“Treating the Sceptic with Genuine Expression of Feeling. Wittgenstein’s Later Remarks on the Psychology of Other Minds”

In A. Roser & R. Raatzsch (eds.), Jahrbuch der Deutschen Ludwig Wittgenstein Gesellschaft. Peter Lang Verlag (2004)
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This paper is concerned with the issue of authenticity in Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology. In the manuscripts published as Letzte Schriften über die Philosophie der Psychologie – Das Innere und das Äußere, the German term Echtheit is mostly translated as ‘genuineness’. In these manuscripts, Wittgenstein frequently uses the term as referring to a feature of the expression of feeling and emotion: […] I want to say that there is an original genuine expression of pain; that the expression of pain therefore is not equally connected to the pain and to the pretence. (LW II, p. 55) “This weeping gives the impression of being genuine” – so there is such a thing as genuine weeping. […]. (LW II, p. 87) […] Genuineness and falseness are not the only essential characteristics of an expression of feeling. […]. (LW II, p. 90) Wittgenstein contrasts the genuineness of the expressions with the possibility that the expressions are feigned. It seems to me that Wittgenstein is trying to discredit a specific version of the sceptical claim that we do not know other minds. I will refer to it as the sceptical innuendo. The sceptical innuendo says that every expression of feeling and emotion may be pretended. Wittgenstein’s approach to the issue reflects his later interest in the philosophy of psychology and, in particular, the problem of the ascription of psychological states (P-ascriptions) on the basis of someone else’s expression of feeling or emotion. Thus, the attempt to reject the sceptical innuendo is done mainly by means of conceptual and psychological arguments. Let’s look at this short dialogue between the sceptic and Wittgenstein. The former asks „How do you know that someone else is in a certain psychological state?“ Wittgenstein’s first reply is „I know that he is glad because I see him“. But the sceptic cannot be very happy with this reply. The sceptic’s next question is: „How do you know that he is really glad and he is not pretending?“ Wittgenstein’s response is not a direct refutation but is composed of a number of related reasons. These may be summed up in three arguments: (i) A psychological argument from the very nature of the expressions. The expressions are meant to be natural symptoms of someone else’s psychological state (P-state). (ii) A conceptual argument about the nature of pretence. It claims that pretence is a psychological property which is rightly ascribed when an observer has evidence for it. (iii) A psychological argument from genuineness. It claims that we are committed to accept people’s expressions of feeling and emotion as genuine.
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