• Valentinus
    146
    I propose reading Philosophical Investigations as a group for the sake of discussing the work.

    It cannot be said I am a "leader" of the enterprise. This book has not been the center of my studies and I am not well read in a number of the contemporaries Wittgenstein must surely have understood to be among those who are being addressed. On the other hand, his approach invites all to consider his remarks. Count me as one of them.

    As a starting point, I propose reading up to remark 155 over the next week or so and confining forum responses to address what is to be found therein. As your "leader", I will be looking for some kind of consensus to move on. If a coup d'é·tat were to occur during the process, things happen.

    I chose remark 155 as a stopping point because it is the last one concerning "understanding" before Wittgenstein takes up "reading" in remark 156.
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    Hurray! Praise @Valentinus!
  • I like sushi
    112
    I think one week is asking a bit too much.

    How about starting at the start? Does anyone have anything to say about the format of this book regarding how Wittgenstein had kept hold of these disjointed ideas for s long time before finally giving up on presenting them as one whole idea.

    That in itself is an interesting choice.

    Once we’ve expressed his reason for presenting the work as he has then we can get into the first couple of pages.

    I have a week off and will be spending some time studying/teaching different things and I’m always up for a challenge to “organise” things.

    Anyway, if everyone wants to follow my lead I’m happy to do my best. If enough people are willing and able to churn through so much in a week then I’ll leave things as be. I’ve tried in depth discussions before and they fell flat because people simply couldn’t find the time to read everything.

    The bonus with Philosophical Investigations is that it is a collection of thoughts - kind of a stream of consciousness - so much so that there is a direction to the flow, yet there are plenty of eddies to stop and play in as separate themes.

    Without a doubt the thing that struck me from the outset was the use of the term “ostensive.”

    Anyway: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54889e73e4b0a2c1f9891289/t/564b61a4e4b04eca59c4d232/1447780772744/Ludwig.Wittgenstein.-.Philosophical.Investigations.pdf

    Better to start with comments about the Preface and 1-7 so people can find their feet first.
  • Wallows
    6.2k


    I'm fine with that. Anyone else?
  • I like sushi
    112
    If anyone has read the Preface they’ll notice that W is almost apologetic for not being able to fashion a complete work. He settled for a broad view of how language is used, philosophy’s relatoinship with words and what “language” could possibly mean beyond a communal process (if anything.)

    There is no “message” in this book. It is a collection of thoughts that surround some figure of W’s general interest. What that figure is is the unasked question and he spends a lot of time trying his hardest to avoid asking this question - and get closer to some feel of it by doing so imo.

    If you’ve read philosophy before this is not like any other work. It’s order is much more like a stream of consciousness, sets of thoughts on specific subjects interwoven into some “weltanschauung.” It’s enjoyable, amusing, sometimes purposefully naive, and in the end will likely reveal questions to the reader they never knew they wanted to ask.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k

    I agree. What Valentinus asked for is to cover a large amount of complex and varied material in a short period of time.

    I nominate I like sushi as "the leader".
  • Valentinus
    146


    Your approach makes sense.
    Thank you for taking on the task of organizing.
  • I like sushi
    112
    I don’t like the title “leader.” I’ll only be responding to “Sir Excellent” or “Supreme Ruler.” :D

    How many people are likely to join in?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Yeah, reading up to 155 in a week is way too much in my opinion. That's over a quarter of the book . . . and I'm probably going to have a good 10 objections or so per sentence, so I'd need to write a 300-page book myself to reply in full to everything through 154. ;-)
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    i. "Cum ipsi (majores homines) appellabant rem aliquam, et cum
    secundum earn vocem corpus ad aliquid movebant, videbam, et
    tenebam hoc ab eis vocari rem illam, quod sonabant, cum earn vellent
    ostendere. Hoc autem eos veile ex motu corporis aperiebatur: tamquam
    verbis naturalibus omnium gentium, quae fiunt vultu et nutu oculorum,
    ceterorumque membrorum actu, et sonitu vocis indicante affectionem
    animi in petendis, habendis, rejiciendis, fugiendisve rebus. Ita verba in
    variis sententiis locis suis posita, et crebro audita, quarum rerum signa
    essent, paulatim colligebam, measque jam voluntates, edomito in eis
    signis ore, per haec enuntiabam." (Augustine, Confessions, I. 8.)


    What does this mean? Starting this reading group with a quote from Augustine. Hehe.
  • Valentinus
    146
    Well, in English, it is:

    ""When they (my elders) named some object, and accordingly
    moved towards something, I saw this and I grasped that the thing was
    called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out.
    Their intention was shewn by their bodily movements, as it were the
    natural language of all peoples: the expression of the face, the play of
    the eyes, the movement of other parts of the body, and the tone of voice
    which expresses our state of mind in seeking, having, rejecting, or
    avoiding something. Thus, as I heard words repeatedly used in their
    proper places in various sentences, I gradually learnt to understand
    what objects they signified; and after I had trained my mouth to form
    these signs, I used them to express my own desires."

    From this description, Wittgenstein says:

    "In this picture of language we find the roots of the following idea: Every word has a meaning. This meaning is correlated with the word. It is the object for which the word stands."

    I see how this correspondence is indicated in Augustine's text. But It is striking to me how the references to gesture, tone, and context are brought into the narrative as part of learning the meaning. It reminds me of Wittgenstein. In this vein, I wonder if Augustine would have agreed with the observation:

    "Augustine does not speak of there being any difference between
    kinds of word. If you describe the learning of language in this way
    you are, I believe, thinking primarily of nouns like "table", "chair",
    "bread", and of people's names, and only secondarily of the names of
    certain actions and properties; and of the remaining kinds of word as
    something that will take care of itself."
  • JimRoo
    6
    I agree with Wittgenstein that not everything we call language is this system. But, I also agree with Augustine that for many of us, this is the way we learn our first language. And, while Augustine does appear to give words a one-to-one association with objects, he also notes that we express our wishes through language.

    This is a translation of all of Book 1, Chapter 8 of Augustine's Confessions translated by Albert C Outler - it's just a bit more than what Wittgenstein cited:

    13. Did I not, then, as I grew out of infancy, come next to boyhood, or rather
    did it not come to me and succeed my infancy? My infancy did not go away (for
    where would it go?). It was simply no longer present; and I was no longer an infant who could not speak, but now a chattering boy. I remember this, and I have since observed how I learned to speak. My elders did not teach me words by rote, as they taught me my letters afterward. But I myself, when I was unable to communicate all I wished to say to whomever I wished by means of whimperings and grunts and various gestures of my limbs (which I used to reinforce my demands), I myself repeated the sounds already stored in my memory by the mind which thou, O my God, hadst given me. When they called some thing by name and pointed it out while they spoke, I saw it and realized that the thing they wished to indicate was called by the name they then uttered. And what they meant was made plain by the gestures of their bodies, by a kind of natural language, common to all nations, which expresses itself through changes of countenance, glances of the eye, gestures and intonations which indicate a disposition and attitude--either to seek or to possess, to reject or to avoid. So it was that by frequently hearing words, in different phrases, I gradually identified the objects which the words stood for and, having formed my mouth to repeat these signs, I was thereby able to express my will. Thus I exchanged with those about me the verbal signs by which we express our wishes and advanced deeper into the stormy fellowship of human life, depending all the while upon the authority of my parents and the behest of my elders.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    So, what I get out of the beginning (up to 16 so far):

    There's a view of language that posits it as being learned ostensively.

    Language isn't just a matter of naming objects. There are words that represent actions, abstractions, etc. (and in fact, naming objects a la types as opposed to "proper names" is itself an abstraction--not a point that Wittgenstein has made yet, but a point of my own).

    This all seems rather "Duh!" to me so far. And Wittgenstein is both laboriously and overly sketchily/sloppily going through all of this "Duh" material.

    Presumably (it's been awhile since I've read the book), it's going to somehow lead up to Wittgenstein claiming that language can't be learned ostensively because of the above, but I disagree that that follows. Words representing actions, abstractions, etc. can definitely be learned ostensively.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Re 19, he kind of loses me.

    First, I'm confused by "Slab I" ("Slab <Roman numeral one>"? Or "Slab <indexical for oneself>"?)--also, there was nothing like "Slab I" introduced prior. I guess he meant "Roman numeral one" because he seems to immediately afterward replace it with "Slab1" (no space) . . . I'm wondering if that's not all (the change from "Slab I" to "Slab1") just some sort of typo in the version I'm reading.

    And then he introduces the term "elliptical sentence" as if we're supposed to know what he has in mind by "elliptical." I have no idea. If I ever learned what "elliptical sentence" was supposed to be in Wittgenstein or elsewhere, I sure have no memory of it at the moment.

    At any rate re his question, "Is it a word or a sentence?" It can either be a word or a sentence or both (or neither, actually), depending on the individual we ask/how they think about it.

    Re "How do you mean something when you say 'Slab1''? "How you mean something" is a manner of speaking that doesn't very well literally capture what's going on. Meaning is in individuals' heads. We can suppose that you'll have a meaning in your head when you say "Slab1," if you're Wittgenstein's A, say, and then if you're Wittgenstein's B, you'll also have a meaning in your head when you hear A say "Slab1." That's what it amounts to for someone to "mean something" when they say "Slab1." Glad I could be of service.

    Re "Do you say the unshortened sentence to yourself?" Again, it depends on the person. Some people might internally translate it into something else. Some won't. Usually the reason someone would internally translate a word or expression is because it's not a word or expression they normally use, and it seems odd to them or difficult to remember, so by rote, as an attempt to remember it, they'll translate it to something that is less odd, makes more sense to them, etc. I have to do this if I'm trying to read someone like Heidegger--I have to internally translate all of the stupid terms he makes up ("present-to-hand," "ready-at-hand" etc.) into something that I can remember/something that makes more sense to me.

    "Why should you translate it"--just depends on how you think about it. It's not that you should or shouldn't. It's simply a matter of how an individual thinks about it.

    A question he doesn't ask but that we can answer based on his comments about it is that the reason you'd translate it to someone else is when they don't understand you when you say one thing. The translation is an attempt to produce understanding, based on terms/expressions they are familiar with.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Re 20, yes, one could think of anything as denoting some complex of relations, actions, etc.--so a sentence, or even a paragraph or entire book, etc. (for example, someone people, upon hearing the name "Carrie," might think of the entire novel/film/etc.), and one could think of any long sentence as a "single word." It's just a matter of how individuals think about it. (I have a feeling I'm going to have to repeat that a lot.)

    Re "in contrast with," yes, that would be a way of thinking about it, so it would require someone to explicitly think of contrasts. That's not going astray. Wittgenstein's alternate account is rather going astray. The contrast isn't going to be because of "possibilities in the language," as if possibilities somehow exist "in themselves," as if abstracts somehow exist independently of us thinking about things a la abstractions.

    Re the comments about the foreigner, yes, again, different people can think about it differently. If it's clear to us that they're thinking about a sentence that's written as four different words as if they'd believe that it would be written as one word a la the conventions of the language, we'd try to inform them about the conventions.

    Re the question about thinking about the sentence in Russian as opposed to English, I don't know. I can speak/read at least a bit of French, German, Spanish, Greek and Latin, but I pretty much have to translate them all into English in my head. That might not be the case if I were ever immersed in one of those languages for awhile--if I were to live in France, Germany, etc. for an extended period of time, but I don't know, as I've never lived outside of the U.S. for any extended period of time.

    Re the comments about language "mastery," that's broader, and would normally be an evaluation of a wide range of someone's writing and/or speaking.

    I'll stop at 20 for today.
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    First, I'm confused by "Slab I" ("Slab <Roman numeral one>"? Or "Slab <indexical for oneself>"?)Terrapin Station

    If you're working off the PDF, I think that's an OCR error. It's just 'Slab!', with an exclamation mark in my copy of the book.

    With respect to §19 as a whole, I will only comment that the whole section needs to be read in light of the two most important sentences which can be found at the beginning and end of the section respectively:

    (1) "To imagine a language means to imagine a form of life".
    (2) "does 'wanting this' consist in thinking in some form or other a different sentence from the one you utter"? (my bolding)

    It's clear that §19 is meant to answer the question (2) in the negative (it does not consist in thinking in some form or other a different sentence form the one you utter). In place of 'thought', what is offered is 'a form of life'. Witty does not at this point comment too much on what he means by this, but as a start, §19 is meant to pick apart the equation of 'wanting this' with 'thinking'.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    If you're working off the PDF, I think that's an OCR error. It's just 'Slab!', with an exclamation mark in my copy of the book.StreetlightX

    Ah, thanks. Yeah, I was using the pdf--I'm not sure where my copy of the book is. I searched for it a bit yesterday, but I've got a bunch of books out of order, scattered all over the place, etc.

    Re (1), I agree with him, but only in the sense that I'd agree it probably doesn't make much sense to talk about a language (in this sense) as occurring sans meaning, and for meaning, we need persons who are thinking about the language.

    Re (2), I'd once again say that it's just a matter of what words (what sounds/text strings) have what meanings and associations for an individual. It's a matter of how an individual thinks about it. So I don't agree with Wittgenstein answering "no." Re "a form of life in place of thought," that makes no sense to me. Again, I ony agree with "to imagine a language means (implies rather) imagining a form of life" as I described above. I wouldn't agree with that otherwise.
  • Valentinus
    146

    Thanks for that text. It completes the thought I was trying to have.

    I particularly like this part:

    My infancy did not go away (for
    where would it go?). It was simply no longer present; and I was no longer an infant who could not speak, but now a chattering boy.

    It resonates with Wittgenstein's examples of learning a language.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k
    Re "Do you say the unshortened sentence to yourself?" Again, it depends on the person. Some people might internally translate it into something else. Some won't.Terrapin Station

    When he says "Slab!", and he means "please bring me a slab", I think: "that fucking asshole is asking me for another fucking slab again, when he hasn't even used the last one I brought him yet. Fuck off and leave me alone boss."

    It's clear that §19 is meant to answer the question (2) in the negative (it does not consist in thinking in some form or other a different sentence form the one you utter). In place of 'thought', what is offered is 'a form of life'. Witty does not at this point comment too much on what he means by this, but as a start, §19 is meant to pick apart the equation of 'wanting this' with 'thinking'.StreetlightX

    Most often, we are thinking something different from what we utter. That's why we ought to separate meaning from intent, what the person says, and what the words mean, does not accurately, or truly reflect the person's intentions. If we do not recognize this separation, and think that what a person says necessarily reflects what the person thinks, the deception has been successful. For sure, what the person wants, and what that person says, are quite distinct.

    So at #21, "five slabs" has no definitive meaning because the meaning has been separated from the intent. It might be a command or it could be a report. It has a "sense" according to how it is being used.
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    Re (2), I'd once again say that it's just a matter of what words (what sounds/text strings) have what meanings and associations for an individual. It's a matter of how an individual thinks about it.Terrapin Station

    But why thought? In saying 'Slab!', it is not 'thought' at stake but actions. I want that person over there to hand me that slab next to him. The sound 'slab!' initiates a movement of bodies and things, and its role in the transaction is functional. It is only within the context of me over here, you over there, a slab further away, and perhaps a structure to be built that the sound 'slab!' attains its particular sense in that situation. This 'context' - which is largely extra-lingustic and extra-mentalistic - is what Witty refers to as 'a form of life'.

    The series of rhetorical questions in §19 is meant to highlight the irrelavency of the line of questioning it pursues: if one keeps looking to translate words into other words, framing meaning as a wholly intra-linguistic rather than always already bound up within a broader context of actions, things, projects, and movements, one cannot understand what is going on when one shouts 'slab!'. If one tries to understand 'slab!' in only in terms of sentences and thoughts (or thoughts of sentences) - rather than actions and practices - one will miss how it is that 'slab!' can function to initiate action - and subsequently, 'mean' anything at all.
  • macrosoft
    674
    If one tries to understand 'slab!' in only in terms of sentences and thoughts - rather than actions and practices - one will miss how it is that 'slab!' means anything at all.StreetlightX

    Well said. Action grounds meaning which is distributed throughout an entire form of life(oversimplifying which may be impossible to avoid, which may be the point). That certain words like 'cat' bring an image to our mind is misleading. What does 'misleading' bring to our mind out of context? Or 'context'? And yet we use these words transparently.
  • macrosoft
    674
    Again, I ony agree with "to imagine a language means (implies rather) imagining a form of life" as I described above. I wouldn't agree with that otherwiseTerrapin Station

    At a certain age we are so trained in a language that our minds are privately differentiated when it comes to various brightly conscious beliefs. We can experience distance. We can not be understood and realize that there is reason the notion of subject meaning was born. But all of this seems to made possible by a deep immersion in the form of life. And we still obey the traffic lights. We are just so good at moving in the form of life that we only notice the gaps, our prized ideas that are hard to communicate. I'd say these brightly lit and lonely prized ideas are the tip of an iceberg.
  • I like sushi
    112
    It appears everyone has jumped ahead. No problem.

    No one seems to have mentioned (at a glance) the point being made in the opening about apples - that is the manner in which words are understood. We do not simple follow a set of sequential points in order to understand something. We do not apprehend the “red,” “apple,” or “five” as separate concepts when they’re uttered in the manner given. To say this is what W calls a “primitive language.”

    This may be obvious to everyone but thought I’d point it out anyway - the obvious is often too easily overlooked.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k
    No one seems to have mentioned (at a glance) the point being made in the opening about apples - that is the manner in which words are understood. We do not simple follow a set of sequential points in order to understand something. We do not apprehend the “red,” “apple,” or “five” as separate concepts when they’re uttered in the manner given. To say this is what W calls a “primitive language.”I like sushi

    I don't recognize this as a very good example, because it attempts to understand something complex through a simple division and analysis. So "five red apples" is explained by looking up the meaning of the individual words. And that's a faulty premise, from the beginning. It is not necessary to break a thing into its composite parts to have an understanding of the whole.

    Wittgenstein uses this example to proceed toward the separation between language use and thought, talking about how we might understand an entire phrase as if it were one word, and this supports the later implication that thought is not necessarily required in order to understand a phrase What follows is the removal of thought, as the medium between what is wanted, and what is said. I would say that the argument is not conclusive. Just because we do not actively analyze the phrase, breaking it into parts to understand it, this does not produce the conclusion that no thought is involved. Analyzing is only one type of thinking.

    Action grounds meaning which is distributed throughout an entire form of life(oversimplifying which may be impossible to avoid, which may be the point).macrosoft

    I would argue that Wittgenstein's procedure of grounding meaning in action rather than thought, does not really resolve any problems. Both thought and action are grounded in intent, what one wants. So what Wittgenstein does here is remove the medium of thought, which is generally believed to exist between intent and action. Now we need to establish a direct relation between what is said and what is wanted, without reference to the medium of thought. We could say that reference to thought is unreliable and deceptive, so we must go directly to intent. But how could the determination of intent be any more reliable than the determination of thought?

    What we are left with is the direct interpretation of intent through actions. The question of course, is whether it is more reliable to determine one's intent by one's actions, or to determine one's thoughts by one's actions, and then proceed toward one's intent through that determination of thought. There is a three way relation, intent, thought, and action. We cannot completely exclude thought from the scenario, as Wittgenstein might imply, because thought is what allows for deception which is when one's actions do not properly reflect one's intentions
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    Compare the surgeon's form of life. "Scalpel!" "Swab!"
    Compare Ikea's pictorial instructions: the intent is shared, and it is to construct the cabinet. I don't need to infer that as if it is opaque.
    Compare the conductor's gestures to the orchestra - the 'please' gesture is not used.

    We know what we are about, (except when we are philosophising or politicking) - to the extent, sometimes, that meaning is reduced to rhythmic coordination: "I don't know but I've been told...", "What shall we do with the drunken sailor?"

    'Compare!'

    'What is Wittgenstein's intent?'
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    But all of this seems to made possible by a deep immersion in the form of life.macrosoft

    Wait, "the form of life" is another way of saying "life-form," right? In other words, a synonym for some species or other. What would be a "deep immersion" in a life-form?

    Otherwise, I have no idea what "the form of life" is saying.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    When he says "Slab!", and he means "please bring me a slab", I think: "that fucking asshole is asking me for another fucking slab again, when he hasn't even used the last one I brought him yet. Fuck off and leave me alone boss."Metaphysician Undercover

    :lol:
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    But why thought?StreetlightX

    Because that's what both wanting something and meaning are--mental phenomena.

    it is not 'thought' at stake but actionsStreetlightX

    "At stake," sure. But the question was what wanting something consists of (or consists "in").

    It is only within the context of me over here, you over there, a slab further away, and perhaps a structure to be built that the sound 'slab!' attains its particular sense in that situation.StreetlightX

    All words attain meaning via how individuals think about them.

    This 'context' - which is largely extra-lingustic and extra-mentalistic - is what Witty refers to as 'a form of life'.StreetlightX

    The environment certainly impacts how people think about things (although not necessarily), but the environmental elements in themselves are not meaning. Meaning is what's happening in an individual's head. If he's calling a "context" a "form of life," that's not at all something I'd agree with, and I'd suggest that we don't get so poetic when we're doing philosophy, because I'm not of the opinion that it helps.

    if one keeps looking to translate words into other wordsStreetlightX

    It's not a matter of translating words into other words per se. We could set up a machine to do that (a la the Chinese Room, say), but the machine wouldn't be doing meaning. Meaning is the mental act of making associations, not necessarily associating words with words--it could be an association of anything with anything else, really. Nevertheless, that's mental and can't be made something else.

    Understanding is a matter of making mental associations, including with respect to observed phenomena, behavior (including linguistic utterances), etc., in a manner that is coherent and consistent in one's opinion, and mutual understanding obtains when multiple parties are in this state with respect to one another.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    And yet we use these words transparently.macrosoft

    What is "transparent" use of words?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    We do not apprehend the “red,” “apple,” or “five” as separate concepts when they’re uttered in the manner given.I like sushi

    I don't agree that we can say that as a universal generalization. Different people are going to think about language in different ways. Someone may very well divide red, apple, etc. into separate concepts. Other people may not think about them that way. It's not the same for every person.
  • macrosoft
    674
    Wait, "the form of life" is another way of saying "life-form," right? In other words, a synonym for some species or other. What would be a "deep immersion" in a life-form?

    Otherwise, I have no idea what "the form of life" is saying.
    Terrapin Station

    A 'form of life' is the way of living of an entire community. It's the way we talk, for one thing, but also how we drive on the roads, wave to one another, hold ceremonies when one of us dies, put on conical hats on birthdays, etc. We don't pick the closest urinal to one being used if possible or just stare at the strangers. We see a certain concrete structure and know these are stairs to walk up. How much of our getting around in the world has become automatic for us to smoothly fit in with other human beings in our everyday lives?
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