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[Wittrs] Pateman On Wittgenstein Chomsky, Behaviorists & Cognitivists [message #1227] Tue, 22 September 2009 22:55 Go to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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... found an interesting article on a subject Glen and I were discussing, by Trevor Pateman. I think, though, the term "Wittgensteinian" ought to be limited even further to "this particular brand of it." Because I don't think Kripke's version of Wittgenstein is anything "real" (I believe he admitted that, didn't he?). My point is that I do not take the version of "Kripke, Baker & Hacker, Esa Itkonen and others" to be true to Wittgenstein, as I am glad others also argue. So I would call them something like "reification-branch Wittgensteinians" and believe they have misunderstood certain tutelage.

http://www.selectedworks.co.uk/wittgensteinianschomskyans.ht ml
 
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[Wittrs] Re: Pateman On Wittgenstein Chomsky, Behaviorists & Cognitivists [message #1228 is a reply to message #1227] Tue, 22 September 2009 23:10 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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... here also is a 2004 paper on the subject of Wittgenstein and behaviorism:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/g4372h47236k0576/fulltex t.pdf  
 

SW




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[Wittrs] Re: Pateman On Wittgenstein Chomsky, Behaviorists & Cognitivists [message #1229 is a reply to message #1228] Tue, 22 September 2009 23:22 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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... sorry, that link didn't work. Try this:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/g4372h47236k0576/fulltex t.pdf


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[Wittrs] Re: Pateman On Wittgenstein Chomsky, Behaviorists & Cognitivists [message #1237 is a reply to message #1227] Wed, 23 September 2009 12:16 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
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--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@...> wrote:
>
>Wittgensteinians and Chomskyans:In Defence of Mentalism
>Trevor Pateman
> http://www.selectedworks.co.uk/wittgensteinianschomskyans.ht ml

Very interesting paper. I've just scanned it and read the first
sections, and of course (!?) I of course take the Chomskian side in
almost everything - only I suggest there are not really *sides* to
*be* taken. Chomsky and Wittgenstein are focusing on two separate
things, two different parts of the elephant. There is a middle ground
common to both - but on that, they agree - there is no such thing
as a formal grammar for English that explains in any rule-based way
what a sentence means, so there is no way such a language
could ever be private!

Say that a W says to C, "The cat is on the mat", and it turns out to
mean to C, in this usage, that the cat is on the mat. A good
Wittgensteinian can look at this, and say, "See, the meaning is the
use, normative social processes were at work in a public way."
Nobody is going to argue with that. Unfortunately, it does not
in any way explain how it is that W's vocal apparatus came to
form just those sounds, nor how those sounds impinging on C's
auditory apparatus came to be understood as comprising those words.
THOSE are the aspects that Chomsky focuses on, and that he suggests
are rule-based (and no, the mechanical operation of the vocal and
auditory apparatii are nomological but not rule-based as such, it's
the processesing of their logical inputs and outputs that are
rule-based).

There is a tendency - a tradition - in philosophy especially, of
talking about "language" as if it were an entity. This and that
aspect of language is talked about endlessly, and is endlessly
misleading. Agents use language, and there is no language without
agents. There is a public language which must be normative in
some way - but must also be nomological in some ways, too, the
alternative being random sounds carrying specific meanings. However,
there must also be a private language, or something very much like
it (neural networks, whatever) that are internal and methodologically
solipsistic, etc.

Wittgenstein never said a word about such things. It is my assertion
that what Turing did was show how many of the same concepts from
Wittgenstein's linguistic turn can and do also serve these
internalist questions, and it is in the mechanist, even
computationalist tradition that Chomsky also writes.

I see very little conflict between Wittgenstein and Chomsky, that
is not immediately dissolved by understanding their respective
meanings and uses, and indeed they share a great deal.

Josh



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[Wittrs] Re: Pateman On Wittgenstein Chomsky, Behaviorists & Cognitivists [message #1239 is a reply to message #1237] Wed, 23 September 2009 13:27 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
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--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:
>
> --- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@> wrote:
> >
> >Wittgensteinians and Chomskyans:In Defence of Mentalism
> >Trevor Pateman
> > http://www.selectedworks.co.uk/wittgensteinianschomskyans.ht ml
>
> Very interesting paper. I've just scanned it and read the first
> sections, and of course (!?) I of course take the Chomskian side in
> almost everything - only I suggest there are not really *sides* to
> *be* taken. Chomsky and Wittgenstein are focusing on two separate
> things, two different parts of the elephant. There is a middle ground
> common to both - but on that, they agree - there is no such thing
> as a formal grammar for English that explains in any rule-based way
> what a sentence means, so there is no way such a language
> could ever be private!
>

I, too, have only dipped into it. I stopped at this point because it struck me that there may be an important misunderstanding here worth clearing up:

". . . the deaf children of hearing parents develop idiosyncratic signing systems of their own, which are clearly linguistic though in a different medium from the normal one. (See Endnote 4). These signs are used consistently and rationally in pursuit of the child's goals, but though they are passively understood by the child's parents, they were not learnt from them nor, in general, are they subsequently produced by the parents (Feldman, Goldin - Meadow, and Gleitman 1978; Goldin - Meadow and Mylander 1983). These signs are public, checkable for consistent use and potentially shareable; but they are not social, if by that is meant that they pre-exist the child's use of them, or are used by convention, or are shared with others. There are other cases of linguistic systems which are the properties of single individuals, for example, jargons which represent individual attempts at cross - linguistic communication (Muhlhausler 1985, p. 62), although these cut less philosophical ice in so far as they are properties of individuals who already have another language."


Here is an interesting point from the article, no? If language were entirely public as Wittgenstein puts it, then how to explain the development of such isolated linguistic practices as described here other than by positing some interior grammar (Chomsky's old concept of "deep" vs. "surface" grammar?) which kicks in at some point in human development? Here we have a real life example of a "private" language being developed between two or more speakers from scratch and in isolation from a pre-existing linguistic community to set the rules for them.

Of course, at some point we must presume that early human language speakers started in this way, too, or, at least, built contemporary languages up based on carry-over primate communication practices from predecessor species such that, as humans became humans and then more advanced (closer to what we are today), more and more complexity in the practices accreted, to the point where we might say a full blown language had emerged.

The idea that this was driven by internal brain changes or that it somehow drove such changes is not inconsistent with this and seems to accord with the idea that language is inherent in humans. Surely most normal humans find a way to develop language at some point in their progression to adulthood no matter what their circumstances as the above suggests.

But perhaps the problem here comes from misconstruing Wittgenstein's point about the impossibility of a "private language"? Surely he didn't mean we couldn't continue to speak our native language to ourselves if we were suddenly to find ourselves the last man or woman on Earth. Nor does his comment necessarily suggest that two deaf children born to and raised by normal hearing parents could not or would not develop a language distinct to them.

Notice, here, that their "private language" is not a language in each child's own head. It is only private to them in a relevant sense, i.e., they represent a tiny public domain of operation within a much larger public one. This is certainly a different sense of "private" than Wittgenstein appeared to have in mind when he asked how, in the absence of public correctives to our usages, we could hope to develop and maintain a language at all?

A "private language" in this sense, the kind Wittgenstein was referring to, is a language for which no public criteria of usage exist at all. It's not a shared jargon or other system of linguistic communication maintained by and between a small number of users.

There is no way, in the sense of "private language" used by Wittgenstein, to determine if our following a rule now is the same as the last time we did so (or thought we were doing so). If we are relying on our memories, memories might be wrong. Indeed, in time and without ongoing practice, it does seem that our capabilities to speak languages we know fade. Sometimes we just don't recall a meaning but other times we may not be sure if X meant this or something else.

Either the rule might have changed or our application of it might have and if our only means of determining if it had or not was ourselves, our own recollections, then how could we be sure we were following a rule at all? Wittgenstein's point was to note that, to follow a rule, we need to have something outside ourselves to provide sign posts, standards for use. This is why he emphasizes the fact that language is public and that having language alone implies a public domain and thus undermines claims of solipsism in any meaningful sense -- i.e., solipsism could still be true but we couldn't know whether it was or not in any meaningful sense given our dependence for thinking about it on language and the public realm language implies. Thus, on such a view it makes no sense to consider solipsism either true or false because such categorizations apply only when we can, in fact, make such distinctions.

So as far as I can see, Wittgenstein's notion of the impossibility of "private language" is not an argument against some empirical claim that we must have some kind of internal brain facility for language in some form or other to have language. Nor is it an argument against a claim that we don't need that. It is aimed, rather, at the idea that we can sustain a belief in solipsism when that depends on the ability to use language to make the claim in the first place.

SWM


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[Wittrs] Re: Pateman On Wittgenstein Chomsky, Behaviorists & Cognitivists [message #1283 is a reply to message #1239] Fri, 25 September 2009 13:37 Go to previous message
Nasha Waights Hickman is currently offline  Nasha Waights Hickman
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I'm not familiar with the Chomsky stuff (time to learn!) and am tripping up
on some of the language, so I haven't made much progress with this article
as yet. For now I just want to agree with Sean's suggestion that
Wittgenstein's arguments on private language are not aimed undermining the
(perfectly intelligible) notion that an individual in isolation could
develop or maintain a language, but rather at the notion of a language which
is private in a more radical sense: a language which only the speaker can
(necessarily and in principle) understand, for the meanings of the words are
defined by reference to items in the speaker's private realm (§243,PI).

Baker and Hacker argued this point forcefully against the communitarian
readings of both Malcolm and Kripke (Malcolm on Language and Rules(1990); On
Misunderstanding Wittgenstein:
http://www.springerlink.com/content/q3378g85k6404705/) and I find it
puzzling that Pateman should,so to speak, tar all (roughly) Wittgensteinian
philosophers with the same brush on this particular issue.

The debate over whether language is essentially social or individual I think
(following B&H) rather obscures the point of Wittgenstein's arguments. Where
the remarks on private language are concerned, it matters that language is
essentially shareable (another can in principle learn it) not whether it is
in fact shared. More generally, I'd say the key shift in perspective that
Wittgenstein is urging comes in moving from a referentialist conception of
meaning, to a use conception of meaning, where the former belongs in a
static calculus conception of rules and language, and the latter follows
from seeing language (and rule-following) as an activity or practice;
linguistic competence as a practical ability or set of (learnt) practical
abilities. Whether a language is used in private or in a community is
entirely besides the point; what is crucial is that it is used; that using a
sentence is akin to making a move in a game (whether it be solitaire or
chess is unimportant!); that words are also deeds etc, etc.

Moreover, the conviction that language is essentially social in so far as it
serves exclusively as a means of communication between agents I take to be,
from W.'s perspective, one of the most misleading. It suggests that we aim,
in speaking, simply to convey private thoughts, intentions, desires, pains
etc conceived of as private items which exist and are intelligible prior to
and independent from language. Here recognising that individuals in solitude
can develop and use language could actually be an aid to dispelling
confusions! -- certainly, insistence upon the social character of language
will do little to rid us of them.

Needless to say I don't make much of the arguments offered in section 2 of
Pateman's paper, as they seem to be offered as counters to a position which
the Wittgensteinian need not take.

How one understands the phenomenon of language development and use by
individuals in isolation is important however. I don't think it lends any
support to the idea that language is innate. The capacity to learn language
is innate, certainly -- I can't teach a cat English -- but that's something
else. Moreover, linguistic abilities could well be innate (god gives me the
practical know-how to speak english before I'm born) but they would not on
that account be explicable in terms of causal or natural laws. We will still
be free as a community to change the rules for the use of a word, and alter
its meaning entirely, to expand, contract and reshape language as we please.
I won't ramble on about that now...

Last thing:
"It is aimed, rather, at the idea that we can sustain a belief in solipsism
when that depends on the ability to use language to make the claim in the
first place."

I quite like that angle, if I understand it. On the one hand, a private
language is presumably the language the solipsist assumes he has, and
such a language is shown to be unintelligible. On the other hand I'm
thinking you mean something with this kind of flavour: colour spectrum
inversion (say) is a proposal articulable only by helping onesself to
definition of colours by ref to public exemplars, which definitions the
proposal rules out as defining the same thing for you as it does for me.
Such a sceptical proposal subverts itself, because it only makes sense if it
is false. Or something like that :S

BUT ...
With solipsism, colour spectrum inversion, and all sceptical proposals
really though, I think the important conclusion to reach is not that these
proposals are merely practically pointless (or unverifiable, or
uninteresting) but rather that they are logically senseless. If I cannot say
what I mean by a proposal then there simply is no such thing. It's not that
I can't find the words. How can a claim be true if expresses no genuine
thought? what would count as evidence in its favour? What is it, in other
words, which I claim to be beyond my knowledge? I can't say, so what gives
me the idea that there might be something?

I cannot grant the possibility of something which I claim is unintelligible,
inarticulable, precisely because I cannot coherently specify what that
possibility would look like. (what might be true?)

Yes, we depend upon language to think about things, including solipsism.
But it's not as if there is some alternative to be considered, where we
don't depend on language to think about such things. It's not like the
solipsist's claim expresses a thought which happens to be unthinkable.
Language is not a straitjacket, or a veil which limits our vision.

better stop rambling...

will see what I can learn about Chomsky and a possible rapprochement
between him and W (!) ....

Natalia

On Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 6:27 PM, SWM

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