When me becomes I


Active Member
May 23, 2007
When me becomes I

A child’s symbolic action world is built from the outside in. We are sad because we cry; we do not cry because we are sad. Only when we ‘look’ at our self do we know what is going on.

A vital fact about all objects is that there is both an inside and an outside. We are born recognizing our self as a ‘me’. The ‘me’ is an object before ‘me’ becomes ‘I’, i.e. an executive subject. Only after this happens in an infant’s life can s/he “back away” from her or him self.

The child discovers first that s/he is a social product. Perhaps this will show us why we are so often mere puppets jerked around by alien symbols and sounds. Perhaps this is why we are so often just blind ideologues (blindly partisan).

In order to separate the ego from the world it seems that the ego must have a rallying point. It must have a flag about which to rally. That flag is the “I”. The pronoun ‘I’ is the symbolic rallying point for the human’s ego; it is the precise designation of self-hood. It is concluded by those who study such matters that the ‘I’ “must take shape linguistically”. The self or ego “is largely a verbal edifice”.

“The “I” signals nothing less than the beginning of the birth of values into a world of powerful caprice…The personal pronoun is the rallying point for self-consciousness.” The wedding of the nervous ability to delay response, with the pronoun “I”, unleashed a new type of animal; the human species began. The ‘I’ represents the birth of values.

Upon the discovery of the “I” the infant human becomes a precise form, which is the focus of self-control. The creatures previous to the arrival of humans in the chain of evolution had an instinctive center within itself. When our species discovered the “I” and its associated self-control centers a dual reality occurred. “The animal not only loses its instinctive center within itself; it also becomes somewhat split against itself.”

Becker, the winner of the Pulitzer for “The Birth and Death of Meaning”, notes that Kant was perhaps the first to impress upon us the importance of the fact that the infant becomes conscious first of itself as a “me” and then only as “I”. This order of discover has been shown to be universal.

I have noticed when an infant becomes an I, when all of a sudden they behave in a self-conscious manner. Have you noticed such a change taking place in a child?

Why is ‘I’ capitalized and ‘me’ is not?

Quotes from “The Birth and Death of Meaning”—Ernest Becker