© 2007

Becoming Human

The Development of Language, Self, and Self-Consciousness

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. John V. Canfield
    Pages 1-10
  3. John V. Canfield
    Pages 11-18
  4. John V. Canfield
    Pages 19-34
  5. John V. Canfield
    Pages 35-57
  6. John V. Canfield
    Pages 58-77
  7. John V. Canfield
    Pages 78-96
  8. John V. Canfield
    Pages 97-120
  9. John V. Canfield
    Pages 121-146
  10. John V. Canfield
    Pages 147-156
  11. John V. Canfield
    Pages 157-168
  12. Back Matter
    Pages 169-186

About this book


This book is a philosophical examination of the stages in our journey from hominid to human. Dealing with the nature and origin of language, self-consciousness, and the religious ideal of a return to Eden, it has a philosophical anthropology approach. It provides an account of our place in nature consistent with both empiricism and mysticism.


anthropology consciousness corpus empiricism hominid language mysticism nature philosophy stage

About the authors

JOHN V. CANFIELD is Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, author of Wittgenstein: Language and World and The Looking-Glass Self, and editor of The Philosophy of Wittgenstein (in fifteen volumes) and Philosophy of Meaning, Knowledge and Value in the Twentieth Century.

Bibliographic information


'Canfield's book is a well-informed and highly creative work by a leading philosopher. It is a polished, sophisticated work, but accessible to the intelligent layperson. It illuminates what it is to be human in an original, readable and highly satisfying manner. It is genuinely eclectic, displaying an impressive command of a range of different approaches to its subject. In short, a profound account of our march toward a full humanity, written with great clarity and verve.' - Professor William DeAngelis, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Northeastern University, Boston, USA

'This is a brilliant book! It presents a highly plausible view of the nature and origin of language, consciousness and self-consciousness and goes on, in what is the heart of the book, to give a novel and compelling treatment of the self or ego - the I. Finally, in a stimulating and controversial way Canfield connects these notions to Buddhist ideas about the illusion of the self. The implications of his analysis are enormous.' - Professor Robert Arrington, Department of Philosophy, Georgia State University, USA

'The critique of the concept of self in our understanding of our humanity is a formidable topic, which is here handled with boldness and subtlety. The result is nothing less than a radical and compelling revision of that understanding.' - Dr Danièle Moyal-Sharrock, Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

'In this book, John Canfield tackles one of our long standing cultural myths, the duality of subject and object, the self and the other. The idea of speech as a cluster of practices and customs allows him to offer a more convincing account of the origins of language than any of the current orthodoxies. The core of his argument is an exploration of the consequences for our idea of what it is we are that come from deep misunderstandings of the grammar of the first person, the frame of our personal narratives. From that basis Canfield moves boldly from this Wittgensteinian perspective to a thrilling transcendence of the grip of language towards a Zen like perspective on what it is to be human.' - Professor Horace Romano Harré, Oxford University, UK, and Georgetown University, USA