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Wittgenstein on “I believe”

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This paper deals with an apparent tension in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations: Wittgenstein holds an expressivist position with regard to avowals, but also claims that the doxastic avowal “I believe that p” is a “hesitant assertion” of p. It is argued that the tension is apparent only and that Wittgenstein’s expressivism in fact justifies and explains his views on “I believe”: avowals typically are explicit expressives and usually implicate (in the Gricean sense) the corresponding illocutionary acts. The hesitant assertion of p is the result of an implicature of the explicit expressive “I believe that p”. The paper also addresses the ambiguity of avowals and the possibility of thereby undermining the Frege–Geach objection to psychological expressivism.

Affiliations: 1: University of Freiburg,


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