THE FATE OF ANALYSIS, #42–Wittgenstein’s Private Language Argument: A Rational Reconstruction.

By Robert Hanna

THE FATE OF ANALYSIS: Analytic Philosophy From Frege to The Ash-Heap of History, And Toward A Philosophy of the Future



II. Classical Analytic Philosophy

II.1 What Classical Analytic Philosophy Is: Two Basic Theses

II.2 What Classical Analytic Philosophy Officially Isn’t: Its Conflicted Anti-Kantianism

II.3 Classical Analytic Philosophy Characterized in Simple, Subtler, and Subtlest Ways

II.4 Three Kinds of Analysis: Decompositional, Transformative, and Conceptual

II.5 Frege, The First Founding Father of Classical Analytic Philosophy

II.6 Frege’s Project of (Transformative or Reductive) Analysis

II.7 Frege’s Dead End

II.8 Frege’s Semantics of Sense and Reference, aka Meaning

II.9 Some Biggish Problems For Frege’s Semantics

II.10 Husserl, Logic, and Logical Psychologism, aka LP

II.11 What LP is, and its Three Cardinal Sins

II.12 Husserl’s Three Basic Arguments Against LP

II.13 Has Husserl Begged the Question Against LP? Enter The Logocentric Predicament, and a Husserlian Way Out

III. Moore, Brentano, Husserl, Judgment, Anti-Idealism, and Meinong’s World

III.1 G.E. Moore, the Second Founding Father of Classical Analytic Philosophy

III.2 Brentano on Phenomenology, Mental Phenomena, and Intentionality

III.3 Husserl on Phenomenology and Intentionality

III.4 Moore and the Nature of Judgment

III.5 Moore and the Refutation of Idealism

III.6 Meinong’s World

IV. Russell, Unlimited Logicism, Acquaintance, and Description

IV.1 Russell Beyond Brentano, Husserl, Moore, and Meinong

IV.2 Russell and Mathematical Logic versus Kant

IV.3 Russell’s Unlimited Logicist Project

IV.4 Pursued by Logical Furies: Russell’s Paradox Again

IV.5 Russell’s ‘Fido’-Fido Theory of Meaning

IV.6 Knowledge-by-Acquaintance and Knowledge-by-Description

IV.7 Russell’s Theory of Descriptions

IV.8 Russell’s Multiple-Relation Theory of Judgment

IV.9 Russellian Analysis, Early Wittgenstein, and Impredicativity Again

IV.10 Russell and The Philosophy of Logical Atomism

V. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 1: The Title, and Propositions 1–2.063

V.1 A Brief Synopsis of the Tractatus

V.2 The Tractatus in Context

V.3 The Basic Structure of the Tractatus: A Simple Picture

V.4 Tractarian Ontology

V.5 Reconstructing Wittgenstein’s Reasoning

V.6 What Are the Objects or Things?

V.7 The Role of Logic in Tractarian Ontology

V.8 Colorless Objects/Things

V.9 Tractarian Ontology, Necessity, and Contingency

V.10 Some Initial Worries, and Some Possible Wittgensteinian Counter-Moves

VI. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 2: Propositions 2.013–5.55

VI.1 What is Logical Space? What is Real Space?

VI.2 Atomic Facts Necessarily Are in Manifest or Phenomenal Space, But Objects or Things Themselves Necessarily Aren’t in Manifest or Phenomenal Space

VI.3 Logical Space is Essentially More Comprehensive than Manifest or Phenomenal Space

VI.4 Why There Can’t/Kant Be a Non-Logical World

VI.5 A Worry About Wittgenstein’s Conception of Logic: Non-Classical Logics

VI.6 What is a Tractarian Proposition?

VI.7 Naming Objects or Things, and Picturing Atomic Facts

VI.8 Signs, Symbols, Sense, Truth, and Judgment

VI.9 Propositions Again

VI.10 Language and Thought

VII. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 3: Propositions 4–5.61

VII.1 The Logocentric Predicament, Version 3.0: Justifying Deduction

VII.2 The Logical Form of Deduction

VII.3 Logic Must Take Care of Itself

VII.4 Tautologies and Contradictions

VII.5 What is Logic?

VII.6 Logic is the A Priori Essence of Language

VII.7 Logic is the A Priori Essence of Thought

VII.8 Logic is the A Priori Essence of the World

VIII. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 4: Propositions 5.62–7

VIII.1 Tractarian Solipsism and Tractarian Realism

VIII.2 Tractarian Solipsism

VIII.3 Tractarian Realism

VIII.4 Is the Tractatus’s Point an Ethical One?

VIII.5 The Meaning of Life

VIII.6 Three Basic Worries About the Tractatus

VIII.7 Natural Science and the Worry About the Simplicity of the Objects or Things

VIII.8 Natural Science and the Worry About the Logical Independence of Atomic Facts

VIII.9 Tractarian Mysticism and the Worry About Metaphilosophy

IX. Carnap, The Vienna Circle, Logical Empiricism, and The Great Divide

IX.1 Carnap Before and After the Tractatus

IX.2 Carnap, The Vienna Circle, and The Elimination of Metaphysics

IX.3 The Verifiability Principle and Its Fate

IX.4 The Davos Conference and The Great Divide

X. Gödel-Incompleteness and Formal Piety: The Death of Classical Logicism in Thirty-One Steps

X.1 Introduction

X.2 Twenty-Five of the Thirty-One Steps

X.3 Conclusion: The Last Six Steps

XI. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 1: Preface, and §§1–27

XI.1 From the Tractatus to the Investigations

XI.2 The Thesis That Meaning Is Use

XI.3 A Map of the Investigations

XI.4 The Critique of Pure Reference: What the Builders Did

XII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 2: §§28–242

XII.1 The Picture Theory and the Vices of Simplicity

XII.2 Wittgenstein’s Argument Against The Picture Theory: A Rational Reconstruction

XII.3 Understanding and Rule-Following

XII.4 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: The Basic Rationale

XII.5 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XII.6 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: Why Read Kripke Too?

XII.7 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XII.8 How to Solve The Paradox: Wittgenstein’s Way and Kripkenstein’s Way

XII.8.1 Wittgenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XII.8.2 Kripkenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XIII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 3: §§242–315

XIII.1 What is a Private Language?

XIII.2 The Private Language Argument: A Rational Reconstruction

XIII.3 Is Wittgenstein a Behaviorist? No.

XIII.4 Wittgenstein on Meanings, Sensations, and Human Mindedness: A Rational Reconstruction

XIV. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 4: §§316–693 and 174e-232e

XIV.1 Linguistic Phenomenology

XIV.2 Two Kinds of Seeing

XIV.3 Experiencing the Meaning of a Word

XIV.4 The Critique of Logical Analysis, and Logic-As-Grammar

XV. Coda: Wittgenstein and Kantianism

XV.1 World-Conformity 1: Kant, Transcendental Idealism, and Empirical Realism

XV.2 World-Conformity 2: Wittgenstein, Transcendental Solipsism, and Pure Realism

XV.3 World-Conformity 3: To Forms of Life

XV.4 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 1: Kant’s Critical Metaphilosophy

XV.5 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 2: Wittgensteinian Analysis as Critique

XVI. From Quine to Kripke and Analytic Metaphysics: The Adventures of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

XVI.1 Two Urban Legends of Post-Empiricism

XVI.2 A Very Brief History of The Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

XVI.3 Why the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction Really Matters

XVI.4 Quine’s Critique of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction, and a Meta-Critique

XVI.5 Three Dogmas of Post-Quineanism

Chapter XVII. Crisis Management: Husserl’s Crisis, Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy, and The Ash-Heap of History

XVII.1 Husserl’s Crisis and Our Crisis

XVII.1.1 Introduction

XVII.1.2 The Thematic Structure of the Crisis

XVII.1.3 Theme 1: A Husserlian Critique of Science

XVII.1.4 Theme 2: A Teleological Interpretation of European Culture Since the 17th Century, Focused on the History of Modern Philosophy

XVII.1.5 Theme 3: The Core Notion of the Life-World

XVII.1.6 Theme 4: Transcendental Phenomenology

XVII.1.7 Crisis? What Crisis?

XVII.2 Formal and Natural Science After 1945, and the Rise of Natural Mechanism

XVII.3 The Emergence of Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy

XVII.4 The Two Images Problem and its Consequences

XVII.5 The Rise, Fall, and Normalization of Post-Modern Philosophy

XVII.6 Why Hasn’t Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy Produced Any Important Ideas in the Last Thirty-Five Years?

XVII.7 The Ballad of Donald Kalish and Angela Davis: A Micro-Study

XVII.7.1 Introduction

XVII.7.2 Stage-Setting

XVII.7.3 The Ballad

XVII.7.4 The Double Life Problem, and Your Options

XVII.8 On Irad Kimhi’s Thinking and Being, Or, It’s The End Of Analytic Philosophy As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

XVII.8.1 Introduction

XVII.8.2 The Classical Analytic Package, and Kimhi

XVII.8.3 Kimhi’s Five Main Claims, and What’s Wrong With Them

XVII.8.4 Can Logic Absolve Us of Our Sins and Redeem the World?

XVIII. Epilogue: The New Poverty of Philosophy and Its Second Copernican Revolution

XVIII.1 Introduction

XVIII.2 Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Philosophy Revisited

XVIII.3 The New Poverty of Philosophy

XVIII.4 How is Philosophy Really Possible Inside the Professional Academy? A Global Metaphilosophical Problem

XVIII.5 Philosophy’s Second Copernican Revolution, Part 1: The Metaphilosophical Paradigm Shift to Anarcho- or Borderless Philosophy

XVIII.6 Philosophy’s Second Copernican Revolution, Part 2: The Metaphysical Paradigm Shift to Humanistic Neo-Organicism

XVIII.7 Conclusion: Let’s Go There



Starting with installment #36, all subsequent installments follow the 2021 final draft version of the book.

This installment contains section XIII.2.

Chapter X is new in the 2021 final draft version.

But you can also read or download a .pdf version of the complete 2021 final draft version of the book, which contains all eighteen chapters, including the new chapter X, and a full bibliography, HERE.


XIII.2 The Private Language Argument: A Rational Reconstruction

But we could also imagine a language in which a person could write down or give vocal expression to his inner experiences — his feelings, moods, and the rest — for his private use? — Well, can’t we do so in our ordinary language? — But that is not what I mean. The individual words of this language are to refer to what can only be known to the person speaking; to his immediate private sensations. So another person cannot understand the language. (PI §243)

2. Now such sensation languages are solipsistic with respect to their semantic contents by virtue of the fact that the sensations for which the words stand are knowable by the individual speaker alone:

In what sense are my sensations private? — Well, only I can know whether I am really in pain; another person can only surmise it. (PI §246)

3. And if sensations are to be knowable in any way by the individual speaker, then it must also be possible for the speaker to identify and re-identify her sensations over time and across individual persons:

“Another person can‘t have my pains.” — Which are my pains? What counts as a criterion of identity here? Consider what makes it possible in the case of physical objects to speak of “two exactly the same,” for example, to say “This chair is not the one you saw here yesterday, but is exactly the same as it.” In so far as it makes sense to say that my pain is the same as his, it is also possible for us both to have the same pain. (PI §253)

4. If, however, sensations are knowable by the individual speaker alone, then that speaker‘s identification and re-identification of those sensations over time will lack any criteria for correctness:

Let us imagine the following case. I want to keep a diary about the recurrence of a certain sensation. To this end I associate it with the sign “E” and write this sign in a calendar for every day on which I have the sensation. — I will remark first of all that a definition of the sign cannot be formulated. — But I can still give myself a kind of ostensive definition. — How? Can I point to the sensation? Not in the ordinary sense. But I speak, or write the sign down, and at the same time I concentrate my attention on the sensation — and so, as it were, point to it inwardly. — But what is this ceremony for? for that is all it seems to be! A definition surely serves to establish the meaning of a sign. — Well, that is done precisely by the concentration of my attention; for in this way I impress on myself the connection between the sign and the sensation. — But “I impress it on myself” can only mean: this process brings it about that I remember the connection right in the future. But in the present case I have no criterion of correctness. One would like to say: whatever is going to seem right to me is right. And that only means that here we can‘t talk about “right.” (PI §258)

5. Moreover, if an individual speaker‘s identification and re-identification of sensations over time lack any criteria of correctness, then it’s also possible for everyone to believe that they are sharing the same sensation, yet still have different sensations:

The essential thing about private experience is really not that each person possesses his own exemplar, but that nobody knows whether other people also have this or something else. The assumption would thus be possible — though unverifiable — that one section of mankind had one sensation of red and another section another. (PI §272)

6. And if it’s possible for everyone to believe that they’re sharing the same sensation yet still have different sensations, then it’s also possible for everyone to have no sensations at all, in which case it’s impossible to determine whether the sensation-word has any meaning at all:

If I say of myself that it is only from my own case that I know what the word “pain” means — must not I say the same thing of other people too? And how can I generalize the one case so irresponsibly? Now someone tells me that he knows what pain is only from his own case! — Suppose that everyone had a box with something in it: call it a “beetle.” No one can look into anyone else‘s box, and everyone says that he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle. — Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in his box. One might even imagine such a thing constantly changing. — But suppose the word “beetle” had a use in these people‘s language? — If so it would not be used as the name of a thing. The thing in the box has no place in the language-game at all; not even as a something; for the box might even be empty. — No, one can “divide through” by the thing in the box; it cancels out, whatever it is. (PI §293)

7. Therefore, sensation languages are impossible.

8. And by a simple generalization of the same argument, cognition languages — especially those in which words have meaning by standing for rule-following impressions — are also impossible:

And to think one is obeying a rule is not to obey a rule. Hence it is not possible to obey a rule “privately”: otherwise thinking one was obeying a rule would be the same thing as obeying it. (PI §202)

Are the rules of the private language impressions of rules? — The balance on which impressions are weighed is not the impression of a balance. (PI §259)

9. Therefore private languages are impossible, and it follows that linguistic meanings or semantic contents are not determined wholly and solely by what is inside individual speakers’ heads (or their Cartesian souls).

The conclusion clearly states Wittgenstein’s anti-individualism about semantic content. So, otherwise put, The Private Language Argument is ultimately an argument for externalism about semantic content — namely, the thesis that linguistic meanings or semantic contents are determined at least partially by what is outside individual speakers’ heads (or Cartesian souls). And the Private Language Argument also indirectly shows that Wittgenstein is a radical syntactic vehicle externalist. For it’s not signs per se, and especially not signs in a mental language or lingua mentis, but instead only public uses of signs by judging animals like us, that have linguistic meaning or semantic content.


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 29 March 2021

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