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Wittgenstein on Language and Rules

  • Norman Malcolm (a1)
Extract

A paradoxical situation exists in the study of Wittgenstein. There is a sharp disagreement in the interpretation of his thinking about the concept of following a rule. According to one group of philosophers Wittgenstein's position is that this concept presupposes a human community in which there is agreement as to whether doing such-and-such is or is not following a particular rule. A second group of philosophers hold that this interpretation of Wittgenstein is not merely wrong, but is even a caricature of Wittgenstein's thought: for when Wittgenstein says that following a rule is ‘a practice’ he does not mean a social practice, he does not invoke a community of rule-followers, but instead he emphasizes that following a rule presupposes a regularity, a repeated or recurring way of acting, which might be exemplified in the life of a solitary person. On the first interpretation it would have no sense to suppose that a human being who had grown up in complete isolation from the rest of mankind could be following rules. On the second interpretation such isolation would be irrelevant.

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1 Wittgenstein Ludwig, Philosophical Investigations, 3rd edn, trans. Anscombe G. E. M. (New York: Macmillan, 1971). Cited as PI with paragraph number or page number.

2 Malcolm Norman, Nothing Is Hidden (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986).

3 Malcolm , 175.

4 Ibid., 178.

5 Hacker P. M. S., ‘Critical Notice’, Philosophical Investigations, 10, No. 2 (04 1987).

6 Malcolm , op. cit., 156.

8 Hacker , op. cit., 149.

9 Baker G. P. and Hacker P. M. S., Wittgenstein: Rules, Grammar and Necessity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986). Cited B&H.

10 B&H, 171172.

11 B&H, 172.

12 Wittgenstein , Bermerkungen über die Grundlagen der Mathematik, revised and expanded edition, Anscombe G. E. M., Rhees Rush, and von Wright G. H. (eds) (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1974), 393. (Cited RFM with page number. Quotations are my translation.)

13 PI 219.

14 PI 188.

15 Wittgenstein , MS 165, c. 19411944; unfortunately not published, 78. (Quotations will be by page number and are my translation.)

16 MS 165, 91.

17 Ibid., 93–94.

18 RFM, 323.

19 MS 165, 75–76.

20 Ibid., 86–87.

21 RFM, 342.

22 R&H, 171172.

23 Ibid., 243.

24 MS 165, 78.

25 Ibid., my emphasis.

26 PI, 129.

27 R&H, 243.

29 RFM, 196.

30 RFM, 323.

31 RFM, 342.

32 RFM, 344.

33 MS 165, 79.

34 MS 165, 94.

35 B&H, 243.

37 Wittgenstein , Zettel, Anscombe G. E. M. and von Wright G. H. (eds), Trans, by Anscombe G. E. M. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967), para. 430. Cited as Z followed by paragraph number.

38 Z, 429.

39 Z, 431.

40 PI, 241.

41 See PI, 226.

42 Wittgenstein's Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics. Lecture notes taken by four people, Diamond Cora (ed.) (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1976), 101. Cited as LFM.

43 Ibid., 183–184.

44 B&H, 243.

45 B&H, 248.

47 Ibid., 249.

48 Ibid., 140.

49 Ibid., 164.

50 Baker G. P. and Hacker P. M. S., Scepticism, Rules & Language, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), 20. Cited SRL.

51 SRL, 76.

52 B&H, 170.

53 B&H, 172.

54 B&H, 175176.

55 SRL, 41.

56 Mounce H. O., ‘Following a Rule’, Philosophical Investigations, 9, No. 3 (07 1986), 198.

57 RFM, 29.

58 RFM, 345.

59 B&H, 177.

61 B&H, 140.

63 RFM, 335.

64 RFM, 334.

65 RFM, 344345.

66 RFM, 353.

67 RFM, 349.

68 B&H, 140.

69 RFM, 342.

70 RFM, 353.

71 Z, 430.

72 RFM, 344.

73 B&H, 164.

74 PI, 19.

75 PI, 415.

76 PI, 202.

77 PI, 199.

78 B&H, 177178.

79 B&H, 172.

80 B&H, 173.

81 MS 165, 103.

82 Ibid., 108.

83 Ibid., 116–117.

84 Ibid., 96.

85 B&H, 175.

86 MS 165, 105.

87 B&H, 175.

88 RFM, 344.

89 RFM, 330.

90 B&H, 179.

91 Ibid., 179–180.

92 Ibid., 179.

93 McGinn Colin, Wittgenstein On Meaning (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), 191.

95 Ibid., 198.

97 Armstrong Benjamin F. Jr., ‘Wittgenstein on Private Languages’, Philosophical Investigations, 7, No. 1 (01 1984), 54.

98 Ibid., 61.

99 LFM, 183.

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