chapter  1
2 Pages

Second person thought

ByJane Heal

Suppose I am visiting a strange town and I go into a cafe for a cup of tea. As I sit down, I am aware that I am tired. At the same time, glancing round, I catch sight of a person in a mirror and think ‘She is tired too’. The person in question is myself. But for some reason (unfamiliarity with the layout of the cafe, slightly odd lighting or what not) I do not recognise myself. Cases of this kind have been much discussed, in the context of understanding the role of indexicals in language and thought, and in the context of reflecting on what is distinctive about self-knowledge. They have made us used to contrasting first person and third person ‘modes of presentation’ of an individual. A now widely accepted idea is that not only are there contrasting indexicals in language, ‘I’ and ‘she’ (and relatedly ‘he’, ‘that person’, and the like), but that also, underlying the use of the indexicals and expressed by them, there are analogously indexical ways of thinking. So there are two different thoughts, the first person one that I am tired and the third person one that she is tired. These thoughts may be expressed in the utterances ‘I am tired’ and ‘She is tired’, respectively, but can occur without being expressed by utterances. And the difference between these thoughts is to be spelled out in terms of their distinctive role in thought, what provides reason for them and/or what they provide reason for.1