A Critical Discussion of the “Memory-Challenge” to Interpretations of the Private Language Argument


  • Zhao Fan BRS




In a recent paper, Francis Y. Lin proposes a “memory-challenge” to two main interpretations of Wittgenstein’s private language argument: the “no-criterion-of-correctness” interpretation and the “no-stage-setting” interpretation. According to Lin, both camps of interpretation fail to explain why a private language is impossible within a short time period. To answer the “memory-challenge”, Lin motivates a grammatical interpretation of the private language argument. In this paper, I provide a critical discussion of Lin’s objection to these interpretations and argue that Lin’s objection fails. In the case of the “no-stage-setting” interpretation, Lin suggests that the private language user can establish a stage within a short time period. However, I show that this stage is insufficient for a private language to be used correctly. In the case of the “no-criterion-of-correctness” interpretation, Lin believes that since memory is reliable within a short period, no criterion is needed for the correct use of a private language. However, I argue that his objection attacks a strawman, since the interpretation concerns the structure of justification, rather than the weakness of memory itself. I conclude with a critical discussion on memory and primitive expressions, the latter of which are crucial to Wittgenstein’s approach to public language. This discussion will help to draw a sharp line between private language and public language, and cast some doubt on Lin’s grammatical interpretation.


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