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  • Cited by 9
  • Print publication year: 1998
  • Online publication date: May 2010

Self-knowledge: the Wittgensteinian Legacy


It is only in fairly recent philosophy that psychological self-knowledge has come to be seen as problematical; once upon a time the hardest philosophical difficulties all seemed to attend our knowledge of others. But as philosophers have canvassed various models of the mental that would make knowledge of other minds less intractable, so it has become unobvious how to accommodate what once seemed evident and straightforward – the wide and seemingly immediate cognitive dominion of minds over themselves.

In this paper I'll begin by trying to characterize this dominion with some care. We need to have it as clear as possible why one traditional way of thinking about the matter has seemed so attractive – even unavoidable – and what a satisfactory account of the issues in this region has to accomplish. However my overarching concern will be with the bearing of later Wittgensteinian materials on the question. Ultimately I think we can get an insight into the intended force of something which I do not think has so far been sufficiently well understood: the anti-explanatory motif that runs through the pronouncements on philosophical method occurring in the Philosophical Investigations.

People can be variously deluded about themselves, self-deceived about their motives, for instance, or overly sanguine, or pessimistic, about their strengths of character and frailties. But it is nonetheless a truism that for the most part we know ourselves best – better than we know others and better than they know us.