickly. xiThis example is courtesy of class lectures, ala Professor Stainton. xiiAnne Ferry, The "Inward" Language. University of Chicago Press. Chicago. 1983. xiiiAnne Ferry p. xi
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