Making sense of the other: Husserl, Carnap, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein

Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy (Conference Proceedings) (1998)
Phenomenology and logical positivism both subscribed to an empirical-verifiability criterion of mental or linguistic meaning. The acceptance of this criterion confronted them with the same problem: how to understand the Other as a subject with his own experience, if the existence and nature of the Other's experiences cannot be verified. Husserl tackled this problem in the Cartesian Meditations, but he could not reconcile the verifiability criterion with understanding the Other's feelings and sensations. Carnap's solution was to embrace behaviorism and eliminate the idea of private sensations, but behaviorism has well-known difficulties. Heidegger broke this impasse by suggesting that each person's being included being-with, an innate capacity for understanding the Other. To be human is to be "hard-wired" to make sense of the Other without having to verify the Other's private sensations. I suggest that being-with emerged from an evolutionary imperative for conspecific animals to recognize each other and to coordinate their activities. Wittgenstein also rejected the verifiability criterion. He theorized that the meaning of a term is its usage and that terms about private sensations were meaningful because they have functions in our language-games. For example, "I'm in pain," like a cry of pain, functions to get the attention of others and motivate others to help. Wittgenstein's theory shows how Dasein's being-with includes "primitive" adaptive behavior such as cries, smiles, and threatening or playful gesture. As Dasein is acculturated, these behaviors are partially superseded by functionally equivalent linguistic expressions.
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