#107 | Main | Ill.

May 20, 2005


"120. When I talk about language (words, sentences, etc.) I must speak the language of every day. Is this language somehow too coarse and material for what we want to say? Then how is another one to be constructed?--And how strange that we should be able to do anything at all with the one we have!

In giving explanations I already have to use language full-blown (not some sort of preparatory, provisional one); this by itself shews that I can adduce only exterior facts about language.

Yes, but then how can these explanations satisfy us?--Well, your very questions were framed in this language; they had to be expressed in this language, if there was anything to ask!

And your scruples are misunderstandings.

Your questions refer to words; so I have to talk about words.

You say: the point isn't the word, but its meaning, and you think of the meaning as a thing of the same kind as the word, though also different from the word. Here the word, there the meaning. The money, and the cow that you can buy with it. (But contrast: money, and its use.)"

-from Philosophical Investigations

Much of what I might say about this passage I have already said, in the discussion of passage #107.

This passage illustrates well the combination of philosophical argumentation and literary affectations (so to speak) that was the style of most of Wittgenstein's later writing. Two points especially stand out here. First, this passage seems representative of the explanation put forth by Cavell, that these "debates" between two nondescript people are really descriptions of Wittgenstein's internal debates on the topics. "And your scruples are misunderstandings." These are the words of an older and more mature Wittgenstein looking at the work of his youth and shaking his head in dismay.

Travel-Money.jpgSecond, the comparison of words to money is intriguing. As has become more and more apparent with the globalization of economies, money's true value is not the amount of gold for which it can be exchanged. Nor is it necessarily dependent on the backing of a government (though this often helps). It is, rather, a function of the ability of the money to be used effectively in trade. A dollar is worth a lot when (many) people think it is worth a lot.

An interesting question is how the comparison holds up for, say, rare collectible coins. They cannot be spent at Target, but if you go to the right person you can get a great deal in exchange for them. The analogies that come to mind: dead languages, coded languages. (You cannot use Morse code at Target, either, except under the strangest of circumstances.)

Posted by tiet0024 at May 20, 2005 7:42 PM | Investigations


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Posted by: ...- at May 20, 2005 11:59 PM

I asked you in the comment part of one of my journal entries, but I will ask again.

What do you think about the relationship between Chomsky's theory of an innate universal grammar, and Wittgenstein's thoughts on meaning and language use?

I am reading Chomsky and he currently is "pessimistic" about the prospects of examining use (performance) in terms of cognitive science (whereas he thinks our competence can be studied as an object of natural science).

I am also reading an interesting article where the author brings up the question of whether Wittgenstein and Chomsky are truly mutually exclusive. He comes to the conclusion that perhaps they just both have incomplete views and that they are perhaps not as exclusive as one might think (that is, not as exclusive as Chomsky is with the ways in which philosophers like Dummett, Putnam, Rorty and Kripke have developed upon Wittgensteinian ideas):


Posted by: Shane at May 23, 2005 5:55 PM

Sorry for the delay. Apparently I am a particularly frail human, as it took me a long time to get over this little illness.

See the entry for #124 for my response.

Posted by: tiet0024 at May 29, 2005 1:11 PM

Wonderful post. I learned many interesting things. Thank you)

Posted by: Spencer at September 8, 2011 5:31 AM