Wittgensteins Grammatik des Fremdseelischen
MetadataShow full item record
- Department of Philosophy 
WITTGENSTEIN’S GRAMMAR OF OTHER MINDS Throughout his whole work, Wittgenstein was concerned with issues of the human mind, mental or – in the broadest sense – psychological phenomena and concepts. However, it was during the period from 1946 until his death in 1951 that »Philosophy of Psychology« became a main theme for him. In particular, there are many remarks in this period on the other minds problem, which can be expressed in the question of how – and whether! – we can know about the minds of others, how we can know what – and that – others feel, sense and think. The concern of this work is to investigate Wittgenstein’s ›grammar of other minds‹, which, according to Wittgenstein’s particular understanding of ›grammar‹, means the description of the way in which we speak about the minds of others. This thesis thus dedicates an independent investigation to the theme of other minds in Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology. However, these investigations, published posthumously as Remarks and Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, unquestionably do not have the status of an elaborated work; rather, they often consist of individual, seemingly disconnected and disorganised fragments of thought. By studying the manuscripts and typescripts, the aim is thus to provide an account of Wittgenstein’s grammatical investigations of other minds that is as faithful to the text as possible and at the same time systematically coherent.In its traditional form, the so-called ›other minds problem‹ describes an epistemological problem with respect to other minds, which is based on the assumption that access to one’s own feelings, sensations and mental states is always immediate and certain, while access to the minds of others is always mediated by their behaviour and is therefore indirect and uncertain. For indeed, as René Descartes famously questioned, »what do I actually see other than hats and coats, which could be covering automata« (Meditationes de Prima Philosophia, II)! With this, Descartes not only formulated the most relevant argument of a radical other minds scepticism, but also implied the closely interwoven idea that mental phenomena are something hidden inside the body and, for this very reason, can only be indirectly and uncertainly understood by others: In this conception, the human being is divided into an ›inner‹ and an ›outer‹, whereby this inner is only accessible to its owner, but not (directly) to others. Wittgenstein criticises this picture of the inner and outer as two separable realms and is himself of the opinion that the inner of feelings, thoughts and sensations expresses itself directly in facial expressions, gestures and overall behaviour and cannot be separated from the outer. According to him, we encounter others fundamentally with an attitude towards the soul and react directly and immediately to their inner. Nevertheless, Wittgenstein also admits that there are more complicated cases in which the outer can be deceptive, for example when others pretend, lie or deceive. In contrast to traditional philosophers, who mostly treated the other minds problem in the course of general epistemological considerations, Wittgenstein addresses the other minds problem as a practical problem that we encounter in everyday life and that complicates our relationship to others. For, pretence, lies and deceit represent a problem with others in that I do not know ›where I stand‹, do not know how I should act and may have to fear consequences that are detrimental to me. Such practical doubts are thus less a matter of knowing or not knowing about the inner of others, but rather a question of trust and mistrust: rather than the truth, it is the sincerity of others that is of interest here. But the otherness of other minds – the strangeness of others – sometimes also shows itself, as Wittgenstein points out, »that we not only fail to understand someone else when he hides his feelings, but frequently also when he does not hide them, indeed when he does his utmost to make himself understood« (Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology II, 28). Such a failure to understand can have various reasons: Perhaps we do not share the culture, the language, the social or economic circumstances, the religion or the experience against the background of which the other’s statement would only become understandable to me. In such situations, the other is incomprehensible to me, seems enigmatic and perhaps even irrational. And although such a ›riddle‹ does not have to have a solution, we can make sense of the enigmatic behaviour of others, of strangers, by embedding it in a possible story, a fictional narrative, and thus relating the strange to our own inner experience, to »our own feelings and thoughts« (Remarks von Frazer’s ›Golden Bough‹, 143). Considering such practical, everyday cases in which the inner of others seems inaccessible or incomprehensible to me shows that the other minds problem is for Wittgenstein less a problem about others than a problem with others.