Wittgenstein Dictionary Project |
This dictionary project is very provisional, and very unusual in its
form. It is built around terms that I have used in the Wittgenstein
webbook at http://www.dnai.com/~rathbone/lwtoc.htm
Rather than confine myself to giving literary definitions of terms
that LW used, I have sometimes made up terms to refer to recurring
concepts, concepts that Wittgenstein uses with different words at
different times. The concepts themselves are to be referenced often
by links to the original text.
aporia - Wonder and amazement
before the confusing puzzles and paradoxes of our lives and of the
universe. Socrates and the other ancient philosophers tried to evoke the
philosophic spirit in young men by awakening their aporia, not by simply
providing answers to these puzzles. The aporetic voice is the voice that
expresses wonder and perplexity.
Assimilating uses to a
description - finding a creative way to describe diverse things under the
same label. For example, consider saying everything is "star" and compare
this with saying everything is "water" and saying everything is "mind."
Notice the different techniques that are used to "assimilate uses to a
Everything is star: The universe began with the big bang explosion that left
a sort of dust and this dust is simply star dust. Everything made of it is
star. Thre is no other kind of component for anything. Therefore,
everything is star.
Everything is "water": Water is just the fluid movement of molecules.
H2O is just one form of water. Sometimes water is
frozen and becomes ice, but ice is just one particular state of water.
Everything is "mind": There is nothing outside of consciousness, or if it is,
consciousness will never know of it. And if consciousness does not know of
it, it does not exist. Therefore, if something exists it exists as a
component of mind, of subjectivity, of experiential consciousness and that means
that al we have, the only that exists, is "mind."
LW introduces the notion of assimilating uses to a description in (10, 14)
Augustine - LW begins the first aphorism in the
Philosohical Investigations by quoting Augustine saying that he learned language
by people pointing to objects and naming them. Somehow, he grasped their
meaning. This becomes the embodiment of a position that LW proceeds to
deconstruct. We will often call this "Augustine's picture of
languge" but Wittgenstein makes it clear that it is a widespread picture in
The Augustinian voice. This is not
Wittgenstein's phrase, although he does speak of Augustine. Throughout the
Philosophical Investigations, however, Wittgenstein discusses things with an
imaginary interlocutor that expresses the picture of language that Augustine
does. Sometimes this interlocutor takes on a more modern argument,
reminiscent of early Wittgentstein's own writing (which Wittgenstein admits) in
his early work, the Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus. When this happens, it
is really inaccurate to attribute all these ideas to Augustine. Besides,
these ideas probably germinated in Greek philosophy. Probably it was Plato
who is the most significant figure in their germination. Still, in this
web-book, the voice of the interlocutor will be called the "Augustinian Voice."
The Augustinian voice is typically in quotes and typically begins an aphorism
in a way that frames the remarks to follow. However, I urge you not to
count on this superficial criteria for determining whether the Augustinian voice
is speaking. Intead, look for any self-confident comment that Wittgenstein
aporetic voice - What we are calling the
aporetic voice in this book is a voice that questions and puzzles, expresses
perplexity and points to contradictions.
Disorderliness of language -
explanation versus training -
It is easy to imagine that the only way to learn language is by having
concepts explained to us -- but, of course, concepts cannot be explained before
we have language to use for the explanation. "Training" is the concept
Wittgenstein introduces for teaching that is prepatory for being able to
understand explanations. This concept is introduces in (5)
family resemblance - 67
Form of life - One of the key concepts in
Wittgenstein is the concept of a "form of life." It is the concept here as
much as the term that is important. It is introduced as a concept without
the label "form of life" in aphorism (6). Here he is
showing us that the children in (2) not only learned to
say the names of objects but they associated the saying of the name of objects
with certain action. (see 19)
fly-bottle - 309. "What is your aim in
philosophy?-To shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle." The fly bottle
represents the invisible barriers to our understanding.
Illusions about language - We
are tempted to say that "slab" is a shortened form of "Bring me a slab."
But why not say, that "Bring me a slab is a shortened form of "slab!" (19)
pointing as an explanation - (28, 29, 30)
Language game - a language game is a key
technical expression in Wittgenstein.
For an indepth discussion of this
here. Wittgenstein introduces the term language-game in
(7) although he
introduced the first example of a primitive language game in (2).
language games are models of how language might be thught of working in the
simplest of ways, often in ways in which our cultural theories say they do in
fact work. These models are introduced so we can reflect on them and
explore their limitations for explaining a full language such as English or
meaning - (and use) - see 21
multiplicity of language
games - 23, 24
Noticing the different ways that
words are used - Wittgenstein repeatedly notices the different ways that
words are used. (see
35 , footnote
Ostensive definition - An ostensive
definition is a way of defining a term by pointing to its referent. "'What
is a gato?' I say to my Spanish speaking friend and he points to a cat and says,
"This is a gato." That would be an ostensive definition of "gato."
See 25 -32
problems arising when language goes on holiday.
pictures before the mind - the
Augustinian notion of language seems to involve pictures coming before the mind
as we speak. These pictures help us understand what is being said to
us. LW begins deconstructing the idea that language must work this way in
(6). In 20, he talks about our
way to imagine that things hover unconsciously in the mind. (36)
Preparing a place for a name
concept LW introduces in 31 32.
Say what you choose - 79
signification - LW deconstructs the notion
of signification in language theory starting in aphorism (10).
subliming the logic of
language - (38)
on holiday (94)
Surface grammar and depth grammar -
The sentence, "Would you bring me a cup of coffee?" spoken in a restaurant
to a waiter has the surface grammar of a question. The depth grammar is
more of a request or a command.
The terms distinguishing surface and depth grammar are not introduced until
however the concepts that prepare the way for this understanding are introduced
in (4). Also see
Wittgenstein's first voice -
Wittgenstein often speaks the voice of the interlocutor so it sounds like he is
arguing with himself. In this (Shawver) commentary, this voice is called
the "first voice." It is represented at times by Wittgenstein's own early
work in the Tractatus. This voice is often in quotes and it is sometimes
represented by actual quotes of others.
Wittgenstein's second voice
- (as defined in this Shawver commentary) is the voice of aporia.
Wittggenstein uses this voice to express dilemmas, puzzles, muddles and doubt.
Wittgenstein's third voice (new,
clarifying, deconstructive, etc.) voice - The third voice you will find
in the Philosophical Investigations we will call "Wittgenstein's voice,"
although for clarity one or another modifiers might be used to portray this
voice with the way it works in a particular context.
breaking nature at its joints
- this is one of the generative ideas through the centuries that
Wittgenstein struggles with. It was can be traced back to a statement of
Socrates in Plato's dialogue, the Phaedrus. Click here and
scroll down the text until you reach passage 265e.
122. A main source of our failure to understand is that we do
not command a clear view of the use of our words.-Our grammar is lacking in this
sort of perspicuity. A perspicuous representation
produces just that
understanding which consists in 'seeing connexions'. Hence the importance of
finding and inventing intermediate cases.
309. What is your aim in philosophy?-To
shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.
In 51, LW described the way in which we set up what
would count as an element in the colored grid. We referred to the grid as
a grid of colored squares instead of referring to it, say, as a grid of
rectangles twice as wide as they are high. This set-up he referred to in
terms of giving an "account."
LW talks about Gottlob Frege (b. 1848, d.
1925). Frege was an important logician who tried to devise ways to
describe language so there would be fewer paradoxes and confusions in our
understanding of how language worked. His work was very
influential in the development of the philosophy that LW criticizes in the
Note asserted after 22
picture representing a boxer in a particular stance. Now, this picture can be
used to tell someone how he should stand, should hold himself; or how he should
not hold himself; or how a particular man did stand in such-and-such a place;
and so on. One might (using the language of chemistry) call this picture a
proposition-radical. This will be how Frege thought of the "assumption".
664. In the use of words
one might distinguish 'surface grammar' from 'depth grammar'. What immediately
impresses itself upon us about the use of a word is the way it is used in the
construction of the sentence, the part of its use-one might say-that can be
taken in by the ear. And now compare the depth grammar, say of the word "to
mean", with what its surface grammar would lead us to suspect. No wonder we find
it difficult to know our way about.
association It strikes me that if I were TEACHING the
names of things (say pointing to pictures of animals and naming them) to a child
I would not mix this up with pointing to something blue and saying 'blue'.
It seems to me, to teach the colors, I would set up something in which that is
all we were pointing at. I would point to a blue block and say "blue" and
then I would point to a red block and I would say, "red". I would not
point to the blue block and say "blue" and then to the red block and say "block"
A useful story for studying Wittgenstein is the
story of "Judy's baby."
The story is that the Judy discovered the baby's grandmother teaching the
child to talk by pointing to a decal bear on the baby's milk cup and saying
"bear." When the baby finally said something that sounded like "bear" the
grandmother made wildly encouraging gestures and sounds.
It's a familiar story, and it it sounds a lot like the way Augustine said
that he learned language in beginning of Wittgenstein's Philosophical
Investigations. Augustine said that he
learned language by people pointing to objects while naming them as they
did. In response to their naming he said:
But Wittgenstein questioned
whether things were quite like Augustine described. Most importantly, how
did baby Augustine know what the adults were pointing to?
|I saw this and I grasped that that the thing was called by the sound
they uttered when they meant to point it out. Their intention was
shown by their bodily movements, as it were the natural language of all
It is one thing to imagine that the baby knows what you're pointing to when
you point to the live puppy and say "puppy!" But it is just inconceiveable, is
it not, that the baby knows that the grandmother is pointing to the bear on the
cup and not the cup, or to the milk, or the color of the cup, or some other
property. And, if she had been pointing to the cup itself, how would the
baby have known that? How would a baby with no language distinguish
a pointing to one thing in the cup's vacinity or another?
Still, the baby learned to say "cup." Presumably, at first, however,
the baby did not know wht this means. The baby said "cup" like a parrot
might say cup, without the term having the meaning it came to have.
This early use of language illustrates what Vygotsky called speech during the
Chimpanzoid age. The child is not yet a master of language. In the
beginning it can use language that sounds like our language but it does not yet
understand it in the way that we do.
positivist model of language as a kind of calculus has been highly influential
in the development of social science research, especially in the united
states. I have tracked the connection in:
Shawver, Lois. (1977). Research variables in psychology and the logic
of their creation. Psychiatry, 40, 1-16.
Table of Contents
Extended Look at 43