Wittgenstein on psychological certainty
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Perspicuous Presentations: Essays on Wittgenstein's Philosophy of Psychology. Palgrave Macmillan (2007)
As is well known, Wittgenstein pointed out an asymmetry between first- and third-person psychological statements: the first, unlike the latter, involve observation or a claim to knowledge and are constitutionally open to uncertainty. In this paper, I challenge this asymmetry and Wittgenstein's own affirmation of the constitutional uncertainty of third-person psychological statements, and argue that Wittgenstein ultimately did too. I first show that, on his view, most of our third-person psychological statements are noncognitive; they stem from a subjective certainty: a certainty which, though not the result of an epistemic process, is not invulnerable to error in that it is a kind of assumption. I then trace Wittgenstein's realization that some third-person psychological certainties are not merely subjective but 'objective' (which means, as he uses the word, that they are logically indubitable): in some cases, we can be as logically certain that someone else is in pain than we are about ourselves being in pain. This positively reinforces Wittgenstein's rebuttal of other mind scepticism. I conclude with a response to objections about the legitimacy of calling an assurance that is logical (i.e., that does not have uncertainty or doubt on its flipside) a 'certainty', by suggesting that the flipside is to be found in pathological cases, and most pertinently here, in cases of dyssemia: a rare disorder affecting the ability to properly express or recognize basic physical expressions of feeling.
|Keywords||Philosophy of psychology dyssemia certainty Wittgenstein first/third person asymmetry other mind scepticism|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
|Call number||BF38.P422 2007|
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Campbell Purton (forthcoming). Buddhism, Meditation, and ‘the Inner World’. Religious Studies:1-15.
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