Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-7f7b94f6bd-9g8ph Total loading time: 0.283 Render date: 2022-07-01T05:59:13.690Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

IX - PRIVATE LINGUISTS AND PUBLIC SPEAKERS

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 February 2022

Get access

Summary

A Disease of the Intellect

Wittgenstein's argument against the possibility of a private language is an endeavour to show that a certain conception of the mind, of self-consciousness or self-awareness, of knowledge of other minds and of perceptual experience, is deeply incoherent. The incoherence of this pervasive picture of the mind is co-ordinate with fundamental misconceptions about language, meaning, and understanding. These in turn strikingly exemplify the distorting force of the pre-theoretical assumption that the essential function of words is to name and of sentences to describe.

The private language argument is, if correct, one of the most important philosophical insights achieved in this century. It is a criticism of the conception of the mind which is not merely the dominant one in European philosophy, but is also pervasive in our culture, in psychology, linguistics, and indeed in the reflections of most people who think about the nature of ‘self-consciousness’ and the mind. For our reflective conception of our awareness of our own thoughts, desires, and emotions, our intentions, delights or perceptions is moulded by the picture of a contrast between what is ‘inner’ and what is ‘outer'. And we quite naturally construe what is ‘inner’ on the model of what is ‘outer'. We can, we think, inspect the objects in the world around us, or introspect the ‘objects’ of the ‘world’ within us. We take the latter on analogy with the former—and it is precisely there that we fall into confusions.

The consequent array of misconceptions of the mind presupposes a distinctive picture of language. For we are inclined to view the primitive indefinable terms of a language as deriving their meaning from our immediate experiences. Terms like ‘red’ or ‘sour', ‘pain’ or ‘joy', ‘thought’ or ‘desire’ are, we think, understood by anyone who has had the experience of seeing red or tasting a sour taste, suffering pain or being joyful, thinking or willing, and who has attached those words to the appropriate experiences. In this sense, the ‘foundations’ of language are conceived to lie in private experience. I know what I mean by ‘pain’ or by ‘red', one wants to say, I mean this f —and one, as it were, points within.

Type
Chapter
Information
Insight and Illusion
Themes in the Philosophy of Wittgenstein
, pp. 245 - 275
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2021

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×