The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy

By Stanley Cavell | Go to book overview

III

Austin and Examples

It will help me make clearer why I sometimes think of criteria as of the identification rather than of the existence of something, and also help explain why that distinction does not satisfy me, if I now bring to our argument a passage or two from Austin "Other Minds" which I take to be discussing a version of the stage of problem we are facing here, the relation between knowing what a thing is (by means of criteria) and knowing that it is.

In considering the types of answer that may be given to the question "How do you know?", Austin first uses as his example (he calls it a "stalking horse") the claim "There's a bittern at the bottom of the garden" (p. 47). The bases of the replies one may offer in support of such a claim are then articulated by him in this way:

. . . I must have
(1) been trained in an environment where I could become familiar with bitterns
(2) had a certain opportunity in the current case
(3) learned to recognize or tell bitterns
(4) succeeded in recognizing or telling this as a bittern

If I have produced my background credentials and my opportunities in the current case, and they have not been relevantly countered or questioned, then I have successfully established my claim, I have said enough.

Enough means enough to show that (within reason, and for present intents and purposes) it "can't" be anything else, there is no room for an alternative, com-

-49-

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