Skip to main content
Re-Reading Anscombe on 'I'
Canadian Journal of Philosophy (2018)
  • Robert J. Stainton
According to a certain ‘Straight Reading’ of Elizabeth Anscombe’s ‘The First Person’, she holds a Radically Non-Referring view of ‘I’. Specifically, ‘I’ is analogized to the expletive ‘it’ in ‘It’s raining’. I argue that this is not her position. Her substantive view on ‘I’, rather, is that if what you mean by ‘referring term’ is a certain rich and recherché Frege-inspired notion, then ‘I’ is not one. Her methodological point is that one shouldn’t be bewitched by language into thinking that ‘I’, because of its syntax and logical role, must exhibit ‘reference’ in this sense. Anscombe uses this insight to defang a neo-Cartesian semantic argument for dualism, itself based on an alleged descriptive sense for ‘I’.
  • G.E.M. Anscombe; first person pronoun; ‘I’; indirect reflexives; persons; radical non-referring; ‘The First Person’
Publication Date
Publisher Statement
Pre-publication manuscript
Citation Information
Robert J. Stainton. "Re-Reading Anscombe on 'I'" Canadian Journal of Philosophy Vol. 49 Iss. 1 (2018) p. 70 - 93
Available at: