Taking avowals seriously: The soul a public affair

Eike von Savigny


First, the author gives a simplified outline of what he takes to be Wittgenstein’sidea that use determines meaning, and he does it in such a mannerthat we can put it to use in an interesting way. Then, he shows how theview of first person psychological utterances as expressions of people’s sensations,feelings, moods, impressions and so on fits in with this sketch of the‘use theory of meaning’; the result will be that the commonly acceptedunderstanding of such an utterance determines what the speaker’s mentalstate is like. In the section “Nonverbal expressions of mental states”, thisconclusion is generalized to mental states that are expressed in nonverbalbehavior; the result will be that commonly accepted reactions to nonverbalexpressive behavior determine what the speaker’s mental state is like in thesame way as is the case with verbal expressive behavior. Thus, rather thanarguing this anti-individualistic interpretation of Wittgenstein directly from the text, the author tries to pin him down to it by embedding his view onavowals in his use picture of meaning.


20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; epistemology; first person perspective; knowledge; meaning as use; philosophy; private language

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