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Book description

Published in 1953, Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations had a deeply unsettling effect upon our most basic philosophical ideas concerning thought, sensation and language. Its claim that philosophical questions of meaning necessitate a close analysis of the way we use language continues to influence Anglo-American philosophy today. However, its compressed and dialogic prose is not always easy to follow. This collection of essays deepens but also challenges our understanding of the work's major themes, such as the connection between meaning and use, the nature of concepts, thought and intentionality, and language games. Bringing together leading philosophers and Wittgenstein scholars, it offers a genuinely critical approach and demonstrating Wittgenstein's relevance for contemporary philosophy. This volume will appeal to readers interested in the later Wittgenstein, in addition to those interested in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology.

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Contents

  • 1 - From referentialism to human action: the Augustinian theory of language
    pp 11-29
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter presents an interpretation of the first twenty or so sections of the Philosophical Investigations. For Wittgenstein, meaningful language is ultimately a kind of human action, indeed the characteristic kind of human action. This chapter compares and contrasts Wittgenstein's philosophical intentions in the Philosophical Investigations with his intentions in the earlier TractatusLogico-Philosophicus. It then explicates the meaning-is-use thesis, unpacking Wittgenstein's opening argument for the meaning-is-use thesis. It concludes, on Wittgenstein's behalf, that the thesis that meaning-is-use is the best overall explanation of all the relevant meaning-facts or meaning-phenomena. From Steps A, B and C presented in the chapter, it follows that the meaning-is-use thesis is true, including the important qualification that sometimes the human act of ostending an object that bears a name also explains the meaning of that name. In this way, the Augustinian theory of language leads directly from Referentialism to human action.
  • 2 - What's doing? Activity, naming and Wittgenstein's response to Augustine
    pp 30-48
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Activity is central to Wittgenstein's account of meaning, whether or not that account is a theory, description, therapy or, simply, an investigation. This chapter focuses on the activity: learning. There is disagreement about what can be provided philosophically in the absence of explanation. That disagreement marks the battle lines between the 'New Wittgensteinian' readings and the standard reading. The chapter explores an idea that challenges the common ground between them. The chapter aims to lay out where the reading stands in relation to the standard readingand to provide sufficient detail from the opening sections of the Investigations to make the reading plausible. The language learner activities are activities that already place them within the practice of language use. Getting clear about the nature of activity in the Investigations is also central to getting a coherent picture of Wittgenstein's attitude to philosophy.
  • 3 - Measure for measure? Wittgenstein on language-game criteria and the Paris standard metre bar
    pp 49-65
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Wittgenstein has puzzled many readers by maintaining that the standard metre bar is neither one metre nor not one metre in length. This chapter explores how the standard metre bar can possibly decide questions about whether or not anything is exactly one metre in length if it is not itself exactly one metre in length. It investigates how the logical consistency problem can be overcome without substituting predicate complementation for Wittgenstein's negation. Whether the language-game role played by the bar can be properly understood without exempting it from itself either being or not being precisely one metre long is also surveyed. The chapter answers how Wittgenstein's analogy between the bar's being neither one metre nor not one metre long is supposed to shed light on the inapplicability of existence and non-existence attributions to the 'elements' of a theory. It presents Saul A. Kripke's critique of the metre.
  • 4 - Wittgenstein on family resemblance concepts
    pp 66-87
  • View abstract

    Summary

    One of Wittgenstein's best-known and most important philosophical contributions in the Philosophical Investigations is his account of the 'family resemblance' character of general concepts. The chapter provides a brief description of Wittgenstein's conception of 'family resemblance' as a characteristic of concepts. It distinguishes that characteristic from various others with which it has commonly been confused. The chapter discusses Wittgenstein's views concerning the philosophical significance of the existence of such concepts, in particular, its refutation of a certain sort of Platonism; its bearing on his own position that concepts are constituted by rules which govern the use of words; and its role in diagnosing and dispelling a broad range of philosophical illusions. The chapter defuses some residual problems which may seem to afflict Wittgenstein's notion of family resemblance concepts. Finally, it discusses one important issue concerning reductionism.
  • 5 - Wittgenstein on concepts
    pp 88-108
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The first section of this chapter expounds the exegetical importance of his topic and lists claims about concepts that can be found in Wittgenstein's later work. The second section indicates why the topic is significant from a substantive perspective. It distinguishes five philosophical questions about concepts, the definition question, the possession question, the priority question, the individuation question and the function question, and introduces Wittgenstein's answers. The next two sections discuss two of these answers. Next, the chapter rejects the Wittgensteinian proposal that concepts can be equated with abilities. The sixth section does the same with Wittgenstein's own suggestion that they can be equated with techniques or rules. The final section turns to the individuation question. An adequate criterion for the identity of concepts emerges through combining Frege's idea of cognitive equivalence with Wittgenstein's idea to determine meaning by explanation.
  • 6 - Wittgenstein vs contextualism
    pp 109-128
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter explores whether Wittgenstein is productively associated with contextualism. It shows that if one read contextualism back into passages in the Philosophical Investigations, they end up ascribing views to Wittgenstein that he not only does not endorse, but which are in active opposition to his intent. The chapter focuses on two alleged such ways, one associated with proper names and one with predicates. According to Charles Travis, Wittgenstein seeks to draw the reader's attention to both. The Philosophical Investigations might be taken to provide support for contextualism not merely by explicitly agitating for it, but more indirectly by challenging its nemesis: truth-conditional semantics (TCS). The thesis is that finding contextualism in the passages discussed is not merely unwarranted; it is at cross-purposes with an appreciation of the points about explanation and understanding that these passages are chiefly concerned to provide.
  • 7 - Wittgenstein and the linguistic turn
    pp 129-144
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter describes three views of Wittgenstein, corresponding to three ways of thinking about the so-called 'linguistic turn in philosophy'. It provides a three-cornered debate. In one corner are the naturalists, who want to get past the linguistic turn. In another, the pragmatic Wittgensteinians think that replacing Kantian talk about experience, thought and consciousness with Wittgensteinian talk about the uses of linguistic expressions help us replace worse philosophical theories with better ones. In the third, the Wittgensteinian therapists, for whom the importance of the linguistic turn lies in helping us, realize that philosophers have failed to give meaning to the words they utter. The people in the first corner do not read Wittgenstein at all, and those in the other two read him very differently. The chapter describes the differences between these two readings. The therapists take the last pages of the Tractatus very seriously.
  • 8 - Rorty's Wittgenstein
    pp 145-161
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Most of the vast literature on Wittgenstein addresses what he fundamentally meant. And some of it goes on to consider whether or not his core ideas are correct. The main substance of Richard Rorty's 'Wittgenstein and the linguistic turn' is a comparison between two competing answers to this question: one that privileges Wittgenstein's anti-theoretical metaphilosophical remarks, his identification of philosophical problems with diseases of thought calling for a form of therapy; and the other response calls that privileges Wittgenstein's view of languages as instrumental social practices. This chapter spells out Rorty's distinction between the two outlooks. It summarizes his reasons for opposing the therapeutic one and favouring the pragmatic one and sketches a version of Wittgensteinian therapism that seems to be stronger than the version that Rorty criticizes. It bolsters the appeal of better version by sketching some considerations in favour of it and some arguments against the pragmatist alternative.
  • 9 - Are meaning, understanding, etc. definite states?
    pp 162-177
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter presents a review of the Warren Goldfarb's remarks in his paper 'Wittgenstein on understanding'. However, according to the author, we can learn something from Wittgenstein about how to picture understanding and so forth as definite or particular states without having the picture reflect confusion. The chapter discusses the strand in Wittgenstein that Goldfarb focuses on, the strand which deals with a way of being confused by such a picture. There are certainly passages in Philosophical Investigations that point in the direction Goldfarb indicates. Goldfarb's main focus is on what he calls 'the scientific objection'. The chapter considers parts of Wittgenstein's text in which he shows, in effect, how the picture of meaning, understanding, and so forth as definite states of mind can after all be innocuous. There is nothing wrong with saying the connection with the person one means exists.
  • 10 - Another strand in the private language argument
    pp 178-196
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The title of this chapter is borrowed from John McDowell's 'One strand in the private language argument'. The discussion of some of the most important and controversial topics in the Philosophical Investigations is remarkably brief, and sometimes extremely compressed. Given that Wittgenstein wrote hundreds of pages on the issues in his Nachlass, including a great deal of preparatory material from which he selected the remarks published in the Philosophical Investigations, a number of interpreters have found it attractive and helpful to turn to that source material for further information. The chapter reviews the main approaches to the use of the Wittgenstein Nachlass. It turns to reading of Philosophical Investigations 403, a cryptic passage with a particularly long and complex history, as a case study of a remark where one might expect that the study of sources would be most informative.
  • 11 - Deductive inference and aspect perception
    pp 197-217
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Anyone who wanted could see many Wittgensteinian doctrines as variations upon a single theme: that we make a certain kind of mistake. This chapter discusses a variation: that a sentence does not have a meaning from which we derive the rules governing its deductive connection with others. The contrast between what Wittgenstein is saying and what he is denying is analogous to an intuitive contrast between two pairs of colour words. He denies that we apprehend that very meaning from which we can derive the rules governing the words or sentences to which they are annexed. The chapter focuses upon the Wittgenstein denial. It presents Dummett's powerful case against the denial. The difficulty is that it appears to make no room for the phenomenon of logical insight. Next, the chapter defends Wittgenstein's account against Dummett, arguing that Wittgenstein can make room for logical insight by assimilating it to aspect perception.
  • 12 - Remembering intentions
    pp 218-234
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Philosophical Investigations 633-93 contains a striking discussion of our capacity to remember our earlier intentions, wishes and emotions, and to remember how we meant an earlier word or remark. But there are elements in Wittgenstein discussion that might seem to suggest an anti-realist treatment of at least some of the cases he considers towards the end of part I of Philosophical Investigations. This chapter discusses two of these elements: his attitude towards counterfactuals of the form, 'Had you asked me at the time, I would have said so-and-so'; and his suggestion that the comment, 'I meant the piano-tuning', may make the connection between the author's earlier remark and its object rather than reporting a connection that already existed. The remarks in PI 682-4 recall comments about intentional connections that appear in the Blue Book and Philosophical Grammar and continue into the Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology.
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