For Wittgenstein, what does it mean for two words have the same meaning?


An essential part of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy is the idea that, in general, the meaning of a word is how it used.  Moreover, “how a term is used” amounts to “how it’s use is explained”.

One might say that such a position has problems of a familiar sort. Consider the following argument:

1. A and B are different words.[For example, “car mechanic” and “surgeon”]

2. How A is used=How B is used in virtue of the fact that A and B are explained in the same way.

The mechanic performed surgery on my car this morning.

The doctor performed surgery on my body this morning

3. Therefore, A and B mean the same thing. [they share the same meaning]

3.  If that’s the case, then as long as someone can reasonably explain the meaning of A in the same way as B, then A and B can mean the same thing despite significant differences in

(i) the social environments they were originally (or currently are) used in,

(ii) respective etymologies

(iii) characteristic sensory modality they are appropriate within

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