Solipsism and the Problem of Other Minds http://www.iep.utm.

edu/solipsis/

1. Solipsism is sometimes expressed as the view that “I am the only mind which exists,” or “My mental states are the only mental states.” However, the sole survivor of a nuclear holocaust might truly come to elieve in either of these propositions without there y eing a solipsist. !. Solipsism is therefore more properly regarded as the doctrine that, in principle, “existence” means for me my existence and that of my mental states. "xistence is everything that I experience # physical o $ects, other people, events and processes # anything that would commonly e regarded as a constituent of the space and time in which I coexist with others and is necessarily construed y me as part of the content of my consciousness. %. &or the solipsist, it is not merely the case that he elieves that his thoughts, experiences, and emotions are, as a matter of contingent fact, the only thoughts, experiences, and emotions. 'ather, the solipsist can attach no meaning to the supposition that there could e thoughts, experiences, and emotions other than his own. In short, the true solipsist understands the word “pain,” for example, to mean “my pain.” He cannot accordingly conceive how this word is to e applied in any sense other than this exclusively egocentric one.

1. (he Importance of the )ro lem 1. *o great philosopher has espoused solipsism. +s a theory, if indeed it can e termed such, it is clearly very far removed from common sense. In view of this, it might reasona ly e as,ed why the pro lem of solipsism should receive any philosophical attention. (here are two answers to this -uestion. &irst, while no great philosopher has explicitly espoused solipsism, this can e attri uted to the inconsistency of much philosophical reasoning. Many philosophers have failed to accept the logical conse-uences of their own most fundamental commitments and preconceptions. (he foundations of solipsism lie at the heart of the view that the individual gets his own psychological concepts .thin,ing, willing, perceiving, and so forth./ from “his own cases,” that is y a straction from “inner experience.” !. (his view, or some variant of it, has een held y a great many, if not the ma$ority of philosophers since 0escartes made the egocentric search for truth to the primary goal of the critical study of the nature and limits of ,nowledge. %. In this sense, solipsism is implicit in many philosophies of ,nowledge and mind since 0escartes and any theory of ,nowledge that adopts the 1artesian egocentric approach as its asic frame of reference is inherently solipsistic. 2. Second, solipsism merits close examination ecause it is ased upon three widely entertained philosophical presuppositions, which are themselves of fundamental and wide3ranging importance. (hese are4 .a/ 5hat I ,now most certainly are the contents of my own mind 6 my thoughts, experiences, affective states, and so forth.7 . / (here is no conceptual or logically necessary lin, etween the mental and the physical. &or example, there is no necessary lin, etween the occurrence of certain conscious experiences or mental states and the “possession” and ehavioral dispositions of a ody of a particular ,ind7

one immediately grapples with fundamental issues in the philosophy of mind. Indeed.a le 1artesian origin. the eliefs from which they derive logical sustenance.c/ (he experiences of a given person are necessarily private to that person.e one.and . these latter issues are un-uestiona ly important. If this connection exists and we wish to avoid those solipsistic conclusions.e. or at least to critically review. However spurious the pro lem of solipsism per se may stri. . 8.ling the pro lem of solipsism. we shall have no option ut to revise. one of the merits of the entire enterprise is the extent that it reveals a direct connection etween apparently unexceptiona le and certainly widely3held common sense eliefs and the acceptance of solipsistic conclusions. In tac. and are widely accepted y philosophers and non3philosophers ali. (hese presuppositions are of unmista.

drop against which solipsism su se-uently developed and was made to seem. . at least irrefuta le. (hus does .od. and can e assured of its own existence exclusively as a conscious mind. 0escartes= account of the nature of mind implies that the individual ac-uires the psychological concepts that he possesses “from his own case. and since He has created man with an innate disposition to assume the existence of an external. pu lic world corresponding to the private world of the “ideas” that are the only immediate o $ects of consciousness. .s of 0escartes= successors in the modern world.something few modern philosophers are willing to do/.Sixth Meditation/. Since . 8. Historical 9rigins of the )ro lem 1. +lthough this view utili?es language and employs conceptual categories .od is no deceiver. 2. if not plausi le. &or the ego that is revealed y the cogito is a solitary consciousness. In view of this it is scarcely surprising that we should find the specter of solipsism looming ever more threateningly in the wor. which is denied to everyone else. In introducing “methodic dou t” into philosophy. !.0iscourse on Method and the Meditations/. is not necessarily located in any ody. + modern philosopher cannot evade solipsism under the 1artesian picture of consciousness without accepting the function attri uted to . 'en: 0escartes created the ac. particularly in those of the >ritish empiricist tradition. he argues.” that is that each individual has a uni-ue and privileged access to his own mind.!.od ridge the chasm etween the solitary consciousness revealed y methodic dou t and the intersu $ective world of pu lic o $ects and other human eings< %. it follows that such a pu lic world actually exists. a res cogitans that is not spatially extended.od y 0escartes . (his view of the self is intrinsically solipsistic and 0escartes evades the solipsistic conse-uences of his method of dou t y the desperate expedient of appealing to the enevolence of .

e argued that all ideas have their origins in experience. and so forth.” “other minds. I may discover. such concepts have their genesis in the experience of the corresponding mental processes.that is introspection or “inner experience”/ is the sole source of psychological concepts. the correlation etween odily and mental stated is not a logically necessary one. @. Boc.now other minds at all 6 that they exist and have a particular nature 6 it can only e on the asis of certain inferences that I have made from what is directly accessi le to me. +ny correlation that I ma. my emotions. (he essentials of the 1artesian view were accepted y Aohn Boc.now immediately and with greatest certainty are the events that occur in my own mind 6 my thoughts.. for example. that whenever I feel pain my ody is in$ured in some way. my desires. what I .nown in this way y anyone else.en.” It cannot therefore e part of what I mean y the word “pain” that my ody should ehave in a particular way. >y the same to. ut I can discover this factual correlation only after I have ac-uired the concept “pain. if I am to e said to . 9n this view. the father of modern >ritish empiricism. “'eflection” .now my own7 indeed.”the individual.2ff/. .nowledge of my odily states.” and so forth. the ehavior of other human eings. it is nonetheless fundamentally conducive historically to the development of solipsistic patterns of thought. . (hus./ that are inimical to solipsism.i.now other minds in the way that I . If I ac-uire my psychological concepts y introspecting upon my own mental operations.e etween the two will e effected su se-uent to my ac-uisition of my psychological concepts. 'e$ecting 0escartes= theory that the mind possesses ideas innately at irth. then it follows that I do so independently of my . my perceptions. it follows that I do not . 5ithout exception.e. 6 and these are not ."ssay 1oncerning Human Cnderstanding II.

>y exactly the same to. 2. any correlation . as we have seen a ove. which empiricist philosophers in particular who accept the 1artesian account of consciousness generally assume as a mechanism for avoiding solipsism. has to e indirect and analogical. one must. In the case of another. 5illiam Aames.en. an inference from my own case. I feel myself ecoming frustrated and o serve myself acting in a particular way. on this asis. %. (hus. fundamental difficulties with the argument from analogy. 5hat then of my . if one accepts the 1artesian account of consciousness. >ertrand 'ussell. in all consistency. the feeling of frustration. (here are. 9 serving that the odies of other human eings ehave as my ody does in similar circumstances. when I see a pro lem that I am trying unsuccessfully to solve. however. (his is the so3called “argument from analogy” for other minds. and +. . +yer/. A. if I am to e said to possess such . it follows that my . Mind need not ecome located in ody.nowledge of the minds of others.e=s view there can e only one answer4 since what I . Its nature will not e affected in any way y the death of this ody and there is no reason in principle why it should not have een located in a ody radically different from a human one. ut this is a matter of sheer contingency. I infer that the “hidden” middle term. Mill. S. !. I can infer that the mental life and series of mental events that accompany my odily ehavior are also present in the case of others.now directly is the existence and contents of my own mind. has also occurred. &irst.nowledge at all.nowledge of the minds of others< 9n Boc. 9ne of these implications. is that there is no logically necessary connection etween the concepts of “mind” and “ ody7” my mind may e lodged in my ody now. for example.%. (he +rgument from +nalogy 1. accept its implications.1ompare A. I o serve only the first and last terms of this three3term se-uence and.

e a concrete example again. (he supposition that a ta le might experience pain is a totally meaningless one. (his raises the -uestion as to how my supposed analogical inferences to other minds are to ta. If the relationship etween having a human ody and a certain . is that this is not so. G. )hilosophical Investigations. of course. @. I am surrounded y other odies. whereas the ascription of pain to other human eings and animals that. it should e e-ually easy 6 or e-ually difficult 6 for me to conceive of a ta le as eing in pain as it is for me to conceive of another person as eing in pain. How is this to e accounted for< It will not do. ut it can play no role in any explanation of what it is to have a mental life. >ecause the 1artesian position implies that there is no logical connection etween the mental and the physical. How can I apply psychological concepts to others.Budwig 5ittgenstein. 8. F.ind and the capa ility for consciousness. etween the possession of a ody of a particular .ind of mental life is as contingent as the 1artesian account of mind implies. and . . resem le human eings is something which even very young children find unpro lematic.nowledged. E !F2/. to simply respond that a ta le does not have the same complex set of physical characteristics as a human ody or that it is not capa le of the same patterns of ehavior as a human ody.that exists etween odily ehavior and mental states must also e entirely contingent7 there can e no conceptual connections etween the contents of a mind at a given time and the nature andDor ehavior of the ody in which it is located at that time. (he point. )hysical differentiation can and must e ac. I. if I . some of which are similar to mine.e place at all. if I learn what “pain” means y reference to my own case. in their physical characteristics andDor ehavioral capa ilities.now only that they apply to me< (o ta. in this context. then I will understand “pain” to mean “my pain” and the supposition that pain can e ascri ed to anything other than myself will e unintelligi le to me.

e understood as a reductio ad a surdum refutation of these 1artesian principles. and should. 1I. it demonstrates that the acceptance of the 1artesian account of consciousness and the view that my understanding of psychological concepts derives. +ssuming the validity of the 1artesian position. H. which the argument from analogy is designed to address. on these premises. Cltimately. then I would e a le to conceive of an inanimate o $ect such as a ta le as having a soul and eing conscious. >ut I cannot attach any intelligi ility to the notion of an inanimate . *. we have to infer that it ma. (he -uestion as to whether it is legitimate for me to ascri e psychological predicates to entities other than myself.es no sense to attri ute consciousness to another human eing at all. from my own case leads inexora ly to solipsism. (hus on strict 1artesian principles. Malcolm. it must e confessed that on these principles I .some of which are different. It can. to attri ute any psychological predicate to another human eing as it does to attri ute it to a ta le or a roc. Jiewed from this perspective.If the a ove argument is valid. it ma.a//.ind of ody that I am confronted at a given time. the argument from analogy will not do the wor. 9n 1artesian principles such similarities and such differences are irrelevant. it may fairly e said that the argument accomplishes more than $ust this. cannot hinge on the . It is thus that solipsism comes to seem inescapa le. 11..es as much or a little sense. if the physical forms no part of the criteria that govern my ascription of psychological predicates. that is re-uired of it to ridge the gulf etween my conscious states and putative conscious states that are not mine.now only my own mental states and the supposition that there are mental states other than my own ceases to e intelligi le to me.9n these premises. as do the concepts themselves. .If there is no logical connection etween the physical and the mental. However. the argument may e paraphrased as follows4 1!.

o $ect eing conscious. It follows therefore that there is a logical connection etween the physical and the mental4 the physical does form part of the criteria that govern my ascription of psychological words. .

%. +s such. ehaves li.2. it is a necessary and antecedent condition for the ascription of psychological predicates such as these to an o $ect that it should “possess” a ody of a particular . from my own “inner” mental life.ind.” and so forth. 5hat is significant in this connection.” “anger. (o put this slightly differently. a person is a living human eing and the human person in this sense functions as our paradigm of that which has a mental life7 it is precisely in relation to their application to persons that we learn such concepts as “consciousness. !. however. (he )hysical and the Mental 1. 5ittgenstein articulated this point in one of the centrally important methodological tenets of the Investigations4 9nly of a living human eing and what resem les . linguistic context and part of their meaning is their primary application to living human eings. social. (his example demonstrates a point of -uite fundamental importance4 so far from eing ac-uired y a straction from my own case. my psychological concepts are ac-uired in a specifically intersu $ective. is that to achieve this effect.e a human form.” “pain. on how a cartoonist might show that a particular ta le was angry or in pain. for example. ut clearly a certain imaginative latitude may e allowed for specific purposes and a cartoonist might conceiva ly want to picture a ta le as eing angry for humorous reasons. it is impossi le to attach literal meaning to the assertion that a given inanimate o $ect is angry or in pain. +s indicated a ove.e/ a living human eing can one say4 it . the cartoonist must picture the ta le as having human features 6 the pictured ta le will appear angry to us only to the extent to that it possesses the natural human expression of anger. 5hat then is this logical connection etween the physical and the mental< (his -uestion can est e answered y reflecting. (he concept of anger can find purchase in relation to the ta le only if it is represented as possessing something li.

(he intersu $ective world that we live with other human eings and the pu lic language3system that we must master if we are to thin. which re-uire something li. E @82/ 9ur psychological and non3 psychological concepts ali. (he idea that other persons might all in reality e “automatons” is not one which we can seriously entertain. i?arre and ewildering. . the elief that there is something pro lematic a out the application of psychological words to other human eings and that such applications are necessarily the products of highly falli le inferences to the “inner” mental lives of others.” machines devoid of any conscious thought or experience.has sensations7 it sees7 is lind7 hears7 is deaf7 is conscious or unconscious.” in 5ittgenstein=s phrase. 2. at all are the primary data. the “proto3phenomena. 1onse-uently.I.I.e are derived from a single linguistic fountainhead. .e the argument from analogy for their $ustification. E !F1/. . It is precisely ecause the living human eing functions as our paradigm of that which is conscious and has a mental life that we find the solipsistic notion that other human eings could e “automatons. turns out to e fundamentally confused.

nowledge of their mental states at a given time is not inferential in nature at all. %. that we need any inferential argument to assure us of the existence of other minds.8. 5e are now in a position to see the essential redundancy of the argument from analogy. gesticulates. .s to esta lish that it is legitimate to infer that other living human eings do indeed have mental lives. I. ut is rather determined y the pu lic criteria that govern the application of psychological concepts. that are sufficiently similar to permit the analogous comparison and sufficiently different to re-uire it.s vehemently. to a stract from our own cases to the “internal” world of others. &irst.” (he difficulty here. however. that each one of us may e said to e $ustified in his confidence that he is surrounded y other persons rather than “automatons. I do not reason “he ehaves in this way. shouts. Second. gets red in the face. it is a misconception to thin. 1GF/. !.Investigations. and so forth 6 is angry precisely ecause I have learned the concept “anger” y reference to such ehavioral criteria. Such an assurance seems necessary only so long as it is assumed that each of us has to wor. it see.nowledge that other human eings are conscious and our .. is that the argument presupposes that I can draw an analogy etween two things. (here is no inference involved here. E %I%7 II. I . “outwards” from the interiority of hisDher own consciousness.now that a person who ehaves in a particular way 6 who. for example. +s indicated a ove. ecause the argument from analogy treats the existence of the mental lives of other living human eings as pro lematic. myself as a person and other living human eings. therefore he is angry” 6 rather “ ehaving in this way” is part of what it is to e angry and it does not occur to any sane person to -uestion whether the individual who acts in this way is conscious or has a mental life. Knowing 9ther Minds 1. iv. spea. . p. this assumption is fundamentally wrong 6 our .

as are these others. *. the truth is that I have no criterion for discriminating living human eings from persons. It thus presupposes that I . &or it is not the case that when I am in pain I first identify the pain and su se-uently come to recogni?e that it is one that I. and >rown .nowing what it means to ascri e them to others. for the very good reason that persons are living human eings 6 there is no conceptual difference etween the two.en.e myself.now other persons directly. I see a out me living human eings and the argument from analogy is supposed to allow me to infer that these are persons li. However. however.nowledge of the mental states of others. fre-uently3encountered o $ection to the argument from analogy derives from the wor. . (his is incoherent. y definition. I am a living human eing. 8. . It follows.(he >lue >oo. is how or in what respects am I different from or similar to other human eings< (he answer is that I am neither. op. cit. on 5ittgensteinian criteria/ -uite mista.ironically. of certain mental states as eing mine in the first place is to discriminate them from mental states that are not mine and these. that in a fundamental sense the argument from analogy cannot get off the ground4 one cannot .ing itself functionally redundant./. thus ma.nowledges that I . (o spea. + final. 2. Since the argument ac.now how to ascri e mental states to oneself unless one also . it is .now what it means to assign mental states to myself without necessarily .(he -uestion must e faced.nowledge of my own mental life and “inner” states to my indirect . it there y implicitly ac.Malcolm.now living human eings directly. )lausi le as this o $ection seems at first sight.nows what it means to ascri e mental states to others. therefore. have. are the mental states of others.nowledges that I . (he personal pronoun “I” in the locution “I am in pain” is not the “I” of personal individuation 6 it does not refer to me or discriminate me as a pu licly situated person as distinct from others. of Strawson and Malcolm4 the argument attempts to move inferentially from my supposed direct . as distinct from someone else.

+s 5ittgenstein puts it.>oo. Such uses of the word “I” as occur in present3tense.s. is to identify a concrete individual as the possessor of the pain. I. .(he >lue >oo. I. as oth Strawson and Malcolm suggest. G.Investigations. which is dimly perceived ut misrepresented y those who feel the need of the argument from analogy. E !FH3!HI/. in relation to the ascription of psychological predicates to oneself and to others. ut thin. 'ather. 9n this point alone 5ittgenstein concurs with the exponent of the argument from analogy. 5ittgenstein in fact considered that there is a genuine asymmetry here.s. However. (o ascri e pain to a third party. E 2I2.nowledge which. I have of the mental states of others. . @G7 also Investigations./. 5hereas one ascri es psychological states to others y reference to odily and ehavioral criteria. @G3@H7 also Investigations. -uite correctly. one has and re-uires no criteria at all to self3ascri e or self3avow them. allegedly. whereas the self3avowals or self3ascriptions of such predicates are . 5ittgenstein here calls attention to the fact that the asymmetry is not one that exists etween the supposedly direct and certain . that present3tense. to say “I have pain” is no more a statement a out a particular person than moaning is. first3person psychological assertions such as “I am in pain” differ radically from third3person psychological predicate ascriptions. E 2I@/. the asymmetry is that the ascriptions of psychological predicates to others re-uire criterial $ustificatory grounds. @. I. and >rown >oo. on the other hand.s of the former as descriptions of “inner” mental states to which he alone has a privileged access. first3person psychological assertions do not identify a possessor7 they do not discriminate one person from amongst a group.nowledge that I have of my own mental states as distinct from the wholly inferential . p. (he exponent of the argument from analogy is not guilty of the charge of presupposing the very thing that he is endeavoring to demonstrate. (hus the exponent of the argument from analogy sees. (his is crucially wrong. pp.

It thus transpires that the argument from analogy appears possi le and necessary only to those who misapprehend the asymmetry etween the criterial ases for third3person psychological predicate ascription and the non3criterial right for their self3ascription or self3 avowal for a cognitive asymmetry etween direct and indirect .nowledge of mental states.criterionless. . (he 1artesian egocentric view of the mind and of mental events that gives rise oth to the specter of solipsism and attempts to evade it y means of the argument from analogy has its origins in this very misapprehension.

He attac. Something is private to me in the first sense if only I can .&or more detailed accounts. 5ittgenstein distinguishes two senses of the word “private” as it is normally used4 privacy of . (wo of these. oth theses are false./. (his leaves us with the final presupposition underlying solipsism. see Kenny. al eit one in which no3one really elieves< Solipsism rests upon certain presuppositions a out the mind and our . if highly compressed and rather oracular. more radically. is very widely accepted 6 also derives from the 1artesian account of mind and generates solipsistic conclusions y suggesting that experience is something that. 5ittgenstein offers a comprehensive criti-ue of this view. (hus the thesis that experience is necessarily private can mean one of two things. !.s the notion that experience is necessarily private. . *o two people can ever e said to have the same experience.nowledge and privacy of possession. how one can . . /. have een dealt with a ove. %. If the foregoing is correct.now the experiences of another or. that all experiences are necessarily . it is fair to say. (his again introduces the pro lem of how one person can .@. ecause of its “occult” or ephemeral nature.now it7 it is private to me in the second sense if only I can have it.now that another person has experiences at all..nowledge of my own mind and the thesis that there is no conceptual or logically necessary lin. etween the mental and the physical. +. (he )rivacy of "xperience 1. *. Malcolm. 5hat then of solipsism< (o what extent does the foregoing undermine it as a coherent philosophical hypothesis. +. the thesis that I have a privileged form of access to and . (his thesis 6 which.a/ only I can . can never literally e shared.nowledge of mental events and processes. His arguments against this are complex.that is logically/ private to the individual whose experiences they are. which are not always discriminated from each other with sufficient care4 . Johra. / only I can have my experiences.now my experiences or . .

!!!/. If we ta. Cnder . xi. E !2@/. we find that the assertion “9nly I can .i/ is.I. ecause it suggests that I learn of them otherwise. . he could not ut manifest his pain to others. it would not e unusual to hear it remar.i/ I .now” cannot e significantly employed in this way.can/ . ut rather that the word “.5ittgenstein argues that the first of these is false and the second is true in a sense that does not ma.now my pains” is a con$unction of two separate theses4 .i/ nor . as follows4 2. @.e the word “. (his is ecause the ver al locution “I am in pain” is usually . that “a moan of pain escaped him” 6 indicating that despite his efforts. /.now that I am in pain when I am in pain and .I.now that I am in pain.now that I am in pain when I am in pain. If we turn to .now when I am in pain. Indeed. (he prepositional function “I .now that I am in pain when I am in pain.e experience necessarily private. in certain circumstances. whereas I don=t learn of them at all 6 I have them.ii/ other people cannot .now that x” does not yield a meaningful proposition if the varia le is replaced y an expression of pain.though not invaria ly/ an expression of pain 6 as part of ac-uired pain3 ehavior it is a linguistic su stitute for such natural expressions of pain as groaning. (hesis . E !2@7 II.nowing this even when one wishes to do so.ed of someone. if we ta.Investigations. nonsense4 it cannot e meaningfully asserted of me that I . then it is true to say that other people can and very fre-uently do . literally. (hus. 8. E !22/. (hesis .ii/ 6 other people cannot . in cases where the pain is extreme.now that I am in pain when I am in pain 6 is false. 5ittgenstein=s point here is not that I do not . for example. (hus to say that others learn of my pains only from my ehavior is misleading. It thus transpires that neither thesis .e pain as an experiential exemplar. . it is often impossi le to prevent others from .ii/ is true. I. p.now” is as it is normally used. linguistic or otherwise. It . we find that “9nly I can have my pains” expresses a truth. . ut it is a truth that is grammatical rather than ontological. &or this reason it cannot e governed y an epistemic operator.a/.

another person cannot have my lushes. and so forth. experience that I do not or cannot . . we will -uite correctly e said to have “the same pain.Investigations. “5hat sometimes happens could always happen” is a fallacy. in which case that particular experience might e said to e private to me. . My pains are the ones that. >ut I might do this y articulating it in a language that those with whom I was conversing do not understand. fears. xi. for it remains true if we replace the word “pains” with many other plural nouns .eep to myself is not private.e. E %28/.en.grammatical/ to. it tells us nothing specifically a out pains or other experiences. +nother person can have the same pain as me. +s 5ittgenstein points out. In short.g. &or in that case the concept “order” would ecome incapa le of instantiation and would lose its significance. it does not follow that all experiences could e private. snee?es. G. if they are expressed at all. It does not follow from the fact that some orders are not o eyed that all orders might never e o eyed. and none of this can e ta. Similarly..ind of privacy.I. +nother person. It is true that I may deli erately and successfully .” (his is what the expression “the same pain” means. "ven though some experiences are private in this sense. If our pains have the same phenomenal characteristics and corresponding locations. however.en as adding to our stoc. some experiences are private and some are not. p.” However. (here is clearly nothing occult or mysterious a out this . II. .draws our attention to the grammatical connection etween the personal pronoun “I” and the possessive “my. are expressed y me. cannot have my pains. “9nly I can have my lushes”/. frowns.eep an experience to myself. !!!/.pile of metaphysical truths. >ut y exactly the same .

in theory and in fact. Banguage is an irreduci ly pu lic form of life that is encountered in specifically social contexts. argue.G. 5hat ma. 5ith the elief in the essential privacy of experience eliminated as false.e solipsism apparently plausi le. it is scarcely surprising that those philosophers who accept the 1artesian premises that ma. and the existence of such language itself implies the existence of a social context. . a ove all else. E !I!7 !2!3%18/. is that the solipsist re-uires a language .es it incoherent.I. (o -uestion. !. "ach natural language3system contains an indefinitely large num er of “language3 games. have also invaria ly assumed that language3usage is itself essentially private. for to ma. +s a theory. 9ne might even say.pu licly accessi le/ use in a language.es sense only to the extent that it is expressed in a pu lic language. ut this is not -uite strong or accurate enough. it is incoherent. though conventional. (he proposition “I am the only mind that exists” ma.that is a sign3system/ to thin. . (he Incoherence of Solipsism 1. It is to play a particular .iven this. if not inescapa le. (he cluster of arguments 6 generally referred to as “the private language argument” 6 that we find in the Investigations against this assumption effectively administers the coup de grLce to oth 1artesian dualism and solipsism. or dou t is to utili?e language in a particular way. are not ar itrary personal fiats. Such a context exists for the hypothetical last survivor of a nuclear holocaust. or to affirm his solipsistic thoughts at all.e an appeal to logical rules or empirical evidence the solipsist would implicitly have to affirm the very thing that he purportedly refuses to elieve4 the reality of intersu $ectively valid criteria and a pu lic. solipsism is necessarily foundationless. extra3 mental world.” governed y rules that. (here is a temptation to say that solipsism is a false philosophical theory. the last presupposition underlying solipsism is removed and solipsism is shown as foundationless. (he meaning of a word is its . .ind of pu lic language3game.

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