“It is not a something, but not a nothing either!”—McDowell on Wittgenstein

Synthese 191 (3):557-567 (2014)

Hao Tang
Tsinghua University
This paper corrects a mistake in John McDowell’s influential reading of Wittgenstein’s attack on the idea of private sensations. McDowell rightly identifies a primary target of Wittgenstein’s attack to be the Myth of the Given. But he also suggests that Wittgenstein, in the ferocity of his battles with this myth, sometimes goes into overkill, which manifests itself in seemingly behavioristic denials about sensations. But this criticism of Wittgenstein is a mistake. The mistake is made over two important but notoriously difficult sections in the so-called Private Language Argument, namely §304 and §293 of the Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein, maximally charitably read, commits no overkill in these two sections. This correction strengthens McDowell’s overall reading, but it is only a first step toward fully bringing out the deep but obscurely expressed insights in §304 and §293, the full treatment of which must await another occasion
Keywords Wittgenstein  McDowell  Private Language Argument   Private sensation  Myth of the Given
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-013-0291-3
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References found in this work BETA

Mind and World.John McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Mind, Value, and Reality.John Henry McDowell - 1998 - Harvard University Press.
Expression and the Inner.David H. Finkelstein - 2003 - Harvard University Press.

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