Here is the abstract Kai-Yuan Cheng and I submitted for a November conference here in Taiwan. It was accepted. The theme of the conference is: “Translation and Interpretation”. It is held at the National Taipei University. I don’t have any further conference details.

Kai is Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy, National Chung Cheng University in Chai Yi City, Taiwan. He obtained his PhD in Philosophy from the City University of New York, Graduate Center in October 2002. Topic: Solving Kripke/Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox.


On the Possibility of a Solitary Language

Kai-Yuan Cheng (國立中正大學助理教授鄭凱元)

Simon Van Rysewyk (世新大學語言中心講師賴仕維)


        A central problem in philosophy of language is the possibility of a solitary language. A solitary language is one an individual masters without the aid of a community of fellow speakers. This raises the question of the constitutive conditions of language, and whether a social context is primary for language as a means of communication. Under the influence of Wittgenstein’s (1958) later philosophy, many philosophers regard language as essentially social, but no consensus has yet been reached concerning what the final answer might be.

Philip Pettit (1993, 2000) has developed an innovative account of meaning, which may clarify the possibility of a solitary language. Pettit’s view is motivated by the rule-following problem, where the “interpretation-regress” leads to a skeptical paradox about meaning as presented in Kripke’s (1982) reading of Wittgenstein (1958). To solve the paradox, Pettit offers a so-called “ethocentric” theory in which the shared resolution of discrepant responses occurs in a practice of negotiation. Pettit’s theory implies that a solitary language is possible, but in this actual world, a social environment is indispensable in the constitution of language.

        This paper consists of four sections. In section I, the rule-following problem according to Pettit is introduced. In section II, Pettit’s ethocentric theory to the rule-following problem is explicated. In section III, the implication of Pettit’s theory on evaluating the claim that language is essentially social is discussed. In section IV, the plausibility of Pettit’s theory is examined.



Kripke, S. 1982: Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. Oxford: Blackwell.

Pettit, P. 1993: The Common Mind: An Essay on Psychology, Society, and Politics.

        Oxford University Press.

—2000: Rules, Reasons, and Norms. Oxford University Press.

Wittgenstein, L. 1958: Philosophical Investigation, 2nd edn. Oxford: Blackwell.