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I
H e id e g g e r, W ittg e n s te in ,
a n dS k e p tic is m
B y E d w a rd M in a r
T
I S
N O T
UNCOM M ON
T O
S E E
B R O A ~ )-S T R O K EL IK E N E S S E S B E T W E E N
B E IN GA N D
T im e , M artin
H eid eg g er's early m asterpiece
o f e x is te n tia l p h e n o m e n o lo g y ,
a n d L u d w ig W ittg e n s te in 's
P h ilo so p h ic a l In v e s tiq a tio n s -to
fin d , fo r e x a m p le ,
s tra in s o f p ra g m a tis m , h o lis m , a n d c o n te x tu a lis m
i n
both. Som e, however,
view the effort to trace genuine sim ilaritiesb e tw e e n
la teH e id e g g e r, th e th in k e r o f
B e in g a n d its w ith d ra w a l, a n d la te W ittg e n s te in , th e p h ilo s o p h ic a l th e ra p is t w h o
w ould "bring w ords back from
their m etaphysical to their everyday use"
(P I$ 1 1 6 )
im p la u sib le a n d s u rp ris in g .I th in k , t o th e c o n tra ry , th a t th e re a re s trik in g a n d p a r-
tic u la r a ffin itie s, s im ila ritie s th a t c a n d e e p e n o u r u n d e r s ta n d in g
o f b o th .I n
th is
e s s a y ,Ib e g in
thc process of taking up ~ tm le yC avell's
long-standing (but largely
u n e x p lo r e d ) s u g g e s tio n th a t la te H e id e g g e r a n d la te W ittg e n s te in
respond in com -
p a ra b le
f a s h io n
t o
th e th re a t o f s k e p ti-
c
s
abO L 1t
th e
Far from
being a difficulty that m ust
g ro u n d in g
of our
w a y s o f d e a lin g w ith
be fa c e d
i n th e n a m e
o fin te lle c tu a l
th e w o rld . In d o in g
J
J
SO ,
Ih o p e b o th
t o
r ig o r a n d
m e th o d o lo g ic a l s c r u p u lo u s -
p r o p o s c
a
fram e-
ness, skepticism presents a symptom
o f
w o rk w ith in
w h ic h
b o th
th in k e rs
c a n
o u r w a y of in h a b itin g o u r c o n d itio n .
fru itfu lly
b e
approached, and
t o
O r
S O
b o th la te H e id e g g e r a n d
la te
c a s tW to n th e s ig -
W ittg e n s te in w o u ld s h o w u s .
n ific a n c e
o f s k e p ti-
cism -on
w hy,
d e s p ite its a p p a re n t
in c re d ib ility a n d a lita n y o f a lle g e d " re fu ta tio n s "
directed against it, skepticism
s t i l l
seem s to present o r m aintain a threat to som e central aspectso f o u r self-conceptions.
G e n e ra lly , H e id e g g e r a n d W ittg e n s te in
try to recover the w orld from
th e c lu tc h e s
of a 'representational
th in k in g '
that renders the intim acy of our relation
to the
w o rld p ro b le m a tic . B o th -to
say m u chth e s a m e th in g -p o in t
us tow ard the recov-
ery o f b u r capacity to w ord
the w orld
by showing us how
to refuseap o stu re o f
re tle c tiv e d e ta c h m e n t fro m
th e w o rld th a t th re a te n s t o d e p riv e 11s o f o u r v o ic e in it.
S k e p tic is m
is the nam e that this threat has in m odcrn philosophy. Far from
b e in g a
1Edward M inar is an associate profssor of philosophy at the University of Arkansas.1
1H is a re a s of in te r e s t in c lu d e W ittg e n s te in a n d ip is te m o lo m . H e is c u r r e n tly w o r k in g 1
on a book on W ittgensteinian nrponsest o skepticism .
~
-
I X2 0 0 1 T H LH A R V A R D
R r:.v ltw
O FP H II~ O S O P H Y
3 7
difficulty that m ust be faced in the nam e of intellectual rigor and
m e th o d o lo g ic a l
scrupulousness, skepticism
presents a sym ptom
o f o u r w a y o f in h a b itin g o u r c o n d i-
tio n . O r s o b o th la te H e id e g g e r a n d la te W ittg e n s te in w o u ld s h o w u s .'
A
recent and
th o u g h t-p ro v o k in g
e s s a y
b y
T e rry
P in k a rd ,
" A n a ly tic s ,
C o n tin e n ta ls , a n d
M odern
S k e p tic is m ,"
sets up
a dialectical fram ew ork
o f p o s t-
K a n tia n
responses to
a "very
m odern
s k e p tic is m
a n d
the threats, both
in te lle c tu a l
a n d
cultural, it poses."'
P in k a rd 's
n a rra tiv e , w h ic h
e x te n d s fro m
F ic h tc th r o u g h
H e g e l a n d p ra g m a tis m
t o H e id e g g e r a n d W ittg e n s te in , c e n te rs o n th e q u e s tio n o f
w hat m akes the norm s that govern our practices-including
th o se th a t g o v e rn o u r
p ra c tic e s
of assessing
o u r b e lie fs -a u th o rita tiv e .
A fter
D escartes and
K ant, it
b e c o m e s d iffic u lt t o
m a in ta in -w h a t
is a n y w a y
of dubious coherence-that
th e
w o rld , re g a rd e d as a n u n c o n d itio n e d re a lity , d ic ta te s h o w
it should be represented.
W h a t we hold fast is in an im portant sense 'up
to us'. A s far as our beliefs go, that
is, " w h a t w e d e c id e t o k e e p a n d w h a t w e d e c id e t o je ttis o n
can only be determ ined
by som e reference to w hat our interests are.""ut

w h o is t h e 'w e ' i n q u e s t i o n ? I f 'w e ' re fe rs t o a p a rtic u la r, in d e p e n d e n tly id e n tifia b le g r o u p , th e n th e c re d e n tia ls o f that group to fix w hat m ust be accepted can always be challenged.Any way of speci- fying a characteristic

of such
a n
e m p i r i c a l 'w e '
t h a t is m e a n t t o

a c c o u n t fo r its authority is liable to be problem atic. W e can alw ays ask, that is, w hy the particular feature specified is to be taken as ensuring the legitim acy of the group's im prim atur. Appeals to the shared insight or expertise of group m em bers, for exam ple, sim p ly raise th e q u e s tio n o f w h o

d e te rm in e s w h a t c o u n ts as in s ig h t o r e x p e rtise . O n
th e
other hand, to
answ er the question, "W ho
c o n s titu te s th e
'w e '
w hose
say-so w e
m ust heed?", by
a s s e r tin g
that it isju s t
w e , ju st th e m e m b e rs o fth is c o n ~ m u n ity ,
w ith o u t o ffe rin g a g r o u n d fo r o u r p u ta tiv e a u th o rity , se e m s p o in tle ss. N o d o u b t it is
tr u e that for the
m ost part we
sim ply g o
as o u r c o m m u n ity
goes and
th a t th e
a c c e p te d
practices of the
c o m m u n ity
(or of those
o f its m e m b e rs it c o u n ts as
a u th o rita tiv e !) a re n o t n o rm a lly
ta k e n t o b e o p e n

t o q u e s tio n . R u t n o th in g in this fa c t g iv e s th e s lig h te s t in d ic a tio n o f w h y s h a re d c o m m u n ity p ra c tic e s a n d s ta n d a rd s should have norm ative force. T h e appeal to the accepted practices of norm al m em - bers of our group looks like dogm atic self-insistence. D espairing, then, of the avail- a b le m e a n s fo r p ic k in g o u t a n e m p iric a l 'w e ' in a n a p p ro p ria te a n d re le v a n t fa s h io n , w e

m ay
b e
te m p te d
t o
posit a transcendental
o n e , id e a liz e d
i n
s u c h
a w ay
as to
guarantee that w hatth is 'w e '
say s re p re s e n ts a g e n u in e e n title m e n t. S u c h
am ove,
how ever, m erely replaces the suspicion of dogm atism w ith an aura of m ystery.
P in k a rd 's s k e p tic a l p ro b le m
concerns w hether any 'w e' has suitable creden-
tia ls t o ju stify its o w n w a y s o f g o in g o n in th e w o rld . T h is p r o b le m

w o u ld c o m p rise a challenge to our self-im age as w ell as to the self-assurance of our claim s and stan- d a rd s . If, in th e e n d , it re m a in s a n o p e n q u e s tio n w h e th e r o u r w a y s o f e v a lu a tin g our beliefs reflect m ere prejudices, then even those aspects of ourselves that w e see a s d is tin c tiv e ly

expressive of our claim
t o ra tio n a l a u to n o m y -s u c h
a s o u r c a p a c ity
fo r d e ta c h e d , o b je c tiv e
s e l f - c r i t i c i s m
a n d
o u r e n title m e n t t o
treat ourselves as
a u th o rita tiv e -m a y
n o t rise a b o v e th e
" lo c a l
a n d
p a r o c h i a L W 4T h e p r o b l e m
lo o k s
b o th
in tra c ta b le a n d
serious. It brings in
to w
t h e v iv id
a n d
tro u b lin g
issue of
w hether each
'w e '
is tra p p e d in s id e its o w n p e rs p e c tiv e a n d is th u s d e b a rre d fro m
access to the w orld
as it really is. N o
'w e ',
it seem s, can
be in a position to assurc
its e lf o f t h e o b je c tiv ity o f its o w n p e rs p e c tiv e .
W h e re d o H e id e g g e r a n d W ittg e n s te in s ta n d w ith
respect to this skeptical
p ro b le m a tic ? N e ith e r is c o n c e rn e d t o g r o u n d
t h e 'w e '
or to dem onstrate from
a n
external vantage point the accuracy of our view s and the validity of our procedures
for assessing them . Instead, both
c h a lle n g e th e s e n s e o f t h e p r o b le m , u ltim a te ly
suggesting that the project of grounding
t h e 'w e '
begins from
a p o s itio n
w here

w o rld a n d w e h a v e b e e n a rtific ia lly a n d a s it w e re p re m a tu re ly s e p a ra te d . I t is as if the w orld had first to be stripped of the taint of m eaning before it could again be r e n d e r e d

a n h o s p ita b le

e n v iro n m e n t fo r th e d w e llin g o f m o rta ls . W h a t, ask H e id e g g e r a n d W ittg e n s te in , m o tiv a te s th e p h ilo so p h ic a l p ic tu re th a t re n d e rs su c h prior alienation of us from

th e w o rld , o f th e w o rld fro m
u s, in e v ita b le o r m a n d a to -
ry ?
Let us look first at W ittgenstein. H is stance on the problem
o f t h e 'w e '
e m e rg e s in h is tre a tm e n t o f ru le -fo llo w in g
i n
P h ilo so p h ic a l In v e s tig a tio n sa n d
R e m a r k s o n th e F o u n d a tio n s o f M a th e m a tic s .T h e re , h e sh o w s th a t n o th in g in th e
m in d fix es th e p ro p e r in te rp re ta tio n

of w hat a rule dictates, because every interpre- tation hangs in the air and seem s itself subject to interpretation; there m ust (if a rule is genuinely to determ ineap a rtic u la r w ay o f g o in g o n ) b e a w ay o f u n d e rs ta n d in g the rule that isn o t a n in te rp re ta tio n

(v .P I @ 198, 2 0 1 ) . W ittg e n s te in lin k s th is

understanding to our com m on agreem ent in judgm ent (P I$ 2 4 2 ) . P in k a rd fin d s in th is a g r e e m e n t a k in d o f g r o u n d in g of o u r linguistic practices: "W e orient our par- tic u la r ju d g m e n ts

about w hat the
ru le
m eans and
requires of us
.
.
.
b y
w hat
W ittg e n s te in c a lls 'th e c o m m o n h u m a n m o d e o f a c tio n ' o r 'fo rm
o f life',"
in w hich
th e p ra c tic e o f fo llo w in g th e ru le is e m b e d d e d ; b e h in d

th is c o m m o n a lity , P in k a rd continues, "there is nothing else m ore norm atively fundamental."Thus, he has it: " T h e 'c o m m o n

h u m a n m o d e o f a c tio n ', th e h u m a n 'fo rm
o f life' is th e 'w hole' in
te rm s o f w h ic h w e lo c a te o u r in d iv id u a l ju d g m e n ts
in order to secure them
a s
m e a n in g fu l a n d as rig h t. T h e h u m a n fo rm

o f life is n o rm a tiv e ly a u th o rita tiv e fo r u s although in a groundless fashion; w e cannot give any further norm ative account of th a t fo rm o f n o rm a tiv ea u th o rity ." '

T h is m o re
or less standard reading yields a picture
o n
w h ic h , w h ile
W ittgenstein sees o u r form
o f life asagroundless ground for w hat we do and refus-
es to countenance any dem and for som ething deeper, the skeptic's
c o n c e p tio n o f
g r o u n d in g re m a in s in ta c t. W ittg e n s te in 's
refusal hardly seem s to yield a satisfying
response to skepticism . True, our eyes are shut to the skeptic's

d o u b ts (v .P Ip . 2 2 4 ) ; h o w e v e r, in th e s k e p tic 's e y e s , w e h a v e d e lib e ra te ly a v o id e d a p e rfe c tly le g iti- m ate effo rtt o question the credentials of our taken-for-granted w ays of proceeding. All w e have provided

is a less than reassuring rem inder that, as a contingent m atter
of fact, w e are absorbed in o u r form

o f life;w e h a v e g iv e n n o in d ic a tio n as t o w h y w e s h o u ld n o t b e c o n c e rn e d w ith w h e th e r th e re s u lta n t 'o rie n ta tio n ' is, o n a c c o u n t o f its 'p a ro c h ia lity ',

radically o u t of tune w ith
th in g s . S k e p tic is m , in o th e r w o rd s ,
harbors a fear th at 'form

o f life ' p ro v id e s a m e re ly c o n v e n tio n a l o r fo r th a t m a tte r a m erely natural basis of our w ays of going on, neither of w hich can account for its p u ta tiv e n o rm a tiv e

force. At bottom , appealing to an
" u n d e r iv e d
b u t n o t se lf-
g ro u n d in g " fo rm
of life7 does nothing in the skeptic's eyes to banish the specter of
arbitrariness that haunts grounds such as these. Pinkard's
W ittg e n s te in s e e m s t o
represent a W ittgenstein viewed through skepticallenses.
A n
alternative interpretation is available, on w hich W ittgenstein
in v ite s
s o m e th in g lik e th e s ta n d a rd in te rp re ta tio n
but contests its term s. H e w rites, "W hat
h a s t o b e a c c e p t e d , t h e g iv e n , is-so
o n e could say-form s

o f life"(P Ip . 2 2 6 ) . T h is p r o n o u n c e m e n t d o e s n o t d ic ta te a c o m p la c e n t a c c e p ta n c e o f a c o n v e n tio n a l o r n a t- ural basis for our practices; rather, our hum an form s of lifecom prise our practices,

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