Eigenpsychisches und Fremdpsychisches

“Die eigenpsychischen Gegenstände sind erkenntnismässig primär in bezug auf die  die physischen Gegenstände, die fremdpsychischen dagegen sekundär. Wir werden deshalb die physischen Gegenstände aus den eigenpsychischen und die fremdpsychischen aus den physischen konstituieren.” R. Carnap, Der logische Aufbau der Welt, Felix Meiner Verlag Hamburg (1998), p. 79.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, orignal dated 11-06-2008. This is a pivotal thought. Then again, I have no idea at all if the quought does justice to the thought. What I do know is that it would help me if you would say something to me, I’m in a state where the Eigenpsychisches needs a reality check by some Fremdpsychisches.]

[amateuristic English translation: “Physical objects are cognitively based on first person psychology, other person psychology is however cognitively based on physical objects. Therefore, we will constitute physical objects out of first person psychology and the other person psychology out of physical objects.” – this really was one of the hardest translations to come up with,  I do apologize if this is as opaque as the original is clear.]

I am on thin ice here: Carnap isn’t very popular at the moment. But, he tried to think things true and I for one applaud him for having tried to do just that. Maybe later I could risk jumping into the deep, now I merely want to wonder about the first person attitude (and then hurry back to safer ground).

I wonder whether Carnap doesn’t take the first person as too unproblematic. This is not going to be about subtleties. This is about whether the first person here is, for instance, like a giraffe – one of those walking, talking living things known as ‘you’ and ‘me’. In both first person cases it is necessary to constitute a world and in both cases we do well to leave all that speculative metaphysics to the side, if at all possible. But there is a difference between walking, talking living things and merely walking living things.

One such difference – and it is a crucial difference – is that the giraffe won’t write a book titled ‘Der logische Aufbau der Welt’. However – if it were to write one – it would have an advantage of not confusing what it knows (or thinks it knows) with what it talks about when it talks about what it (thinks it) knows. I regret having to use a hyperbole but the point is hopefully clear (albeit a bit muddled; in my defense, I’m  not presenting an argument but just wondering).

Let us assume that something like Carnap´s assertion is correct at the base, or beastly, level. Does this then imply that it is necessarily also correct at the level of linguistically based social interaction? Carnap would have it that way as he ultimately constitutes social phenomena, even further down the road, out of the three areas mentioned in the quote. But the most glaring weakness is that in order to do that he has to rely on thousands of years of linguistically built-up knowledge. He himself, in a quote that will certainly be treated here some time, stresses the progressive character of our human knowledge. I doubt it very much that somehow we can cut back unproblematically to those days of yore where language wasn’t yet or simply wasn´t.

Yes, that is circumstantial evidence at best. The “To Do” is to answer something like the question I put higher. I do not think you can answer that question in the positive.

[This is annoying. Not even I have a clue which question I referred to when I was writing this. The quought definitely does not live up to the thought. It is a pity because the thought is a good one, even if it basically is nothing else than the inversion of the quote. Anyway, let’s press on.]

There are no limits to the creative, productive power of language and specifically no limits set by any first person experience or even physical objects – there is a restriction in the sense that, ultimately, linguistic creation can only make itself felt via a physical conduit (no, I may be dabbling around here but I’m definitely not dabbling around in the
supernatural or esoteric) but that is not the same. ‘Nuff said for the moment. The disclaimer on ‘just wondering´ was put in for public safety in good time 😉

[Ah, for those with the power of endurance: a last paragraph that rescues at least something more of the thought.]

 I do think the primacy we have to respect is not that of the first person experience but that of interpersonal communication. I also think that – whilst there is something like a giraffe first person in us – there is also another type of person associated to us (rather than “in us”), and that it is, yeah why not, foolish to gloss over this type of person as if both first person were of the same kind merely because we refer to it with the same word (an issue that, by the way, is addressed superbly by Carnap elsewhere in the book).

[Whilst writing this I was listening to ´The Very Best of The Beach Boys’.]


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