The characteristic of the mental seems to be that one has to guess at it according to the Outer in others and knows it only in one’s own case.
But when, through more careful thought, this opinion goes up in smoke, what turns out to be the case is not that the Inner is something Outer, but that ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ no longer qualify as types of evidence. ‘Inner evidence’ means nothing and therefore neither does ‘outer evidence’. (LW2, pp. 61-2)
In the preceding chapters, we have criticised the conception of the Inner as a mysterious hidden entity. In particular, we have emphasised the link between the Inner and the Outer, for talk of inner states only makes sense where there are outward criteria for those states. Having made these points, several important questions remain, for, if the Inner/Outer picture is so confusing, why do we use it? The picture cannot simply be dismissed as misleading, for reference to it is part of the grammar of our psychological concepts. Thus until we can clarify its significance, our account is lacking a fundamental element. A second difficulty, related to this one, is the clash between Wittgenstein’s attempt to demystify the Inner and our sense that it genuinely is mysterious. Even people we know well may suddenly act in ways which make us feel we don’t really know them at all. Similarly, in the midst of everyday activity we may suddenly be struck by the ‘otherness’ of other people and wonder at the simple fact that there are consciousnesses other than our own. On such occasions, the idea that the Inner is hidden seems an undeni-
able truth. Indeed, insofar as we are often uncertain what others are thinking or feeling, we might well be said to experience the hiddenness of the Inner every day. So what should we make of this? Is the Inner hidden? And if so, in what sense? The most obvious reason for believing the Inner to be hidden is the uncertainty that affects our judgements about the inner states of others. When, for example, someone appears to be in pain, it seems selfevident that what matters is not the complaints, but what lies behind them. The natural way of representing the situation is to say that ‘there is something Inner here which can be inferred only inconclusively from the Outer. It is a picture and it is obvious what justifies this picture. The apparent certainty of the first person, the uncertainty of the third’ (LW1, para. 951). The asymmetry here is easily presented as a metaphysical truth and, since the start of modern philosophy, the idea that the individual has privileged access to the contents of her own consciousness has been treated as self-evident. According to Wittgenstein, however, the asymmetry in our concepts is purely grammatical. The individual has no doubts about the content of her own experience because our language-game excludes any such doubt. The basis of the game is that the individual’s sincere utterances about her own experience are treated as necessarily correct. To introduce doubt here would alter the language-game; in particular, it would undermine the notion of the subject. Talk of privileged access and knowledge is therefore misleading. The reason the individual cannot be wrong about her own thoughts is because within the language-game she has the role of expressing those thoughts, and hence there is no gap between what she (sincerely) says her thoughts are and what they actually are. If, for example, we are trying to guess someone’s thoughts, it is that individual and not anyone else who states whether the guess is correct. As Wittgenstein puts it,
The Inner is hidden from us means that it is hidden from us in a sense that it is not hidden from him. And it is not hidden from the owner in the sense that he gives expression to it, and we, under certain conditions, believe his expression and there error has no place. And this asymmetry in the game is expressed in the sentence that the Inner is hidden from other people. (LW2, p. 36)
The point is not that the individual sees something only she can see,
but that we treat her as a subject and on the basis of her utterances ascribe to her particular thoughts, feelings and experiences. The asymmetry of our psychological concepts is not a metaphysical truth, but is simply the reflection of a language-game based on the notion of a subject whose utterances are treated as necessarily correct.