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[Wittrs] Wittgenstein and Behaviorism [message #685] Tue, 01 September 2009 18:35 Go to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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... as to what Skinner believed, I'm not a student of that. But I think there are a couple of issues here. First, the term "behavior" seems to have come to occupy a similar play in language as that of "motion." Is a desk "still" if particles move? One could say yes or no and not be "wrong." These are not problems so long as each of us understands that they are issues of family resemblance. Saying that cells or nerves "behave" is not the same as saying Sally "behaves" when she elects choice X over Y. But that does not mean that either Sally or her cells (or nerves) do not "behave" -- it simply means that both belong to the family of "behavior." As long as this is understood, any "problem" we thought might be here seems to have already vanished (or become informational).

On another note, I have a rather important language manuscript that I have been working on for a long time. I am hopeful that, when it is done, it will clarify the issue of "behavior" for Wittgensteinians. Wittgensteinians should largely be agnostic about what is going on in the head, so long as what is avoided is any forced or contrived (or superfluous) expression about "the little man in the head" (folk psychology). As Wittgenstein said, nothing is hidden from you. But that doesn't mean that language or life is an automation. As I have said on other lists numerous times, there are two elements to language games and to grammar in a Wittgensteinian universe: (a) the element of anthropology (that culture and norms make up language); and (b) the element of cognition (that how the brain receives or is hard-wired to receive language is part of what constitutes the activity). And so brains are allowed whatever processes they have in the game as well.

Also, in general, I think another frequent mistake among those who have only a sloganized account of Wittgenstein is to treat the matter of language as "closed." Quite clearly, part of the language game is the ability of the person to formulate "plays." Play is not simply an automation. The culture and the anthropology might be the "given" (the rules, so to speak), but the cognitive part is what allows for introduction of new forms of play within the overall rules. That's the key. The language game is dynamic. Language is neither a picture nor an automation. That's why language changes over time and why you have colloquialism and slang and jargon and "cells behaving."  The key, always, is to conjugate these expressions -- that is, to understand their grammar and their status as a "play." (To understand what they are doing).

People who properly read Wittgenstein will see Kantian influences in him here and there. He had an explicitly Kantian period for a few years (preceding his later views). But once again, the only thing Wittgenstein is really against is the idea that thoughts are some kind of amorphous and metaphysical entity. He's only against "queer expressions." Once you understand that thoughts and words are only "local distinctions" -- in that we think in language -- the talk of "the little man in the head" becomes translated into only a child's account of the form of life.

Regards.
 
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
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________________________________
From: gerardoprim <gerardoprim@yahoo.com.ar>
To: Wittrs@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Monday, July 27, 2009 11:31:34 PM
Subject: [Wittrs] Skinner and Wittgenstein

 
Hello to all, I´d like to know your opinions about these thoughts. Some people quickly reject the proposal of relating Skinner & W, by saying "W was not a logical behaviorist" . But Skinner was not a logical behaviorist either: he never tried to reduce the semantics of all mentalistic words to dispositions of overt behaviors. Instead, he clearly acknowledged (1945, 1957, 1974) that some mentalistic words are tacts (utterances in presence of a discriminative stimulus, like saying "red" when seeing something red) of private responses (e.g. operant perceptual responses, covert verbal responses). So the argument that "W was not a logical behaviorist" is completely irrelevant for the relation, and the issue is still open. Someone might argue that "skinnerian private responses are not possible because of the private language argument (PLA)", but this claim is unjustified, and it would possibly derive from a misunderstanding of Skinner´s views, or W´s views,
or both.
.

__,_._,___




The Language Game of 'Behaviorism' [message #688 is a reply to message #685] Tue, 01 September 2009 18:40 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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It seems to me that what is at issue here is what "behaviorism" is in the grammar of the person who is offering the way of speaking. It reminds me of discussions I had with several people over what "skepticism" is or what a "parliamentary system" is. All that these terms do is invite one to be acquainted with another's language sets. You could not get the person's point until you saw how the expressions played anyway.


Surely there is a way of speaking that allows one to refer to what we might call "brute behaviorism," which would deny as much of mental life as possible. But where one offers the term "behaviorism" in a way that allows for self-conversation that cannot be observed by onlookers ("covert behavior"), the objection is not that "this isn't behaviorism." It would be something along the lines of "that isn't what I mean when I used the term." Or, "those aren't my speaking conventions." It might also be, "I agree with you but call 'covert behavior'y the name 'subjectivity thinking'" (or something).

Truthfully, it matters not the slightest what anything is called. The only reason we call things what we do is out of convenience and efficiency. The only ills that even a serious "violation" in this respect poses is simply a round-about way of getting at the point. The whole point of Wittgenstein is to conjugate the expression anyway. Let's put the matter this way: so long as something is a family resemblance, it is hardly an aberration of any sort.  

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
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[Wittrs] Wittgenstein and Behaviorism [message #689 is a reply to message #685] Tue, 01 September 2009 18:42 Go to previous message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
Messages: 793
Registered: August 2009
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... here's another good one from a book I just picked up in Pittsburgh. I found this in Pritcher's, The Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Chapter 11 covers Mind and Its Place in Language. The whole chapter is good, but this quote from the Blue and Brown Books really seals the deal. I'm so glad I found this, because it validates that what I am doing in my language manuscript really isn't "post-Wittgensteinian," it's a better way to explain Wittgenstein himself. In other words, it isn't continuing in his shadow more than it is explaining better what he already had in mind.

Here's the quote:

"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]

I had been discussing on another list the idea that people who have a sloganized understanding of Wittgenstein often attribute too much anthropological or sociological influences to his idea of grammar, and not enough cognitive aspects. I had argued that true grammar in a Wittgensteinian universe is something I call "brain script." That's what my manuscript is doing -- developing a syntax for brain script for illustrative (philosophic) purposes. I wish I had had this quote to use against those who charge that Wittgenstein's central focus in language games was learning the corresponding automation of the body to words formed as directions or rules. My argument was that it was the learning of the brain's behavior, not the body's.  And that, if anything, Wittgenstein was a small-b behaviorist and not a big-b behaviorist. "Small-b" meaning the behavior brains learn about language in the language culture -- behavior which allows brains to create new
plays pursuant to the "rules" (a dynamic game). One might say this is not "brute behaviorism," but the "behaviorism" of the new age that speaks of "cells behaving."

Of course, "behaviorism" is a family resemblance in the language game. So the goal is simply understanding what is being said here -- not forcing one to accept a lexicon. By all means, speak the way you want.

Regards.
 
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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