1st Edition

Wittgenstein on Sensation and Perception

By Michael Hymers Copyright 2017
    216 Pages
    by Routledge

    216 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book offers two novel claims about Wittgenstein’s views and methods on perception as explored in the Philosophical Investigations. The first is an interpretive claim about Wittgenstein: that his views on sensation and perception, including his critique of private language, have their roots in his reflections on sense-datum theories and on what Hymers calls the misleading metaphor of phenomenal space. The second is a major philosophical claim: that Wittgenstein’s critique of the misleading metaphor of phenomenal space is of ongoing relevance to current debates concerning first-person authority and the problem of perception because we are still tempted to draw inferences about the phenomenal that only apply to the physical. Many contemporary discussions of these topics are thus premised on the very confusions Wittgenstein sought to dispel. This book will appeal to Wittgenstein scholars who are interested in the Philosophical Investigations and to philosophers of perception who may think that Wittgenstein’s views are mistaken, irrelevant, or already adequately appreciated.


    1. Sense-Data and the Misleading Metaphor of Phenomenal Space

    2. Wittgenstein, Phenomenology, and Sense-Data

    3. Phenomenology, Grammar and Private Language

    4. The Grammar of First-Person Authority

    5. The Contemporary Debate about First-Person Authority

    6. Back to Sense-Data?

    7. Sensory Qualia


    Michael Hymers is Munro Professor of Metaphysics at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. He is the author of Philosophy and Its Epistemic Neuroses (2000) and Wittgenstein and the Practice of Philosophy (2010), and a past editor of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy.

    "Hymer offers detailed analytic reconstructions of Wittgenstein's texts and contemporary debates ... Readers with the necessary background will find it both useful and provocative. Summing Up: Recommended." – CHOICE

    "In this book, Michael Hymers highlights the diverse ways in which the mistaken picture of a private phenomenal space figures in arguments for sense-data and qualia. Hymers brings together a wide range of passages from Wittgenstein's later writings to show how they criticize this picture. This is a fascinating and hard-hitting selection." – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

    "Michael Hymers provides a sustained and valuable analysis of the metaphor of phenomenal space, arguing convincingly that Wittgenstein, from the early 1930s onwards, understood the pitfalls of taking this trope literally. One of the many virtues of Hymers’ work is that it draws attention to a highly productive but little understood period of Wittgenstein’s philosophical development, one that merits greater scholarly attention. Hymers’ meticulous study will be of interest to anyone seeking a better understanding of Wittgenstein’s early work on the grammar of sensation and perception."Philosophical Investigations