New Criteria for Pain: Ordinary Language, Other Minds, and the Grammar of Sensation

  • Kieran Cashell


What does ordinary language philosophy contribute to the solution of the problems it diagnoses as violations of linguistic use? One of its biggest challenges has been to account for the epistemic asymmetry of mental states experienced by the subject of those states and the application of psychological properties to others. The epistemology of other minds appears far from resolved with reference to how sensation words are used in everyday language. In this paper, I revisit the Wittgensteinian arguments and show how they engage the ordinary language method (in the modified form of grammatical investigation) to ‘dissolve’ the problem. Several important results are generated by way of this reconstruction. An expressive view of the vocabulary of sensation is defended which facilitates a discussion of sensation discourse emphasising the normative grammatical conditions for the communication of psychological states. This motivates a reassessment of criterial justification for the ascription of psychological concepts in the third person. In the final sections, I mobilise a normative approach to expose the moral relevance of the epistemology of other minds. Even if it is conceded that belief in other minds lacks warrant from an epistemological standpoint, this does not justify adopting the skeptical attitude from an ethical standpoint. In light of this, a normative justification for the a priori belief that others are subjects of consciousness is defended.