Human Beings and Automatons

Säätelä, Simo (2002) Human Beings and Automatons. In: UNSPECIFIED Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society, pp. 214-215.


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J.S. Mill has formulated a classical statement of the "argument from analogy� concerning knowledge of other minds: "I must either believe them [other human beings] to be alive, or to be automatons� (Mill 1872, 244). It is possible that Wittgenstein had this in mind when writing the following: "I believe he is suffering.�—Do I also believe that he isn"t an automaton? It would go against the grain to use the word in both connexions. (Or is it like this: I believe he is suffering, but am certain the he is not an automaton? Nonsense!) Suppose I say of a friend: "He isn"t an automaton�.—What information is conveyed by this, and to whom would it be information? To a human being who meets him in ordinary circumstances? What information could it give him? (At the very most that this man always behaves like a human being, and not occasionally like a machine.) "I believe he is not an automaton�, just like that, so far makes no sense. My attitude towards him is an attitude towards a soul [eine Einstellung zur Seele]. I am not of the opinion that he has a soul. (PI p. 178) Here Wittgenstein contrasts opinion (Meinung) and attitude (Einstellung). How should this contrast be understood? On a view such as Mill"s, to regard someone as a conscious being is to hold certain beliefs about him, beliefs that can perhaps ultimately be grounded in a theory of some sort. To have an "attitude towards a soul� is, on the contrary, to see a person"s gestures and facial expressions as "filled with meaning�. We have an attitude towards a soul when confronted with a person, which means that we react to his presence and behaviour in a certain way.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Human beings or Automatons; Opinion; Attitude; Mill, J.S.; Wittgenstein, L.
Subjects: Philosophie > Philosophische Disziplinen > Bewußtseinsphilosophie, Philosophie des Geistes und der Psychologie
Philosophie > Philosophische Journale, Kongresse, Vereinigungen > Wittgenstein Symposium Kirchberg, Pre-Proceedings > Kirchberg 2002
Depositing User: Stefan Köstenbauer
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2007
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2011 18:52

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