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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 116, Issue 12, December 2019

Rachael Wiseman
Pages 663-677
DOI: 10.5840/jphil20191161242

The Misidentification of Immunity to Error through Misidentification

Sidney Shoemaker credits Wittgenstein’s Blue Book with identifying a special kind of immunity to error that is characteristic of ‘I’ in its “use as subject” (Shoemaker 1968). This immunity to error is thought by Shoemaker, and by many following him, to be central to the meaning of ‘I’ and thus to the topics of self-knowledge, self-consciousness and personal memory. This paper argues that Wittgenstein’s work does not contain the thesis, nor any version of the thesis, that there is a use of ‘I’—‘use as subject’—which is ‘immune to error through misidentification’. It offers an interpretative corrective and shows that the passage in question is part of a deep challenge to IEM and to accounts of first-person thought that begin with the idea that there are two uses of the word ‘I’. With the corrective in place novel perspectives on the relation between self-consciousness and subjectivity become visible.

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