Psychological investigations: The private language argument and inferences in contemporary cognitive science
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Synthese 171 (1):135-156 (2009)
Some of the methods for data collection in experimental psychology, as well as many of the inferences from observed behavior or image scanning, are based on the implicit premise that language use can be linked, via the meaning of words, to specific subjective states. Wittgenstein’s well known private language argument (PLA), however, calls into question the legitimacy of such inferences. According to a strong interpretation of PLA, all of the elements of a language must be publicly available. Thus the meaning of words is not fixed by reference to our private experiences, and so data from subjective state claims indicates nothing about our subjective experiences. Application of PLA to psychological studies based on descriptions of the experience of orgasm offers support for the strong version of the conclusion of PLA. We show that PLA has deep implications for data collection methods and inferences in experimental psychology. In particular we critique two contemporary research projects in neuroscience: one studying the ability to remember emotionally loaded words and the other studying experience of attraction. Both of these projects attempt to link subjective experiences and thought processes to particular observable brain states. The research methods appeal to (implicit) inferences from linguistic usage to subjective states. Application of PLA will show that such inferences cannot be made because the meaning of a word is not determined by any subjective state of the speaker.
|Keywords||Private language argument Wittgenstein Cognitive science Subjective states Privacy Philosophy of language|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Barbara Brierley, Nicholas Medford, Philip Shaw & Anthony S. David (2007). Emotional Memory for Words: Separating Content and Context. Cognition and Emotion 21 (3):495-521.
John V. Canfield (1996). The Community View. Philosophical Review 105 (4):469-488.
Robert J. Fogelin (1987/1999). Wittgenstein. Routledge.
Jeffery Geller (1988). Introspection in Psychology and Philosophy. Philosophy Research Archives 13:471-480.
Bernard Gert (1986). Wittgenstein's Private Language Arguments. Synthese 68 (3):409-39.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
J. Moore (2001). On Psychological Terms That Appeal to the Mental. Behavior and Philosophy 29:167 - 186.
David Bain (2004). Private Languages and Private Theorists. Philosophical Quarterly 54 (216):427 - 434.
George Wrisley (2011). Wherefore the Failure of Private Ostension? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (3):483 - 498.
Ullin T. Place (1993). A Radical Behaviorist Methodology for the Empirical Investigation of Private Events. Behavior and Philosophy 20 (21):25-35.
Christian Helmut Wenzel (2010). On Wittgenstein's Notion of Meaning-Blindness: Its Subjective, Objective and Aesthetic Aspects. Philosophical Investigations 33 (3):201-219.
David J. Chalmers (1999). First-Person Methods in the Science of Consciousness. Consciousness Bulletin.
John A. Humphrey (1996). Kripke's Wittgenstein and the Impossibility of Private Language: The Same Old Story? Journal of Philosophical Research 21 (January):197-207.
Charles Travis (1989). The Uses of Sense: Wittgenstein's Philosophy of Language. Oxford University Press.
Dale Jacquette (1994). Wittgenstein on Private Language and Privat Mental Objects. Wittgenstein Studien 1 (1).
Adam J. Kolber (2007). Pain Detection and the Privacy of Subjective Experience. American Journal of Law & Medicine 33 (2&3):433-456.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads44 ( #45,145 of 1,410,046 )
Recent downloads (6 months)7 ( #32,745 of 1,410,046 )
How can I increase my downloads?