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[Wittrs] On the Relevance of Definitions [message #693] Tue, 01 September 2009 18:46 Go to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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... I can't agree for numerous reasons.


1. The first would be what you are calling a "definition."  You seem to be equating it with sense. This kind of speaking is going to lead down the road to expressions like "personal definitions" and are someday going to need to be distinguished from definition-definitions. In fact, the way you are playing the expression I could say either of these to you right now: (1) "I disagree with your sense of 'definition' in the last post;" or  (2) I don't accept your definition of 'definition.' "

2. We can't quote the TLP on this point because it is precisely this sort of thing that gets the face lift when Wittgenstein enters his transcended period. Care should be taken to realize that Wittgenstein radically shifted his lexicon after around 1930. Gone are these things: theories, logic, definitions, analogy, essences, contradictions, propositions, truth and even "philosophy" to some extent. Replaced words are: examples, understanding, grammar, family resemblances and simile, meaning-as-use, peace, and therapy and remarks.  (I've tried to order each word in each list so that it corresponds to the one replaced, but some can be used for more than one).

3. Before I go further with this, I'm going to let Ray Monk speak for me:

"he tried to undermine the idea that mathematics NEEDS foundations." p. 327
"If, says Wittgenstein, we looked on mathematics as a series of TECHNIQUES (for calculating, measuring etc.), then the question of what it was ABOUT would simply not arise." 329
"Philosophy was for him, like mathematics, a series of techniques" 330
"... language cannot be described without mentioning the USE to which it is put. This technique is a kind of therapy, the purpose of which is to free ourselves from the ... confusions that result from considering language in isolation from its place in the 'stream of life.' 330
"one of the greatest sources of philosophical bewilderment [is] the tendency to be misled by substantives to look for something that corresponds to them. Thus we ask 'what is time?'  'what is meaning?' 'what is knowledge?' 'what is thought?' 'what are numbers?' -- and expect to be able to answer these questions by naming some THING." 337
 "connected to this [mistake] ... is the idea that, for any given concept, there is an 'essence' -- something that is common to all things subsumed under a general term." 337
"We are inclined to think that there must be something in common to all games, say, and that this common property is the justification for applying the general term 'game' to the various games; whereas games form a FAMILY the members of which have family likeness. Some of them have the same nose, others the same eyebrows and others again the same way of walking; and these likenesses overlap." 338
Suggesting that logic and math are simply behaviors. 381
"When Rhees asked Wittgenstein about his 'theory' of ... Wittgenstein reacted with horror to the word: 'Do you think I have a theory? Do you think I'm saying what [the thing] is? What I do is describe different things called [the thing]." 405
General point: Aesthetics is a technique, not a science. p 405.
Cantor's Diagonal Proof is only worthy as a "charm" (like a spell), not for anything else. 415
The "charm" (as in spell) of mathematics is that it looks incontrovertible. 415
"A proof in mathematics does not establish the truth of a conclusion; it fixes, rather, the meaning of certain signs." 418.
 "When Turing once used the phrase, 'I see your point,' Wittgenstein reacted forcefully, 'I have no point.' " 419.
Contradictions are not a problem for mathematics. 421. 
"Wittgenstein was attacking, not this or that definition, but the very motivation for providing such definitions." 422.
  
... more on this later. I'll summarize my point later. Tired of typing @!!!!!  uugh.

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
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[Wittrs] Don't fear the definition [message #694 is a reply to message #693] Tue, 01 September 2009 18:47 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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... well, if we're on board with the Monk quotes and we agree that meaning is use, I'll just go ahead and accept your language arrangement. 

For me, "definition" had meant what it does in some ordinary vernaculars, which is "the law of the term" rather than "the collections of how people are currently using it." Tell me, in your grammar, is it okay to violate a definition? Let's say someone says "behaviorism is x" and you consider it a violation of the definition. If enough people violate the definition in the same way, does the violation then become the definition? If someone were to say to you, "define your use of the term 'definition' in this sentence" -- how would you do it? Would you state something law-like or would you just say "this is what I mean." (Or it is like this). Would you offer a showing or a proposition?

Most people don't deploy the word "definition" as a particular; they deploy it as a general. But I think there is an interesting language game here. I think the culprit is this: "definitions" outside of the business of lexicography are very different in form and function than they are in the business of linguists. So, fore example, you have things called "definitions" in textbooks and mathematics wherein the term means a  sort of a law-like account for the word (or a general account). But in lexicography, the definition is in theory only a catalog of uses in the language culture. It is, in short, a newspaper for the anthropology of language. (And also a history book).

Of course, people use definitions as police books too. They say things like "your use is not in the book," as if to say "you cannot mean that." Surely that view is flawed. That was Russell's view at one point. The only way that this sort of maneuver is helpful is if the person has what we might call a "foreign language problem." In this case the book acts as a sort of a map of linguistic destinations. And all it really does in that case is police polysemy, not family resemblance. But if you know the destinations of language and create another one on the map, it does not good to say "the book won't allow it." It would be like saying, "you aren't allowed to call that  behaviorism."   

You know my daughter asked me for the meaning of a word that I had used in a sentence the other day, and I couldn't describe it, even though I had used it perfectly and would be completely understood to anyone else who knew of its deployment. I was so frustrated that I could not explain it to her. She looked at me like I was faking my intelligence. You know, the grade school rule: don't use it if you cannot define it. It would be like saying: don't dance if you don't know the name of it.

Regards and thanks.  
 
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
Redesigned Website: http://seanwilson.org/
SSRN papers: http://ssrn.com/author=596860
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On The Relevance of Definitions [message #695 is a reply to message #693] Tue, 01 September 2009 18:49 Go to previous message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
Messages: 793
Registered: August 2009
Location: Form of Life
Senior Member

 (sent to Wittrs in response to a post)

For me, "definition" had meant what it does in some ordinary vernaculars, which is "the law of the term" rather than "the collections of how people are currently using it." Tell me, in your grammar, is it okay to violate a definition? Let's say someone says "behaviorism is x" and you consider it a violation of the definition. If enough people violate the definition in the same way, does the violation then become the definition? If someone were to say to you, "define your use of the term 'definition' in this sentence" -- how would you do it? Would you state something law-like or would you just say "this is what I mean." (Or it is like this). Would you offer a showing or a proposition?

Most people don't deploy the word "definition" as a particular; they deploy it as a general. But I think there is an interesting language game here. I think the culprit is this: "definitions" outside of the business of lexicography are very different in form and function than they are in the business of linguists. So, fore example, you have things called "definitions" in textbooks and mathematics wherein the term means a  sort of a law-like account for the word (or a general account). But in lexicography, the definition is in theory only a catalog of uses in the language culture. It is, in short, a newspaper for the anthropology of language. (And also a history book).

Of course, people use definitions as police books too. They say things like "your use is not in the book," as if to say "you cannot mean that." Surely that view is flawed. That was Russell's view at one point. The only way that this sort of maneuver is helpful is if the person has what we might call a "foreign language problem." In this case the book acts as a sort of a map of linguistic destinations. And all it really does in that case is police polysemy, not family resemblance. But if you know the destinations of language and create another one on the map, it does not good to say "the book won't allow it." It would be like saying, "you aren't allowed to call that  behaviorism."   

You know my daughter asked me for the meaning of a word that I had used in a sentence the other day, and I couldn't describe it, even though I had used it perfectly and would be completely understood to anyone else who knew of its deployment. I was so frustrated that I could not explain it to her. She looked at me like I was faking my intelligence. You know, the grade school rule: don't use it if you cannot define it. It would be like saying: don't dance if you don't know the name of it.
Regards and thanks. 


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



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