Human Studies

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 425–450 | Cite as

Cogitor Ergo Sum: The Origin of Self-awareness in Dyadic Interaction

  • Stephen LangfurEmail author
Theoretical / Philosophical Paper


When I see a mountain to be far away, there is non-reflective awareness of myself as that from which distance is measured. Likewise, there is self-awareness when I see a tree as offering shade or a hiding place. In such cases, how can the self I am aware of be the same as I who am aware of it? Can the perceived be its perceiver? Mobilizing infancy research, I offer the following thesis as to how one can be aware of oneself, at a single stroke, as perceiver and as embodied entity. During face-to-face interaction at 2 or 3 months, the infant has a sensuous perception of the caregiver as well as a non-sensuous impression of something she is eyeing and vocalizing toward. This implicit target is the self as it first becomes present to the child. It is shown how the target of her attending is experienced by him as embodied, active, affective, and continuous. After acquiring language, however, the child becomes capable of playing the caregiver toward himself: He can speak in her manner while listening as the one addressed. Thus the relation is internalized. The outcome is the independent and secure self-awareness that typifies post-infancy life. Independence bears a price, which is assessed.


Self-awareness Intersubjectivity Interaction Other minds Second-person Dialogical 



I thank Nancy Mangum McCaslin for her sensitive comments on matters of style, as well as certain anonymous reviewers who did the hard work of the Other.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HolonIsrael

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