Elucidations: Prev Next

Augustinian picture of how we learn language

  • Wittgenstein opens PI Augustine’s picture:
    • Common sense description: words name objects, sentences are combinations of such names
    • Every word has a correlated meaning which is the object for which the word stands.
      • Problem: what object does the word ‘and’ stand for?

Is Philosophical Investigations criticizing this picture?

  • Standard thought is this picture is the main object of criticism of PI
    • Gustafsson thinks this is making too much philosophy out of the Augustinian
      • (in fact, Augstine himself doesn’t subscribe to the philosophical implications commonly attributed to the passage)
  • This simple picture is attractive and can be applied in good ways or bad ways.
    • Pictures for Wittgenstein operate on a primative level, can’t say they’re right or wrong.
      • Wittgenstein in Foundations of Mathematics: “We don’t judge the picture but we judge by means of the picture.”
    • They are prototheories / paradigms that are bad if cut from their useful applications.
      • e.g. Start looking for the correlate of the word red, postulate Platonic forms and get philosophical confusion
    • Cannot be argued against because counterexamples can be absorbed by a picture, which can be elaborated upon
      • The closer the picture is to a fully fleshed out theory, the harder (more artificial-seeming) this becomes.

Is Wittgenstein criticizing Plato?

  • If Wittgenstein is not strictly criticizing Augustine, is he at least criticizing Plato?
    • Wittgenstein quotes Theatetus picture of language: Socrates is presenting something he has heard and he concludes we don’t really understand it.
    • Wittgenstein considers himself in a common struggle with Plato and Augustine. He is attracted by these pictures but is trying to overcome them, just like Plato and Augustine.
      • If Wittgenstein is documenting his personal struggles, then what philosophical value is there? Is it just of autobiographical interest?
        • There are many levels of PI - he provides arguments and uncovers paradoxes.
        • Is he merely providing more details to the pictures in order to try to avoid the counterexamples/paradoxes? Is he trying to get rid of pictures altogether? Experts are divided.
          • Some say ‘meaning as use’ is a picture, one he thinks is less harmful than augustinian view
        • He doesn’t really want to construct theories, but rather wants philosophical peace / quietism.

More potentially harmful pictures

  • thinking as something that goes on inside your head
  • regarding infinity as merely something very large