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7.5 My I
If subjectivity exists, it has the necessary attribute of not being able to be explained. First of all it should be clarified what explaining it would mean. Descartes’ statement “cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”), is normally understood in this sense: I realized that there is an undeniable experience in me (“cogito”); from this fact I feel I can draw an undeniable rational conclusion (“ergo sum”); but what would that step be, that link that would allow the passage from an experience to a rational conclusion? This is not clear; actually rational conclusion is nothing but an interpretation; here we immediately fall into subjectivist skepticism. It is therefore clear that subjectivity cannot be explained precisely because it exists: since it exists, every explanation of it cannot be immune from being itself subjective and therefore never one hundred percent acceptable.
The attempt to explain the reason and the ways in which “I feel myself”, to be correct, would have to trace at least two undeniable basic assumptions, from which to draw, in the manner of syllogism, a conclusion. However, since feeling myself does not provide assumptions, but only an experience, any attempt to pass from experience to the language of ideas immediately falls within the limits of subjectivism. Can we say that the inexplicability of subjectivity demonstrates its existence? In this sense inexplicability does not mean absolute unattainability, which would make us confuse it with its non-existence, but precisely what we have tried to say: athematic experience. In other words: if feeling “I” did not exist, we would not have the problem of explaining it; if the problem of its inexplicability is given, then at least it is clear that an experience exists in me that I do not know what it is. The fact that I am able to define it as “feeling myself” is not an explanation, since this first definition is too tied to the education received since birth, starting when they meade me used to respond to a name. The fact that I feel myself master of my body and not that of another does nothing but confirm a hypothesis of inexplicability: it is something similar to what Leibniz said when speaking of “monads”. Therefore my feeling of my body, rather than that of another, cannot be explained precisely because of its impenetrability, that is because I, even if I wanted to, cannot render any other master of my body, and so anyone else about me. In this sense the inexplicability of the I is revealed as such precisely because of what is meant as “explanation” in the context of radically Greek thought: since, in this context, “explaining” means abstracting common general concepts from several particular entities, the feeling “I” cannot be explained as long as only one exists; I imagine that others exist as different Is (“Is” meant here as a plural of “I”), but my being master of my body is exclusive to me in this world. But what do we have in common sice we all call it “I”? We have practical results in common, but I will never know how the other feels his own I and to what extent it resembles my feeling I. On the contrary, my feeling I is not even equal to itself, since there is no doubt that there is some difference between this moment, when I am thinking about it, and other moments when I have no immediate awareness of it. After this we can once again relativize the importance of explaining: the I can be lived without needing to be explained. It can be told, regulated, in the likeness of the haggadic and halakic midrash that Jews used to do; it can be celebrated, related. In this sense, the unexplainability of the I may be a concern, or even a frustration, only to the extent that we are unable to look beyond our Greek way of thinking. We must remember that any explanation is actually only an illusion until we realize that it is open both backwards and forwards: that is, it is based on assumptions which in turn should be explained and it will open a thousand other questions. Every explanation is a median wagon of a train of which we neither see the beginning nor the end; a train that is going on.
In this context conscience could be conceived simply as an internal comparison of experiences and relative extent in which this happens. This is obviously a (at least apparently) materialistic vision, but in a non-metaphysical perspective there is no longer the need to hypothesize another world, separate from the visible one, in order to find reasons for esteem for the dignity of human conscience.
The desire to take possession of the sense of our being “I” can hide the tendency, typically Greek, to consider ourselves masters of a thing because we gave it a meaning. In this perspective, the need to define our own I is the same as the metaphysical need, starting from a mentality conditioned by hypostatic orders, to find a meaning for our passage through this world.