Thursday, October 15, 2015

Self as a Linguistic Error

Spiritualists, including Mr Jaggi Vasudev, like to argue that to say "My Body" is proof that I am not the body.

But then, people also say "My soul is attracted to this.", or "I love him with my body and soul."

So, to continue the argument, "I" am not even my "soul" (whatever that might be).

But that would be mistaking a linguistic convention for the proof of an entity's existence. 

It is easier, however, to just understand the "my" adjective as referring to "this".  In fact, vedantins of some sects are fond of referring to themselves as "this body" instead of "I".

As Chomksy writes in his outstanding essay on Mysteries of Nature:
Priestley urges that we also dismiss arguments based on “vulgar phraseology” and “vulgar apprehensions,” as in the quest for an entity of the world picked out by the term me when I speak of “my body,” with its hint of dualism. “According to this merely verbal argument,” Priestley observes, “there ought to be something in man besides all the parts of which he consists,” something beyond both soul and body, as when “a man says I devote my soul and body,” the pronoun allegedly denoting something beyond body and spirit that “makes the devotion.” In Rylean terms, phrases of common usage may be “systematically misleading expressions,” a lively concern at the time, based on a centuries-old tradition of inquiry into the ways surface grammatical form disguise actual meaning. Like Priestley, Thomas Reid argued that failure to attend “to the distinction between the operations of the mind and the objects of these operations” is a source of philosophical error, as in interpreting the phrase “I have an idea” on the model of “I have a diamond,” when we should understand it to mean something like “I am thinking.” In an earlier discussion, the Encyclopedist C├ęsar Chesneau du Marsais, using the same and many other examples, warned against the error of taking nouns to be “names of real objects that exist independently of our thought.” The language, then, gives no license for supposing that such words as “idea,” “concept,” “image” stand for “real objects,” let alone “perceptible objects.”

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

But that would be mistaking a linguistic convention for the proof of an entity's existence.

That you exist does not require any proof. This existence principle in you is different from the body just like the enlivening principle in an electric device is the electricity which is separate from the body of the device.

zrini said...

Reminds me of Wittgenstein making his characteristic claim that there are no philosophical problems, just confusions about language.

Visitor said...

Misunderstanding. Whatever SJV might be, but to say that this linguistic usage si the proof he uses to make the case that you are not the body is a completely flawed understanding. They take half a day to make this evidence and they do it differently. I dont recall this "phraseology" offered as evidence. Evidence offered is certainly logical in nature, but the logic offered is another.

VIJAI SANKAR said...

Some related observations
http://vijaisankar79.blogspot.in/2016/05/ship-of-theseus.html

Unknown said...

All these things are perhaps beyond logical mind.