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[Wittrs] Private language argument so confused. [message #6821] Thu, 21 July 2011 21:24 Go to next message
quixotical387 is currently offline  quixotical387
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I understand the simple version and complex version of the PLA as far as levels of description go.

Here is what I know which will put us in place for what I don't know.

Easy description: Language is based on the possibility to demonstrate and share actions and information.

Complex description:
1. The private sign can only stand for something only I know. We'll say X.

2. If something only stands for one thing and that one thing can only be known by me then I cannot appeal to anything else to affix a sign to it. (I cannot refer to a previous private meaning either as the purpose of this argument is to decide whether there could be a private sign in the first place.)

3. If I can only refer to that thing to consider my correctness in assigning the name then I cannot refer to anything further explainable publicly or privately for its justification.

4. A factual assertion must appeal to something other than itself in order to be a factual assertion at all.

5. X can only appeal to itself for correctness so X cannot be a factual asertion.

6. The sign is not given any meaning at all because I have no criterion for correctness in its application.

7. There can be no private language.

That all seems well. Were I am helplessly confused is here.

Couldn't, after all that, I just say "The feeling of correctness is my justification for X."?

Unless we want to admit that a feeling of correctness is the same as having a sensation?

It seems like I could have a private language because my criterion for application could just be the feeling of correctness I get.

I accept the argument but am failing to see how I couldn't just say "I have the sensation and call it X." It seems in order to deny that I would have to deny that I could remember sensations.

But the text doesn't support any of my would be objections.

If anyone could point me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate it.
Re: Private language argument so confused. [message #6823 is a reply to message #6821] Fri, 22 July 2011 13:10 Go to previous messageGo to next message
admin
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... here's what I would say. Give it a try. Go ahead and name a sensation that you have. What you will find is that, once you speak of it to others, it will only become a synonym for something that they already speak of. "Oh you mean this." (They'll translate it into the common tongue). As such, yours will be seen as an idiosyncratic use.

But if, by rare chance, you happen to be experiencing the first case of a new clinical issue, perhaps you will be baptizing a new axiomatic term that functions like medical jargon. New words for states of affairs are baptized all the time. But even in this case, the criteria or events that allow us to talk about your point is already before us. It pre-exists. Wittgenstein's remarks on "private language" do not say that you could not baptize another English word into existence. After all, meaning is use. Rather, what it says is that language is home to our form of life. And for you to have a private language, you would have to have a different form of life -- in which case, it still wouldn't be "private," it would simply be different. "How could I understand the Lion?" There's no such thing as a private form of life.

no private form of life = no private language.

Also, I wouldn't think of Wittgenstein's remarks here as being "an argument." It isn't a set of premises. It's something you would get in the way you come to see a piece of art or appreciate something you could not ordinarily have seen. There's "a wow moment." Much of what Wittgenstein offers is something acutely perspectival. Once you "see it," the way you think about philosophical issues (and issues generally) changes.



Re: [Wittrs] Private language argument so confused [message #6828 is a reply to message #6821] Fri, 22 July 2011 16:28 Go to previous messageGo to next message
kirby urner is currently offline  kirby urner
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On Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 9:22 PM, Wittr2Feed <wittrs2feed@undergroundwiki.org > wrote:

> [... this came in via the discussion board. I don't have those > settings working correctly yet. This reminds me that I must do that > very soon. --sw]
>
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- > I understand the simple version and complex version of the PLA as far > as levels of description go.
>
> Here is what I know which will put us in place for what I don't know. >
> Easy description: Language is based on the possibility to demonstrate > and share actions and information.
>

Ask yourself what is the difference between language and not-language. That's not easy to answer as many entomologists assure us bees have and use language, or shall we call it dance, or signalling? Right away we see we're not commanded what to say i.e. we have latitude, there's no "one right answer".

Now think of a life form making a lot of elaborate motions. Is it really alive, and are those motions "a language". The first challenge, when one asserts "here's a private language" is to challenge the notion that it's "a language". Start with that.

Whether it's "private" or not should come later. By then, you may have decided that if you can't decide whether to call it a language, then calling it "private" might be going to far.

Consider: the "bee creature" is a single self propagating creature (made of many bees, similar to the "ant creature" in that way) and only the "bee creature" fully understands its private "bee language". Ergo, "private language exists". But aren't we just diving into empty tautological nonsense here? We might as well say only the ocean knows ocean, and only stones know stones. What is the worth of "privacy" in such a notion of "language".


>
> Complex description:
> 1. The private sign can only stand for something only I know. We'll say X. >
>
"Stand for" is not any simple primitive relationship in the later philosophy, not "a given". Consider the word "cat". What does it "stand for". Does it stand for all cats at once? Does it stand for dead, fictional, as well as neighborhood cats? Does it stand for tigers?

Until we use the word "cat" in some game, it has the status of "random animal name token", and the surrounding rhythms are "philosophy of language" (yakking about grammar).

"Cat" is a public sign. Suppose you have the private sign "##%$" which "stands for" something only you know.

This isn't really a private language, but a secret you might reveal in the next few seconds. "##%$" means "overcooked bacon" you say. We would have to surmise what you mean by that. Do you really know what "means" means? We might start to doubt your ability to stay coherent in the public language we share.

"My private language has no verbs or nouns, nor anything we might call words, only gestures and body moves". Should we call that a "language" then, let alone private? We do speak of "body language". What would a "private body language" be like? "When I shift my foot to the left a little, it means I'm hungry. When I yawn twice in a row, that means I'm about to duck out for a cigarette." This just comes across as a secret code, like an away team might use in the field (poker signals). However if you say: all these meanings change every few seconds to where even I can't keep track: then it's becoming truly private, and losing all sense in the same moment.



> 2. If something only stands for one thing and that one thing can only > be known by me then I cannot appeal to anything else to affix a sign > to it. (I cannot refer to a previous private meaning either as the > purpose of this argument is to decide whether there could be a private > sign in the first place.)
>
>
Can you invent a sign that stands for only one thing? That time a suitcase popped open in La Guardia airport and the shaving cream fell out and a little girl pointed to it and said "Look!". You want a word that means just this event and no other. How do you even make *yourself* mean such a thing? How can you make scratching your chin mean "it's likely to rain". What if you forget and scratch your chin when that's not what you think? How can you "force" a sign or gesture to have "private meaning"?

Part of what it means to use language is others have ways to correct you, teach you new tricks.


> 3. If I can only refer to that thing to consider my correctness in > assigning the name then I cannot refer to anything further explainable > publicly or privately for its justification.
>
> 4. A factual assertion must appeal to something other than itself in > order to be a factual assertion at all.
>
> 5. X can only appeal to itself for correctness so X cannot be a > factual asertion.
>
> 6. The sign is not given any meaning at all because I have no > criterion for correctness in its application.
>
> 7. There can be no private language.
>
> That all seems well. Were I am helplessly confused is here. >

To me, this all reads like a nominalist view of language (following Henry Le Roy Finch in his meaning of "nominalist" i.e. even Platonists can be such, if they think "tetrahedron" points to "the object" in some simple way, even in the "Platonic Realm" (res cogitans)).

What object, seen from what angle, how far away, what colors?

It's not that we have no anchors, but that we have so many.

In the later philosophy, words are tools. Think of a screwdriver. What does it mean? We immediately begin to think of its applications. Screwing screws in and out, of course. Prying open lids maybe? Just sitting around in drawers.

Because a screwdriver is already a tool, we're not prone to treat it as a "sign" and ask what it's "meaning" might be.

The gestalt flip in the later Wittgenstein involves turning all words into screwdrivers, hammers, cogs, gears, chains... components of working machinery that's very complicated and difficult to fathom (we invent language games to help us gain insight).

The idea of name -> object relations forming the core or basis for language is simply gone. People make nets, nets don't "refer". Nets (word nets) get the job done though. They "capture meanings" (think of fish) but these are not experiential things (e.g. mental images) so much as "new patterns" in our repertoire. We learn new moves, new things to do with our tools (new ways to use "cat" for example, such as for a brand of tractor, short for "caterpillar").


> Couldn't, after all that, I just say "The feeling of correctness is my > justification for X."?
>
> Unless we want to admit that a feeling of correctness is the same as > having a sensation?
>
> It seems like I could have a private language because my criterion for > application could just be the feeling of correctness I get. >
> I accept the argument but am failing to see how I couldn't just say "I > have the sensation and call it X." It seems in order to deny that I > would have to deny that I could remember sensations. >
> But the text doesn't support any of my would be objections. >
> If anyone could point me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate > it.
>
>
How can you make hitting your heals together mean "the special feeling I have about Thursdays, especially in summer"?

If no one can correct you, why should they say you are right? "This is my private language" vs. "We don't call that a language".

Why should anyone agree with you that a set of random secrets, about A "standing for" B, is anything but a secret code which you could, in principle, share with anyone. A truly private language cannot avoid stirring up the controversy: is this even language?

Kirby

To participate in the discussion, go here:
> http://seanwilson.org/forum/index.php?t=rview&th=3898 >

Note: I feel I'm participating in the discussion by commenting, though not necessarily in the original venue where the author to whom I'm replying will more likely be monitoring.


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Re: [Wittrs] Private language argument so confused [message #6829 is a reply to message #6821] Fri, 22 July 2011 16:54 Go to previous message
John Phillip DeMouy is currently offline  John Phillip DeMouy
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Registered: April 2011
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I am not a "Wittgenstrin scholar", but the relevant passage addressing your specific question is here:

258. Let us imagine the following case. I want to keep a diary about the recurrence of a certain sensation. To
this end I associate it with the sign "S" and write this sign in a calendar for every day on which I have the
sensation.--I will remark first of all that a definition of the sign cannot be formulated.--But still I can give myself a kind of ostensive definition.--How? Can I point to the sensation? Not in the ordinary sense. But I speak, or write the
sign down, and at the same time I concentrate my attention on the sensation--and so, as it were, point to it
inwardly.--But what is this ceremony for? for that is all it seems to be! A definition surely serves to establish the
meaning of a sign.--Well, that is done precisely by the concentrating of my attention; for in this way I impress on
myself the connexion between the sign and the sensation.--But "I impress it on myself" can only mean: this process
brings it about that I remember the connexion right in the future. But in the present case I have no criterion of
correctness. One would like to say: whatever is going to seem right to me is right. And that only means that here we
can't talk about 'right'.


Your "feeling of correctness" cannot distinguish between seeming right and being right, so "right" is not appropriate here.

[Updated on: Sat, 23 July 2011 00:02] by Moderator

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