The Threat of Privacy in Wittgenstein’s Investigations: Kripke vs. Cavell

Jônadas Techio
Jônadas Techio


Most readers of the Investigations take skepticism as a target of Wittgenstein’s remarks, something to be refuted by means of a clear grasp of our criteria. Stanley Cavell was the first to challenge that consensual view by reminding us that our criteria are constantly open to skeptical repudiation, hence that privacy is a standing human possibility. In an apparently similar vein, Saul Kripke has argued that a skeptical paradox concerning rules and meaning is the central problem of the Investigations – and one that receives a skeptical solution. Following the orthodoxy, however, Kripke does not take privacy as a real threat but instead reads Wittgenstein as offering an argument against its very possibility. This paper offers a critical assessment of Kripke’s and Cavell’s readings, and concludes by delineating an understanding of our linguistic practices that acknowledges the seriousness of skepticism while avoiding the kind of evasion shared by Kripke and the orthodoxy, enabling us to see agreement and meaning as continual tasks whose failure is imbued with high existential costs.

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