Phil 264 - Wittgenstein

Phil 264 - Wittgenstein - Wittgenstein's Philosophical...

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Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations (1953) The Significance of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations : Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations contains a number of significant philosophical claims. We will be focusing on three of these. Claim 1: "Thing theories" of meaning are misguided. It is a mistake to suppose that the meaning of a word is nothing more nor less than what it refers to. Specifically, it is a mistake to suppose (with St. Augustine) that the meaning of a word is the entity, in the world, that it names. It also a mistake to suppose (with John Locke) that the meaning of a word is the idea, in the mind of the speaker, that it names. The first view is undermined by that fact that there are meaningful words that name nothing in the world. The second view is undermined by the "private language argument." (See below for details.) Claim 2: Word meaning is best understood in terms of the notion of use , rather than in terms of the notion of naming . Generally speaking, the meaning of a word is nothing more nor less than its use in various contexts. On this sort of picture, knowing the meaning of a word is not a matter of knowing the "thing" (whether a physical object or an idea) that it names; knowing the meaning of a word is knowing how to use that word in various contexts. (To appreciate the intuitive plausibility of Wittgenstein's claim, think about the sorts of circumstances that would lead you to conclude that a fellow speaker doesn't know the meaning of some word.) Claim 3: The job of the philosopher is to dissolve rather than solve philosophical problems. Philosophical problems are, in an important sense, spurious . They arise because of the "bewitchment of our intelligence by language." More specifically, philosophers get hold of ordinary everyday expressions such as "certainty" and "free will" and then ask apparently deep questions like, Can we ever be certain of anything? Do we have free will , or are all of our actions determined by antecedent conditions over which we have no control? What the philosopher fails to realize, according to Wittgenstein, is that these questions involve misconstruing the ordinary everyday meanings of the key phrases - i.e., certainty and free will . Given the view that the meaning of a word is a matter of how it is used in the linguistic community, one can see that the philosophers' questions are the result of linguistic confusion. Just consider how the concept of "certainty" is ordinarily used among the community of English speakers. Given the ordinary everyday use of that concept, it is uncontroversial that we are, in fact, "certain" of many things. E.g., I am certain that this is a hand-out on Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations . In contrast,
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Phil 264 - Wittgenstein - Wittgenstein's Philosophical...

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