Logic of the Egotistical Sentence: A Reading of Descartes

Vincent Descombes


This text is a translation of two extracts from Vincent Descombes' 2014 book Le parler de soi. The majority of the translation consists of the chapter (I.3) that Descombes dedicates to discussing Descartes extensively. In this text, Descombes analyzes “egotistical sentences,” or I-statements, beginning with the infamous example from Descartes (cogito ergo sum). From here, he develops a substantial meditation on the nature of the self and its inherent philosophical paradoxes. The “radical question” guiding Descombes is whether or not an egotistical sentence has or implies a subject in the metaphysical sense. The conclusion, ultimately supported in part by Anscombe’s work on “I-thoughts,” explains how it could be that a subject is not implied by an egotistical sentence.


Descartes; reflexivity; egotism; egology; cogito

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jffp.2018.835

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