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Analyzing Wittgenstein's 'Mental Processing' Quotes [message #1267] Thu, 24 September 2009 19:33 Go to next message
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--- On Thu, 9/24/09, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@yahoo.com> wrote:

> From: Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@yahoo.com>
> Subject: [Wittrs] Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts"
> To: wittrs@freelists.org
> Date: Thursday, September 24, 2009, 6:28 PM
>
> 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]           

Sean, Wittgenstein is playing "devil's advocate" here - or rather, he is playing the "cognitivist's advocate," as he does so frequently. Yes, TO THE COGNITIVISTS, he is saying "It SEEMS there are certain definite mental processes..." and "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." But this is not his position, and the use of the term "seems" is almost always a dead giveaway that Wittgenstein is stating the "traditional" position before he proceeds to demolish it. You are welcome to the traditional mentalist view, and that is what you have unfailingly expressed. But it is not Wittgenstein's view. [My emphasis in bold.]



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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #1268 is a reply to message #1267] Thu, 24 September 2009 20:47 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
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--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Glen Sizemore <gmsizemore2@...> wrote:
>
> Sean, Wittgenstein is playing "devil's advocate" here - or rather, he is playing the "cognitivist's advocate," as he does so frequently. Yes, TO THE COGNITIVISTS, he is saying "It SEEMS there are certain definite mental processes..." and "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." But this is not his position, and the use of the term "seems" is almost always a dead giveaway that Wittgenstein is stating the "traditional" position before he proceeds to demolish it.

I agree with Glen that Wittgenstein is just setting up a view here,
which he refutes at the top of page 4:

"There is one way of avoiding at least partly the occult appearance
of the processes of thinking, and it is, to replace in these processes
any working of the imagination by acts of looking at real objects."

Now, one must read *this* carefully, too, because it may be that
what Wittgenstein is saying here - is what he means! He wants to
replace the "occult appearance" of the process with a non-occult
appearance, yet keep the process, some process, even some physical
process. Read the rest of the page. Still, this is BB, early
in W's late game. What about the PI 358? Even more problematic,
reads as if W is asking, but not really answering, which is after
all rather how I take much of his later writing, when taken at
full face value.

So I must disagree with Glen when he asserts that these kinds
of sayings of W constitute a cognitivist advocate, when in fact
he is at even greater pains to deny that, too. More's the
shame, of course, IMHO.

So, what does that leave? What indeed. Dissolving. Therapy.

Josh





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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #1273 is a reply to message #1268] Thu, 24 September 2009 22:24 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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(Reply to Josh)
 
I don't take the quote quite the same way. Here is what he is saying, which is what he has said all throughout his later years. He's tearing down two schools of thought. One that says behavior or automation is all that there is to life; and another that says "a little man lives in my head."  The fallacy here is to see this as an either/or. "Nothing is hidden from you." So he goes on to disparage the idea of seeing "thinking of thought" as an ethereal sort of thing -- as an extra substance "on top of" the sentential content.

He does this all of the time. He does it with grammar. He wants to strip away the false problem of inner/outer, but he doesn't want to leave you with only an inner or only an outer. What he leaves is not a riddle; its an enlightenment. Both inner and outer are the same sort of thing, neither being its belonging.

From Zettel

"And this too could be said: Someone who THINKS as he works will intersperse his work with AUXILIARY ACTIVITIES.  The word ‘thinking’ does not now mean these auxiliary activities, just as thinking is not talking either. Although the concept ‘thinking’ is formed on the model of a kind of imaginary auxiliary activity. (Just as we might say that the concept of the differential quotient is formed on the model of a kind of ideal quotient).
 
These auxiliary activities are not the thinking; but one imagines thinking as the stream which must be flowing under the surface of these expedients, if they are not after all to be mere mechanical procedures. Zettel(100-30), from Kenny’s W-reader, 131.

 
‘Thinking is a mental activity’ – Thinking is NOT a bodily activity. Is thinking an activity? Well, one may tell someone: ‘Think it over.’ But if someone in obeying this order talks to himself or even to someone else, does he then carry out TWO activities? Zettel (100-30), from Kenny’s W-reader, 133.
 
(You will note this is why W takes pains to deny he is a behaviorist. Precisely because of the way this tightrope must be walked)


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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #1281 is a reply to message #1268] Fri, 25 September 2009 13:30 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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... here's a good part of the Blue Book that completes the quote.  

After being critical of thoughts as an ethereal sort of thing (the occult appearance), he then ridicules the Tractarian way of trying to connect thoughts as a picture of reality.  He writes:

“We could perfectly well, for our purposes, replace every process of imagining by a process of looking at an object or painting, drawing or modelling; and every process of speaking to oneself by speaking aloud or by writing.
Frege ridiculed the formalist conception of mathematics by saying that the formalists confused the unimportant thing, the sign, with the important, the meaning. Surely, one wishes to say, mathematics does not treat of dashes on a bit of paper. Frege's idea could be expressed thus: the propositions of mathematics, if they were just complexes of dashes, would be dead and utterly uninteresting, whereas they obviously have a kind of life. And the same, of course, could be said of any proposition: Without a sense, or without the thought, a proposition would be an utterly dead and trivial thing. And further it seems clear that no addition of inorganic signs can make the proposition live. And the conclusion which one draws from this is that what must be added to the dead signs in order to make a live proposition is something immaterial, with properties different from all mere signs.
But if we had to name anything which is the life of the sign, we should have to say that it was its USE.” [BB, p. 4]. 

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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #1285 is a reply to message #1281] Fri, 25 September 2009 14:03 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
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--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@...> wrote:
>
> But if we had to name anything which is the life of the sign, we should have to say that it was its USE.” [BB, p. 4]. 
>

Is the above text (from the Blue Book) referencing the use aspect or the saying? Here is why I'm asking:

On the face of it this reads as if it is actually supportive of a Behaviorist interpretation, i.e., there is no meaning to be found in the brain or anywhere, only the use, what we do with the signs and, perhaps, what the brain does that underlies what we do (enabling us to effect a use). (Glen and Gerardo's argument for mental phenomena as covert behavior?)

But another reading is possible, i.e., that while we realize that there is some mental event going on, there is no way to say anything about it in any ordinary way (not a something but not a nothing either!) so that, when we try, we end up getting jumbled up in language mistakes.

The first reading seems to support Behaviorism. The second, while not inconsistent with Behaviorism (which may cause Glen to rejoice), suggests that we cannot hope to give a complete picture of such internal goings on anymore than we can do so via an approach which looks for the essence of things, the meanings of terms, in some supposed mental place.

In the second reading we focus on the possibilities of speaking clearly and meaningfully about the phenomenon in question while the first reading seems to lead us to be satisfied with simply replacing "meaning" with the more behavioral term "use".

One of Wittgenstein's great insights, I think, was his recognition that language is largely behavioral. But he does not, in his remarks, generally seem to lose sight of the inner aspect of thinking and experiencing, even if he often calls to our attention the inadequacies of certain fairly common attempts to characterize this in language.

SWM



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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #1288 is a reply to message #1285] Fri, 25 September 2009 14:42 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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(reply to Stuart)

Meaning as use is being meant in the passage as a compromise between two pictures. One is thought as a sort of "occult" or ethereal substance (the little man in the head). The other is thought as behavior only (as automation). The middle position is that thoughts amount to DEPLOYMENT. The meaning is the PLAY in the game. The action of language is in the "field of play," so to speak.

Here's the point: it isn't what the body is doing that is central; it is what the mind does with the idea when using it. Wittgenstein does not deny that the mind must provide life to words. It's just that the process of providing life is a kind of "brain behavior." This is an intermediary position.

So the point is not to think, "what is the nature of justice" (or mind) - as Plato would have asked -- but rather to ask what the expression doing in your lexicon when you deploy it. Meaning is linguistically archealogical. It means what it is doing. Whatever signature it leaves "on the ground" is its meaning.

I want to say this: language is as language does. And how language does this is a function of grammar. And grammar entails social learning and cognition.


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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein and "Brain Scripts" [message #1311 is a reply to message #1288] Sat, 26 September 2009 11:06 Go to previous message
iro3isdx is currently offline  iro3isdx
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--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "seanwilsonorg" <whoooo26505@...> wrote:


> I want to say this: language is as language does. And how language
> does this is a function of grammar. And grammar entails social
> learning and cognition.


It's that word "grammar" that puzzles me. It seems to me that when you
say "And how language does this is a function of grammar", what you
really mean is "we haven't a clue as to how language does this, so let's
attach the label 'grammar' so that we can pretend that we do understand
it."



> And grammar entails social learning and cognition.


I can agree that social learning is involved with natural language,
though it seems strange to describe that as an entailment of grammar.
But I don't know about the entails cognition part.What does that even
mean? To me, cognition is a rather vague word. I use that word from
time to time, and its vagueness suits my use well. But if it is vague,
I'm wondering how it can be an entailment.


Perhaps I am just confused by the use of the word "grammar" by
Wittgensteinians. We have these things called computer languages, of
which C++ is one, and Kirby's favorite appears to be python. These
computer languages have something associated with them that is called
"grammar". And that grammar is actually describable in specific terms.
Moreover, the compilers for that computer language seem to be able to
use the computer language while having no social learning skills and no
cognition. Moreover, it seems to me that Chomskyans are often using the
term "grammar" in very much the same way that it is used with respect to
computer languages.


I guess I need some clarification about what is grammar.


Regards,
Neil



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