‘As the days go by, I continue to eliminate the I’, 2023

‘As the days go by, I continue to eliminate the I’, 2023

Reflecting back upon feedback given in response to a Research Method Report I submit during my Masters of Arts course, it was unknown to me at that time that I had written it from a prominent analytical perspective, squeezing out the ‘I’. To understand the nature of why I had begun to write in this way I sought out Ingar Brinck’s text ‘The Indexical ‘I’: The First Person in Thought and Language’, in particular the chapter; ‘Context-independence’.


Brinck references John Campbell in ‘Past, Space and Self’, who defines the concept of a person as the ‘unity of one’s thoughts (at a given moment) and their continuity (over time)’, through which, we must ‘conceive of oneself as a common cause of effects in the external world both physically and psychologically’. Returning to Brinck, who stresses how there is no ‘guarantee’ of forming an ‘identity’, when ‘identity’ is continually ‘presupposed by the use of ‘I’’, in which, ‘I’ could literally be anyone ‘I’ aspire to be, she breaks-down the notion of a ‘privileged point of view’, stating that, it is a ‘reductionist’ way of thinking.


Brink continues to cite Campbell, who relates to the ‘unifying principle’ of bringing together ‘contradictory thoughts’, as being tied up with our avoidance of enduring the ‘causal impact’ of experiencing ‘mental states’ of confusion, here, Brinck contends the difficulty of understanding oneself as a ‘continuer…[if]…one cannot, for instance, reason about or plan for oneself’. Referring to the building of ‘conditions’, as an affirmation of ‘indexical self-awareness’, she states how we are not able to ‘…evolve unless the interactions between the subject and [our] environment would leave traces in [our] mental life’, through which, we can reflect.


Defining how ‘duration and continuity’ are ‘prerequisites for self-awareness and self-consciousness’, Brinck refers to a ‘punctuate mind’ as the ability to reflect upon the self and ‘revise’ our ‘system of beliefs’. Here Brinck defines how, to ‘grasp’ from our past and ‘anticipate’ our future through a ‘unity and a continuity’ of mental states, we ‘collect’ and ‘retain…thoughts over time’ and form necessary ‘judgements’ and an ‘understand[ing] that one thought is related to another’ through a multiplicity of thoughts.


Brinck then moves on to challenge how we ‘imagine being someone else, by separating the self from the person’. Referring to Zeno Vendler and his text ‘The Matter of Minds’, Brinck refers to his use of the term ‘transference’, which Vendler describes as a ‘shift in perspective of the same situation’. Defing Vendler’s ‘shift’ as forming a ‘non-identity with the self’, through which, we must undergo ‘reasoning with oneself’, in a sense, straying from the self, while remaining with the self, to create effective states of perspective, in which, we can hold onto ‘one’s own perspective while imagining being in another situation’. Again, Brinck contends the difficulty of putting into ‘practice’ Vendler’s ‘transference’, referring to the difficulty of substituting your own experience, with something yet to be actually experienced, she challenges; ‘How is it possible to think of oneself as something else or as another person?’ by contending if it is actually ‘possible to cancel all of one’s personal or contextual relations that tie one down to a particular existence?’


Reflecting upon Brinck’s definition of a ‘third-person view’ as being ‘self-detach[ed]’ and a ‘centreless perspective of the world’, in which, we must ask ourselves to disregard our personal perspectives and our ‘moral rules’ that we live by to ‘guide’ our ‘actions’, again, Brinck contends if it possible to achieve a ‘suspension of self-awareness’, while ‘retain[ing]’ our own perspectives, which she describes as having to be held within ‘the back of [our] head’. Visualizing a ‘third-person view’ as being ‘from nowhere’, which can create ‘a deadlock’, Brinck draws attention to the ‘dangers’ of ‘detach[ing] from real life’ along with losing our responsiveness to react to ‘dangers’ when we ‘lack’ any ‘self-concern’. [1]


To unpick Brinck’s ‘third-person view…from nowhere’ through Blanchot’s text ‘The Essential Solitude’, in which, he refers to the solitary act required to connect with the work of reading or writing literary works of art as entering into the ‘affirmation of the works solitude’, Blanchot states how, in solitude, we find ourselves ‘losing the power to say ‘I’’ in order to ‘capture the essence of creativity’, through which, we adopt an ‘incessant speech’, where ‘’I’ can’t communicate’. Blanchot reflects on the ‘tone’ created through writing as not being the ‘writers voice but the intimacy of silence he imposes on the word’, characterizing the ‘discretion’ of silence as ‘an authoritative, a restrained and contained self’ and an ‘effaced ‘I’’, he highlights how, we must sacrifice the self in order to ‘give voice to the universal’, a ‘truth…beyond the person’ explored through the ‘third person’.


Reflecting upon the creator of literary works as ‘run[ning] the risk of seeking a sense of belonging in the work, through a ‘bond’, Blanchot explicates how, the creator must ‘de-subjectivize’ in order to ‘transform…thinking into making’ and allow for ‘affirmation’ to enter into a place of solitude. Blanchot goes on to describe solitude as;

…a time without negation, without decision, when here is nowhere as well, and each thing withdraws into its image while the ‘I’ that we are recognizes itself by sinking into the neutrality of a featureless third person.

Here, Blanchot emphasizes how the creator must ’bear witness’, ‘surrender’ and ‘renounce personal beliefs and desires’, to adapt to the solitary permission, in ‘submission’, for the imagination of other worlds to take form.[2]


On reflection, if we reflect upon the self as an ever evolving state, where the use of ‘I’ can be considered as an utterance in time, through which, time holds the potential for changing points of view, along with the person ‘I’ used to be, then how are we ever able to grasp a sense of self?


[1] Ingar Brinck. ‘The Indexical ‘I’: The First Person in Thought and Language’. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997. P158-169

[2] Maurice Blanchot. ‘The Space of Literature’. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1982. p24-30