TH E TH REAT OF S CE PTI CI S M
foreign to it by which it is touched and from which it receives the impulse. For as to having in itself the power to move, to feel, to think, I did not believe in any way that these advantages might be attributed to corporeal nature; on the contrary, I was somewhat astonished to see such faculties were to be found in certain bodies. (Descartes, 1968, pp. 104–5) The contours of my subjectivity circumscribe and delimit the spread of my soul. And henceforth my body is a somewhat foreign body: ‘such as it appears in a corpse’. Yet this sign of death, astonishingly, shows signs of life. Signs though, not the thing itself – and whispering doubts about such signs gather at once: the lived experience, the subjective side of the other is made known to me only in so far as it is mediately indicated by signs involving a physical side. I am present to myself: the other can only be present to me through outward signs of his presence. But how can I be sure that these outward signs really signify a soul, a soul like my own? . . . Once the security of one’s claims to know others has been called into question, the attempt to establish one’s right to judge that the behaviour of a body is reliable evidence of the presence of a (self-present) subjective side can seem to be the only appropriate and rational route of response. Kant states that it is a ‘scandal to philosophy that the existence of things outside us must be accepted merely on faith and that we are unable to counter the sceptic with any satisfactory proof’ (Kant, 1933 , B xl, fn. a). Is not the same true of scepticism about other minds? In fact, very often in writings on the problem of other minds it is simply assumed that the sceptical argument has appropriately motivated the task of providing such a proof or a refutation. We move directly to questions as to the cogency or otherwise of the argument from analogy or from best explanation or from criteria. But what if the very aim to secure one’s right to make judgements about others is a symptom of the very confusion which motivates the threat of scepticism in the first place? On the other hand, if this suspicion is sound, how, then, can we remove the threat? We can do so only if traditional proofs and refutations do not exhaust our options. In the next two chapters, through an examination of the work of J. L. Austin and Martin Heidegger, I aim to make plausible the view that, pace Kant, ‘ “the scandal of philosophy” is not that [a] proof has yet to be given, but that such proofs are expected and attempted again and again’ (BT, p. 205). As I have indicated, I will call a response of this sort a reframing of scepticism. A response by reframing does not aim to refute scepticism but to undermine the whole fabric of thinking which sustains it as a threat. It does not aim to show that, and how, we know what the sceptic doubts we know, but to explain why we succumb to the sceptic’s threat or feel the need to refute it. In the next chapter, then, I will turn to J. L. Austin’s ‘ordinary language philosophy’ and show how it endeavours to effect a philosophical reframing of scepticism.