From: Subject: Aune: Indubitable Foundations Date: Sun, 14 Aug 2011 10:57:09 -0500 MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/html; charset="Windows-1252" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Content-Location: X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2900.5994 Aune: Indubitable Foundations

From Knowledge, Mind, and Nature: An = Introduction=20 to Theory of Knowledge and the Philosophy of Mind Random = House. New=20 York. 1967.=20

Does Knowledge Have an Indubitable=20 Foundation?
by Bruce Aune

The position outlined at = the end of the=20 last chapter was built on the assumption that a man's sensory = experience=20 can provide a satisfactory foundation for the body of his = empirical=20 knowledge. Although this assumption has been a key tenet of = traditional=20 empiricism, most contemporary philosophers regard it as extremely=20 questionable. In fact, it is now commonly believed that subjective = experience, taken by itself, cannot possibly provide an adequate = basis for=20 any kind of knowledge at all. The main task of this chapter will = be to=20 examine the credentials of this current opinion.=20


Anyone who thinks it possible to develop = his=20 conception of himself and an external world solely by reference to = his=20 immediate experience is generally presupposing that the nature and = interrelations of his sensory experiences can be classified and = known=20 independently of anything else. Although it will actually be shown = only in=20 later chapters that knowing and classifying are essentially = linguistic and=20 require some kind of conceptual scheme, I shall here=20


assume that the presupposition can be = expressed by=20 the claim that one might possibly possess a primitive phenomenal = language.=20 Such a language or conceptual scheme may of course be used only in = silent=20 soliloquy. It will be considered primitive in the sense that its = basic use=20 will be to classify the phenomena of immediate experience.=20

The point in expressing the above = presupposition by=20 reference to a language is to come directly to terms with = Wittgenstein's=20 influential critique of private languages,1 which is = commonly=20 regarded as ruling out the possibility of a subjective basis for = empirical=20 knowledge. Since Wittgenstein's critique raises numerous questions = of a=20 highly controversial sort, I shall develop it dialectically as the = chapter=20 proceeds. As an introduction to the general strategy of his = approach, the=20 following remarks will be helpful.=20

If a man is to defend an assertion or = proposition,=20 he plainly needs some kind of argument. Arguments, however, need = premises.=20 Hence if there is to be a fundamental basis of empirical knowledge = -=20 something by which the truth of ordinary claims is to be defended = - this=20 basis must be propositional in character: it must be the kind of = thing=20 that can have a place in an argument. This being so, any adequate = basis of=20 knowledge will be radically different from raw experience. Pains, = tickles,=20 and itches are neither true nor false, and they cannot appear as = premises=20 in arguments. If, accordingly, the true basis of knowledge is = regarded as=20 phenomenal, it can at best consist of propositions about = immediate=20 experiences. Since these propositions are presumed to be true, = they must=20 themselves be capable of some kind of defense. If they cannot be = defended,=20 if no good reason can be given for supposing them true, then their = claim=20 to provide a secure basis of knowledge can be nothing but a = sham.=20

Although traditional empiricists have = notoriously=20 regarded the truth of basic phenomenal premises as far too obvious = to=20 require explicit defense, this is exactly what Wittgenstein = demanded. If=20 the very foundation of our knowledge is to rest on truths about = our sense=20 experiences, then, considering the enormous stakes involved, we = must=20 surely have some guarantee that our knowledge does not rest = on=20 sand. We may indeed have no haunting doubts about the reliability = of our=20 beliefs concerning our immediate experiences, but this does not = allow us,=20 as philosophers, to assume=20


without question that all such doubts are = strictly=20 unjustifiable, that they must be mad or wild. Admittedly, it is=20 exceedingly difficult to imagine that we might chronically = misidentify our=20 own experiences. But this is merely a psychological matter: some = people=20 cannot imagine a lifeless universe. It will be of no use here to = appeal to=20 intuition, since the intuitions of one man may easily conflict = with those=20 of another. What is needed, plainly, is an argument, something = showing=20 just why the products of our awareness may justifiably be held = reliable.=20 Unfortunately, nothing but the flabbiest arguments have ever been = given in=20 defense of this basic empiricist idea. Empiricists have for the = most part=20 simply taken it for granted that our knowledge of our sense = experiences is=20 both noninferential and absolutely reliable. Yet taking = things for=20 granted is the mark of the dogmatist - not the free, critical = spirit that=20 the empiricist has taken himself to be.=20

Contrary to what one might expect, it = happens that=20 good reasons can actually be given for doubting the allegedly = infallible=20 character of immediate awareness, though these reasons were not = advanced=20 by Wittgenstein. Consider, first, the verbal behavior of = hebephrenic=20 schizophrenics. These people frequently utter what are graphically = called=20 "word salads"; they pour out chaotic jumbles of words, which often = appear=20 to be utterly unrelated. Verbally, at least, these people are = totally=20 confused. Is there any reason to think that their thoughts are = less=20 chaotic than their words? Evidently not. In fact even = psychoanalysis would=20 have to admit that, consciously at least, such patients are = totally=20 confused: their conscious thinking, if indeed it merits the name = of=20 thinking, seems to be every bit as flightful and disconnected as = the words=20 they utter. Yet if these patients really are intellectually = deranged,=20 thoroughly befuddled, there is obviously good reason to think that = this=20 derangement also extends to their awareness of their = feelings.=20

It might be objected at this point that = the kind of=20 intellectual befuddlement just mentioned can occur only in = psychotics,=20 never in an ordinary perceiver. This may be granted, though it = would=20 appear that less dramatic forms of intellectual befuddlement could = occasionally exist in almost anybody. The philosophically = important fact=20 has, nevertheless, been established. It is simply that serious=20 intellectual confusion is a possibility, and that identifications = of even=20 feelings and mental images are not logically incapable of error. = I=20


myself have no reason, of course, to think = that I am=20 as befuddled as a hospitalized schizophrenic, and my confidence in = the=20 truth of what I say about my feelings is extremely high. But this=20 confidence is something that requires some kind of justification; = it=20 cannot stand by itself as the basis of all my knowledge. If I = cannot=20 justify my conviction that I am not a walking whirly of = confusion,=20 I plainly cannot justify the idea that I have any knowledge at = all, let=20 alone a substantial stock of infallible knowledge about my = momentary state=20 of mind.=20

Actually the possibility of being mistaken = about the=20 character of one's momentary experience can be illustrated by = reference to=20 the behavior of perfectly sane adults. Consider, for instance, the = following experiment.2 We have a man, noted for his = integrity,=20 who reports having extremely vivid imagery. His imagery is so = vivid, he=20 tells us, that he can generally read off from it all sorts of = facts about=20 objects he has recently seen. We present him with the following=20 letter-square, and let him scrutinize it for a few seconds: =

e m f
r z a
o w p

We then take the square away and ask him = whether he=20 has a clear image of it. He says that he does. We then ask him to = read off=20 the letters from left to right, starting from the top and working = down. He=20 does so, and makes no mistakes. We then ask him to read them off = in the=20 opposite direction. Suppose that, contrary to his likely=20 behavior,3 he reads them off without hesitation, though = he=20 makes several mistakes. We have him do the same thing again - that = is,=20 read off the letters in both directions - and he gives the same = answers.=20 Without mentioning his error, we then ask him whether his image = changed=20 during the experiment. He says, "No; it remained the same = throughout the=20 experiment, vivid and sharp." In fact, he emphatically endorses = all of the=20 following claims, not even considering, so great is his = confidence, that=20 they might not be entirely consistent.=20

1. The image did not change during the = experiment.=20
2. From left to right, top to bottom, the letters were: e, m, = f, r, z,=20 a, o, w, p.


3. From right to left, bottom to top, the = letters=20 were: p, w, o, r, a, s, f, m, e. (He was evidently wrong = about the=20 italicized letters.)=20

Now, if he has the image he claims to = have, not all=20 three of these assertions can be true of it; at least one must be=20 mistaken. Whichever it is, we know that he has made a mistake = about the=20 character of his experience. Presented with this example, about = the only=20 thing the traditional empiricist can say, apart from questioning = the=20 honesty of the subject (which we have implicitly ruled out), is = that the=20 man's memory, as anyone will admit, is by no means infallible. We = could,=20 however, vary the experiment indefinitely, using either a very = small=20 square or even just a short sequence of letters. If we have more = than one=20 letter, error will always be theoretically possible: the = statements the=20 agent will make could always turn out to be inconsistent. To blame = the=20 error in every case on the weakness of memory seems ad hoc = and=20 theoretically desperate. Besides, what experimental sense could we = give to=20 the assertion that it is always memory that is at fault?=20

The admission that memory is intrinsically = fallible=20 is, however, extremely damaging to the idea that phenomenal = identification=20 could not possibly go wrong. There is plainly a sense in which = memory is=20 involved in all judgments of identification. To judge that a = phenomenal=20 occurrence has the property F is to assert that it belongs = to the=20 class of F's. But how could one know this infallibly, if = one's=20 memory is intrinsically fallible? - if one may well misremember = the=20 peculiarities, the distinguishing features, of F's = generally? If it=20 is replied that every assertion of the form "This is an F" = is=20 really an immediate matter, involving no reference whatever to = other=20 F's or to their distinguishing features, then the assertion = evidentaly amounts to no more than "I shall call this 'F'." But if = all=20 phenomenal identification have this import, and only this import, = then it=20 would be impossible to establish any generalization, let alone = infallible=20 ones, relating different phenomenal items. Indeed, there would be = no=20 bona fide identifications at all; each so-called = identification=20 would turn out to be nothing more than a kind of ceremonial = announcement=20 or verbal baptism, something very different from an out-and-out = claim to=20 knowledge.=20


In view of this it appears that anyone = wanting to=20 regard all phenomenal identification as invariably true is forced = to admit=20 that memories, too, are sometimes infallible. If so, he must = advance=20 criteria to distinguish fallible from infallible memories, for he = must be=20 able to handle the puzzle raised by the example of the = letter-square. It=20 happens, however, that no such criteria have ever been advanced - = and it=20 is extremely difficult to imagine what such criteria would be = like. Yet=20 until we have such criteria, the conclusion to be drawn from the = case of=20 the letter-square seems inescapable, namely, that it is quite = possible for=20 even a sane man to make mistakes about the character of his = immediate=20 experience.=20

The temptation to regard sense experience = as=20 yielding infallible knowledge seems to arise from the historic = confusion=20 of knowledge with a kind of intellectual gazing: a sense = impression has=20 nothing hidden about it, nothing not presented to the eye of the = soul, so=20 it involves nothing about which one could be mistaken. But it is = easy to=20 see, again by considering examples familiar to psychologists, that = knowledge which is a matter of having true, defensible opinions, = is=20 extremely different from intellectual gazing - and not just on the = ground=20 that there really is no eye of the soul. Consider, for instance, = some of=20 the experiments performed on congenitally blind adults whose = vision has=20 been restored by surgery. While these people learn to discriminate = colors=20 rather quickly, they often have an extremely difficult time with = visual=20 shapes. Senden found, for instance, that patients trained over a = period of=20 thirteen days to discriminate squares from triangles sometimes = learned so=20 little that they could not make these discriminations without = methodically=20 counting corners one after another.4 In fact some of = these=20 patients were quite unable visually to distinguish spheres from = cubes!=20 Though the shapes in point were physical ones, an empiricist could = scarcely deny that the patients had the appropriate visual = impressions.=20 Yet if they were familiar with the idea of a sense impression, and = were=20 asked whether their current impressions were of spherical or = cubical=20 objects, they would no doubt have had to reply that they could not = tell.=20 If so, we could have had the spectacle of men intellectually = wallowing in=20 their immediate experience who nevertheless lacked the ability to=20 appreciate the complex variety of what they were actually = sensing.=20

The point here, though troublesome to = traditional=20 empiricists,=20


is actually well known in the history of = philosophy.=20 And if, like Plato, Kant, and others, we make the indispensible=20 distinction between having an impression or experience and = thinking about=20 it, attempting to classify it, and the like, we should find it = very=20 natural to admit the possibility that persons whose vision has = been=20 restored by medical treatment may very well be unable to make = accurate=20 discriminations among the visual impressions that are novel to = them.=20 Indeed, the spectacle just mentioned, of men having sensory = experiences=20 they cannot distinguish or identify, is nothing but memorable = illustration=20 of the Kantian point that percepts without concepts are = blind.=20

In spite of all this I am fully prepared = to admit=20 that given sufficient training, it is extremely unlikely that a = normal=20 person could fail to distinguish surfaces so palpably different as = circles=20 and squares. But this concession is of little help to the = traditional=20 empiricist. The point seems to be securely established that = judgments of=20 phenomenal identification are not, in fact, infallible. We may = come to=20 have enormous confidence that, after a protracted period of = training, a=20 man's opinions about the character of his own experiences are = never really=20 wrong. But our confidence here is based on empirical = considerations. There=20 is no longer any reason to think that such opinions cannot = be=20 erroneous; rather, we have fairly good, though not fallible, = reasons to=20 think that they are normally reliable. But these reasons are = neither=20 wholly phenomenal, derived from introspection, nor purely logical, = semantical, or a priori in some other subtle way.=20

There is, of course, a familiar defensive = move that=20 empiricists are generally anxious to make at this point. They = often=20 contend that error here implies misunderstanding of the language = in which=20 the identifications are made, so that if a man is not = linguistically or=20 perhaps conceptually befuddled in some way, what he says or thinks = about=20 his immediate experience is always true. Unfortunately, though = there is=20 often point to this contention, it is wholly useless in the = present=20 context. When introduced here, it simply redirects the challenge = in=20 question, allowing it to be focused on the matter of whether a = man's=20 confidence that he actually understands what he is saying is ever=20 justified. Linguistic or conceptual befuddlement is, after all, = just as=20 serious an intellectual defect as out-and-out error, for confusion = and=20 error are both cases of ignorance,=20


which is failure to appreciate the truth. = It may=20 well be a necessary truth that if one is not conceptually=20 befuddled, one's judgments of phenomenal identification are always = true.=20 But because of the possibility of improper coordination between = thought=20 and sensation, illustrated by the above experiments, this alleged=20 necessity does not support the traditional contention that = immediate=20 apprehension is an infallible source of knowledge.=20

The foregoing discussion illustrates the = position I=20 shall take in this book: subjective experiences, or introspective=20 knowledge of them, are not sufficient to constitute the foundation = of=20 anything, let alone all our empirical knowledge. This is not to = say,=20 however, that introspective knowledge is an illusion; in fact, I = shall=20 take special pains to defend the legitimacy of such knowledge = against its=20 behavioristic critics. The defense I give will nevertheless be far = out of=20 line with the contentions of traditional empiricism. Not only = shall I=20 insist that subjective experience cannot provide the true = foundation of=20 our knowledge, but I shall insist that our knowledge has no=20 foundations in the traditional sense. By this I do not mean = that it is=20 unfounded or baseless, in the sense that it is subject to every = shift in=20 the uncertain winds of custom or fancy. I simply mean that there = is no=20 such thing as an indubitable foundation on which knowledge of any = sort can=20 rest.=20


Although Wittgenstein's attack on a = subjective basis=20 for empirical knowledge is presumably consistent with the main = lines of my=20 argument against the infallibility of introspective claims, it = involves=20 further, more serious criticism; in fact some philosophers see it = as=20 constituting a critique of introspective knowledge = generally.5=20 The fundamental point of the critique seems to be this. Anyone = restricted=20 merely to the domain of private experience has no possible way of = checking=20 up on, or even adding credibility to, his momentary apprehensions = about=20 his immediate experiences. Such a person could not, in fact, = distinguish=20 between knowing that an experience has, say, the property F = and=20 merely thinking of being or being under the impression that it has = F. But=20 if he could not make this distinction, and so justify the truth of = his=20 introspective claims, the very idea of=20


introspective knowledge turns to dust and = has,=20 consequently, no significant place in serious epistemological=20 deliberation.=20

In view of the far-reaching, indeed = revolutionary,=20 consequences of this contention, it is obviously important to = scrutinize=20 its credentials with exceptional care. As just presented, = Wittgenstein's=20 argument seems to rest heavily on the necessity of making a clear=20 distinction between knowing that one has a certain experience and = merely=20 thinking that one has it.6 But this distinction is = actually not=20 of crucial importance. The contradictory of "He knows that p" is = "He does=20 not know that p"; and if one can make sense of the latter, one can = give=20 sense to the former, even if, for some reason, "He merely thinks = that p"=20 remains unintelligible.* Assuming that Wittgenstein was = correct=20 in insisting on the necessity of finding some kind of significant = contrast=20 for the claim that a man knows he has a certain experience, we may = thus=20 regard this contrast as adequately given by the claim that the man = does=20 not not possess this knowledge.=20

An obvious first step in coming to terms = with=20 Wittgenstein's evident attack on the possibility of basic = introspective=20 knowledge is to ask how, in his opinion, one is ever able = to=20 distinguish knowledge from ignorance. His general answer to this = question,=20 if I understand him correctly, is that an assertion may be = regarded as an=20 expression of knowledge only if it is made in accordance with some = appropriate rule, one by which the propriety of of applying the = relevant=20 words or concepts is to be appraised.7 If this is = indeed his=20 opinion, it appears that if the empiricist of the last chapter can = show=20 that his application of phenomenal term or concept is in = accordance with=20 some appropriate rule, then his contention that he actually does = possess=20 basic introspective knowledge stands a good chance of being = justified even=20 according to Wittgenstein's principles.=20


If we are to make sense of the kind of = knowledge in=20 question by reference to rules, we must be clear about the = kind of=20 rule involved. Wittgenstein, unfortunately, was not entirely = explicit=20 about this.=20

* The importance = of this=20 reservation to Wittgenstein's argument is brought out in Ch. IV; = see esp.=20 pp. 95-98.


Yet if we consider his general assumption = that the=20 use of a word is governed by "criteria," which are in some sense = based on=20 the word's definition, a natural interpretation of his doctrine is = not=20 difficult to formulate.8 Although his use of the term=20 "criterion" is not without its puzzles,9 we can surely = agree=20 that the question whether a thing is correctly described as, say, = a=20 "lemon" would normally be answered by at least a tacit or indirect = reference to the defining characteristics of lemons - and = Wittgenstein=20 would presumably call these characteristics "criteria." Thus, if I = am=20 assured that the term "lemon" properly applies to yellow, sour = fruit of a=20 certain characteristic size and shape, I can justify my use of = this term=20 to describe or identify something by showing that the thing in = point=20 possesses these defining characteristics. In doing so, I may be = said to be=20 relying on a rule, one to the effect, roughly, that fruit of such = and such=20 characteristics are correctly called "lemons." The general=20 connection between knowledge and rules suggested by this example = is that=20 one can ultimately determine whether a thing actually is a K - = whether the=20 word "K" properly applies to it - only by reference to rules that = specify=20 the criteria for being a K.*

It is crucially important to note that the = rules=20 involved here strictly authorize what might be called = "intra-language"=20 moves.10 This label highlights the special character of = these=20 rules, which is to authorize inferences. Thus, to continue = with the=20 same example, if one knows or has good reason to think that a = thing is=20 yellow, sour, of the appropriate size and shape, then the rule in = point=20 allows one to infer that the object is a lemon. And if, = conversely,=20 one knows that it is a lemon, then the rule probably allows one to = infer=20 that it is probably yellow, sour, and the like.11 (The = utility=20 of this latter rule is that it tells one what to expect when = lemons are=20 said to be in the vicinity.)=20

The idea that the rules with reference to = which=20 empirical claims are justified are all of this = intra-language sort=20 immediately leads to a very serious problem. In order to justify a = claim=20 by an intra-language rule one has to know that some other claim is = justifiable, the claim, namely, that serves as the premise for the = inference. Yet if this latter claim can be justified only by a = rule of=20 in-=20

* I am only = using the word=20 "criterion" in an informal sense, which is slightly different from = the=20 technical sense I introduce in Ch. V, pp. 114f.


ference, one must know that still another = claim is=20 justifiable, and so on without end. This, however, seems to make = it=20 impossible to justify anything. To put it in another way, since=20 intra-language rules merely authorize inferences, they cannot = themselves=20 justify any basic premises. Yet without such premises, we could = never=20 obtain justified conclusions; and without justified conclusions we = could=20 never have knowledge of the actual character of the world.=20

This kind of puzzle takes us immediately = to the=20 basis of traditional empiricism and partially accounts for the = tenacity of=20 the idea that empirical knowledge must be built on a phenomenal=20 foundation. It is precisely phenomenal awareness, whose = infallibility is=20 so difficult to doubt that is supposed to justify the basic = premises of=20 empirical knowledge. One justifiably makes these basic claims as = the=20 result of one's awareness of a certain experience - an occurrence = or datum=20 which, unlike physical things, is entirely open to view. Once = these=20 primitive claims are made, rules of inference allow one to move on = and=20 construct a warranted picture of the world.=20

Although I have already advanced arguments = against=20 the idea that immediate experience provides an indubitable basis = of=20 knowledge, the assumption that knowledge requires some such basis = is still=20 very much alive. Since this assumption seems to rule out the = plausibility=20 of Wittgenstein's general approach by sustaining the problem = mentioned=20 above, a brief resolution of that problem must be attempted before = proceeding any further with Wittgenstein's argument. I shall = attempt to do=20 this by showing that the assumption in point is untenable and that = the=20 problem it poses for Wittgenstein's approach is actually=20 misconceived.=20

The line of reasoning behind the = empiricist's=20 assumption is, again, that while intra-language rules may validly = take us=20 from premise to conclusion, they cannot themselves establish = empirical=20 truth. If the premises you start with are false, you will have no=20 guarantee that the conclusions you reach are not false either. = Hence, to=20 attain knowledge of the actual world, you must ultimately have = premises=20 whose truth is acceptable independently of any inference and whose = status=20 is accordingly indubitable. Only by having such premises can you = gain a=20 starting point that would make inference worthwhile. For = convenience,=20 these indispensable basic premises may be called "intrinsically=20 acceptable." The possibility of em-=20


pirical knowledge may then be said to = depend on the=20 availability of intrinsically acceptable premises.=20

If this line of thought is sound, it = follows that=20 utter skepticism can be ruled out only if one can locate basic = empirical=20 premises that are intrinsically acceptable. Although philosophers = who=20 attack skepticism in accordance with this appraoch generally think = they=20 are defending common sense, it is crucial to observe that they = cannot=20 actually be doing so. The reason for this is that, from the pont = of view=20 of common experience, there is no plausibility at all in the idea = that=20 intrinsically acceptable premises, as so defined, ever exist. = Philosophers=20 defending such premises fail to see this because they always = ignore the=20 complexity of the situation in which an empirical claim is=20 evaluated.=20

I have already given arguments to show = that=20 introspective claims are not, in themselves, intrinsically = infallible,=20 they may be regarded as virtually certain if produced by a = reliable (sane,=20 clear-headed) observer, but their truth is not a consequence of = the mere=20 fact that they are confidently made.* To establish a = similar=20 conclusion regarding the observation claim of everday life only = the=20 sketchiest arguments are needed. Obviously, the mere fact that = such a=20 claim is made does not assure us of its truth. If we know that the = observer is reliable, made his observation in good light, was = reasonably=20 close to the object, and so on, then we may immediately regard it = as=20 acceptable. But its acceptability is not intrinsic to the claim = itself.=20 Thus, philosophers who, like G. E. Moore,12 attempt to = prove by=20 direct inspection that they have hands do not proceed just = by=20 taking a quick look at their hands; they rather turn them over, = look at=20 both sides, pinch them, and the like. The certainty they arrive at = is thus=20 based on a whole group of observations, as well as on numerous = tacit=20 assumptions concerning the general reliability of their senses, = the=20 accuracy of their memories, the sort of things hands are supposed = to be,=20 and so on. I would venture to say that any spontaneous claim,=20 observational or introspective, carries almost no = presumption of=20 truth when considered entirely by itself. If we accept such a = claim as=20 true, it is only because of our confidence that a complex=20

* Some = philosophers argue=20 that the truth of certain statements is a consequence of the fact = that=20 they are made with maximum understanding. I attacked this argument = briefly=20 on p. 37, and I shall attack it in detail in Ch. IV, esp. pp. = 102-105.=20


body of background assumptions - = concerning=20 observers, standing conditions, the kind of object in question - = and,=20 often, a complex mass of further observations all point to the=20 conclusion that it is true.=20

Given these prosaic considerations, it is = not=20 necessary to cite experimental evidence illustrating the delusions = easily=20 brought about by, for example, hypnosis to see that no spontaneous = claim=20 is acceptable wholly on its own merits.13 On the = contrary,=20 common experience is entirely adequate to show that clear-headed = men never=20 accept a claim merely because it is made, without regard to the=20 peculiarities of the agent and of the conditions under which it is = produced. For such men the acceptability of every claim is = always=20 determined by inference.* If we are prepared to take = these=20 standards of acceptability seriously, we must accordingly admit = that the=20 traditional search for intrinsically acceptable empirical premises = is=20 completely misguided.=20

To rule out intrinsically acceptable = claims on the=20 grounds of common experience is to presuppose two things: first, = that=20 common experience can somehow provide an acceptable basis = for=20 knowledge and, second, that utter skepticism is untenable. If = these=20 presuppositions can be defended, it will therefore follow that the = argument purporting to establish the need for intrinsically = acceptable=20 empirical claims must contain some crucial flaw. Although I shall = attempt=20 a justification of these presuppositions only in later=20 chapters,** I can say now that the basic flaw in the=20 empiricist's argument arises from a grossly oversimplified = conception of=20 the structure of empirical reasoning. In assuming that we must = have=20 unalterable and incontestable truth in order to infer something on = which=20 we can reasonably depend, it overlooks the important fact that = successful=20 empirical reasoning can proceed only against a background of = general=20 assumptions (many of them empirical***) in terms = which=20

*To say this is = not to imply=20 that one always does infer, or actually come to a reasoned = conclusion,=20 that a given observation claim is acceptable. It is rather to say = that the=20 acceptability of such a claim is to be justified by inference; = that its=20 acceptability is not intrinsic to it. This is entirely compatible = with the=20 obvious fact that human beings constantly accept claims as true = without=20 thinking about them at all.=20

** See esp. Ch. V, pp. 123-126, = and Ch.=20 VI, p. 137, footnote.=20

*** As indicated above, some of = these=20 assumptions will concern the reliability of the observer = (whoever=20 he is), the character of the standing conditions, and so on. For = further=20 discussion of this, see Ch. V, pp. 123-126.


we interpret our experience and assess the = truth of=20 what we say about it. The empiricist's basic error is thus his = presumption=20 that we could actually start out with a fistful of merely = inferential=20 rules and then, as innocent of the world as the youngest child, = cast about=20 for some self-justifying premise that will permit us to draw an = inference.=20 The error of this presumption is patent, because even though a = premise may=20 come to mind that is actually certain, we must have good reason to = believe=20 it is certain if we are to use it in an inference. Even if it were = to=20 bring with it the strongest feeling of confidence, or even wear a = little=20 lapel saying "I am true," we would plainly require some rational = means of=20 deciding whether the confidence or the label can be safely = trusted.=20

It is granted that no empirical claim is = stictly=20 justifiable on its own merits but requires some kind of support = from a=20 body of other claims, we may accordingly infer that Wittgenstein's = conception of knowledge as something requiring justification by = reference=20 to rules is not basically unacceptable. In fact, we may note that = his=20 insistence on the necessity for rules in this connection brings = out the=20 important fact that both confirmation and disconfirmation (or = proof and=20 disproof) involve relations between claims, between statements and = propositions. To show that a statement is false, you have to = establish=20 some other claim with which the first one is inconsistent, and to = show=20 that a statement is true, or probably true, you have to show that = it is=20 rendered so by certain statements that formulate the relevant = evidence.=20 The basic point here is that confirmation and disconfirmation are=20 logical relations; and such relations hold between terms = belonging=20 to the conceptual, rather than the natural, order.=20

Once it is seen that there are no = intrinsically=20 acceptable empirical claims and that confirmation as well as=20 disconfirmation can be rendered only by other claims that also = lack=20 intrinsic acceptability, it becomes apparent that the process of = firmly=20 establishing an empirical claim can be, in principle, almost = endless.=20 Suppose, for instance, that I happen to be in some doubt as to = whether the=20 fruit I am holding is actually a lemon. In order to remove this = doubt and=20 confirm my tentative belief, I might appeal to my neighbors. If = they agree=20 that it is a lemon, and if I have no reason to doubt the honesty = of their=20 testimony, then I would ordinarily be considered justified in = taking it to=20 be a lemon. But I might, of course, be mistaken in=20


trusting them. Should I later become aware = of this=20 mistake, I might consult still other persons, or perhaps do some = research=20 in a library. What I learn from these sources would normally = settle my=20 doubt, but it need not insure the truth of my belief. In fact, if = I began=20 to suspect that I had recently been hypnotized, and told to = misinterpret=20 any direct evidence bearing on the kind of fruit I am carrying, I = might=20 fall into an utter quandry.* To work my way out of this = quandry=20 I could appeal to other considerations and make further tests. = This kind=20 of appeal could, however, go on indefinitely, with a theoretical=20 possibility of mistake at every turn. It is, of course, granted = that in=20 most cases I would not have to make such appeals in order to = establish my=20 claim beyond any reasonable doubt. But the important fact remains = that the=20 confidence I attain need never be logically immune to a rational=20 challenge.=20


Assuming that the sort of rule to which = Wittgenstein=20 requires one to appeal for purposes of justifying an empirical = claim is of=20 the intra-language sort so far discussed, we may now consider = whether a=20 defender of phenomenal languages could possibly establish his = claims to=20 knowledge. In view of the foregoing discussion, we may pose our = question=20 as follows: "Could such a thinker justify a basic phenomenal = claim, 'This=20 is an A,' by relating it to some intra-language rule that he = possesses?"=20 The answer to this particular question seems to be = "Yes."14 In=20 order to justify his claim he might have recourse to a rule that = relates=20 the expression "A" to another expression "B." He could then argue = that he=20 knows that the item is an A because it is also a B and because it = is a=20 rule of his language that anything that is a B may properly be = called "an=20 A." Admittedly, the=20

* In the paper = referred to=20 in note 13 of this chapter, an actual case of such a quandry was=20 demonstrated experimentally. A man had been given a post-hypnotic=20 suggestion that, after writing on some sheets of paper before him, = he=20 would forget having written on them and be unable to see that they = were=20 written on at all. During the experiment, he was subjected to = close=20 examination regarding what was written on the papers and, when his = denial=20 that anything was written on them met with constant objection by = his=20 interlocutors, he became both angry and confused, showing all the = signs of=20 a man whose perception of an obvious matter of fact meets with = universal=20 disbelief. A case of this sort should carefully be kept in mind by = any=20 philosopher who thinks that obvious matters of fact are always = easy to=20 settle.


question whether it is indeed a B can also = arise,=20 and this question would have to be settled by further appeals. = But the=20 possibility of such constant queries and appeals is not peculiar = to=20 phenomenal language. As already indicated, it holds generally. = To=20 assume otherwise is simply to accept the immediately infallible in = another=20 form, and in so doing to reject the spirit of Wittgenstein's=20 attack.=20

In might be thought that I am simply = begging the=20 question here by assuming that the phenomenal thinker may indeed = have=20 rules. How, for instance, is he to distinguish between his = actually having=20 rules and his merely thinking that he has them? The question may, = however,=20 be attacked in all sorts of ways. For one thing, the thinker may = employ a=20 variation on Wittgenstein's own "This language game is played" = theme,=20 15 arguing that he is fully confident that his = language-game is=20 under way, that he has absolutely no reason, concrete or = otherwise, to=20 think that he is not employing rules, and that he cannot, in point = of=20 fact, even conceive the possibility that he is operating with = rules, since=20 conceiving such a thing would require him to have them already. = (He could=20 not, therefore, "merely think" that he has rules; for thinking = this,=20 rather than that, is a rule governed activity, which may involve=20 inconsistency and error.) Another approach to the question would = be to=20 declare that it is fundamentally misconceived. The thinker might, = that is,=20 reject the whole question, arguing that one's linguistic rules are = not the=20 sort of thing whose existence one must prove (such a proof would = reequire=20 rules anyway) but something one simply uses. Rules are not factual = contentions, and to accept a rule is to adopt a procedure - a = specific way=20 of thinking, or organizing one's ideas. If the thinker actually = has rules,=20 his use of them will be shown by the inferences he draws = concerning=20 the character of his phenomenal data. If he draws inferences at = all, he is=20 thereby operating with rules, whether he is articulate in = formulating them=20 or not.=20


So far, I have taken the term "rule" in a = fairly=20 strict sense; I have regarded linguistic rules as the sort of = thing that=20 may justify an inference. There is, however, another sense of = "rule"=20 lurking in=20


Wittgenstein's discussion. This sense = concerns=20 linguistic regularity, and it is brought into the picture as soon = as it is=20 asked whether a particular inference is regularly drawn from the = same type=20 of premise. This sense of the word "rule" is nothing like what has = been=20 called the "regulation" sense16 for it is essentially=20 descriptive and cannot itself justify an inference or establish = some=20 claim. It is nevertheless of central importance to the issue of = phenomenal=20 languages, since the empiricist who wants to defend the legitimacy = of such=20 languages must be assured that he is at least consistent in the = use of his=20 phenomenal terms.=20

Such "rules" can exist, then, only when = there is a=20 certain linguistic practice. The question is, Could a solitary = thinker=20 have a consistent practice of applying his phenomenal terms? = Although one=20 would think that the answer to this is an obvious "Yes" - that the = interesting question is not whether he can be consistent = but=20 whether he can defend his conviction that he is consistent = - it is=20 perhaps wise to consider two general lines of argument that might = be urged=20 against the very meaninglessness of the contention that a practice = of this=20 kind might exist, let alone be known to exist by the agent = involved. The=20 first objection concerns the meaning of the word "same" in the = context of=20 "applying a concept to the same phenomenal terms," and the second = concerns=20 the identity of the thinker who is supposed to use a phenomenal=20 language.=20

Beginning with the first objection, we = might ask=20 what the word "same" is supposed to mean in a special phenomenal = language.=20 This term plainly belongs to ordinary English, and when it is = applied to=20 purely phenomenal objects, where familiar criteria are not = involved, it=20 appears to lose whatever sense it had. Yet if it does lose its = familiar=20 sense in this new context, it is obviously misused: for it is = employed as=20 though it had its usual sense - in fact, it is used in this = context just=20 because it has a very familiar but crucial job to perform. If it = had=20 utterly different meaning as used here, it would prevent the = present issue=20 from even being formulated.=20

Actually, this kind of objection = concerning the=20 meaning of "sameness in kind" - for that is what is presently = involved -=20 is not so troublesome to the phenomenal theorist in this context = as it=20 ap-=20


pears to be elsewhere.* As used = here, the=20 expression has a purely formal significance, which is quite = independent of=20 any specific subject matter. Thus, the theorist can easily advance = the=20 following definitions:=20

"a and b are the = same kind=20 of thing" means "there is a kind of thing, A, of which = both=20 a and b are instances."
Since this definition is wholly general, mentioning = no=20 specific kind of thing, the peculiarities of a phenomenal = subject-matter=20 are logically immaterial to the meaning of "the same" as it = appears here.=20 Whether one is speaking of furniture, phenomenal data, or even = sporting=20 events, the expression "the same" as so defined retains precisely = the same=20 meaning.

Given, however, that "the same" has a = purely formal=20 significance, there is still the question of how the sameness of = two or=20 more things is to be determined. The answer to this immediately = brings us=20 back to the ancient puzzle about the relation between words and = the world.=20 Are a and b both lemons? Are they both instances of=20 Lemonkind? Well, do they both satisfy the criteria for being = lemons? Are=20 they perhaps yellow, sour, of ovoid shape? As already indicated, = to answer=20 these questions is to establish the truth of other factual = contentions,=20 which may require justification as well. Questions of this kind = can no=20 doubt be answered to the satisfaction of a reasonable man, but the = answers=20 given will by no means be immune to critical examination.=20

Similar considerations naturally apply to = the=20 contentions of the silent thinker. If he is to justify his = contention that=20 two phenomenal items are the same in kind - both instances, that = is, of=20 some kind-concept - he need only appeal to certain other = contentions,=20 about which he is reasonably confident. There is simply no way of = getting=20 outside all conceptual schemes in order to see whether one's = concepts are=20 consistently and accurately applied to reality. Tests for semantic = regularities must necessarily be carried out within the framework = of some=20 conceptual scheme, and the question whether a thoroughly = intersubjective=20 framework is consistently applied can be raised in just the = embarrassing=20 way that it is raised in connection with phenomenal languages - = given,=20 that is, that questions of this=20

* Its importance = in another=20 context is discussed in Ch. III, sect. 2.


type are legitimate ones. The silent = thinker cannot,=20 it is true, assuage such doubts by appeal to the testimony of = other=20 persons. But a wide variety of appeals is still open to him, at = least as=20 regards any particular doubts he might have; and even if he could = make an=20 appeal to other persons, this would do nothing to settle any=20 general doubt he might have concerning the consistent = application=20 of his language as a whole, for he would have to interpret their = testimony=20 within the framework of the scheme he happens to have.=20

Assuming, then, that a defender of = phenomenal=20 languages faces no greater obstacle in making sense of "same in = kind" than=20 anyone else, we have to consider the other line of objection = mentioned=20 above: Just who, or what, is this thinker that is supposed to have = the=20 solitary practice of applying phenomenal terms? The answer to this = has=20 already been given: the thinker in question is the X that has the=20 phenomenal items in point, the person who, according to the = empiricist=20 reconstruction of the last chapter, has a certain body, a certain = position=20 in the world, and so on (see pp. 25-29). Of course, this answer = cannot be=20 given by the thinker himself at this stage of his deliberations. = As=20 already explained, his conception of his self is something he will = proceed=20 to construct on the basis of an ascertained "coherence" among a = certain=20 field of phenomenal items. It is not, therefore, binding on him to = identify and describe himself at this stage of his argument. He = will=20 attempt to do this later on, when his phenomenal language is = enriched by=20 what are for him theoretical notions. At the present stage, he = could=20 conceive the general question regarding semantic regularities only = along=20 lines similar to this: "Might certain thoughts or = conceptual=20 episodes, such as 'This is a K' or 'The item that is a G is also a = K,'=20 consistently occur in connection with, and only with, K-kind = phenomenal=20 items?" If he can answer this question in the affirmative, and if, = after=20 forming his conception of his self, he can show that these = regularities=20 are simply manifestations of his practice, then the = objection in=20 point could evidently be met.=20

But an argument can be quickly advanced = against this=20 procedure, too. Just what admittedly subjectless thoughts and = phenomena=20 are supposed to be involved here? Since the answer "Mine!" cannot = possibly=20 be given at this stage, must the class not include any phenomena=20 whatsoever? Yet if it does so - if it includes even those which, = if the=20 thinker's language were fully developed, he would ascribe = to=20


other persons - then the existence of the=20 appropriate regularities could never possibly be established = without=20 reference to nonphenomenal considerations, a reference that is = explicitly=20 excluded from the present context.=20

A defender of the traditional theory of = awareness=20 would naturally be tempted to reply to this question by contending = that=20 the phenomena in point are simply the objects of direct awareness. = But=20 this reply would obviously misfire in the present connection, and = not just=20 for the reason that no reference to the subject of awareness is = presently=20 allowable. The main difficulty is rather that an appeal to = "awareness"=20 solves nothing whatever. Any identification must be made within = the=20 framework of some conceptual system, not outside such a system by=20 conceptually neutral act of direct awareness.*

It is possible, however, for the thinker = to approach=20 this question in a way that ought, by now, to be familiar. He need = only=20 ask: "How are identifications ever made? How is a domain of = objects ever=20 identified and circumscribed?" The answer to this, plainly, is = that they=20 are described in some way; they are picked out as the things = falling under=20 certain concepts. But if the private thinker has, as he claims, a=20 phenomenal language including such terms as "K-kind," "A," and = "B," then=20 he would have no trouble specifying the objects in question: they = are=20 simply the things falling under these terms or their corresponding = concepts. It is surely not binding on him to specify these objects = in some=20 language different from his own; and although we, who do not = understand=20 his language, will not know just what things he is talking about = when he=20 uses such terms as "K-kind," it does not follow from this that = they are=20 really meaningless, or really not terms at all.=20

All of this may sound very naive to a = philosopher=20 immersed in the intricacies of contemporary semantical theory. = Such a=20 philosopher might immediately wish to reply: "If we are serious in = setting=20 out an interpretation of a given language structure by specifying = a domain=20 of objects to which its various terms refer, we shall have to = proceed in=20 what is strictly a metalanguage.17 When we do this, we = can then=20 formulate semantical rules by which to determine the application = of=20 expressions in the object language. We will not therefore be = limited to=20 saying that a domain of objects is simply the class=20

* The = limitations of direct=20 awareness will be further explored in Ch. III, sect. 4, where the = doctrine=20 of "logically proper names" is discussed.


of things falling under certain concepts; = we can=20 rather identify the domain independently of these concepts by = using the=20 expression of the metalanguage. Thus, if we were using English as = a=20 metalanguage in order to outline the semantics of French, we might = say=20 that 'les chiens' denotes the class of dogs. It would then = be by=20 reference to this rule that we could determine whether a given = Frenchman=20 consistently applies 'chien' to the right things."=20

Although this argument is very familiar, = it is=20 clearly useless. Even if we actually had a hierarchy of = metalanguages in=20 which to specify the objects referred to by the terms of each = sublanguage,=20 we would still have to have one language the semantics of which is = just=20 "understood." It would be understood, moreover, without the aid of = semantical rules. And if this understanding is not really=20 understanding, if we could not strictly understand what we are = talking=20 about when we use this language, then, since each sublanguage can = be=20 ultimately understood only in terms of this one - the semantics of = the=20 first sublanguage being expressed in it, and so on down to the = lowest=20 level - we could not really understand any language at all. Hence, = if the=20 reference of words is ever to be understood, it must be possible = to=20 understand it without the apparatus of semantical rules.=20

Another difficulty with the semanticist's = argument=20 is that when we are concerned with natural languages, we are not = free to=20 lay down just any semantical rules; we must rather be able to = justify=20 every such rule that we advance. Yet when we consider how this=20 justification is to be given, we see at once that knowledge of the = reference of a term must be in hand before we are in a position to = advance=20 the appropriate semantical rule. Suppose, for instance, that we = are=20 concerned to justify the rule concerning "les chiens given = in the=20 last paragraph. How might we proceed? Surely by showing that the = French=20 expression applies to just those things, actual and possible, that = we call=20 "dogs." We have to consider possibilities as well as actualities = because=20 not all of the things to which an expression may legitimately = apply need=20 actually exist. To make a well-worn example, if there were no = plucked=20 chickens, the animals to which "featherless bipeds" might actually = apply=20 would be restricted to human beings, though the expression could = also=20 apply to a plucked bird should one exist. Because possible as well = as=20 actual applications of a given expression must be considered in=20 establishing=20


its distinctive reference, it becomes that = in order=20 to be fully justified in advancing the semantical rule concerning = "les=20 chiens" we must have some access to the criteria on the basis = of which=20 Frenchmen determine whether something describable in a certain way = is or=20 is not un chien. What we have to determine, in fact, is = whether the=20 things that are dogs, according to our criteria, are the same as = the=20 things that are chiens, according to the criteria of = Frenchmen. And=20 to determine this, we would have to be able to establish the = extension of=20 "les chiens without reference to the English = language.=20

The basic point here, to which even the = private=20 thinker can appeal, is simply this: a kind of thing, such = as=20 Chien, Dog, or K, is definable only within some conceptual = scheme=20 or other, and it is only by reference to the criteria involved in = the=20 appropriate scheme that the decision whether a given thing = belongs=20 to a certain kind can possibly be reached. (Of course, once these = criteria=20 are ascertained, we may express them in other languages and so = state=20 semantical rules of the sort just considered.) The question, then, = whether=20 a given thing belongs to the domain of objects about which the = silent=20 thinker's phenomenal idiom allows him to speak, can properly be = said to be=20 answerable according to the criteria he happens to have, not to = the=20 criteria appropriate to some other conceptual scheme, whether = public or=20 not.*


It might naturally be objected at this = point that I=20 have badly underestimated the importance of ostensive definition. = If our=20 language is actually to be applied to reality, it must surely be = possible=20 to indicate the reference of our basic descriptive terms by = pointing out,=20 grasping, or sometimes even manipulating, instances of the things = to which=20 they apply. This pointing, grasping, or manipulating is more = primitive=20 than language, does not require the apparatus of a conceptual=20 scheme,18 and is therefore a logically fundamental = means=20

* Since the = silent thinker's=20 domain of discourse is initially restricted to phenomenal items = and does=20 not allow him to speak of conscious agents, his linguistic rules = can=20 initially be formulated only as modal conditionals or = equivalences: for=20 example, "A's are necessarily B's."


of indicating which objects are denoted by = various=20 basic terms. Since this pointing, grasping, and so on cannot be = utilized=20 by a private thinker, he labors under an irremedial handicap, and = it is=20 exactly this handicap that renders his theoretical labors = futile.=20

Familiar as this argument is, it is not = difficult to=20 see that it cannot possibly succeed. Collingwood pointed out years = ago19 that a gesture of the kind in question is a = linguistic=20 act itself, whose reference is in no way more obvious than that of = audible=20 speech. When a man points, one must not just look at his finger, = as dogs=20 naturally do; one must look away from his finger, and then = try to=20 decide what he is attempting to draw one's attention to. Doing = even this=20 requires considerable sophistication, but it takes far more to = appreciate=20 the particular intent of the man's gesture, which must be = understood if=20 his so called ostensive definition is going to succeed. The = foregoing=20 discussion has proved, however, that this intent - which is to = indicate=20 that the object of the gesture is an example of something or other = - could=20 never be entirely given by a group of actual gestures, no = matter=20 how many might be made. The reason for this is that the meaning or = denotation of a term can be determined only by reference to = possible=20 applications and these cannot be surveyed by a process of = pointing.=20 Whatever is merely pointed out or manipulated can be classified in = an=20 indefinite variety of ways, and a condition of understanding a = certain=20 classification is that one know just what is encompassed by it. To = know=20 the meaning, or conventional application, of an expression "K" we = must=20 accordingly have a grasp of the criteria for being a K, for it is = only=20 with reference to these criteria that we could possibly delimit = the=20 variety of things that, should they exist or come to our = attention, would=20 be correctly classifiable as K's. Since these criteria cannot = possibly be=20 given by a mere gesture of pointing, it is clear that a so-called=20 ostensive definition is a misnomer. The most that ostension = can do=20 is direct our attention to a vaguely delimited region of space and = time;=20 if we are to understand what what is being pointed out, we = must=20 understand the relevant principles of classification.=20

Although these remarks make it plain that = pointing=20 is in no way sufficient to establish the meaning of any term, it = might=20 nevertheless be thought that it is necessary for the purpose of = learning=20 certain words. This view has at any rate been expressed by = philosophers=20 who attempt to draw philosphical conclusions about mean-=20


ing from their conception of how a child = might be=20 taught certain words. The idea here is, however, false; there are = no words=20 whose meaning can be taught only with the aid of pointing = gestures. As=20 already indicated, the most that pointing can do is direct one's = attention=20 to a vaguely defined region of space,* and this can be=20 accomplished by verbal signals just as well. The gesture of = pointing is in=20 no sense easier to understand than familiar verbal directions such = as=20 "Over there!"=20

It is important to observe in this = connection that a=20 child's first words are not really taught. As every parent = knows,=20 such words are learned "naturally" in a way that seems wholly = mysterious.=20 It may be granted that when a child is old enough to benefit from = his=20 parent's untutored and clumsy attempts to teach him words, he can = best=20 learn such nouns as "ball" when the appropriate things are in his = view.=20 But a gesture of pointing has no special utility in the learning=20 situation. If a child hears the word "ball" when he is playing = with one,=20 his attention will already be directed to the appropriate object, = and a=20 gesture of pointing would only distract it. The actual process of = learning=20 language is really far more complicated than philosophers seem to = think;=20 and those who believe that the gesture of pointing has some = special=20 utility for language-learning should note that psychologists = hardly ever=20 mention pointing when discussing the subject of how people learn=20 words.* Pointing is neither necessary nor sufficient = for=20 learning language, and the private thinker's inability to rely on = gestures=20 of pointing is thus of no significance at all.=20

This reference to language-learning = prompts a=20 further comment. It might be thought that the inability of an = alleged=20 private thinker to be be taught his language by some other agent = shows=20 that the idea of his actually having a language is senseless. But = this=20 view is clearly false, because it is certainly possible, = logically, for a=20 child to be=20

* I speak of a "vaguely defined region of space" = because a mere=20 gesture of pointing does not pick out a circumscribed thing or = region. In=20 pointing at a man I may be interpreted as pointing at his head, = his eye,=20 his pupil or eyelash, or even to the spatial area through which = his head=20 is moving.=20

** If a = gesture of=20 pointing is understood as a linguistic act, comparable in = significance to,=20 say, "Look at that!," it would be considered a "mand" by the = psychologist=20 B. F. Skinner. Yet in Skinner's discussion of learning in his = Verbal=20 Behavior (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957), Ch. 3, = pointing is=20 never even mentioned. In his view words are learned by progressive = reinforcement of appropriate "operant" behavior.


born with the ability to speak his = parent's=20 language.20 Of course, if such a child does indeed = possess a=20 language at the hour of his birth, he must then be able to apply = its terms=20 correctly and consistently. In ordinary life this is something = that we=20 would determine by observing the child's verbal behavior. In the = present=20 case this is admittedly ruled out. Here we are concerned with the=20 possibility of a phenomenal language, the correctness and = consistency of=20 whose use can be determined only by phenomenal considerations. = They are=20 the only legitimate considerations because, as already shown, the = question=20 whether a particular expression is correctly applied can be = determined=20 only by reference to criteria internal to the language in = point.=20 For the private thinker, these criteria are phenomenal, not = public; and it=20 would thus be logically inappropriate to demant that his = phenomenal claims=20 be assessed by criteria of any other kind.=20


The argument of the last section was built = around=20 one basic question: How, ultimately, can one ever justify the = contention=20 that the concepts of a given conceptual system are in fact = consistently=20 applied to the same kind of object? The topic of ostension was = introduced=20 because it is difficult to see how a justification of this sort = could=20 possibly be given by a mere appeal to intra-language rules. If, in = order=20 to assure oneself that "A" is correctly applied to X, one could = only=20 appeal to such rules as "Anything having an identifying feature B = may be=20 properly called 'an A,'" then one would have to know that X is in = fact the=20 feature B, which means that "B" properly applies to it. But if = there is a=20 general doubt about whether the conceptual system in point is = correctly=20 and consistently applied, then an appeal to this kind of rule is = question=20 begging, for the doubt about the application of "A" accrues = also to=20 the application of "B." Hence, if we are to take seriously a = general doubt=20 of this kind, it would seem that we must ultimately make an appeal = to=20 extra-conceptual considerations, perhaps to immediate awareness, = pointing=20 or something similar.=20

Having argued that any question whether a = given=20 concept is=20


correctly and consistently applied to the = same=20 kind of object can be answered only by reference to the = criteria=20 distinctive of that kind of thing. I am obviously committed to = reject any=20 extra-conceptual meaning of ruling out such a doubt. But this does = not=20 mean that I am committed to take a general doubt of this sort = seriously.=20 On the contrary, if the preceding argument is sound, such general = doubts=20 are completely idle, baseless, and logically capable of casting = any real=20 suspicion on anything at all.=20

To see this, note that any serious doubt = requires=20 some kind of basis. In involving the claim that some aligned = matter of=20 fact is indeed doubtful, a justification is obviously in order. = This=20 justification can actually be given, however, only within the = framework of=20 some conceptual system. Consequently, if a man has only one = conceptual=20 system, one "language," he will not be able to formulate a serious = doubt=20 about the correct application of that system as a whole - for he = would=20 have to use the system in order both to formulate his doubt and to = establish a justification for it. This does not mean that he will = be=20 unable to question the propriety of particular claims that are = made in its=20 terms, or even to revise large segments of the system while = hanging by his=20 bootstraps to the part that remains. But a general doubt about the = correct=20 and consistent application of his system as a whole will not be = open to=20 him - and this will be true of the private thinker too, if he has = only one=20 conceptual scheme with which to work.=20

In might be thought, however, that such = general=20 doubts could justifiably be made within the framework of some = other=20 conceptual system. Wittgenstein at any rate purported to do just = this when=20 he attacked the possibility of private languages. And on the face = of it at=20 least, an external attack of this sort seems entirely reasonable. = Suppose,=20 for example, that members of a native tribe were observed to apply = a given=20 expression to a very large, highly disconnected group of objects - = to=20 things that we could call "cows," "trees," "rocks," "manure," and = so on.=20 Would not this scattered sort of application show that their = expression=20 was not consistently applied? The answer, of course, is "No." To=20 appreciate this answer, we have only to consider more closely the = question=20 at issue: Are certain expressions consistently applied to the same = kind of objects? The crucial word here is "kind," for kinds = are=20 determined only with reference to some conceptual scheme. And = while it may=20 be true=20


that the expression in point is not = consistently=20 applied to anything that we, or indeed any other civilized person, = would=20 regard as a single kind, this may not be true for the natives. In = fact=20 there is no theoretical limit to the variety of ways in which they = may=20 happen to carve reality.=20

Admittedly, if we knew something about the = general=20 structure of the natives' language, or even about their chief = interests=20 and beliefs,* the number of these alternatives could = perhaps be=20 cut down to manageable size. But we would in any case have to = determine=20 the extension of the terms they use by reference to the ways they = use=20 them; and to the extent that their usage is puzzling, or seemingly = inconsistent when measured by our way of viewing things, their = conception=20 of things is simply beyond our ken - which means that we are yet = in no=20 position to say whether they consistently apply their terms to = what they=20 consider the same kind of thing. In order to settle doubts = about=20 the semantic regularities involved in their verbal behavior, we = must in=20 fact approach the question from within, by learning their language = and=20 solving our problem by an appeal to the considerations they = themselves=20 invoke in appraising the success of their own verbal performances. = Only in=20 this way is it possible to discover whether they conceive it, and = whether=20 our language even has the resources to permit a definition of the=20 kinds of thing to which many of their crucial terms=20 apply.21

If a wholly general doubt about semantic = regularity=20 cannot legitimately be raised within the framework of the system = to which=20 it applies, and any other doubt raised within the framework of = some other=20 conceptual system is similarly self-stultifying - in that any=20 specification of the kind of thing to which the terms in question = are=20 supposed to apply must be justified with reference to what are = considered=20 the semantical regularities governing their use - it then follows = that a=20 general doubt about the consistent application of an entire = language=20 cannot possibly be justified. Such a doubt must remain absolutely = idle=20 pointless, with no possibility whatever of=20

*The relevance = of both=20 interests and beliefs in this connection can be illustrated by = reference=20 to the word "carbon." A man with suitable interests might apply = this word=20 to precious diamonds, industrial diamonds (which may appear to be = gravel),=20 and ordinary chimney soot.=20


gaining empirical support. Since a doubt = of this=20 kind is no less idle when directed to phenomenal languages, we = must=20 conclude that an external attack on such languages cannot succeed. = This,=20 however, seems to be the approach Wittgenstein took in attacking=20 them.=20

Granting that general doubts about whether = a=20 phenomenal thinker does "as a rule" apply his terms consistently = are, in=20 this way, illegitimate, one might nevertheless insist that the = foregoing=20 argument renders particular doubts both unavoidable and = irresoluble. If=20 there is indeed no ultimate foundation of empirical knowledge, = will not=20 any attempt to answer a particular doubt inexorably lead to an = infinite=20 regress? As before, the answer to this question must be "No." = While it is=20 assuredly possible to raise doubt after doubt, any particular = doubt that=20 is worth heeding must be justifiable, which means that it, too, = must be=20 supported by contentions that are themselves subject to challenge = and,=20 potentially at least, in need of justification. I say "potentially = at=20 least in need of justification. I say "potentially in need of=20 justification" because if we could never take something as not = requiring=20 justification for the moment, no doubts and no contentions = could=20 ever reasonably be advanced. Justification must therefore, as = Wittgenstein=20 said, come to an end somewhere - if only for the time being. True, = we can=20 in principle challenge the credentials advanced in favor of any = bona=20 fide contention. But in doing so we must base our challenge on = reasonable considerations and we must be willing to waive our = doubts in=20 the face of appropriate evidence. The idea that a justification = may be=20 self-justifying is nothing more than favorable results from the = tests he=20 is willing to make in support of some contention on which he bases = his=20 confidence. If he is sufficiently critical, sufficiently = suspicious of=20 dogma in all its guises, he can scarcely be accused of = intellectual levity=20 or gullibility.=20


The question that led to the foregoing = discussion=20 was whether a solitary thinker might in fact be consistent in = applying=20 basic phenomenal terms to elements of his immediate=20 experience.* So far, I=20

* See p. 47.=20


have argued that any positive reason for = doubting=20 the consistency of such a practice cannot, by the very nature of = the case,=20 be formulated. The question arises, however, whether the idea of=20 semantical regularities in a wholly phenomenal language actually = makes=20 sense. I think that it does. If, in line with the anti-behaviorist = assumptions on which we have been operating since Chapter 1, one = is=20 prepared to grant that one's own feelings and sense impressions = are covert=20 occurrences or states, then the suggestion that one might attempt = to=20 identify them in thought by devising a special language for them = does not=20 appear to be incomprehensible, nor does it seem unlikely that the=20 judgments of identification one might proceed to make in the new = idiom=20 would consistently correspond to the appropriate phenomenal = occurrences.=20 If one is prepared to admit, moreover, that other people also have = covert=20 feelings and sense impressions, and are also capable of silent = thought,=20 then it should not be excessively difficult to imagine another = person=20 employing such a language either.=20

Is is not necessary, after all, that these = phenomenal occurrences be intrinsically private in the sense that = no one=20 but the private thinker could conceivably know that they = occurred=20 or existed. Although Wittgenstein apparently did attack the=20 intelligibility of utterly private objects* there is = nothing in=20 the contentions of the solitary thinker presently in question that = would=20 commit him to the existence of these peculiar things. Not only = does his=20 skimpy, basic conceptual apparatus lack the resources necessary to = speak=20 of other persons, but when it is enriched by nonphenomenal terms, = so that=20 discourse about selves and a public time and space can be carried = out=20 within it, he will endeavor to show that other persons can=20 understand him when he speaks - in that language - of the = feelings,=20 thoughts, and sense impressions that he happens to have. Hence, = since=20 there is no initial presumption that the phenomenal items in = question are=20 intrinsically private in some profound epistemological sense, only = a=20 radical behaviorist should have special diffi-=20

* It is = important to recall=20 that I am presently concerned with the question whether = Wittgenstein's=20 arguments refuses the view outlined at the end of Ch. 1 (see pp. = 24-29).=20 Whether his argument succeeds against the view he actually had in = mind,=20 which I take to be a form of logical atomism (see p. 67, = footnote), is a=20 very different question, not at issue here. Many philosophers = apparently=20 think that this argument rules out any kind of basic = phenomenal=20 language, and it is this opinion that I wish to refute here.=20


culty in understanding the idea that a = practice of=20 applying phenomenal terms might in fact be quite = consistent.=20

It should be observed in this connection = that even=20 if, as is often claimed, we ordinary describe our experience in = relation=20 to patterns of behavior with which it is correlated, it does not = follow=20 that no other mode of describing our experience is possible. Thus, = while=20 itches are commonly distinguished from other feelings partly by = reference=20 to their tendency to bring about scratching, it is not = inconceivable that=20 a solitary thinker might classify those of his feelings that = happen to be=20 itches in a less indirect way. If the phenomenal theorist's = strategy of=20 enriching his basic language were accomplished in any significant = degree,=20 he might in fact reach the point of identifying the = referent of one=20 of his phenomenal terms "A" with what he later learns to call "an = itch=20 that I feel." The identity-statement he may later affirm "A's = are=20 itches that I feel," would of course be a contingent one, since = "A's,=20 unlike itches, are not definitionally tied to the tendency to = scratch. But=20 the merely contingent character of this statement will not prevent = us from=20 saying that the items he initially identifies as A's may be = nothing more=20 mysterious than what we might call "itches that he = feels."=20

If the idea of identifying what are in = fact one's=20 sensory experiences in a special language so meagerly constructed = as to=20 have no room for describing persons or public objects does make = sense and=20 if, further, no serious doubt about the consistent use of such a = language=20 can legitimately be raised, it seems clear that the phenomenal = theorist's=20 claim to a primitive phenomenal language cannot be dismissed on = a=20 priori grounds. This means that his initial steps toward = constructing=20 the position described in the last chapter eludes the kind of = objection we=20 have been considering. It may be that this initial step leads into = a blind=20 alley, but the step itself seems entirely coherent. It is = not=20 absurd in principle.=20


Although the Wittgensteinian arguments = sketched in=20 this chapter do not abolish the possibility of all phenomenal = languages,=20 my discussion of them has disclosed two points that should = minimize=20 the=20


attractiveness of any appeal to subjective = experience as the basis of all empirical knowledge. The first is = that=20 subjective experience cannot really provide the logically = unshakable=20 foundation of knowledge that empiricists have traditionally = sought. In=20 fact the very idea that there can be an ultimate foundation for = knowledge=20 has been thoroughly undermined. As I have argued at length, = any=20 empirical claim, phenomenal or not, is subject to possible = correction by=20 other claims. This means that although we may justifiably advance = claims=20 that concern nothing more than the momentary character of our = immediate=20 experience, we have not thereby reached the bedrock of unalterably = certain=20 knowledge that empiricists have tried to find in their subjective=20 experience.=20

The second point disclosed by the = foregoing=20 discussion is perhaps more exciting: phenomenal claims are not=20 intrinsically more reliable than claims of other kinds, such as = those=20 concerning persons and physical objects. Thus, as I have shown by=20 describing a number of psychological experiments, it is quite = possible for=20 a person's introspective claims to be flatly erroneous. Not only = might one=20 be deficient in conceptual ability, but one might be drugged, = dazed,=20 insane, or hypnotized. In order to rule out such contingencies, = one must=20 have some way of defending the reliability of one's introspective = claims.=20 This is most easily done if an appeal to others is taken = seriously: their=20 corroboration of my claims adds significant credibility to them. = Of=20 course, the fact that their corroborative remarks are likely to be = true is=20 itself open to doubt. But to doubt it justifiably one must have = some=20 reason to think it perhaps false. To have this reason is = obviously=20 to have access to a far wider range of considerations than is = available to=20 one whose theorizing is carried out wholly in a phenomenal = language. Yet=20 this wider range of considerations in no way lessens one's chances = of=20 finding the truth. On the contrary, as I shall argue in subsequent = chapters, the wider the range of considerations to which one can = appeal,=20 the sounder one's opinions are likely to be.=20

My view on this matter is almost the = opposite to=20 that of traditional empiricists. For them, the accuracy of a man's = outlook=20 varied inversely to its scope: the more it encompassed, the more = it=20 risked; and the more it risked, the less reliable it was. I prefer = to=20 argue that the possibility of error is not the same as the = likelihood of=20 error, and that in demonstrating error one is also demonstrating=20 truth.=20


If you can show that a statement is false, = or likely=20 to be false, you have thereby shown that its negation is true or = likely to=20 be true. Hence for me any theory that increases the possibility of = demonstrating error is far preferable to one that minimizes this=20 possibility. As every gambler knows, when the stakes are low, so = are the=20 winnings. 22



1. See Ludwig = Wittgenstein,=20 Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe = (Oxford:=20 Blackwell, 1953), Pt. I, secs. 243-270, and also Norman Malcolm, = "Review=20 of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations," Phil. = Rev.,=20 LXIII (1954), 530-539: repr. in Malcolm, Knowledge and = Certainty=20 (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), pp. 96-129.=20

2. A similar experiment is = described in=20 Donald O. Hebb, Organization of Behavior (New York: John = Wiley,=20 1949), p. 36.=20

3. His likely behavior is = verbal=20 hesitance. See Hebb, ibid.=20

4. Cited in Hebb, ibid. p. = 32.=20

5. E.g., by Norman Malcolm, = "Knowledge of=20 Other Minds," Journ. Phil., LV (1958), 977; repr. in = Knowledge=20 and Certainty, p. 99.=20

6. See Malcolm, "Review of = Wittgenstein,"=20 Phil. Rev., p. 532; Knowledge and Certainty, p. = 99.=20

7. See Wittgenstein, Pt. I, = secs.=20 256-272, and also Malcolm, "Review of Wittgenstein," Phil. = Rev.,=20 pp. 532ff; Knowledge and Certainty, pp. 98ff.=20

8. See Wittgenstein, Pt. I, = sect.=20 354.=20

9. See Rogers Albritton, "On = Wittgenstein=20 Use of the Term 'Criterion'," Journ. Phil., LVI (1959),=20 845-857.=20

10. See Wilfrid Sellars, "Some=20 Reflections on Language Games," Phil. Sci., XXI (1954), = 204-228;=20 repr. with changes in Sellars, Science, Perception, and = Reality=20 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964), pp. 321-350.=20

11. See Michael Scriven, "The = Logic of=20 Criteria," Journ. Phil., LVI (1959), 857-868.=20

12. G. E. Moore, "Proof of an = External=20 World," Proc. of British Academy, XXV (1939); repr. in = Moore,=20 Philosophical Papers (London: Allen & Unwin, 1959), pp. = 127-150.=20

13. See Milton H. Erickson, = "Experimental=20 Demonstrations of the Psychopathology of Everyday Life," in S. S. = Tompkins=20 and H. A. Murray, eds., Contemporary Psychopathology = (Cambridge,=20 Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1944). pp. 524-525.=20

14. Here I am indebted to = Hector-Neri=20 Castenada, "The Private Language Argument," in C. D. Rollins, ed., = Knowledge and Experience (Pittsburgh: University of = Pittsburgh=20 Press, 1963), pp. 88-105.=20

15. See Wittgenstein, Pt. I, = sec.=20 654.=20

16. See Max Black, "Notes on = the Meaning=20 of 'Rule'," Theoria, XXIV (1958), 107-136; repr. in Black,=20 Models and Metaphors (Ithaca, N.Y.; Cornell University = Press,=20 (1962), pp. 95-139.=20

17. A clear discussion of = modern=20 semantics can be found in Richard M. Martin, Truth and = Denotation=20 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).=20

18. This view seems to be = defended by=20 Stuart Hampshire in Thought and Action (London; Chatto = &=20 Windus, 1959), Ch. 1.=20

19. See R. G. Collingwood, = The=20 Principles of Art (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938), p. = 227.=20

20. Defenders of Wittgenstein's = argument=20 generally admit this point; see Malcolm, "Review of Wittgenstein," = Phil. Rev., p. 544; Knowledge and Certainty, p. = 112.=20

21. See Willard Van Orman = Quine, Word=20 and Object (Cambridge, Mass.: John Wiley and M.I.T. Press, = 1960), esp.=20 pp. 53,77.=20


22. This mot occurs = somewhere in=20 John Wisdom, Other Minds (Oxford: Blackwell, 1952).=20