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Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #2074] Sun, 01 November 2009 14:22 Go to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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(reply to Josh)

I think if we asked ourselves what grammar is in a Wittgensteinian universe, we would come to the conclusion that it consists of two basic things: anthropology and cognition. The key idea here is that the rules for language are culturally administered, and those rules are such that they afford new rules to be generated via the cognitive capacities inherent in the form of life. The language game is dynamic. What starts as a given paradoxically allows for contributions to be made to it. And so there are the rules inherited from anthropology (social learning), and there are those new contributions added by virtue of what the brain can do with language in the form of life.

If one were to ask a simple question: how is it that the anthropology of language works with the cognition of it for purposes of having a theoretical account of its use? The answer is "brain script." There are surface level "marks and noises" that we learn to associate with the calling of a certain number of deeper cognitive operations or maneuvers. These deeper maneuvers can be captured in a computer syntax, much like the structure of assertions can be notated with symbolic logic, or the structure of the marks and noises can be notated with sentence diagramming.

One is never to ask what a word means. One only asks what is the brain doing with it?

Imagine 3 people arguing over whether the Pope is a "bachelor." Each is stung in the language game, because they do not realize that each is processing "bacheor" to do something different in cognition. One might be using an associative memory function (doesn't look like one), another might be using it as a formalism (unmarried + male), still another might be using it for functional purposes (eligibility to date). What is key for Wittgenstein, is that language is what language does. That is a central, bedrock notion. And in this particular linguistic traffic accident, 3 brains are doing 3 different things with the same "mark or noise." They're running three separate cognitive operations.

If we have a meaningful system of notation that could account on wide scale for the way such operations work, we could be more attentive to the script procedure being used rather the surface level mark or noise. What grammar is, conceptually, are the elements that form or make up the script as a processing language. (The particular commands and so forth).

Here is what I want to say: grammar is the processing language the brain learns to make sense of ordinary language. There is a sub-surface system of processing that is going on.

Wittgenstein:

"It seems that there are CERTAIN DEFINITE mental processes bound up with the working of language, processes through which alone language can function. I mean that processes of understanding and meaning. The signs of our language seem dead without these mental processes: and it might seem that the only function of the signs is to induce such processes, and that these are the things we ought really to be interested in. [BB, p. 3] (See also, PI, sect. 358). [note: allcaps used in place of italics sw]

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
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Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #2075 is a reply to message #2074] Sun, 01 November 2009 14:23 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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Registered: August 2009
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(reply to Josh)

I would say that your understanding of what I asserted is problematic. Asking what a brain is doing with language is superior to a dictionary, because it is directly concerned with the central matter. Dictionaries are only for those with a foreign-language problem. They are only for those who cannot assemble a brain script for want of not knowing its trigger (the mark or noise). If you already know how the word "bachelor" plays in the language game, it would do no good to look it up and say "oh, that's the wrong definition sir." In fact, that is precisely the most irrelevant behavior. And besides, what dictionary are you talking about? The one that includes urban slang or catches idiom? Or the one that speaks the Queen's English? Dictionaries are really only like newspapers for the language game. Only spectators read the news; players don't have to,

Furthermore, one could imagine one day a dictionary of scripts being authored so that whenever language was used -- in law or wherever -- its offeror could bind its utterance to an entry in a processing lexicography rather than a word-use lexicography (dictionary). That is, imagine the following conversation between Alpha and Beta regarding the world "motion." (You can use "physical" too or a host of other words).

Alpha: The desk is still
Beta: No it is not; its particles are in motion
Alpha: What word do you have for when the desk moves?
Beta: its a different kind of motion.

You will note that no issue exists here. Beta means motion as a lexicographical idea and Alpha means it as a categorical one. When something is lexicographical, everything is the case, and your brain is only doing inventory (motion-type A; motion-type B, etc.). When your brain is making categories, it's distinguishing things that are ostensibly the case. I think this is called associational reasoning (I forget). So you have one brain hearing the word "motion" and deploying an inventory sort of processing script while another deploys an ostensible-association task. In a manner of speaking, they talk past themselves. (Note that in the scenario, Alpha isn't saying that particles are not moving. He's not asserting a scientific theory)

Imagine a dictionary of brain script showing in a universal syntax how brains processes expressions. What would be described are common patters or modalities of thought described with the same sort of conventions one uses to describe (program) how computers "think." In fact, we would have to create a universal script that does this analysis for us. If it were translated and understood, it might even be thought of as a universal language, sort of in the way that mathematics is (or symbolic logic could be thought to be). If you don't like "brain script," call it the book of common syntactical processing.

Now this last notion here might indeed be far afoul of Wittgenstein. But water does go where it must.

(P.S. -- I don't actually believe this very last idea; I just sort of wonder about it. On the one hand, It seems to get around the wrong idea that surface level language should be perfect (rigid) to improve clarification, as Moore and other analytics thought. Rather, let the surface level stuff be what it is, and let's work on notations for what can be said to be the processing of sense "underneath" it. On the other hand, this might be very foolish. But maybe what could happen is something more reasonable: students take a course in brain scripts in college, just as they do symbolic logic. And they do it solely for the training in seeing confusions in language and how cognitive operations differ. This alone would encourage them to listen with their minds rather than their ears when they hear something, just as symbolic logic or geometry improves the way children reason).


Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
Redesigned Website: http://seanwilson.org
SSRN papers: http://ssrn.com/author=596860
Twitter: http://twitter.com/seanwilsonorg
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/seanwilsonorg
New Discussion Group: http://seanwilson.org/wittgenstein.discussion.html
Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #2076 is a reply to message #2074] Sun, 01 November 2009 14:25 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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(reply to Stuart)

1. On the relation of "brain scripts" to Wittgenstein, one would find the matter to be post-Wittgensteinian scholarship. This is because the whole purpose of the endeavor is to show how grammar works (to operationalize grammar). So long as one sees "grammar" as the marriage of anthropology and cognition, one would welcome the idea as post-Wittgensteinian. If you see "grammar" as being excessively sociological and Wittgenstein as a behaviorist -- I grave mistake, I dare say -- then you will not see this as being in Ludwig's shadow. The same debate can be had in how much Kant do we see in Wittgenstein? Those who try to say that ideation has no place in a Wittgensteinian universe simply have a wrong read. Wittgenstein is getting to the top of the mountain, he isn't joining another team.

2. As to whether the idea of "brain scripts" allow for life in the mind, the answer is yes -- but not in the sense of autonomy. There are aspects that are life-like and aspects that are processor-like. The point is not to say this; it is to show it. And I cannot show it without getting into the book. So just wait for a year. I've got my research quarter coming up. The thing will be going out for review in August. I actually have some very creative solutions. One of the central thing that the work does is bridge this ridiculous conversation between behaviorists and mind-lifers. Indeed, the whole idea of "brain behavior" is that it represents such a compromise.

One of the things I find interesting here is Moore's objection to Wittgenstein's use of "grammar." Wittgenstein starts talking about "grammar" instead of essences and theories. And Moore says, "that's not an ordinary use; you can't talk like that" [paraphrase]. He says, "Here, I'll show you 'grammar' -- it is not mixing metaphors or 'i' before 'e' " [paraphrase]. Wittgenstein replies with the logic of family resemblance. He says, "but it's the same sort thing from a functional standpoint -- it functions in the same sort of way. [paraphrase]." And so Wittgenstein develops the notion of grammar and playing a language game. In a very similar vein one is asking "is a brain script just a computer process?" The answer is that it functions like one, not that it "is one."

To say that thoughts are a kind of "script" is very similar to saying that theories or essences are a kind of "grammar." Grammar is nothing but the brain's learning to use its processing language (scripts) in accordance with cultural cues (ordinary language) and prescriptive direction (rules, norms). The anthropology (social learning) provides the basic set up; the brain's capacity and what Pinker calls "the language instinct" (from Chomsky) provides the cognitive part. It is the dialog of these two things that create the language game (the given and the "plays" thereunder).

People don't think in words per se; they think in scripts. Or rather, their thoughts are the running of scripts.

This matter really can't be talked about in the clouds. It can only be shown. The child is still 5 months into the pregnancy. You are asking about an ultrasound. Wait until birth and I will show you then.

SW
============
Stuart's message:

"Sean, I don't really understand this "brain script" thing and can see why some here would have trouble with it. It doesn't sound like anything Wittgenstein might have said (though that, in itself, can be no measure of worth, both because Wittgenstein wasn't the last word on things and because there's always room for new ways of speaking about his ideas -- besides, I have, myself, been criticized at times for not sounding sufficiently Wittgensteinian so I am loath to be seen doing anything like that here). What I can't quite figure out is if you are using the term to tell us something about how brains work on a processing level (sort of like computers using zeros and ones in combinations to represent all the information that we recognize and program into them symbolically) or if you are saying there is something accessible to each of us in our minds, something we are doing and are (or can become) aware of doing which, if considered more closely, would be
seen to amount to a proper case of Wittgensteinian rule following. Can you clarify?"

Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #2077 is a reply to message #2074] Sun, 01 November 2009 14:26 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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(reply to Stuart)

On the issue of what "scripts" are, let me say this.

One must take great care not to misunderstand me. I'm not making any scientific claim. I'm not saying, e.g., "the brain is a processor." No philosopher in this century should ever say such a thing, and surely no "political scientist" should in any century.

Here's what is being said. How we think can be better NOTATED and described by borrowing from the way humans have taught machines to "think" (execute tasks). The script that I invent is a AIDE. It is no different in this respect than the aids of diagramming a sentence or using symbolic logic -- except that it is more useful. It's more useful because it shows not the logic or structure of assertion, but the cognition of it. That's the key.

So one has to learn the script I invent as one would, e.g., HTML, JavaScript, etc., to understand what the computer screen is doing when on the internet. The method of the book is to present language confusions and resolve them with reference to processing scripts. (To show the cognition AS SCRIPT). They are "resolved" when the script captures the fact that each brain is doing something cognitively different -- and that the only way to get them to see this is to get them to run the same scripts. When this happens, what seems like philosophical problems disappear. Only informational problems, if any, remain.

Here's the basic idea: we've spent 50-plus years teaching machines to do things we do. The mistake lies in trying to worry oneself over whether we can make ourselves in robotic form. The better idea is to take what we have invented in this respect -- the languages that make computers "think" (execute tasks) -- and use those same sort of syntactical structures (components) to describe how WE are thinking. But only for ILLUSTRATIVE purposes. Only as a aide to understanding the language game. We might say, such and such an expression produces a cognitive operation describable with these sorts of commands, while this other operation is describable with these sorts. So long as we have a script language that accounts for sense across all sorts of similar contexts -- a large territory of expression -- we have an illustrative way of accounting for traffic accidents like "If Moses didn't save the Israelites, would he still be Moses?" Answer: DEPENDS UPON THE BRAIN SCRIPT BEING USED (hello!) Translation: there is no issue here!!! (Philosophy professor: either become Wittgensteinien or go home).

There might be an interesting scientific implication here, however. And that is this: inasmuch as we can describe the workings and confusions of thought as a kind of brain script, maybe this means that brains are, in fact, significantly like the sorts of machines we are beginning to build now? I don't ever get into this. I'm not a scientist; I'm a Wittgensteinian. I don't care how the journalism comes out. As my other hero Brett Favre says, "It is what it is." I'll read the newspapers like the rest.

Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #2078 is a reply to message #2074] Sun, 01 November 2009 14:27 Go to previous message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
Messages: 793
Registered: August 2009
Location: Form of Life
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... yes Stuart, that is getting very close now! In fact I am inclined to say "nice catch." I am in no way telling people how to speak or saying that our language is deficient -- for it surely is not. As Pinker (through Chomsky) notes, we have a language instinct. And I am in no way trying to sort out some form of logic that tells people what is valid to say and what is not valid to say (or what logic dictates they have said). All I am doing is letting people speak, picking out the sense, reflecting upon its implications -- as any good Wittgensteinian would do -- and then finding a better way to notate the differences in the cognition involved both within and across sense.

I want to say this: I am an accident reconstructionist in the language game. The labor I am offering is like some sort of accountancy. When I am done, one could say: (a) here is the structure of the sentence; (b) here is the logic of the statements; and (c) here is the script of the language.

Regards and thanks
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