The Self-Eating Expression


The Symbol ‘0’ says: ‘I point to something I am not.

I am an expression for the absence of expression, a symbol for the absence of symbol, a name for the absence of name.

I can be a little tricky to get a grip on. But it’s not really my fault. I’m just doing my job. There is no other way to express what I have been asked to express. So here I am.’

‘I don’t Exist!’ is a Self Eating Expression. As is the expression: ‘All Words are Meaningless’- itself in words. Or: ‘Trust Nobody!-including the giver of this sage advice.

There are numerous genres of the Self-Eating Expression, in word and image, sound and gesture. Every medium of expression, in fact. But the most friendly ones are in language. The lingual Self-Eating Expression.

And the most effective lingual Self-Eating Expressions typically includes words like: I, Me, All, None, Everything, Nothing, Always, Never; nice, slippery, unstable words [see the Posts on each of them].

And it always unwinds in a negation that throws you into the center of the vortex that is an Infinite Regress.

You have to keep stepping back to see what is going on. The Self-Eating Expression is a formalization of the ‘Backward Step’. It is always and only unwound sequentially. And you’ll see what’s going on when you get to True Nothing.

You can pick the one you find most intuitive. Unwind one, unwind them all. The one I found most helpful: ‘All Expressions are Meaningless’-itself an expression.

The  purpose of the Self-Eating Expression is to undermine you at every stage. Pull the carpet from under you until you thud to the cold hard floor.


You can replace ‘Expression’ with Sign, Symbol, Word, Image, ‘Thought’; you can replace ‘Meaningless’ with ‘False’ if you find that more definitive. The SEE allows much room for creativity as well as abject confusion. [Skim the Cognitive Science literature for examples of the latter.]

Variants of the Logical Form are rife in popular literature and absurdist comedy. As noted elsewhere, Age and Absurdist Humor correlate.

From Joe Heller’s ‘Catch-22’: ‘Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions’. Or Groucho Marx: ‘ I would never join a club that would accept me as a member’. Or the about to be fired employee who begins the Corporate Toast with: ‘ I won’t tell you what an insufferable dip my boss really is.’ And so on.