Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker


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However, to investigate the possibility of the imagined diary case by exploring it from the inside the only way, he thinks, really to expose the confusions involved requires him to use certain words when it is just the right to use these words which is in question. This difficulty has often gone unnoticed by commentators on the argument, with particularly unhappy results for the understanding of the discussion of the diary example.

Fogelin [], for instance, a paradigm representative of Orthodoxy, treats this as a case where he himself , a living embodied human being, keeps a diary and records the occurrences of a sensation which he finds it impossible to describe to anyone else. But we are not to assume that the description of the keeping of the diary is a description of a possible or even ultimately intelligible case. But the fact that it may not make sense must be remembered in reading what follows, which in strictness should constantly be disfigured with scare quotes.

We shall, as we have already, occasionally supply them as a reminder, reserving double quotes for this purpose. The aim is to show that even if this concession is made, meaning for a sensation-word still cannot be secured and maintained by such a linguist. The translation here obscures the reason why. In these circumstances, meaning cannot be extracted from a pre-existing practice of private use, since what is in question is how such a use could be established in the first place. But if this exercise is to be genuine and successful ostensive definition, it must establish the connection between sign and sensation, and this connection must persist.

For I do not define anything, even to myself let alone anyone else, by merely attending to something and making a mark, unless this episode has the appropriate consequences. This account of the argument and its history is summed up by Anthony Kenny as follows:. Critics of Wittgenstein have found the argument, so interpreted, quite unconvincing.

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Surely, they say, the untrustworthiness of memory presents no more and no less a problem for the user of a private language than for the user of a public one. At this point critics of Wittgenstein have either denied that truth demands corrigibility, or have sought to show that checking is possible in the private case too. Kenny[ ] pp. This interplay of criticism and defence characterizes the Orthodox interpretation of the argument. See Fogelin [], pp. There seem to be at least two reasons why this interpretation should have become established.

First, philosophers committed to the idea of a private language are often looking for an arrangement in which mistakes of fact are impossible; that is, they are trying to overcome scepticism by finding absolute certainty. Descartes is the example usually cited.


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And this would make sceptical arguments appear to be natural weapons to use in reply to them. See, e. Nor does the private language argument depend on taking the latter to be an effect of the former.

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Now that we are clearer about what the connection is which has to be remembered right, we can return to the exposition of the argument. I am to imagine that I am a private linguist. Wittgenstein considers two possible answers. Of this Wittgenstein says merely:. The point is highly condensed. Here is a more explicit version. For there to be factual assertion, there must be the distinction between truth and falsehood, between saying what is the case and saying what is not.

For there to be the distinction between truth and falsehood, there must be a further distinction between the source of the meaning, and the source of the truth, of what is said. If I must also appeal to this very object to make this utterance intelligible to myself, I deprive it of any claim to the status of factual assertion—it becomes, at best, ostensive definition.

But at this point we must break with Kenny too.

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This is just conventional scepticism about memory extended to include meanings as well as judgments. And it is an elementary point of epistemology that knowing something does not obviously entail just as a result of the definition of knowledge that it is impossible for one to be wrong about that thing, only that one is not in fact wrong. What has gone wrong? But why should this assumption be allowed?

What entitles us to assume that a private linguist could even ostensively define his sign to himself in the first place?

Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker

In these two sections Wittgenstein reminds us that his arguments in the earlier sections e. Rather, the argument is this. But this is just what is in question. What would be constancy here? What would be using the sign in the same way as before? How was the sign used in the first place? He simply remembers how he used the sign before. And this looks straightforward enough, because one thinks: he certainly did something before, for he remembers it. And we do not require his memory to be infallible. Again we cannot assume that there has been an actual table even a mental one of meanings in the case of the private linguist, a table which is now recalled and about which the linguist must rely on recall since the original has gone.

Fallibility of memory, even of memory of meaning, is neither here nor there: the point is not that there is doubt now about the trustworthiness of memory, but that there was doubt then about the status of what occurred. Not even the independent access that we have as posers of the example, since the question is, can we pose such an example?

The typical mistake commentators make here is to disguise the problem by thinking of S in terms of some already established concept, such as pain , which they bring to the example themselves. However, all the example really shows is that just thinking that I have the same sensation now as I had when my blood pressure rose formerly, can be a good guide to the rising of my blood pressure. Does the ruling out of memory-scepticism as irrelevant to the private language argument mean that two associated Orthodox objections to it are likewise irrelevant? The first of these is that the argument, self-defeatingly, rules out a public language as well.

The question as it concerns the first objection has already been answered. The supposed threat to public language arose entirely from the claim that memory-scepticism could not be confined to the private case. Now showing the absence of any appeal to memory-scepticism involved transferring the burden of the argument from the question of whether or not an ostensive definition could be remembered or not to the question of whether there could be an ostensive definition in the first place. This enables us to answer the question as it concerns the second objection.

For there is no a priori barrier to imagining a form of life complex enough for us to be assured that a determinate ostensive definition had been accomplished by such a being. Such a Crusoe, unlike a private linguist, lives in a world independent of his impressions of it, and thus there could be definite occurrences in it which he could remember or forget; and some of those occurrences could be correlations of signs with objects. It is easy to describe such hypothetical cases a clear example appears in pages —8 of Canfield [] , and difficult to give a plausible denial that in some sense they are possible.

There are, however, further complications here, described briefly in section 4 below. Kripke p. For a survey, see Boghossian [].

Wittgenstein and His Interpreters

All that will be settled here is the interpretative question. The example Kripke chooses to illustrate the problem is that of addition. What is it to grasp the rule of addition?

Kripke pp. What Kripke means by this comparison with a Humean problem is that Wittgenstein is questioning the nexus between a past act of meaning and subsequent practice in a way analogous to that in which Hume questions the causal nexus between a single past event and a subsequent one. And what he means by a Humean solution is that there is a corresponding analogy between the ways in which Hume and Wittgenstein handle their respective problems.

For one of the themes of Philosophical Investigations is that there is no such idea, that the only route to the identification of facts is through the uses of the expressions in which those facts are stated, uses which give us the truth-conditions.

Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker
Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker
Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker
Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker
Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker
Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker
Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker
Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker Wittgenstein and His Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker

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