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TH E TH REAT OF S CE PTI CI S M

consciousness on the part of that to which [such properties] are ascribed’ (Strawson, 1959, p. 105). A person is a subject of experience, an ‘I’. And, as Strawson acknowledges, even Descartes held (‘was well aware’) that ‘I am not lodged in my body like a pilot in a vessel’ (Descartes, cited ibid., p. 90). This route of response aims to avoid what John McDowell has called ‘our proneness to extend an objectifying mode of conceiving reality to human beings’ (McDowell, 1983, p. 478). In the next chapter I will explore this thought in more detail through an examination of J. L. Austin’s writings on the problem of other minds. However, as will become clear, my suspicion is that this route of response does not really escape the field of force of the sceptical problematic. Specifically, I will argue that it sustains an objectifying mode of conceiving not the human body but what it is to be a subject; the ‘subject’ character of a human being. And I will suggest that this objectifying conception cannot but sustain the threat of scepticism. What I mean by an objectifying conception of what it is to be a subject is one that defines this in terms of a human being’s self-presence. On such a conception, persons are accorded the special status of being entities which are, or are capable of being, in a special way, and in each case, present to their own states and operations. A person is, that is to say, an entity which is not simply present but is, essentially, present to itself. Heidegger captures this conception in the following image: on the problematic conception the ‘subject’ character of a human being lies in its being, to itself ‘something which is in each case already constantly present-at-hand, both in and for a closed realm’ (BT, p. 114).2 In what follows I will call this conception the metaphysics of the subject. A whole series of attempts to resolve the problem of other minds have been developed within the framework of the metaphysics of the subject. These are approaches which take the persisting self-presence of a subject as their matter-of-course point of departure in an inquiry into being with others. My claim is that commitment to this metaphysics cannot but sustain the threat of scepticism: attempts to overcome scepticism which maintain the metaphysics of the subject do not pursue their criticisms of the sceptic’s position far enough. Thomas Nagel’s work on other minds presents a clear example of the distinctive way in which the metaphysics of the subject informs approaches to the problem of others: To understand that there are other people in the world as well [as oneself], one must be able to conceive of experiences of which one is not the subject: experiences that are not present to oneself. To do this it is necessary to have a general conception of subjects of experience and to place oneself under it as an instance. (Nagel, 1986, p. 20, my emphasis) This approach to the problem of other minds treats as self-evident the metaphysics which, in my view, sustains the threat of scepticism. That is, it implicitly accepts that

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