• sime
    775
    Sime, you're wrong about the arrow example, and about a "look up table." Let's see if I can make this clear. Wittgenstein asks in (PI 454), "How does it come about that this arrow -----------> points?" Any sign, be it a word or an arrow, only has an application, a use, that we together as a people, i.e., in socially given situations, give to it. "This pointing is not a hocus pocus which can be performed only by the soul [the soul, as used here, should be understood as the inner thing, the subjective]. So, it seems to me, and not only me, but many other interpreters, that Wittgenstein is saying the exact opposite of your point. This is clear throughout the PI, starting at the beginning when he talks about language-games.Sam26


    " This pointing is not a hocus pocus which can be performed only by the soul "

    Does not support your thesis or yield the conclusion

    "Any sign, be it a word or an arrow, only has an application, a use, that we together as a people, i.e., in socially given situations, give to it."

    unless by that you mean

    "Any sign, be it a word or an arrow, only has an application, a use, that a person gives to it."

    Which is logically coherent, and avoids the unintelligible requirement of social consensus with respect to meaning and truth, that you often appear to imply.

    Notice the context of the PI 454, in which he barely mentions social consensus. He is merely remarking on the distinction between what is said or thought a priori in relation to a sign (e.g the sign's stipulated definition) in comparison to it's actual a posteriori application. The difference between the definition of a sign and it's eventual application - that is under-determined by the definition, undermines the possibility of any theory of semantics, whether private or public.

    ​"Infinity" is a striking example of a word whose use necessarily belies any stipulated definition. Our convention defines "infinity" as meaning boundless, endless, or larger than any number..., and yet any particular use of the sign of "infinity", such as in an executed computer program, eventually halts and involves strictly finite reasoning and demonstration, - in apparent contradiction to it's stated definition as being "endless" - until that is, it is remembered that the actual uses of the phrases "boundless energy" , "infinite love" and what have you, are also finitistic...

    In other words, "infinity" and "going on forever" can be considered as synonymous, but no two applications of either are the same, for they halt at different times or finite numbers, if at all.. Hence the synonymous definition of infinity is a misleading tautology that says nothing of implicative relevance and isn't the semantic ground of anything. This is the logical content of the so-called "private" language argument, and as demonstrated, applies equally to the shared definitions offered by public languages.

    The "private language argument" isn't "no private meaning, therefore only public meaning", but rather "no private theory of meaning, therefore no public theory of meaning either".

    The concept of "potential infinity" partially circumvents the above issue by defining "infinity" to be an indexical referring to a fallible promise of a future finite number (as is done in computing), but fallible promises, by definition, lie outside of what is determinable by convention,implying the meaninglessness of a theory of so-called "infinite numbers" except as an empty syntactical construct.

    Wittgenstein undoubtedly noticed that what is true regarding the definition of "infinity" is also true of every sign in every language, complementing Quine's attack on the analytic-synthetic distinction. For example, we say "Bachelor" is a synonym for "Unmarried Man", but no two individuals use the expressions synonymously. Synonymy isn't use - except when writing definitions.

    And since the sentences of our language are infinite, we cannot even ground the linguistic notion of synonymy in personal or social conventions without appealing to a notion of logical implication, which leads to vicious regress if we think of logical implication as being reducible to convention. This observation of Quine in his attack on "truth by convention" predates the post-humus publication of PI by nearly two decades, and Wittgenstein was likely influenced by it. It rules out every stripe of meaning-theory so that neither phenomenalism, physicalism nor communitarianism can serve as semantic or epistemological "givens".
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    10.2k
    :up:
    And Sam26 says my interpretations of Wittgenstein are "so far from the norm". What Sam refuses to accept, is that when we are talking "private language", there is not such thing as the norm. How can one even discuss the possibility of private language if one insists that language use must be normative?
  • Sam26
    2.1k
    I found an excellent article that is worth reading, by Stefan Majetschak, entitled

    "A misleading parallel”: Wittgenstein on Conceptual Confusion in Psychology and the Semantics of Psychological Concepts. It's definitely worth reading.

    Just search, "A misleading parallel”: Wittgenstein on Conceptual Confusion in Psychology and the Semantics of Psychological Concepts by Stefan Majetschak, and download pdf.

    This article is from the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy Volume 9, Number 4.
  • Sam26
    2.1k
    And Sam26 says my interpretations of Wittgenstein are "so far from the norm". What Sam refuses to accept, is that when we are talking "private language", there is not such thing as the norm. How can one even discuss the possibility of private language if one insists that language use must be normative?Metaphysician Undercover

    Geez MU, who in the world ever said there was a norm of use with regard to a private language? Norms of use, as discussed by Wittgenstein, have to do with language-games as part of a social use. It's our social uses of concepts that give us a norm of use. Moreover, there is not one norm of use, but many norms of use, depending on the context, and the language-game associated with that concept and context.

    We are only able to talk about the false assumption of having a private language, in light of the social nature of meaning, namely, it's a necessary feature of a concept that its meaning happens socially within forms of life, both linguistically and non-linguistically.
  • Banno
    17.8k
    Any interpretation of a social convention is subjective. Wittgenstein was especially clear about this (e.g how can I know the intended direction of an arrow? how I am supposed to interpret a look-up table? ) . So there is no escape from purely private meaning, at least for Wittgenstein, even if such meaning cannot be linguistically translated.sime

    My turn. Sime, you're wrong about the arrow example." How an arrow is understood is not private; the arrow has a use only because we (not "I") agree as to which end of the arrow is which. The example leads in exactly the other direction to the oen you suppose.
  • Sam26
    2.1k
    My turn. Sime, you're wrong about the arrow example." How an arrow is understood is not private; the arrow has a use only because we (not "I") agree as to which end of the arrow is which. The example leads in exactly the other direction to the oen you suppose.Banno

    I agree.

    Also, @Sime think of how playing a game of chess would go if the rules for chess were determined privately - no one would understand what in the world you were doing. It wouldn't correspond with the moves the rest of us were making. Of course, it's even worse than this, at least people in the chess example could point out how the correct moves are made; but in your private language, one where there is no interaction with others, it would be even more problematic.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    10.2k
    Geez MU, who in the world ever said there was a norm of use with regard to a private language?Sam26

    You criticized me for interpretations of Wittgenstein which are "far from the norm". Aren't we discussing private language? As you say here, in regard to a private language, there is no norm. So, how is 'far from the norm" something to be critical of, rather than what is intended by Wittgenstein in his discussion of "private language"? And if it is what was intended by Wittgenstein, I would say that it is "the true" interpretation which is far better than any 'normal' interpretation.

    We are only able to talk about the false assumption of having a private language, in light of the social nature of meaning, namely, it's a necessary feature of a concept that its meaning happens socially within forms of life, both linguistically and non-linguistically.Sam26

    It really doesn't matter if private language is a true or false assumption. Mathematics is full of axioms which are neither true nor false, yet we must adhere to the principles if applying the mathematics. Now we are discussing "private language". So we must adhere to the principles of that premise. Therefore there can be no such thing as "the norm" for interpreting Wittgenstein's conception of "private language". If there was a norm, then it would not be "private language".

    So, the proposition is a language which is not based in norms. We cannot just dismiss the proposition as impossible, or false, because that would just circumvent the intent behind Wittgenstein's discussion of "private language", leaving Wittgenstein's whole discussion as pointless. Therefore we must accept the proposition, a language which is not based in norms, rather than rejecting it as false, in order to engage with his discussion.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    I haven't given any examples because I've assumed that most people know, that any use of a word in a sentence, is an example of how it's used. So, if I'm talking about epistemology for example, and I say, "I know John is guilty of murder," then the sense of the word know, (namely, how it's used in this sentence), is that I'm justified in some appropriate way. Another use or sense of the word know that is common, is to use it as a kind of emphasis. The emphasis on know would reflect a conviction, i.e., how one feels about the belief their expressing. Wittgenstein pointed this out in OC, where he says this kind of use can express itself in tone of voice. These are two specific examples of different uses of the same word. An epistemological use, and a use that expresses my subjective conviction. However, don't confuse a use that expresses the subjective, as a use that gives the word meaning.Sam26
    Exactly. Words are used to point to states-of-affairs that are not just another use of words. To know is to both be justified and to reflect a conviction because it is justified. Why would you reflect conviction unless you were justified in doing so? So it seems to me that your use of "to know" points to the same state-of-affairs and you're unnecessarily complicating the meaning of "to know" as being used in two or more separate states-of-affairs, when it is really being used in just one way - to point to one's justified conviction (a redundancy).

    And, even if you're under the spell of a mass delusion, it doesn't follow that your words have lost their sense. It just means that you're convinced of something that's false, among other things.Sam26
    In today's world, is the phrase "The Earth is flat" of any use? Does it make sense to say such a thing? No, because it doesn't point to any state of affairs that exists outside of our heads. It can only point to an idea, or a delusion, and that is what it pointed to a 1000 years ago when people used that phrase. The difference between today and a 1000 years ago is that today, most of us now know that it only points to an idea, not to a state-of-affairs that exists outside of our heads.

    The idea that it's you (emphasis on the subjective) that's convinced, gives people the false idea that it's you that gives meaning to the word. Again, the difference between understanding an expression of the subjective, and understanding how meaning comes about within a social context.Sam26
    Meaning is the relationship between cause and effect. Intent precedes the use of words. The idea that I intend to convey is what my words point to. My ideas, in turn, either point to some state-of-affairs that exists outside my head or they don't. So depending on how accurate my ideas of the world are will determine how useful my words are to others. The meaning of words comes about within a social context only after they are deemed useful in pointing to actual state-of-affairs that exist outside your head.

    Just look at all the conversations on this forum in which words are used in ways that are confusing and require the user to define how it is that they are using it (what state-of-affairs the words point to outside one's head) for the readers to understand what it is that they are actually saying. Some people use words ("consciousness" and the distinction between "natural" and "artificial" are prime examples) in ways that they think that they know how they are using them (the way that they learned to use it from others in a social context) only to find that when their way of using it isn't consistent with the other things that they have said or that we know, hence their use of words are not useful.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    A private language can exist; however the private linguist, him/herself, may not understand it. There could be n number of reasons why this is the case, my favorite one being the circularity of the verifying process for meaning: The private linguist can only ask him/herself what a private word means but to ask this question means I'm unsure of the meaning; in essence I must know what I don't know, an impossibility, oui?
  • 180 Proof
    9.3k
    A private language can exist; however the private linguist, him/herself, may not understand it.Agent Smith
    Like babytalk or glossolalia?
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    Like babytalk or glossolalia?180 Proof

    Words, symbols essentially, begging for meaning? A sign desperately seeking a referent, a partner?

    OR

    A primitive/superadvanced tongue with referents lost to history/waiting to be (re)discovered?
  • Pie
    553
    he meaning of our words or concepts is established necessarily within a social construct, and it necessarily follows that meaning is not a function of an individual’s privately derived sense of meaning;Sam26

    :up:

    What might be added, to comfort those who find this troubling, is that these social constructs aren't rigid and eternal. Meanings can drift. Wittgenstein himself kicked a few around.
  • sime
    775
    A private language can exist; however the private linguist, him/herself, may not understand it. There could be n number of reasons why this is the case, my favorite one being the circularity of the verifying process for meaning: The private linguist can only ask him/herself what a private word means but to ask this question means I'm unsure of the meaning; in essence I must know what I don't know, an impossibility,Agent Smith

    That ignores the fact that

    1) People tend to say "I understand" when they mean "I recognize that" - not to mention the fact that people regularly change their mind as to whether they previously understood.

    2) Conventions amount to a finite description or prescription of language use, and therefore cannot pin-down the meaning of "understanding".

    For example, in the case of Modus Ponens

    "For all x, x and x -->y implies y"

    is not equivalent to giving a complete table of uses, and does not pin down any particular table of uses. At most it pins down the sense of Modus Ponens by appealing to innate cognitive judgements of the learner, but it cannot pin down the references and use-cases of Modus Ponens, since the meaning of "for all" is left under-determined.

    Compare this to the social definition "All Bachelors are unmarried men" - the public certainty do not apply "Bachelor" and "Unmarried man" synonymously, because their cognitive judgements vary - the definition of "bachelor" amounts to a mythology or prescription of word use.

    3) Cognitive judgements not only make no recourse to social guidance , but they cannot make recourse to social guidance, on pain of begging the question as to how one is being guided.
    .
  • Sam26
    2.1k
    What might be added, to comfort those who find this troubling, is that these social constructs aren't rigid and eternal. Meanings can drift. Wittgenstein himself kicked a few around.Pie

    True.
  • magritte
    460
    social constructs aren't rigid and eternal. Meanings can drift.Pie

    Time is not the only variable. Social constructs are not universal. That would be too simplistic. Social or professional groups of insiders create meaning for themselves. These groups can be plural making for ambiguity, and be larger or smaller for wider or narrower understanding. That's one reason we need linguists to sort out the details.
  • Pie
    553
    Social or professional groups of insiders create meaning for themselves.magritte
    :up:

    Of course. Time is just the most obvious variable.
  • magritte
    460
    Of course. Time is just the most obvious variable.Pie

    Yet the most simple and obvious can have the deepest implications. PI, e, -1 are only simple numbers. But over millennia additional meanings were developed which led to surprising relations to be discovered suggesting an ancient original hidden symmetry. But only after mastery of the details will that simplicity of the whole be seen as obvious.

    Those of us who are not mathematicians never master the details of any of the branches of math. Each branch invents necessary precise terms, for private understanding and also for public insider communicability so that proofs can be developed and verified.

    Philosophy does not have any exact terms therefore understanding of any sort is an art and reliable communication can only be had by specialists of the subject with historical and sociocultural perspective. Which makes it very difficult for professionals to not talk past each other all while using a common language.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    It appears that Wittgenstein has broken new ground in re language & thought (philosophy, etc.) but no one has, to my knowledge, worked out the nuances of his thesis. For instance confusion is greater when dealing with abstract concepts, the words assigned to them, than with the concrete, stuff like chairs, stones, etc. I feel it's important to do so! Anyone with me on this?
  • Sam26
    2.1k
    I would agree with you. Most are just trying to understand what he said, but few are working out the implications of what he said, especially the nuanced implications of this very abstract linguistic subject.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    I would agree with you. Most are just trying to understand what he said, but few are working out the implications of what he said, especially the nuanced implications of this very abstract linguistic subject.Sam26

    In other words, unlike other philosophical ideas, Wittgenstein's views remain unchanged or static since the time of its inception. Is it, in that case, a work that's perfect as it is?
  • Sam26
    2.1k
    In other words, unlike other philosophical ideas, Wittgenstein's views remain unchanged or static since the time of its inception. Is it, in that case, a work that's perfect as it is?Agent Smith

    I wouldn't quite go that far. There are people who are trying to work out the implications of his ideas, but as far as I know, and I'm just guessing, it's a small number. Moreover, I'm not up to date on some of this.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    I wouldn't quite go that far. There are people who are trying to work out the implications of his ideas, but as far as I know, and I'm just guessing, it's a small number. Moreover, I'm not up to date on some of thisSam26

    Don't worry, you'll get there. Keep at it, that's a motto, not sure!
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.