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Wittgenstein on Public Language About Personal Experiences

Abstract

In this paper, we would like to discuss Wittgenstein’s critique of the idea that a person’s experiences are necessarily private, and these experiences can only be expressible in a private language. Taking a clue from Wittgenstein, we intend to say that the person’s experiences though private, can also be known by others. In the following sections 243 of his Philosophical Investigations (PI), Wittgenstein argues against the possibility of a private language about the subject’s inner experiences. He contends that by coining names/words to name sensations and our inner experiences, we cannot create a private language. If we have a list of names, that cannot function as a language. We need predicate terms; we need the syntax to link the words in the form of a sentence. If we use private names and use the predicates from the language that everyone knows, then the private words will acquire public status like the terms ‘pain’ and ‘sensation.’ These terms are already part of the public language, and if private experiences like pain and sensation cannot be made public, we would not have these terms in our language at all. This is the reason why any application of words is public, and therefore, there is no possibility of a private language. Wittgenstein concentrates on the public rules that govern the correct application for the use of words. And the expressions are meaningful only when these are used according to rules of grammar; if these expressions do not follow any rules of grammar, these are simply meaningless.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Hervey, Helen, (1957). The Private Language Problem, The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 26, p. 63.

  2. 2.

    Ibid., p. 63.

  3. 3.

    Wittgenstein, Ludwig, (1958). Philosophical Investigations, G. E. M. Anscombe (trans.), Basil Blackwell, Oxford. Henceforth we will write PI.

  4. 4.

    Malcolm, N., (1962). Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigation, In The Philosophy of Mind, Chappell, V. C. (ed.), Spectrum Book, Prentice-Hall, UK., p. 78.

  5. 5.

    Anthony Kenny, (1973). Wittgenstein, Penguin Books, UK, p. 179.

  6. 6.

    Wittgenstein, Ludwig, (1967). Zettel, G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright (eds.), G. E. M. Anscombe (trans.), Basil Blackwell, Oxford. Henceforth we will write Z.

  7. 7.

    Cavell, Stanley, (1979). The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality and Tragedy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 28.

  8. 8.

    Ibid., p. 6.

  9. 9.

    Pradhan, R. C., (1981). Language, and Experience: An Interpretation of the Later Philosophy of Wittgenstein, Anu Prakashan, New Delhi, p. 28.

  10. 10.

    Budd, Malcolm, (1989). Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Psychology, Routledge, London, p. 42.

  11. 11.

    Gillett, Grant, (1994). Wittgenstein on the Mind, Inquiry, Vol. 37, No. 1, p. 104.

  12. 12.

    Hark, Michel Ter, (1990). Beyond the Inner and the Outer: Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Psychology, Kluwer Academic Publishers, London, p. 36.

  13. 13.

    Malcolm, N., (1962). Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigation, In The Philosophy of Mind, Chappell, V. C., (ed.), p. 78.

  14. 14.

    Hanfling, Oswald, (2002). Wittgenstein, and the Human Forms of Life, Rutledge, London, and New York, p. 62.

  15. 15.

    We use the term ‘solitary’ means forever solitary. Hence, a solitary individual who is always isolated from birth can never be part of a community. In the whole paper, wherever we will use the term ‘solitary’ only, we mean forever solitary.

  16. 16.

    Champlin, T. S., (1992). Solitary Rule-Following, Philosophy, Vol. 67, No. 261, Jul. 1992, p. 289.

  17. 17.

    Ibid., p. 290.

  18. 18.

    Ibid., p. 304.

  19. 19.

    Ibid., p. 298.

  20. 20.

    Ibid., pp. 298–299.

  21. 21.

    Baker, G. P., and Hacker, P. M. S., (1985). Wittgenstein: Rules, Grammar, and Necessity: An Analytical Commentary on the “Philosophical Investigations,” Blackwell, Oxford, p. 162.

  22. 22.

    Malcolm, Norman, (1989). Wittgenstein on Language and Rules, Philosophy, Vol. 64, No. 247, p. 5.

  23. 23.

    Malcolm, Norman, (1986). Nothing is Hidden: Wittgenstein’s Criticism of his Early Thought, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, p. 175–178.

  24. 24.

    Kripke, Saul A., (1982). Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary Exposition, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, p. 109.

  25. 25.

    Canfield, John V., (1996). The Community View, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 105, No. 4, p. 470.

  26. 26.

    Malcolm, Norman, Malcolm, Norman, (1986). Nothing is Hidden: Wittgenstein’s Criticism of his Early Thought, p. 157.

  27. 27.

    Canfield, John V., (1996). The Community View, The Philosophical Review, p. 474.

  28. 28.

    Baker, G. P., and Hacker, P. M. S., (1990). Malcolm on Language and Rules, Philosophy, Vol. 65, No. 252, p. 173.

  29. 29.

    This passage is from Wittgenstein’s Manuscript 165 Pp. 116–117, quoted in Malcolm, Norman, (1989). Wittgenstein on Language and Rules, Philosophy, p. 24.

  30. 30.

    Canfield, John V., (1996). The Community View, The Philosophical Review, p. 480.

  31. 31.

    Canfield, John V., (1996). The Community View, The Philosophical Review, p. 482.

  32. 32.

    Baker, G. P., and Hacker, P. M. S., (1990). Malcolm on Language and Rules, Philosophy, p. 176.

  33. 33.

    Malcolm, Norman, (1989). Wittgenstein on Language and Rules, Philosophy, p. 5.

  34. 34.

    Baker, G. P., and Hacker, P. M. S., (1985). Wittgenstein: Rules, Grammar, and Necessity: An Analytical Commentary on the “Philosophical Investigations,” p. 171–172.

  35. 35.

    Malcolm, Norman, (1989). Wittgenstein on Language and Rules, Philosophy, p. 7.

  36. 36.

    Ibid., p. 9.

  37. 37.

    Baker, G. P., and Hacker, P. M. S., (1990). Malcolm on Language and Rules, Philosophy, p. 168.

  38. 38.

    Wittgenstein, Ludwig, (1968). Notes for Lectures on ‘Private Experience’ and ‘Sense Data,’ The Philosophical Review, Vol. 77, No. 3, p. 300.

  39. 39.

    Wittgenstein, Ludwig, (1968). Notes for Lectures on ‘Private Experience’ and ‘Sense Data, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 77, No. 3, p. 317.

  40. 40.

    Kiverstein, Julian, (2009). Wittgenstein, Qualia and the Autonomy of Grammar, In Wittgenstein’s Enduring Arguments, Edoardo Zamuner, and D. K. Levy (eds.), Routledge, London, pp. 38–39.

  41. 41.

    Wittgenstein, Ludwig, (1968). Notes for Lectures on ‘Private Experience’ and ‘Sense Data, The Philosophical Review, p. 290.

  42. 42.

    Kiverstein, Julian, (2009). Wittgenstein, Qualia and the Autonomy of Grammar, In Wittgenstein’s Enduring Arguments, Edoardo Zamuner, and D. K. Levy (eds.), p. 40.

  43. 43.

    Ibid.

  44. 44.

    Woodbridge, Frederick J. E., (1905). Of What Sort is Cognitive Experience?, The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, Vol. 2, No. 21, p. 575.

  45. 45.

    Ibid., p. 576.

  46. 46.

    Wittgenstein, Ludwig, (1968). Notes for Lectures on ‘Private Experience’ and ‘Sense Data, The Philosophical Review, p. 278.

  47. 47.

    Wittgenstein, Ludwig, (1975). The Blue and Brown Books, Basil Blackwell, Oxford. Henceforth we will write BB.

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Correspondence to Rajakishore Nath.

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Panda, M.M., Nath, R. Wittgenstein on Public Language About Personal Experiences. Philosophia 48, 1939–1960 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11406-020-00192-8

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Keywords

  • Public language
  • Private language
  • Language-game
  • Solitary individual
  • Rule-following
  • Personal experiences