Commentary on Wittgenstein’s Brown Book (pg 171, comment #19)


Wittgenstein discusses the deceptive way in which philosophy attempts to resolve the “peculiar” way in which names designate objects.

When we think of a method of designation as the correlating of an utterance and a particular thing (or object), the use or function of the utterance is no longer a primary concern for us.  Thus for Wittgenstein’s sense of meaning as use, we lose the meaning of what we utter.

Explanatory philosophy ends up reducing or constricting the use of an expression to a non-contextual, purely grammatical, mysterious relation. The substitution terms end up forming the relation itself. One that can be applied in a number of cases, but only at the expenses of a more grounded and useful description.

Take away the reason for a particular term to belong to the category “mental events” or “intentionality” and you take away the seemingly inherent mystery or intrigue that blinded you to the term’s original use (i.e. real meaning).

Here’s Wittgenstein’s comment, with the comments above as linked footnotes so you can see what I am exactly responding to:

#19.  The danger of delusion which we are in becomes most clear if we propose to ourselves to give the aspects ‘this’ and ‘that’ names, say A and B. For we are tempted to imagine that giving a name consists in correlating in a peculiar and rather mysterious way a sound (or other sign) with something. How we can make use of this peculiar correlation then seems to be almost a secondary matter. (One could almost imagine that naming was done by a peculiar sacramental act, and that this produced some magic relation between the name and the thing.)[DP1]

But let us look at an example; consider this language game: A sends B to various houses in their town to fetch goods of various sorts from various people.  A gives B various lists.  On top of every list he puts a scribble, and B is trained to go to that house on the door of which he finds the same scribble, this is the name of the house.  In the first column of every list he then finds one or more scribbles which he has been taught to read out.  When he enters the house he calls out these words, and every inhabitant of the house has been trained to run up to him when a certain one of these sounds is called out, these sounds are the names of the people. He then addresses himself to each one of them in turn and shows to each two consecutive scribbles which stand on the list against his name. The first of these two, people of that town have been trained to associate with some particular kind of object, say, apples.  The second is one of a series of scribbles which each man carries about him on a slip of paper.  The person thus addressed fetches say, five apples.  The first scribble was the generic name of the objects required, the second, the name of their number.

What now is the relation between a name and the object named, say, the house and its name? I suppose we could give either of two answers. The one is that the relation consists in certain strokes having been painted on the door of the house.  The second answer I meant is that the relation we are now concerned with is established, not just by painting these strokes on the door, but by the particular role which they play in the practice of our language as we have been sketching it.-Again, the relation of the name of a person to the person here consists in the person having been trained to run up to someone who calls out the name; or again, we might say that it consists in this and the whole of the usage of the name in the language game.

Look into this language game and see if you can find the mysterious relation of the object and its name.-The relation of name and object we may say, consists in a scribble being written on an object (or some other such very trivial relation), and that’s all there is to it. But we are not satisfied with that, for we feel that a scribble written on an object in itself is of no importance to us, and interests us in no way. And this is true; the whole importance lies in the particular use we make of the scribble written on the object, and we, in a sense, simplify matters by saying that the name has a peculiar relation to its object, a relation other than that say, of being written on the object, or of being spoken by a person pointing to an object with his finger. A primitive philosophy condenses the whole usage of the name into the idea of a relation which thereby becomes a mysterious relation.[DP2] (Compare the ideas of mental activities, wishing, believing, thinking, etc., which for the same reason have something mysterious and inexplicable about them.)[DP3]


[DP1]When we think of a method of designation as the correlating of an utterance and a particular thing (or object), the use or function of the utterance is no longer a primary concern for us.  Thus for Wittgenstein’s sense of meaning as use, we lose the meaning of what we utter.

[DP2]Explanatory philosophy ends up reducing or constricting the use of an expression to a non-contextual, purely grammatical, mysterious relation. The substitution terms end up forming the relation itself. One that can be applied in a number of cases, but only at the expenses of a more grounded and useful description.

[DP3]Take away the reason for a particular term to belong to the category “mental events” or “intentionality” and you take away the seemingly inherent mystery or intrigue that blinded you to the term’s original use (i.e. real meaning).

Advertisements

One thought on “Commentary on Wittgenstein’s Brown Book (pg 171, comment #19)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s