• Banno
    3.7k
    Sure. But there is more here.

    The tale will grow in the telling. The thrust is that there are ways to understand rules apart from listing them.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    "One can also imagine someone's having learnt the game without ever learning or formulating rules."Terrapin Station

    A child can play "duck, duck goose" well before they could articulate the rules.

    Again, it is worth noting the distinction between explicating the rules of a game and participating in the game. That's the wedge being driven in here.
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    :grin: It guess it was more an association that came to my mind while reading §34. At the very least I think there are parallels that would be interresting to explore in their own right!

    §35

    §35 continues the critique of 'characteristic experiences' as the grounding for ostensive explanations begun in §34. If, in §34, characteristic experiences were critiqued for being open to different interpretations, in §35 Witty now also adds that ostensive explanations also cannot be separated from the use of words that accompany them. That is, ostensive explanations are not just a matter of mute, physical pointing, but the coupling of such physical actions with the utterance of words (like, 'that's the color' or 'it's that shape').

    To the extent that this is so, Witty argues that the presence of words makes all the difference, because words themselves - the same words - can mean very many different things, because the same words can be used differently, which in turn, determines how it is an ostensive explanation is meant to be 'taken'. The 'same' (physical) pointing action, accompanied by different uses of words, will be understood differently - will have a different meanings.

    At stake here is the question of intensionality (not intentionality, which means something entirely different): the understanding of something as something: the pointing as meaning X, rather than Y. The discussion here is meant, among other things, to show that intensionality cannot be dictated or determined by 'experiences', but instead, only by the use of language, which is inseparable and essential in the functioning of an ostensive explanation. This is the point of the rhetorical question which ends the subsection -

    §35: "But do you also know of an experience characteristic of pointing at a piece in a game as a piece in a game?" (emphasis in original)

    - which, if I'm right, is meant precisely to be a nonsense question (the 'right' response to this question ought to be something like: 'what is that question even supposed to be asking'?). The issue of intensionality must be kept in mind to make sense of the boxed note right after §35, which is rather enigmatic, but deals precisely with the difference between the two statements:;

    (1) That is blue; [that particular thing is blue colored] and
    (2) That is blue. [that is an example of the color blue]

    Once again, it's a question of the differential nature of ostensive explanations, and of how and why they are differential: because of the different ways words are/can be used when giving such explanations. Importantly, this is specific to the issue of meaning:

    §35 (boxed note): "It is only in a language that I can mean something by something. This shows clearly that the grammar of “to mean” does not resemble that of the expression “to imagine” and the like."
  • I like sushi
    112
    Ostensive is used in linguistics to denote how the meaning of a word is given to someone else - usually a word that has a more abstract concept, that is a “feature” or “characteristic” of some intimated object (colour, size, quality, or other abstract term like “dozen” or “month”).

    I image that Wittgenstein thought the reader would be educated enough to understand this and not to read beyond the context of the term “ostensive” and go awry.

    Do we really need to linger on what he means by “ostensive” when we can simply assume he meant “ostensive” not some slighlty obscured use of the term?
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    §36

    §36 is a bit confusing on first blush, but it's simply recapitulating what I've called the differential nature of ostension: one bodily action can correspond to many different kinds of things:

    §36: "We cannot specify any one bodily action which we call pointing at the shape (as opposed to the colour, for example)"

    The only addition here is that Witty gives 'names' to the two parts of the ostensive act: the movement of the hand is 'bodily'; that which the movement corresponds to is 'mental' or 'spiritual'. This characterization seems a bit strange, but it allows Witty to start to introduce - in a very oblique way - a vitally important theme that will preoccupy much of the PI: the fact that we can be misled by language.

    There is a possibility that an ostensive act may simply correspond to no particular kind of thing at all (a rough and inexact example: pointing out 'that color', while pointing to clear water; In this case, the pointing 'suggests' something that isn't there - the water has no color). When Witty says:

    §36: "Where our language suggests a body and there is none: there, we should like to say, is a spirit." (emphasis in original).

    The reference to 'spirit' here must be understood pejoratively, like an illusion, or, in the words of the boxed note in §35, as a 'superstition'. There are uses of language which engender spirits and superstition.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Again, it is worth noting the distinction between explicating the rules of a game and participating in the game. That's the wedge being driven in here.Banno

    I wouldn't say that that distinction is picked out by "not having learned rules," though, especially not in contradistinction to "learning the game," where we're talking about a game like chess.

    Teachers can know a lot of stuff that they can't explain very well. Knowing something doesn't imply that you write or speak in a clear, comprehensible way about it. --Heck, one might even know this distinction and call it "learning" rather than "articulating." :razz:
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    Yeah, I agree the chess thing is a minor part that's not really worth the time we're spending on it (though it's amusing to me watching people trying to bend over backwards to defend such a minor bit of what I consider bad writing/bad philosophizing).

    Re the other comments, obviously I disagree with Wittgenstein's views re whether language--at least the semantics part--is "public," whether it's possible to learn language by ostension, etc.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k
    Ostensive is used in linguistics to denote how the meaning of a word is given to someone else - usually a word that has a more abstract concept, that is a “feature” or “characteristic” of some intimated object (colour, size, quality, or other abstract term like “dozen” or “month”).I like sushi

    Wittgenstein can use words in a peculiar way, as we've now seen with "game". So it is important not to take any such thing for granted, and bring out what he really means by the word. Remember what he said at #3, you can make your description correct by restricting your definition, but then if we ask, whether your description is appropriate, "The answer is: 'Yes, it is appropriate, but only for this narrowly circumscribed region, not for the whole of what you were claiming to describe.'"

    I'm trying to diligently compare StreetlightX's interpretation of the text with my own, so here's how I interpret 33 - 36.

    At 33 he describes how the distinction between shape, colour, etc., must be made in ostensive definition, by the speaker concentrating one's attention on which aspect is being referred to. If you're the one giving the demonstration, you must concentrate your attention on the aspect of the thing which is being named. The question is how this concentration of attention is communicated to the learner. So he discusses possible differences between attending to the colour and attending to the shape.

    At 34 he points to the difference between what is intended by the giver, and what is interpreted by the hearer. There is an important point here, very relevant to "meaning", and that is that we have no description which "stands for a process which accompanies the giving and hearing of the definition." This is to say that as activities, the intention associated with giving, is distinct from the interpretation of receiving, and we have no description which conflates these two distinct activities into one process. There is no single process which encompasses both. The giving and the hearing are distinct activities and this is why there is never certainty on the part of the hearer, as to what the speaker's attention is directed toward.

    At 35, it is described how there is no "characteristic experience" which can give the hearer what is intended by the speaker. No particular activity by the speaker can tell the hearer what the speaker attends to. There is nothing particular, no particular type of activity, "to mean the shape", "to mean the colour", and so on.

    So at 36, that, the physical activity (the "body") which represents what is intended by the speaker (what the speaker means), is said to be non-existent, and so we say it's something "spiritual". There is no bodily activity which can appropriately represent what is intended by the speaker, so we say that this, what is intended, or meant, is something spiritual, mental, or intellectual.

    I would dismiss StreetlightX's discussion of intension as a diversion, and not relevant to the text.
  • I like sushi
    112
    W uses the term “ostensive” in the sense of someone literally pointing at some given object and/or one of its qualities - then he says they are both just “called” these things.

    That is all.

    He doesn’t mention, up to now, the meaning of “ostensive” teaching by showing what something is by using it - such as balancing on a contraption of two circular objects connected via a triangular frame with a chain wrapped around two smaller circular objects that are attached to the frame and to one of the larger circular objects. Merely pointing at the object and saying “bike” means nothing if you have no idea what the hell it is for and why you should hive a damn.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    He doesn’t mention, up to now, the meaning of “ostensive” teaching by showing what something is by using it - such as balancing on a contraption of two circular objects connected via a triangular frame with a chain wrapped around two smaller circular objects that are attached to the frame and to one of the larger circular objects. Merely pointing at the object and saying “bike” means nothing if you have no idea what the hell it is for and why you should hive a damn.I like sushi

    A couple of anecdotes that may or may not illuminate.

    I used to keep a cow. One day I was in the field picking rose-hips, and Ermintrude wandered over to see what I was doing. As she was interested, I offered her a sample. A large cow can eat a lot faster than I can pick, so she wasn't getting any more, but she liked them, and shortly thereafter, I saw her trying to pick her own. Unfortunately, a cow's tongue is not very good for picking the hips while avoiding the prickles. Poor Emmy!

    So here is ostensive teaching and learning, but no language. We understand each other, but not linguistically.

    My son is about ten months old, and not going to sleep, so I take him to the back -door. It's a mild Autumn night, so I step outside and point out the full moon, "Look, there's the moon." I say. This is not the first one-sided conversation we have had.

    " Moon!" Pointing franticly "Moon! Moon!"

    "Yes, that's the moon," I reply.

    "Moon! Moon! Moon!"

    It's his first word, and our first proper conversation, and what he has discovered is something far more exciting than the meaning of one word, it is that there are words, and they mean stuff. How very different from my conversations with Ermintrude:

    "Moo! Moo! Moo!"

    " Yeah, I know, Emmy, the prickles stop you picking the hips. Tough luck!"

    "Moo!"
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    I agree that it may be difficult to imagine someone knowing how to play chess without having learnt the rules of chess, but consider that children learn how to speak before they learn any rules of language, by mimicking the behaviours of others. Also, bear in mind that Wittgenstein is attacking certain prevalent philosophical assumptions of his time, including those of his Tractatus, that language is exclusively a private, mental phenomenon. He is trying to remind us that language is instead (or also?) a shared, public, cultural and behavioural phenomenon.Luke

    I generally agree with Luke, but want to add something about rules which will be coming up in the PI. As you know grammar for Wittgenstein is much more than what we usually mean by grammar, i.e., it's much more than what we might learn in an English class covering nouns, adjectives, and verbs for example. His use of grammar extends to the logic of use, which governs linguistic practices as a whole, including how we use words in social settings, and the physical actions associated with the use of the words.

    So, if you're learning to play a game by watching others, then by definition you're actions conform to certain rules. If a child learns how to speak using words, then the child actions comport or conform to the rules. Moreover, the child is learning how to follow a rule without knowing he/she is following a rule. If the child has learned to use a word correctly, then using the word correctly is, again, following the rules.

    One can probably only go so far without learning some of the explicit rules of language, or without learning some of the written rules of chess. In other words, some games, including language-games, and even mathematics can be learned up to a point by watching, but at some point you will have to learn the rules.

    Note carefully what Wittgenstein said in PI 31, "[o]ne can imagine someone's having learnt the game without ever learning or formulating rules," he's not saying you can learn a language without participating in rule-following. He's not saying you can learn a game without following rules, but without having learned or formulated rules, that's much different from saying, you can learn a game without the actions you're learning conforming to the rules. Just as a child needn't learn or formulate rules to learn how to use the word cup, and yet the child's actions do conform to rules. There is a subtle difference here.

    However, rule-following at this stage of the PI is closely associated with what he's talking about in terms of ostensive definitions, and it's closely related, as Luke rightly pointed out, with his former view of language.
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    I posted a topic some time ago "On 'rule-following'". If anyone is interested in delving into how we maintain, obey, and follow rules I welcome others to that thread.

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/3317/on-rule-following/p1
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    Ermintrudeunenlightened

    What a lovely name for a cow. She must have been a smart cow. Moo!
  • Dagny
    15
    Is this a thread for reading one book, or a thread about what we are current reading? I am reading The Republic by Plato.
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    I am reading The Republic by Plato.Dagny

    Hello, Dagny, we're reading the Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein in this thread. You're welcome to start a reading group on The Republic if you want to. I'm currently too booked with other reading groups to be able to help out with such an awesome book as Plato's Republic. Best regards.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k

    Read carefully 34-36. Notice at 35 he describes how there is no bodily action which has a necessary relation with "I mean the shape", or the colour. No necessary relation means that there cannot be a rule. This is why he claims a separation between what the speaker intends and what the hearer interprets at 34, because there is no necessary relation (like cause and effect) between the two activities, allowing them to be associated. There is nothing to signify to the hearer in any necessary way, what is intended by the speaker. There is no rule which the hearer can refer to, such as "this bodily action means colour", or "that bodily action means shape". Even if there are characteristic actions which occur often, they do not always occur, [so this excludes the possibility of a rule]. He even repeats this at 35:

    To repeat: in certain cases, especially when one points 'to the shape' or 'to the number' there are characteristic experiences and ways of pointing—'characteristic' because they recur often (not always) when shape or number are 'meant'.

    Wittgenstein is describing this type of learning as one which does not involve rules.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Read carefully 34-36. Notice at 35 he describes how there is no bodily action which has a necessary relation with "I mean the shape", or the colour. No necessary relation means that there cannot be a rule. This is why he claims a separation between what the speaker intends and what the hearer interprets at 34, because there is no necessary relation (like cause and effect) between the two activities, allowing them to be associated. There is nothing to signify to the hearer in any necessary way, what is intended by the speaker. There is no rule which the hearer can refer to, such as "this bodily action means colour", or "that bodily action means shape". Even if there are characteristic actions which occur often, they do not always occur, [so this excludes the possibility of a rule]. He even repeats this at 35:

    To repeat: in certain cases, especially when one points 'to the shape' or 'to the number' there are characteristic experiences and ways of pointing—'characteristic' because they recur often (not always) when shape or number are 'meant'.

    Wittgenstein is describing this type of learning as one which does not involve rules.
    Metaphysician Undercover

    Part of the point of Wittgenstein talking about the ostensive definition model or deriving meaning from this medium is that there are no rules in this medium unless it's connected up with other people and actions. If I point to an object and say pencil, how would you know what I'm referring too? Do I mean it's color, its length, that it has an eraser, etc? There is no way for the word pencil to connect up with the object, no social rule. This example is not even a language-game, it doesn't have the requisite social settings. However, if you compare this with the language-game at the beginning of the PI there is a big difference. So, in Wittgenstein's example, he says pillar, or points to the object and says pillar, and there must be the corresponding action that tells the builder that the assistant understands what's required, i.e., that the assistant understands the rules of the game. He must bring the correct object. If the assistant doesn't do the required action, then the builder will correct him by showing him the correct action, until finally the assistant understands the rule.

    Often when we teach children this method (ostensive pointing and learning) there is a period of time where they don't understand. When they finally do get it, it's not because they've grasped some mental process on our part, but because they learn what is required through trial and error (correct and incorrect) - they have grasped the logic behind the use of the word (the grammar). Their actions have matched the rule-governed activity of the social group. Just pointing at something and uttering a sound isn't enough in itself, it must be coupled with other things within a social context.

    We've jumped a bit ahead, because in this early part of the book he's trying to show us something about the ostensive model, and how it sometimes lacks what is needed for someone to learn what is meant by a word or concept. He's pointing out the deficiencies of this view of language. He's pointing out the deficiencies of his previous view. He's also doing much more, but to explain I would have to write a lot more.

    I don't think this will help you MU, i.e., I'm pessimistic, but it will help others, hopefully.
  • I like sushi
    112


    And that is precisely not what W is talking about. He is referring to “language,” as in like this here thing we’re using now. People with no language can, and do, function in the world.

    When W says “ostensive” he is talking about articulting to someone what something “is called”/“named” not simply flapping around and making noises that are to be taken to be associated with the action - much like me pointing at a bike does nothing to tell you it’s purpose; but I can explain further (by speaking) and then show you.

    All communicative forms have limitations. I don’t find this surprising because that is the very reason they can function as a means of communication.
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    Before moving on to and past §37 - which begins a new line of argument dealing with names - do people have questions or interpretive issues they want to raise with the discussion of ostensive explanation in the sections covered so far?

    One thing I will mention - because I think there's been some confusion around this with respect to some of the discussion here - is that in the sections covered in the PI so far, Witty has been dealing not with 'ostension in general' (mere acts of pointing), but what he calls 'ostensive explanation' or 'ostensive definition', which involves, specifically, explaining words by means of ostension. That is: ostensive act (pointing) + utterance of words. If this coupling is not kept in mind, the discussion here will be unintelligible.
  • Luke
    127
    Fair enough, I hope you might be able to convince me of your view.

    Thanks for the acknowledgement, Sam, which has encouraged me to write some more and provide my own reading of §33 and §34 below. I hope some might find it useful.

    §33 Wittgenstein asserts that "you must already be a master of a language to understand an ostensive definition". However, he anticipates the objection that in order to understand an ostensive definition you only need to know or guess what the person giving the explanation is pointing to, e.g., to its shape, colour or number. Wittgenstein invites us to point to a piece of paper, and now to point to it's shape, it's colour, its number, etc. Presumably the physical act of pointing remained the same throughout, so what changed when you "pointed" at these different features of the piece of paper? Wittgenstein anticipates the response that "you 'meant' a different thing each time you pointed", by concentrating your attention on one feature instead of another. But how is the person to whom the explanation is being given supposed to differentiate when you are pointing at one feature instead of another, if the only change in the "pointing" is your (private, mental) concentration of attention.

    Wittgenstein then considers whether you always do the same thing, or always have the same accompanying behaviours, when you direct your attention to (e.g.) the colour of an object. After inviting the reader to consider different cases of attending to the colour, he notes that there can be many different behaviours associated with attending to the colour, and that these behaviours occur in conjunction with attending to the colour, but that it is not the behaviours alone which "make us say someone is attending to the shape, the colour, and so on".

    Wittgenstein offers the following analogy: "Just as a move in chess doesn't consist simply in moving a piece in such-and-such a way on the board — nor yet in one's thoughts and feelings as one makes the move: but in the circumstances that we call "playing a game of chess", "solving a chess problem", and so on."

    On my reading, Wittgenstein indicates that understanding an (ostensive) definition is not something which happens only in the mind of the listener or student, and neither is it something which is only tied to a specific set of accompanying behaviours; rather, it depends on the wider circumstances surrounding the language game.

    §34. Wittgenstein asks us to imagine someone who always has the same feelings and behaviours whenever they attend to the shape [of an object]. He further asks us to imagine that this person is giving someone else the ostensive definition of a circle by pointing to a circle and saying "That is a circle". Wittgenstein says that "his hearer" could still interpret this definition differently even if he "sees the other's eyes following the outline, and even though he feels what the other feels". Wittgenstein continues: "That is to say: this 'interpretation' may also consist in how he now makes use of the word; in what he points to, for example, when told: "Point to a circle".

    Wittgenstein is again trying to loosen the reader's grip on the view that understanding a definition has anything to do with one's feelings and/or accompanying behaviours while attending to an object, or while giving/hearing the definition. Instead, he indicates that understanding the definition is more about how the hearer "now makes use of the word" and in what he points to when asked to point to a circle.

    Even if the hearer and the speaker share identical feelings and behaviours while attending to the object or while giving/hearing the definition, the hearer could still 'interpret' the definition differently. (Also note Wittgenstein's use of scare quotes on 'interpretation' here, indicating that there may actually be no interpretation involved.)

    Wittgenstein concludes that: "neither the expression "to intend the definition in such and-such a way" nor the expression "to interpret the definition in such-and-such a way" stands for a process which accompanies the giving and hearing of the definition." Again, understanding a definition is usually judged by how the hearer goes on to use the word and react to the word's use. It usually has little to do with a speaker's intention or a hearer's interpretation.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    And that is precisely not what W is talking about. He is referring to “language,” as in like this here thing we’re using now. People with no language can, and do, function in the world.

    When W says “ostensive” he is talking about articulting to someone what something “is called”/“named” not simply flapping around and making noises that are to be taken to be associated with the action - much like me pointing at a bike does nothing to tell you it’s purpose; but I can explain further (by speaking) and then show you.
    I like sushi

    The main point I was wanting to make is that when one points to something and makes a sound, one cannot point to the sound. One does not need to understand the composition and function of the moon to learn the name, but one needs to understand that human sounds have meaning, and that cannot be told in meaningful sounds or by pointing. Small children have that moment of revelation, and cows never do.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magic_Roundabout
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    That is: ostensive act (pointing) + utterance of words. If this coupling is not kept in mind, the discussion here will be unintelligible.StreetlightX

    I'll definitely agree with this, if you uncouple these two things you'll definitely be lost.

    But how is the person to whom the explanation is being given supposed to differentiate when you are pointing at one feature instead of another, if the only change in the "pointing" is your (private, mental) concentration of attention.Luke

    This is also an extremely important point to keep in mind when thinking about what Wittgenstein is trying to say in the long run. The meaning of a word/concept can never be the result of one's private mental happenings. There is nothing within you that gives meaning to a word. I was reading a book on epistemology by a philosopher who was trying to give meaning to the word knowledge by associating the word with something going on privately, as though you could give meaning to the word by some internal mechanism apart from social context. It's difficult to catch their mistake when it's coupled with language that's correctly used.

    On my reading, Wittgenstein indicates that understanding an (ostensive) definition is not something which happens only in the mind of the listener or student, and neither is it something which is only tied to a specific set of accompanying behaviours; rather, it depends on the wider circumstances surrounding the language game.Luke

    I agree with the first part of this, but the last half raises questions. What could understanding what it means to play chess, be, other than specific behaviors associated within the social context of the game? Are you talking about private behavior? I agree that it depends on the wider social context, but aren't these wider social contexts or surroundings "accompanying behaviors?"
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    The meaning of a word/concept can never be the result of one's private mental happenings. There is nothing within you that gives meaning to a word.Sam26

    This is the complete opposite of my view.

    as though you could give meaning to the word by some internal mechanism apart from social context.Sam26

    The "apart from social context" bit is irrelevant to whether meanings can be the result of one's private mental happenings.

    Imagine if we were to say this: It's impossible to give meaning to a word by some internal mechanism apart from social context. It's only possible to give meaning to a word by some internal mechanism when immersed in a social context.

    Well, in this case, one is still giving meaning to a word by some internal mechanism. That that internal mechanism might only be engaged when immersed in a social context doesn't imply that it's not an internal mechanism that gives meaning to words.

    I don't actually agree with "It's only possible to give meaning to a word by some internal mechanism when immersed in a social context," but that's not important. Stressing the necessity of social context isn't actually an argument against meaning being produced privately.

    It's similar to this: imagine if someone said, "Writing is only produced by ink being directly applied to a particular sheet of paper." (We're imagining that we don't also have writing via making scratch marks in dirt, via chiseling stone, etc.) Then imagine if someone else said, "As though you could apply ink to a particular sheet of paper outside of a social context." Maybe you couldn't--the social context is maybe necessary to make things like ink, ink-applicators, paper, etc. But that wouldn't change the fact that writing is only produced by ink being directly applied to a particular sheet of paper.
  • Luke
    127
    I agree with the first part of this, but the last half raises questions. What could understanding what it means to play chess, be, other than specific behaviors associated within the social context of the game? Are you talking about private behavior? I agree that it depends on the wider social context, but aren't these wider social contexts or surroundings "accompanying behaviors?"Sam26

    I was probably unclear. I was referring to the behaviours which accompany attending to the shape or attending to the colour during the giving/hearing of an ostensive definition. For example, the behaviour of following the perimeter of a shape with one's eyes. As Wittgenstein makes more clear in 34, it is what one subsequently goes on to do with the word in the definition, or how one (later) reacts to the word, which demonstrate one's understanding of the definition. In short, the experiences and behaviours one has during the giving/hearing of the definition do not forge a magical connection between word meaning and object feature.

    Otherwise, what do you make of his statement that "a move in chess doesn't consist simply in moving a piece in such-and-such a way on the board"?
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Ya, that makes sense. I figured it was just a point of clarification.

    What do you think of Terrapin Station's reply to me?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k
    This example is not even a language-game, it doesn't have the requisite social settings.Sam26

    So you deal with this activity which is not governed by rules, by restricting your definition of "language-game", such that ostensive learning is not a language-game. I would say that this interpretation is doubtful, as the quote from Luke indicates "you must already be a master of a language to understand an ostensive definition".

    We've jumped a bit ahead, because in this early part of the book he's trying to show us something about the ostensive model, and how it sometimes lacks what is needed for someone to learn what is meant by a word or concept.Sam26

    The problem with the so-called "ostensive model" is that there really is no such model. Any such descriptions are incomplete, in important ways. That's what Witty indicates at 34, there is no description which relates to both the giving and receiving. Even his description of ostensive definition is quite lacking because he doesn't take into account the "period of time" which you refer to above.

    The period of time allows for things like trial and error, and process of elimination. In this way a random "guess", can be transformed into "the right response", in the mind of the learner. Nor does Witty seem to address the learning of "yes" and "no" which are used by the giver to signify correct and incorrect to the learner. It is this aspect which would allow for rules in the social sense of "rules" as "connected up with other people and actions".

    Wittgenstein concludes that: "neither the expression "to intend the definition in such and-such a way" nor the expression "to interpret the definition in such-and-such a way" stands for a process which accompanies the giving and hearing of the definition." Again, understanding a definition is usually judged by how the hearer goes on to use the word and react to the word's use. It usually has little to do with a speaker's intention or a hearer's interpretation.Luke

    This is an interesting development. You have used the word "judged' here, and Witty makes no such mention. You seem to be anticipating what will follow in the text. However, do you think that understanding a definition requires being judged as understanding? Couldn't one understand the definition, and go away with that understanding, without ever being judged as having understood? This relates to my discussion with Sam26 above, and the "period of time" involved in ostensive learning as a process. That period of time may consist of "guessing", trial and error, elimination, or what have you, and the student is told when the "guess" is correct. So "being judged" is actually very important because this is the only way that the learner knows when the proper response has been made. It's as if the learner is being conditioned, by being rewarded when the response is consistent with what is wanted by the instructor.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k
    The main point I was wanting to make is that when one points to something and makes a sound, one cannot point to the sound. One does not need to understand the composition and function of the moon to learn the name, but one needs to understand that human sounds have meaning, and that cannot be told in meaningful sounds or by pointing. Small children have that moment of revelation, and cows never do.unenlightened

    I think it is important to understand this aspect of ostensive definition. What is being "pointed" to is the word, that is what is being defined. The "pointing" here is the teacher drawing the student's attention to the word. It's too easy to imagine the physical objects as what is being pointed to, because of the physical act of pointing. But the objects being "pointed" to, in the more physical sense of the word, are just props being used to demonstrate the usage of the word.

    Before moving on to and past §37 - which begins a new line of argument dealing with names - do people have questions or interpretive issues they want to raise with the discussion of ostensive explanation in the sections covered so far?StreetlightX

    I find it very interesting how different people interpret the same, short passages, in quite a variety of different ways, by focusing their attention on specific parts of the given passages. As much as possible, I would like to encourage everyone to offer their own interpretations of important passages. I think that this is what is meant by "reading it together".
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    As much as possible, I would like to encourage everyone to offer their own interpretations of important passages. I think that this is what is meant by "reading it together".Metaphysician Undercover

    Agreed. And not just interpretations, but comments, too--do you think the author is right or wrong? Why? What do you think is right instead? The whole point of learning philosophy should be to do philosophy. We're not museum curators or simply literature appreciators or something like that.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k
    And not just interpretations, but comments, too--do you think the author is right or wrong?Terrapin Station

    Discussion of whether the author is right or wrong would digress into endless bickering, because in philosophy this question usually cannot be resolved. My opinion is that such discussions should be brought to another thread so as not to hinder our progress.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Discussion of whether the author is right or wrong would digress into endless bickering, because in philosophy this question usually cannot be resolved. My opinion is that such discussions should be brought to another thread so as not to hinder our progress.Metaphysician Undercover

    I obviously don't agree with that at all, but I suppose you won't want to endlessly bicker about it. :razz:
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