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16 - Expression and avowal

David H. Finkelstein
Affiliation:
University of Chicago
Kelly Dean Jolley
Affiliation:
Auburn University, Alabama
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Summary

But that which is in him, how can I see it? Between his experience and me there is always the expression!

Here is the picture: He sees it immediately, I only mediately. But that's not the way it is. He doesn't see something and describe it to us.

(LWPP II 92)

I am often able to say what is on, or in, my own mind, that is, what I want, believe, fear, expect, intend or hope; whether I am feeling joy or pain; whether I like the taste of this wine or find that joke funny. I seem, moreover, to manage this sort of self-ascription, or avowal, without needing to rely on the evidence that other people require in order to ascribe mental states to me. In his late work, Wittgenstein often writes about psychological self-ascriptions. Again and again he suggests that, in doing philosophy, we are liable to cling to one or another bad explanation or misleading picture of them. He aims to reorient our thinking about avowals by urging us to view them as expressions, and so to see a sincere utterance of “I am in pain” as akin to a pained wince or groan. My aim in what follows is to provide an introduction to this strand in his writing.

A good place to begin is with the quotation above – our epigraph – which was written during the final two weeks of Wittgenstein's life. In it, he sketches a “picture” that we can think of as comprising two claims.

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Chapter
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Wittgenstein
Key Concepts
, pp. 185 - 198
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2010

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