Volume 43, Issue 4, December 2003
On Being “Other-Minded”
Wittgenstein, Davidson, and Logical Aliens
This paper discusses fundamental presuppositions underlying our communicative and interpretative practices by exploring the question of whether there can be logical aliens, that is, beings whose actions and utterances are unintelligible to us. I offer a critique of the dominant view of intelligibility in analytic philosophy that denies the possibility of logical aliens on a priori grounds. My argument tries to show that this transcendental view, one that derives from Davidson’s philosophy, rests on cognitivist and objectivist biases that distort communication. Building on a non-transcendental interpretation of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, I propose an alternative view of intelligibility: a contextualist hermeneutics that is action-based and socially-oriented and that does not impose a priori limitations on what is intelligible for us.