Of knowledge and of knowing that someone is in pain

Peter M. S. Hacker


This paper is a defense of Wittgenstein’s grammatical observation that ‘Iknow I am in pain’ is either no more than an emphatic assertion that thespeaker is in pain, or it is philosophers’ nonsense. Preparatory to the enterpriseWittgenstein’s position, commonly misconstrued, is carefully circumscribed and elaborated. A connective analysis of the concept of knowledge isessayed. Knowledge converges on the category of ability, not of state ormental state. Emphasis is placed on the discourse contexts in which the conceptof knowledge is needed. The semantic field to which the concept ofknowing belongs is sketched. This provides a set of eight conditions againstwhich the sense or lack of sense of ‘I know I am in pain’ can be determined.Tested against those conditions ‘I know that I am in pain’ is patently anomalous,and Wittgenstein’s analysis is vindicated. Recent objections to Wittgenstein’saccount, including the association of knowing that p with beingable to act for the reason that p, are examined and found wanting.


20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; epistemology; first person perspective; knowledge; philosophy; philosophy of language; private language

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