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Wittgenstein on Solipsism in the 1930s: Private Pains, Private Languages, and Two Uses of 'I'

Button, T; (2018) Wittgenstein on Solipsism in the 1930s: Private Pains, Private Languages, and Two Uses of 'I'. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement , 82 pp. 205-229. 10.1017/s1358246118000061. Green open access

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Abstract

In the early-to-mid 1930s, Wittgenstein investigated solipsism via the philosophy of language. In this paper, I want to reopen Wittgenstein's ‘grammatical’ examination of solipsism. Wittgenstein begins by considering the thesis that only I can feel my pains. Whilst this thesis may tempt us towards solipsism, Wittgenstein points out that this temptation rests on a grammatical confusion concerning the phrase ‘my pains’. In §1, I unpack and vindicate his thinking. After discussing ‘my pains’, Wittgenstein makes his now famous suggestion that the word ‘I’ has two distinct uses: a subject-use and an object-use. The purpose of Wittgenstein's suggestion has, however, been widely misunderstood. I unpack it in §2, explaining how the subject-use connects with a phenomenological language, and so again tempts us into solipsism. In §§3–4, I consider various stages of Wittgenstein's engagement with this kind of solipsism, culminating in a rejection of solipsism (and of subject-uses of ‘I’) via reflections on private languages.

Type: Article
Title: Wittgenstein on Solipsism in the 1930s: Private Pains, Private Languages, and Two Uses of 'I'
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/s1358246118000061
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/s1358246118000061
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10085870
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