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We can never fully access another person’s perspective, but to what extent do our individual private experiences matter when it comes to language and shared understanding? According to the early 20th-century Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, the answer is ‘not at all’. A distilled rendering of Wittgenstein’s so-called ‘private language argument’, Wittgenstein’s Beetle in the Box Analogy explains why he believed that the meaning behind language inevitably lay in our shared understanding, and not in our private minds, because we simply can’t access each other’s experiences or sensations.
Liquid experiments show how beautiful things can happen when chemicals meet
Philosophy of mind
Caring for the vulnerable opens gateways to our richest, deepest brain states
History of ideas
How did ‘personal responsibility’ evolve into its opposite, ‘everyone for themselves’?
Thinkers and theories
Bigger isn’t better – the renegade ‘Buddhist economics’ of E F Schumacher
Dance and theatre
Close-up on kabuki – the colourful ‘pure entertainment’ of Japan’s Edo period
Building ‘bigger and better’ has pushed cosmology forward. Can it take it any further?
How Hokusai’s Great Wave emerged from Japan’s isolation to become a global icon
The ancient world
Not a lost kingdom but a parable – how to read Athens in Plato’s story of Atlantis
Meaning and the good life
Albert Camus built a philosophy of humanity on a foundation of absurdity