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that it is a mistake to assume that the insider/outsider distinction can be used to save (at least the concept of) an ideal purity or ideal telos of ‘mutual intelligibility’. As I have stressed, this is not intended to ‘cover up ruptures and heterogeneities’ (Derrida, 1991, p. 116) between, for example, different species or, for that matter, different cultures. Rather, it is to stress that ‘human language, as original as it might be, does not allow us to “cut” once and for all where we would in general like to cut’ (ibid., pp. 116–17). In this case (to paraphrase Wittgenstein), there is not one genuine proper case of ‘mutual intelligibility’, the rest being just vague, something which awaits clarification, or which must just be swept aside as rubbish (cp. PI, p. 200). The way this point lifts the threatened humanist restriction can be tied to the problem of Wittgensteinian criteria with an example. There is (what I definitely want to call) a game I used to play with my mother’s dog Sophie, in which we would run around a small pond. My aim was to catch her; hers to avoid being caught. Sometimes we would find ourselves facing each other, almost motionless, on either side of the pond, each of us watching the other for movements indicating a direction of pursuit or flight. I would try faking a movement; starting to the left but running to my right. Sophie would sometimes be foxed, but would always correct her run when she saw me coming the other way. Sophie has a lot of Collie in her and I never caught her. But one day while we (we) were playing this game I slipped as I tried to change direction too quickly on damp grass. Almost immediately Sophie ran straight up to me. I was unhurt, but she licked my face anyway. I do not see why this cannot be counted as a case of ‘mutual intelligibility’. The dog could see my distress and I could see her sympathy.8

Reading iterable traits But had the criteria for my being in distress been satisfied? Didn’t Sophie come just a bit too quickly? After all, only my pride was hurt. And was that really ‘sympathy’? Were we not both hasty and presumptuous in our judgements and ascriptions? Of course, the truth is, Sophie did not wait for the nod of ‘satisfied criteria’. She did not wait for anything at all. Equally, I could see that her whole manner and demeanour was (in the dog way) concernful. It may make sense to say that both Sophie and I were (in an uncanny, non-matching way) ‘satisfied’ about these things; but it strikes me as crazy to say that either of us saw or recognised that criteria were satisfied. In general I find the recurrent talk of the ‘satisfaction of criteria’ extremely unenlightening. It suggests that we have at our disposal rules of some kind which the facts fit or fail to fit. But this is not how things are, nor how it could be. I will explain this. In the literature, ‘criteria’ are often conceived as behavioural conditions of some type.9


Glendinning, simon on being with others heidegger‚ derrida, wittgenstein  
Glendinning, simon on being with others heidegger‚ derrida, wittgenstein