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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.
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
Check in to the Hilbert Hotel, and learn why some infinities are bigger than others
History of ideas
The devils you know – how Satan became a versatile stand-in for all manner of evil
Earth science and climate
How much can science really tell us about the future of climate change?
Beauty and aesthetics
Komorebi: ‘a dance of shadows emerging when sunlight filters through trees’
Although his story is a mystery, the Lion Man forever binds us to our prehistoric past
Time is fundamental, space is emergent – why physicists are rethinking reality
Language and linguistics
Ums, likes and y’knows get no respect – but they’re vital to conversation