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The Threat of Solipsism

Wittgenstein and Cavell on Meaning, Skepticism, and Finitude

Much attention has been paid to Wittgenstein’s treatment of solipsism and to Cavell’s treatment of skepticism. But comparatively little has been made of the striking connections between the early Wittgenstein’s view on the truth of solipsism and Cavell’s view on the truth of skepticism, and how that relates to the claim that the later Wittgenstein sees privacy as a constant human possibility.

This book offers close readings of representative writings by both authors and argues that an adequate understanding of solipsism and skepticism requires taking into account a set of underlying difficulties related to a disappointment with finitude which might ultimately lead to the threat of solipsism. That threat is further interpreted as a wish not to bear the burden of having to constantly negotiate and nurture the fragile connections with the world and others which are the conditions of possibility for finite beings to achieve meaning and community.

By presenting Wittgenstein’s and Cavell’s responses in an order which reflects the chronology of their writings, the result is a cohesive articulation of some under-appreciated aspects of their philosophical methodologies which has the potential of reorienting our entire reading of their work.

Author Information

Jônadas Techio, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil.

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Audience: Philosophy scholars, libraries, institutes

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