On knowing Oneself by Outward Criteria (PI II iv)

Sandra Markewitz


“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” The famous
quotation from the second part of the Philosophical
Investigations (if such a “second part” does exist is a different and
well-discussed question) presents a philosophical problem not to be confused
with emphatic existentialist thinking about the self. The self Wittgenstein is
talking about is characterized by contingent ascriptions rather than inner
processes constituting our language use. If someone is in posession of a soul,
this “soul” is not an abstract entity to be respected under all possible
circumstances, it is the outcome of common attitudes governing individual
linguistic approaches to other individuals and vice versa. The deepest feelings
can be silenced by not reacting to them; “deep” is a word expecting certain
reactions of compassion and consolation, where there are no common “attitudes”
to expressions affirming their existence as undoubtably, they will gradually
peter out. This petering-out is known to be the consequence of a specific,
non-mentalist understanding of how linguistic meaning comes into being.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; picture; criterion

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