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2 RE F RAM I NG SCE PTICI S M I J. L. Austin

INTRODUCTION Why does our thinking about being with others become open so rapidly to the threat of scepticism? According to John McDowell the answer lies with the proneness of both the sceptic and his traditional refuter to treat what is, essentially, the behaviour of a person as if it were ‘mere behaviour’; as if it were behaviour on a level with ‘the behaviour of the planets’ (McDowell, 1983, p. 479). For McDowell, then, it is ‘the objectification of human behaviour [which] leads inexorably to the traditional problem of other minds’ (ibid.). I will come back to the details of McDowell’s position in the final chapter. Here I want to explore how this route of response is developed in the ‘ordinary language philosophy’ of J. L. Austin. It is less widely recognised than it should be that the identification of and implacable opposition to a tendency in philosophy to extend an objectifying mode of conceiving reality to the behaviour of human beings is evident throughout Austin’s writings. In ‘A Plea for Excuses’ (Austin, 1979, pp. 175–204), for example, he criticises the ‘vague and comforting idea’ that ‘in the last analysis, doing an action must come down to the making of physical movements with parts of the body’ (p. 178); an idea which invites us ‘to think of our behaviour over any time, and life as a whole, as consisting in doing now action A, next action B, then action C, and so on’ (p. 179). A similar point is stressed in How To Do Things With Words (Austin, 1980), where he notes that ‘a great many acts . . . are not, as philosophers are prone to assume, simply in the last resort physical movements’ (p. 19). By far Austin’s most sustained attempt to formulate a conception of behaviour which avoids this proneness is his essay ‘Other Minds’ (Austin, 1979, pp. 76–116). It is also in this essay that we can most clearly identify in Austin’s work what I have called a reframing of scepticism. In order to appreciate the philosophical significance of the Austinian reframing of scepticism, it is important to see that any such approach is open to a fundamental objection. If the form of one’s response to the problem of other minds is not to be a refutation or proof in the traditional sense (namely a demonstration that we do know what the sceptic

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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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