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Following a Rule 1 The Skeptical Paradox Kripke, S.,1982, Wittgenstein on Rule and Private Language, Harvard University Press
McGinn, M., 1997, Wittgenstein and the Philosophical Investigations, Routledge
this was our paradox: no course of action could be determined by a rule, because every course of action can be made out to accord with the rule. (PI: # 201) 2 E.g.: plus (+) and quus (⊕). When we are asked to add two numbers we do it on the basis of our past intention that constitutes our understanding of the rule governing the addition. That is, my past intention regarding addition should determine a unique answer for indefinitely many new cases in the future. 3 There is, though, nothing to rule out my intention to use another function, say quus, i.e.: x ⊕ y = x + y, if x, y < 57 = 5 otherwise 4 The sceptic doubts whether any instruction I gave myself in the past justify to answer ‘125’ to the question ‘68 + 57 = ?’ rather than ‘5’.
This, then, is the sceptical paradox. When I respond in one way rather than another to such a problem as “68 + 57”, I can have no justification for one response rather than another. Since the sceptic who supposes that I meant quus cannot be answered, there is no fact about me that distinguishes between my meaning plus and my meaning quus. Indeed, there is no fact about me that distinguishes between my meaning a definite function by “plus” (which determines new responses in new cases) and my meaning nothing at all. (Kripke 1982: 21)
5 Kripke’s reconstruction of the sceptical paradox is committed to:
1. The indeterminacy of understanding Since language is a rulegoverned practice the sceptical paradox can affect our linguistic practice. 6 2. Rules are constitutive and normative The normative power of a rule is an intrinsic part of their nature. 7 Hacker & Baker reject this interpretation: Rules supervene on our behaviour. As such they are normative but not constitutive. Chomsky/Pinker/Fodor/… idea that linguistic rules are mental and innate goes against the view that they are normative. 8 Understanding is a mix of propositional knowledge (knowing that) and practical knowledge (knowing how). The sceptical paradox rests on the possible gap between the intellectual grasping of a rule (knowing that) and its (future) application (knowing how). 9 General considerations
The paradox applies first of all to the notion of rule following. It is only in exploiting the presupposition that language is a praxis governed by rules that the paradox expands to the general notion of language comprehension and on all action aiming to signify something.
This view of language contrasts with Chomsky’s notion of Ilanguage.
10 Radical scepticism
The gap between a rule and the action of following a rule seems unbridgeable. It is thus logically possible that one never follows a rule, i.e. that one acts at random and yet one’s behaviour fits the rule. 11 General Moral
It becomes difficult, even impossible, to distinguish between the case when one is following a rule and the case when one is not following a rule. For, each behaviour could fit infinitely many rules. 12 Kripke’s Solution of the Sceptical Paradox (Kripkenstein) Kripke: Wittgenstein’s solution to the sceptical paradox contains the argument against the private language argument, for the solution will not admit such a language. 13 Wittgenstein gives a sceptical solution:
A sceptical solution of a sceptical philosophical problem begins … by conceding that the sceptic’s negative assertions are unanswerable. Nevertheless our ordinary practice or belief is justified because … it need not require the justification the sceptic has shown to be untenable. (Kripke 1982: 66) 14 Communitarian Conception
The sceptical solution does not allow us to consider an individual in isolation. As such, this solution underlines the impossibility of a private language. This solution goes hand in hand with Wittgenstein’s rejection of the classical view which bases a theory of meaning on truth
15 In the Tractatus: a declarative sentence gets its meaning by virtue of its truth conditions
I.e. by virtue of its correspondence to facts that must obtain if it is true). 16 The second Wittgenstein accepts the redundancy theory of truth: “p” is true = p.
Wittgenstein replaces the question, “What must be the case for this sentence to be true?” by two others: first, “Under what conditions may this form of words be appropriately asserted (or denied)?”; second, given an answer to the first question, “What is the role, and the utility, in our lives of our practice of asserting (or denying) the form of words under these conditions?” (Kripke 1982: 73) 17 Assertability Conditions
Wittgenstein’s picture of language is not based on truth condition, but on assertability conditions. (Cf. the positivist verification theory of meaning). 18 This contrasts, for instance, both with the Augustinian picture and Platonism in mathematics. Wittgenstein, like the nominalists, suggests that instead of positing entities as the referents of numbers we look at the circumstances under which numerical assertions are actually uttered, and at what role such assertions play in our lives..
19 Assertability conditions involve reference to a community
Since they are inapplicable to a single agent in isolation, Wittgenstein rejects the private language argument. 20 A sceptical problem is posed, and a sceptical solution to that problem is given. The solution turns on the idea that each person who claims to be following a rule can be checked by others. Others in the community can check whether the putative rule follower is or is not giving particular responses to that they endorse, that agree with their own. (Kripke 1982: 101) 21 The solution rests on three key concepts: 1. agreement 2. form of life
what has to be accepted, the given, is the form of life. (PI: 226) 3. criteria an ‘inner process’ stands in need of outward criteria. (PI: # 580)
22 Since rules are norms, then:
the normative element (i.e. the distinction between a correct and incorrect use of a word or application of a rule) (i) is an essential part of our ordinary concept of meaning or rulefollowing and (ii) it enters into the picture when we consider the individual in relation to a community of speakers.
23 Why is it a sceptical solution?
It leaves the sceptical paradox as it stands, i.e. it does not propose a direct answer to the paradox. That is to say, it does not rely on an objective fact the sceptic may have ignored. 24 Main advantage of the sceptical solution
While the sceptical paradox forced us to give an objective solution of semantic competence, a semantic based on assertability conditions stresses the fact that semantic competence rests, at least partly, on intersubjective factors. 25 General moral
Semantics competence does not merely rest on objective facts belonging to the speaker’s individual psychology. It also rests on the audience judging the speaker’s competence. This goes hand in hand with the argument against the possibility of a private language.
26 General Criticism of Kripke’s Interpretation Kripke takes Wittgenstein as offering a constructive philosophical picture on how meaning and understanding are possible. Wittgenstein, though, does not take philosophy to embody a particular doctrine. So a philosopher can make no substantial claim. Philosophy is a mere therapy.
27 The connection between a rule and a practice that Wittgenstein proposes is not put forth as a philosophical analysis of the concept of ‘a rule’. It is merely intended to describe what can be observed in our language games.
Following a rule is a analogous to obeying and order. We are trained to do so; we react to an order in a particular way. (PI: # 206)
28 Rules and Understanding Four thesis can be ascribed to Wittgenstein—
tree negative and one positive (see Colin McGinn 1984, Wittgenstein on Meaning, Blackwell)
1. To mean something by a sign is not the subject of an inner state or process
This goes hand in hand with the idea that understanding is not a mental process, i.e. that meaning something consists in certain conscious or experiential state and processes.
29 2. To understand a sign is not to interpret it in a particular way
This goes with the view that understanding cannot be reduced to a kind of propositional knowledge (knowing that). It mainly corresponds to a knowing how activity, a practical knowledge. 30 3. Using a sign in accordance with a rule is not founded upon reasons
It is not sufficient for a sign to possess a particular meaning that some item come before one’s mind.
One follows a rule blindly, without interpreting it: ‘When I obey a rule I do not choose. I obey the rule blindly.’ (PI: # 219)
31 4. To understand a sign is to have mastery of a technique or custom of using it
Understanding is a practice. As such:
(i) understanding is manifested in a behaviour/activity, (ii) understanding qua practice must be repeatable, and (iii) understanding is closely related to the circumstances in which the activity occurs.
32 General moral
Meaning is use (Wittgenstein) and a theory of meaning is a theory of understanding (Dummett). Use occurs in a language, thus in a language game. 33 The notion of language game rests on a system of rules. Rules determine the game and depend on a community playing that game. Hence, if meaning is use in a language game and a theory of meaning is a theory of understanding, understanding ultimately rests on an intersubjective activity.
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