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[Wittrs] Wittgenstein on Words\Language Versus Thoughts\Concepts [message #654] Tue, 01 September 2009 17:06 Go to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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Hi Stuart.

Good to have you back. (And nice to see that the replies will not be allowed to be juvenile).

I'm not sure I agree with your initial premise. I don't take Wittgenstein for saying (if i understand you)  that one cannot think before they can verbalize. (That sounds too much like a sloganized account of Wittgenstein) . I think the larger issue here is to take the stuff of "thought" to be a kind of language. Both of these words are a family resemblance of the worst kind. I ask you: what is language? Even when a baby goo-goos or an animal grunts (or whatever), there is language of sorts. Language here does not mean "the English language," just as "grammar" for Wittgenstein doesn't mean English grammar. He means that at a meta-level, thought and language are really the same sort of thing. What he really means is that one cannot create a distinction between the two at a meta level, without creating the fiction of the "little man in the head." (Remember, nothing is hidden from you). So if you have a thought that you cannot articulate, it does
not necessarily violate Wittgensteinian insights -- it might be a matter of having underdeveloped  verbal skills or perhaps overdeveloped ideas. Ask yourself this question: why do philosophers write so poorly and create new jargon? Answer: the good ones begin to breach their language.  (Remember also that Wittgenstein himself went through an explicitly Kantian period).

Think also of this. An older athlete says, "my mind wants to do it but the body won't let me anymore." So it is the same with languaging, which is also a "behavior" (in a Wittgensteinian sense).

Another way of saying it. One can only deploy the thought/word distinction in ordinary use. If one tries to play this grammar outside of its ordinary use, one creates a false problem (i.e., philosophy). It is a false problem to say, do thoughts precede words? Nothing is hidden from you. The question itself is false.  

As to what Wittgenstein means when he says that certain things cannot be said, he means that "as a proposition, " or, in later terms, with sophisticated grammar. So Moore cannot say he knows he has a hand without committing unsophisticated grammar (and playing games). The mystical, for early Wittgenstein, cannot be properly said because it could not be grounded in logic or fact.  

Regards and thanks.
 
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
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[Wittrs] Wittgenstein, Words and Thoughts [message #655 is a reply to message #654] Tue, 01 September 2009 17:52 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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Hi Josh.

I would simply say that the distinction between thought and word is irrelevant at a meta level. It is only an expression used in ordinary parlance. If, indeed, a group of humans had 27 words for minor variations in snow, it would not show anything more about language than it would thought, and may say much more about sociology and culture. Thoughts are much words inside the mind as words are thoughts outside of it. As to your reformulated #3, I would agree with it and find it exactly correct, so long we understand what I have just said (above).  

(A funny point. You know those little round peas that you can eat either in or out of their green "casing? " What the hell vegetable is that? Anyway, this is what the thought/word  difference reminds me of right now.  If you need to differentiate the pea from its "shell," by all means speak that way. Otherwise, pretty much consider them the same sort of thing. The one being both an extension and part and parcel of the other -- each can be eaten whole or separated out if you like).

Regards.

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
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____________ _________ _________ __
From: jrstern <jrstern@yahoo. com>
To: Wittrs@yahoogroups. com
Sent: Sunday, July 5, 2009 12:13:37 PM
Subject: [Wittrs] Re: Limits of Language are Limits of World

Sean,

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "sentential" . Doesn't Quine make some point that words only have meaning in a sentence?

But "limits of language are limits of world" (LLLW) brings to mind (for me) a word-level issue, the whorfian hypothesis, that we see the world in terms of our words, famously that eskimos have 27 words for minor variations in snow - though I think that particular example has since been debunked. But, is it something along those lines that you refer to when you say LLLW?

I want to suggest there is a third possible reading of the topic, that it is not the limits of *my* language that are the limits of *my* world, though that is true, but I can always learn another word, extend my language. The new reading is:

3. The limits of language, are the limits of anyone's world.

Now, this is not at all in conflict with the Tractatus Witt, but it may be in conflict with the "no private language" Witt, depending on just how you read *that* maxim. Nor is it clear just what *are* the limits of language, that this might involve.

Just how close, or how far, this might be to a "sentential" reading, perhaps you can speak to.

Josh



[Wittrs] Words and Concepts [message #657 is a reply to message #654] Tue, 01 September 2009 17:53 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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Stuart:

... a couple of thoughts:

1. I don't like fetching quotes, but I'll have a look over the next couple of days. I know this for sure: there are all sorts of passages in Wittgenstein' s works that would not support a language-first system where language meant "English-type language" and stood for the idea that, if one forgot a word, he or she would not remember the idea. Indeed, that would make words sort of like batteries are for toys. Note that one could not perform Wittgensteinian method if this were true. In fact, the whole idea of conjugating the grammar of an expression is the brain untangling its own language confusion. Besides, we all know that Ludwig had a way of speaking about "grammar" and so forth that had a grandiose sort of connotation. When he speaks of language being central, he means the anthropological and cognitive languaging processes -- i.e., the brain's learned process of sententializing. (Anyway, I am repeating myself).    

2. I would also say this. If a researcher came along and said "humans have pre-language thought," the first thing a good Wittr would do is want to conjugate that. I would first want an example. You know, it's sort of like someone saying "the cell behaves" versus saying "Joe behaves." These are only family resemblances (or extensions). Consider the word "ideology." It is used in all sorts of ways that are critically context dependent.  So I would not get pulled into either a straw man about Wittgenstein or the false advertising of words.

Besides, if you strip away the ideas language and thought, you have a more agreeable idea. Let's say it this way: brains have pathway A for things commonly called "ideas" in folk psychology and pathway B for things commonly called "the rules of how to communicate ideas to others" in an English class.  And if some researcher claims that A comes before B in human development, and that computers seem to "think" more along the lines of pathway B, I'm not opposed to the research program or the claims. Wittgenstein wasn't doing work within this sort of language pair anyway, and would have said it was a kind of distinction only good for ordinary parlance only.

3. I don't know what to say about your experience. If you are correct of having a vivid memory of an event before being able to speak, and if we take this to mean that "lights were on," one assumes that as that "behavior" was occurring in the brain there was some corresponding behavior of the body (eyes big, giggling, movement of a hand, whatever). What would be the difference between this and "talking" from the standpoint of wanting to say something about thought and language? If you take any infant and put a large yellow tweety bird in front of it, it will respond to the stimulus. It's like I said before: nothing is hidden from you. You are trying to deploy a thought/language distinction outside of where it ordinarily belongs.  

There is no real difference, Stuart. There are only classificatory things that help us keep account of things in ordinary context.  

 
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
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[Wittrs] Concepts, Words and Babies [message #660 is a reply to message #654] Tue, 01 September 2009 17:56 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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Regrettably, Stuart, I think you have misunderstood me on this point.

I did not say (or mean to say) that a too literal (or sloganized) read of Wittgenstein' s "language-first" positions would cause us to separate concepts from words. Rather, I said that a correct read would require us to see that, at a meta-level, there is no such separation at all, and that we only separate these things in ordinary contexts to talk about things limited to those contexts. Example: "the word apple is a-p-p-l-e, and when you envision one to taste it, you are thinking about it." What Wittgenstein would say about this is that the thinking about apples itself is pre-packaged in both a sentential and cultural format, both of which are socially learned. In a way, what he is saying is that one thinks in words.

Your example of a pre-English- language baby who has an awareness that he or she cannot describe in English words does not implicate Wittgenstein.  He's not saying that words provide the sensations of life; he's saying that  life's sensations are named and organized into words (taught socially and culturally).  Imagine a baby seeing the brightness of a yellow tweety bird, yet not having a mark or noise to begin the process of denoting it to others. Lacking that, he or she probably denotes its with wide eyes and spit running down the mouth. In a sense, the child is already beginning to "language." The body is communicating the stimuli. All that happens next is the teaching of the sound for the mouth to make. What I think your friend Eddleson (or whomever he was) was saying is that English-word "language" develops in brains secondary to the ability to receive sensations and drool. It has nothing to do with Wittgenstein.

Regards.
 
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
Redesigned Website: http://seanwilson. org
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____________ _________ _________ __
From: Stuart W. Mirsky <swmaerske@yahoo. com>
To: Wittrs@yahoogroups. com
Sent: Sunday, July 5, 2009 8:47:17 PM
Subject: [Wittrs] Re: Breaching Language Versus Knotting It

--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups. com, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@ ...> wrote:
>
 Nevertheless, if it were true that I did have such an awareness at a pre-language age, this suggests that Edelman has a point about how consciousness develops, i.e., that first we get semantics (concepts) and only then syntax and that grammar (a form of syntax) is built up somewhat mechanically, reflecting our experience of the world. It does seem to me that Wittgenstein took a fairly strong position on the role of language but, yes, I've always thought that he is read somewhat too literally on the matter. As you note, there must be room for ideas as being separate from the words by which we express them if we are to engage in linguistic analysis (looking for the appropriate uses of our terms). But it does seem to me that Wittgenstein was somewhat obscure on this issue, hence the ongoing arguments about what he meant.

SWM 



On "Definitions" and Family Resemblance [message #691 is a reply to message #654] Tue, 01 September 2009 18:44 Go to previous message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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(reply to Josh)


The whole point of family resemblance can be stated thusly. (a) The meaning for certain kinds of words are composed of attributes that a mix and match. (Imagine shopping at a cheap clothing store). This one has some relation to that one, which as some other relation to this other one (b) The only reason that they exist this way has to do with the behavior of language within the form of life. The brain "types" things (stereotypes, prototypes, archetypes, etc.). And so a family resemblance is a cognitive arrangement.

The fallacy is to assume that you can make a logic out of what is an anthropological and cognitive phenomenon. You can't make a property law for the family. You can only say, as lexicography does, that there is this use and that use occurring in the play (at the given time). You can, in short, only catalog sense, not proscribe it. Culture is autonomous in how it languages. Grammar is only given by the form of life and its learned environment. All else is "local."

Now, the mistake that I see being asserted here in objection to this is twofold. The first is to assume that if one fights logic or theories or definitions that the Derrida card has to be played to stop it. Derrida does not make nonsense because of the fact that one cannot make a law for families; he makes nonsense because his grammar is pointless and mischievous. Wittgenstein was never an empty-head sort of complainer, and he wasn't one of these two-dimensional "critical thinkers" that the left wing academy birthed after the 1960s. He was what he was: someone with exquisite insight who showed the pitfalls of what we might call "the deductive enterprise." That is, the process of thinking that proper cognition was fundamentally the domain of logic, and that language itself had to have a sort of arithmetic that underlies it.

Secondly -- and most importantly -- there is an unfounded fear being expressed here. And the fear is that idea that if language does not have an arithmetic beneath it or is not critically beholden in some way to the keys of logic, that all that is left is some sort of willy-nilly mess. Like children finger-painting or something. This is surely not the case. Whatever there is to language is knowable in the way that all lexicographic activities are known. Or the way that aesthetics (in a Wittgensteinian sense) is known.

No word needs to have any "definition" for its valid use. Only if you have a foreign language problem do you use definitions -- and that is just to plug into the family of sense.  So you know a word whenever you have learned how to play it acceptably in the languaging community. In a post-Wittgensteinian world, no point of disputation ever rests on one person saying "that's not the definition." Indeed, this particular maneuver is precisely what causes all of the problems. When someone introduces a new family member to "behaviorism"  or to "conscious," people wrongly say "that word can't be used for your idea." What they should be saying is "that's not the way I like to speak" or "what you have said is what I say like this..." or "the sense of X that you speak of would depend upon such-and-such, which I don't think will happen."

In other words, if you know how to navigate sense, you don't need definitions, and you get right to the heart of the matter .

(P.S. The second paragraph quoted below my signature is fine, but the first is problematic)
   

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
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Point Replied to:

What I do hold, and I urge everyone to embrace something of the
kind, is that every use of a word does comprise and constitute
some definition. In the talk of "family resemblances" and such
it is easy to slide ride past that point, that even LW at his most
skeptical would not make that kind of mistake.
...
I certainly hope that any use of a word in a game or linguistic
exercise involves some fixable and largely (if perhaps never exactly)
determinable meaning, whether that comes at the word level, or
sentence level, or holistically, internally, externally, all of
the above, some of the above, or none of the above.



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