The in ternal structure of an argumentative social

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the in - ternal structure of an argumentative social practice, because it is a feature of such practices that an interpretive claim is not just a claim about what other interpreters thi^. Social practices are composed, of course, of individual acts. Many of these acts aim at communication and so invite the ques - tion, What did he mean by that? or Why did he say it Just then? If one person in the community of courtesy tells another that the institution requires taking off one s hat to superiors, it makes perfect sense to ask these questions, and answering them would mean trying to understand him in Thejamiliar way of conversational interpretatio ii/But a so - cial practice^creates and^ssumes a crucial distinction be- tween interpreting the acts and thoughts of participants one jby one, in that way, and interpreting the practice itself, that is, interpreting what they do collectively, dt assumes that distihctTon because the claims and arguments participants make, licensed and encouraged by the practice, are about what it me ans, not what they mean. That distinction wbuldibe unimportant for practical pur - poses if the participants in a practice always agreed about the best interpretation of it. But they do not agree, at least in detail, when the interpretive attitude is lively. They must, to be sure, agree about a great deal in order to share a social practice. They must share a vocabulary: they must have in mind much the same thing when they mention hats or re - quirements. They must understand the world in sufficiently similar ways and have interests and convictions sufficiently similar to recognize the sense in each other s claims, to treat these as claims rather than just noises. That means not just using the same dictionary, but sharing what Wittgenstein called a form of life sufficiently concrete so that the one can recognize sense and purpose in what the other says and does.
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64 INTERPRETIVE CONCEPTS see what sort of beliefs and motives would make sense of his diction, gesture, tone, and so forth. They must all speak the same language in both senses of that phrase. But this simi- larity of interests and convictions need hold only to a point: it must be sufficiently dense to permit genuine disagreement, but not so dense that disagreement cannot break out. So each of the participants in a social practice must dis- tinguish between trying to decide what other members of his community think the practice requires and trying to decide, for himself, what it really requiresJSince these are different questions, the interpretive methods he uses to answer the latter question cannot be the methods of conversational in - terpretation, addressed to individuals one by one, that he would use to answer the former. A social scientist who offers to interpret the practice must make the same distinction. He can, if he wishes, undertake only to report the various opin - ions different individuals in the community have about what the practice demands. But that would not constitute an interpretation
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