21 | CR Book VIII, Chapter 2

anything more definite than a word. It further proves impossible to
understand how unity and multiplicity can be combined in alternation.
To talk vaguely and metaphorically os "states", "aspects", "qualities",
"qualifications", "operations" or "subordinate phases" only glosses
over the real difficulties. If we can apply the categories of whole and
part to such a self, the self can be both whole and part, and it can be
part of itself. Or, the categories are inapplicable to the self. Then we
have to give up the effort of isolating a pure Ego which unites the
personality. As a functional unity the self would be relative to the levels
of duration, generality and practice. A potential self would lead us back
to the argument of Chapter 1.

If again we take the subject of belonging to be identical with the
subject of predications, and ask: "what am I myself?" we can reply
by the propositions of the type, "I am X". The value of these propositions
is open to the following objections: (1) X is too narrow to cover the
extent of I. (2) The predicates may be inexplicably modified by their
contact with an inexplicable "I". (3) A succession of "I am X, Y,
Z …" statements would do no justice to the unity and dignity of the
self. (a) Comparing two of these propositions with one another, we see
that the self is determined as different from itself, and even as in conflict
with itself. (b) We do not get the self where it is itself, but where it is like
something else, or different from something else. The self itself is lost in
its relations. Outside its relations, how can we get at it? (c) The relation
of the predicates to the subject is further rather loosely defined by the
copula "is". The true meaning of "belonging to" is unfathomable.
There is thus an irrational element in the very core of this pyramid of
apparently rational statements. (d) Only identical statements would
state completely what the self is, but they would be meaningless, unless
they convey more than they say, e.g. as an effort to point out the
inadequainadequacycy of "I am X" sentences. (4) Since, further, propositions of
the type "I am X" are general statements, we lose most of the concrete,
vivid and exciting richness and variety of the individuality of my self.
My self is understood as an instance of universals, and dissolved away
in generalities and conceptual abstractions. It cannot be built up again
by putting together a lot of generalities. (5) Statements are made because
questions are asked. In what frame of mind do we ask questions about
ourselves? When we got lost, estranged, and are in no way able to
answer them. The real answer lies where the question has not yet
been asked.

One might hope that negative propositions - of the type "I am
not X" - are more appropriate. Instead of limiting and separating, as
positive attributes do, negative statements may liberate and unfetter the
self. They would correspond to an attitude in which we empty ourselves,
in order to get at ourselves. The road to the reality as it is before us is
blocked by interference from past experience. We may drop them off,
try to get rid of them, and to get the mind, in poverty, like a mirror free
from stains, which reflects simply whatever comes before it. This way of
negation, while it does not describe the self, may help us to see it. Not
to assert the self removes obstacles to our sight.

Similarly, statements of the type "I am both X and also not X",
or "I am neither X nor not X", help us to transcend the logical division
of "to be" and "not to be", and to liberate the self in us, so that we