S.CANDLISH: THE PRIVATE LANGUAGE ARGUMENT
I suggest that the following argument is the same as the first one of Hacker's, and fails for the same reason.
Candlish writes: "For there to be
factual assertion, there must be the distinction between truth and
falsehood, between saying what is the case and saying what is not.
For there to be the distinction between truth and falsehood, there
must be a further distinction between the source of the meaning, and
the source of the truth, of what is said. Suppose that I confront
some object and say of it `This is S'. If I must also appeal to
this very object to explain the meaning of the sign 'S', I deprive my
initial utterance of any claim to the status of factual assertion --
it becomes, at best, ostensive definition."
The argument is: (a) The sensation - or at least an aspect of it - is used to establish the association with 'S' ie. the meaning of 'S'. (b) The sensation cannot simultaneously be used as the item which establishes whether proposition 'I am having S' is true (c) Therefore the private symbolic system cannot be used for anything.
Comment: This seems to me to be mistaken. The argument is based on an equivocation over 'sensation', which starts off referring to the initial sample, but ends up referring to all sensations of that kind (or even all sensations of all kinds).
The source of meaning is my initial decision to associate 'S' with a sample sensation which thus becomes typical.
The source of truth is the later occurrence, or non-occurrence, of another similar sensation (a sensation of the same type), which makes true, or false, my later proposition: 'S'.
Suppose that I later say, as a putatively factual assertion A: "This is an S. I am now having sensation S".
(1) I have previously established the meaning of 'S' by (internal) ostensive definition; I have aimed to associate 'S' with a kind of sensation. This is a 'source of meaning'.
(2) A is true if another event, of the same kind, now occurs. The event is the source of truth.
How can I explain the meaning of 'S' (to
myself)? By attending to an example of the sensation. I
cannot explain the meaning of 'S' any further than by attending to
'S'. Thus what occurs when I am explaining the meaning of the
sign 'S' is indeed the same as what occurs when I say "This is
S". So what? The situation is the same with 'red'.
"Suppose that I confront an object and say of it "This is red".
If I must also appeal to this very same object to explain the meaning
of the sign 'red', I deprive my initial utterance of any claim to the
status of factual assertion". This is true. But every red
object is different in properties other than its redness. So,
we may assume, is every occurrence of the 'S' sensation - even if
only in time.
The initial act is ostensive definition - the later ones are not.
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