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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 21, 1996

John A. Humphrey
Pages 197-207

Kripke’s Wittgenstein and the Impossibility of Private Language
The Same Old Story?

A common complaint against Kripke’s Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language is that whereas the aim of “the real” Wittgenstein’s private language argument is to establish the impossibility of a necessarily private language, the communitarian account of meaning proposed by Kripke’s Wittgenstein (KW), if successful, would establish the impossibility of a contingently private language. I show that this common complaint is based on a failure of Kripke’s critics (a failure that is justified, in part, by Kripke’s text) to recognize and understand his distinction between a “physically isolated” individual (PII) and an individual “considered in isolation” (ICl) . It is only an ICI for whom rule following and language are rendered impossible by KW. l then show that an lel speaks a necessarily private language. Thus, KW’s private language argument gives us, at best, the same story about the impossibility of private language as pre-Kripke accounts of Wittgenstein’s private language argument.

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