On Siamese Twins and Philosophical Zombies: A New Reading of Wittgenstein’s ‘Private Language Argument’

James Connelly


In this paper, I give a new and simplified reading of Wittgenstein’s ‘private
language argument.’ I present the argument as consisting in two basic stages,
the second of which pertains to the possibility of a private sensation language,
and which addresses concerns which emerge naturally out of the first stage,
which pertains to identity statements. In §253, I argue, Wittgenstein develops a
critique of Leibniz’s principles of identity in an effort to provide support for
a characterization of sensations as qualitatively discernable identicals, states
of a living human body which ‘show up’ in qualitatively distinct ways depending
upon whether one is in the state in question, or merely observes it. The
argument against a ‘private sensation language’ can then be seen as responding
to an attempt, by the interlocutor, to identify the various phenomena referred
to in our sensation talk with phenomenal items which, existing independently of
the ‘natural expressions’ or ‘outward signs’ of sensation, it is impossible for
others to know.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; private language; private ostensive definition; epistemic privacy; philosophy of language; philosophy of mind; legality

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