Wittgenstein and Philosophy of Language

This page discusses works that relate to Wittgenstein's influence on contemporary philosophy of language (and they are not discussed in any other page of the wiki).

Harré Rom, `What makes language possible? Ethological foundationism in Reid and Wittgenstein’. Review of Metaphysics 50 483 – 498. With D. N. Robinson. (1997).

Brief Discussion
From their abstract: 'Thomas Reid in the eighteenth century and Ludwig Wittgenstein in the twentieth made strong cases for the existence of "communication systems" that must be in place if there is to be the acquisition of any language; language in the full sense of a system of words, displaying distinctions into word classes and ordered by a grammar that is sensitive to those word classes. Although their pre-languages have something of the character of language proper, Reid and Wittgenstein offer a very different conception of the necessary conditions for the existence of language from that proposed by Chomsky, much criticized for its implausible cognitivism. (For a recent and devastating criticism see Malcolm.(1)) In this paper we compare and contrast Reidian and Wittgensteinian conceptions of what there must be for language to be possible, and draw some morals for the vexed, but in our view, empty question of the demarcation of language from all other intentional and normative systems in use amongst people and animals'.

Goldstein, Laurence, 'A Wittgensteinian (not Gricean) Approach to Substitutivity Puzzles', in R. Haller and K. Puhl (eds), Wittgenstein and the Future of Philosophy: A Re-assessment after 50 years (Vienna, obv & hpt, 2002), pp.99-111.

Brief Discussion
In apparent defiance of Leibniz’s Law, there appear to be some contexts F(….) such that, though a=b, ‘Fa’ and ‘Fb’ differ in truth-value. There are two standard types of approach to this problem. Direct reference theorists tend to say that the apparent difference in truth-value of ‘Fa’ and ‘Fb’ is only apparent and that pragmatic considerations explain why we tend to make incorrect truth-value assignments. The other approach is to say that, in certain contexts, a referring expression does not stand for its normal referent, but for something else (in Frege’s version, for its sense). Both of these approaches face insuperable difficulties which, I argue, a third, Wittgensteinian alternative avoids.

Goldstein, Laurence, "The main mistake made by philosophers of the present generation" in K.J.J. Hintikka and K. Puhl (eds.), The British Tradition in Twentieth Century Philosophy (Verlag Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1995), pp.171-186.

Brief Discussion
The main mistake that Wittgenstein believed his philosophical contemporaries (including Moore) to have made was to look at language as a form of words, disregarding the use that speakers make of those words. Correcting that mistake produces pragmatics and suggests various lines of enquiry where philosophy intersects with empirical work on language development

Goldstein, Laurence, 'Wittgenstein and Meaning-Acquisition', in R. Casati, B. Smith and G. White (eds.), Philosophy and the Cognitive Sciences (Vienna, Verlag Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1993), pp.169-174.

Brief Discussion
If, as Wittgenstein avers, meaning is use, and our use of words develops between our earliest infant utterances and our fully fledged mastery of language, then we should get an insight into meaning and the acquisition of language by studying, for example, how the use of the word ‘mama’ changes during the course of a child’s linguistic development.

Goldstein, Laurence, 'A Wittgensteinian Modification of an Austinian Purification’, in
W. Leinfellner et al. (edd.), Wittgenstein and his Impact on Contemporary Thought (Vienna, Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1978), pp.279-283.

Brief Discussion
The correspondence theory of truth that Austin proposed in 1950 (Strawson described it as a ‘purified’ version of the correspondence theory) invokes a relation between sentences and states of affairs or facts. This has been condemned as ontologically suspect. Although states of affairs (Tatsache) are part of the Tractatus ontology, the Tractarian theory of truth is ontologically more parsimonious than Austin’s.

Wright, Crispin, 'Critical Notice: Wittgenstein on Meaning by Colin McGinn', Mind, New Series, Vol. 98, No. 390 (Apr., 1989), pp. 289-305.

Brief Discussion
Wright discusses McGinn's book and especially the polemical arguments advanced by it against Kripke's interpretation. Even though Wright thinks that McGinn's book does identify some shortcomings in Kripke's arguments, he criticises McGinn for not paying enough attention to Wittgenstein's first person epistemology of intentional states as well as downplaying important aspects of Wittgenstein's philosophy.

Lawn, Chris , Wittgenstein and Gadamer: Towards a Post-Analytic Philosophy of Language, London and New York: Continuum, (2004). ISBN 0-8264-7529-9 and ISBN 0-8264-9377-7. pp. 159.

Capone, Alessandro, ed., Perspectives on language use and pragmatics: A volume in memory of Sorin Stati, LINCOM Studies in Pragmatics 16, 332pp., ISBN 978 3 929075 72 4.

Brief Description:
This volume is written in memory of Sorin Stati. The authors of this volume mainly deal with perspectives on
language use and pragmatics. Each of them has his/her own approach, so the volume should not be taken as
representing a single school of thought. Of course, the ideas expressed in all of the articles are reminiscent of
Wittgenstein's position which privileged meaning as use. We use language to do many things, to give and to obtain, to persuade and to order, to interact and create human bonds.Words and sentences acquire meaning in context, thus a decontextualized approach must be delegitimized. What the authors in this collection do is to place emphasis on the power of context and cotext to create meaning through myriad relations among the constituents of sentences, and among utterances themselves, which are arranged in discourse following an argumentative logic.
Authors: Henriette Walter, Jeanne Martinet, Milena Srpová, Frans H. van Eemeren, Bart Garssen, Catherine Kerbrat-Orecchioni, Marcelo Dascal, Fabio Paglieri, Cristiano Castelfranchi, Cornelia Ilie, Alessandro Capone, Dorota Zielinska, Maria HelenaAraújo Carreira Jacques Moeschler, Daniela Pirazzini, Bernard Pottier, Michael Metzeltin, Larissa A. Drechsler, Franco Lo Piparo, Henriette Walter, Harro Stammerjohann, Jacob L. Mey, Jackie Schön.

Piparo, Franco Lo, 2010, "Gramsci and Wittgenstein: an intriguing connection", in: Capone, A., Ed. 2010. Perspectives on language use and pragmatics. Lincom, Muenchen.

Harrison, Bernard, and Hanna, Patricia, World and World: Practice and the Foundations of Language, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2004), pp.xiv+408. ISBN 10: 0521537444 / 0-521-53744-4
ISBN 13: 9780521537445

Brief Description
Proposing a new account of the nature of language, founded upon an original interpretation of Wittgenstein, Patricia Hanna and Bernard Harrison deny the existence of a direct referential relationship between words and things. The link between language and world is a two-stage one, in which meaning is used and in which a natural language should be understood as fundamentally a collection of socially devised and maintained practices. Arguing against the philosophical mainstream descending from Frege and Russell to Quine, Davidson, Dummett, McDowell, Evans, Putnam, Kripke and others, the authors demonstrate that discarding the notion of reference does not entail relativism or semantic nihilism.

Harrison, Bernard, "Truth, Yardsticks and Language-Games", PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS, v.19, no.2, April 1996, 105-130.
Brief Description provided by the author:
The paper spells out the exegetical basis for the thesis I made use of in my paper to the British Wittgenstein Society's conference in June 2010 [you can watch the video on line at the BWS website], that the intended role of practices, or language-games in late Wittgenstein is not to provide a (basically verificationist) alternative to the Fregean doctrine that the concept of meaning is to be analysed in terms of that of truth, but rather to provide a way, hostile to verificationism, of developing the implications of that doctrine. The basic thought I find in late Wittgenstein — his basic move in giving a decidedly new twist to 'the great works of Frege' — is that the assertoric force, and thus the truth-conditions, of a sentential sign cannot be established by correlating its component non-syncategorematic signs with 'referents', in the shape of elements or aspects of experience, but only by specifying the 'place' or 'role' to be occupied, or played, by the
sentential sign, in some practice, which in turn operates in determinate ways on the world given to us in sensation. The implications, for the philosophy of language, of this vision of what the post-Tractarian Wittgenstein was up to is then worked out in detail, by Pat Hanna and myself, in the book: World and World: Practice and the Foundations of Language, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2004), which is thus also essentially concerned with Wittgenstein, even though its motto is Wittgenstein's "I would not wish my work to save other people the trouble of thinking for themselves"!

Michael Kober, Bedeutung und Verstehen, Grundlegung einer allgemeinen Theorie sprachlicher Kommu­ni­kation, Paderborn: mentis 2002.

This book is mainly on Davidson’s and Searle’s philosophy of language, but explains the constitution of meaningful utterances and their understanding within communication from a Wittgensteinian perspective.

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