Re: The Missing Self

Gary F. Blanchard (
Wed, 16 Apr 1997 23:19:49 -0700

Dear Bob-

Thanks for your response.

> Gary, your interpretation is interesting.
> >I offer the proposition that there is no 'self.' It's just a
> >distinction we distinguish, in language, to indicate something about
> >the unity, essence or totality of our living physical presence.
> I'm not sure what you mean by there not being a "self". Do you mean
> something like what Tim said - that the self is a form of motion or
> interaction (of our bodies in interaction with others') that we identify by
> the label "self"?

I don't believe so, Bob.

What I do mean comes from one of the fundamental insights of my teacher,
Dr. Fernando Flores (and, probably, Maturana), if memory serves.
Namely, that the totality of anything is not, itself, ever present in
any other way than as a linguistic phenomenon.

That is, it is only present as a distinction in our languaging/speaking.

For example, try this (to me, amazing!) demonstration: Touch 'chair.'
Just 'chair.' Not some PART, or ASPECT, of chair. No matter how hard
you try, what you will discover is that you cannot do it. You can only
touch PART of 'chair.' Not CHAIR itself, as essence, totality, or unity.

And so it is with 'self.' I believe it is a term we have invented, in
language, to denote what we believe to be the totality of our living,
physical presence. But it does not refer to any distinguishable entity
which, ITSELF, exists, beyond our speaking of it.

What's going on here? In my opinion, this simply illustrates the broader
generalization that we 'live' (have awareness?) in language, but don't
realize it. How can this be? How can something so important (we live
in language) be so invisible? I believe it's because we have BEEN 'in
language' all of our life, and BEGAN BEING in language BEFORE we were
aware of it, so neither we nor any of our fellow humans have a 'natural'
awareness of it. As a result, the phenomenon of language/languaging is
literally transparent to us, despite the omnipresent clues to its

But clues are only clues to people with a paradigm which allows them to
be clues. Otherwise what one of us sees as clues are, to others, not
clues but details, incidentals, whatever. ( Remember what many French
surgeons initially said about the bacterium which Pasteur said was
causing their patients to die? They dismissed him as a quack, and the
bacterium as an illusion, certainly NOT a clue!)

Only when we learn a paradigm which breaks the transparency of language
can be begin to see how much we do,indeed, construct/construe our
reality, with the only means we have, language. Only then can we see how
much we construct our identities, and how much we are free to
re-construct it within limits all of our lives. How much we are not A
self, but the creature which constructed and sustains the very idea of a

I would think Kellians would be especially interested to hear this,
since it appears to this PCP-illiterate observer to affirm the spirit of
Kelly's vision, and acknowledge his genius, in discerning constructivism
as a reality, decades ago.

Of course, as Dennis Miller says, I could be wrong.


Best, Gary