Severin Schroeder

What is the point of the 'private language argument'?

12th November, 2018

@ 6:15 pm - 8:00 pm

Bloomsbury, 50 Bedford Square

London WC1B 3DP




About the Speaker
About the Reporter

About the Speaker



Severin Schroeder is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Reading. He is the author of three books on the philosophy of Wittgenstein: Das Privatsprachen-Argument, Sch ningh (1998), Wittgenstein: The Way Out of the Fly-Bottle (2006), and Wittgenstein lesen (2009). He is also the editor of Wittgenstein and Contemporary Philosophy of Mind (2001).




In §258 of the Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein imagines how somebody tries to keep a private diary about the recurrence of a certain sensation, which he associates with the sign ‘S’. This famous section, widely regarded as the core of the so-called ‘private language argument’, has been taken to (be intended to) show that no such private naming of a sensation is possible.
I shall argue that that is a misunderstanding. Of course it is possible to invent and use a name for a sensation that has no natural expression and that one is unable to define. I shall explain that what Wittgenstein is concerned to argue against is not the possibility of such a sensation diary, but its misconstrual —: the misconstrual of expressions of sensations as descriptions of inner observations.



available after the event


About the reporter

See more BWS Lecture Series videos