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132

Wittgenstein and Wallace: The Meaning of Fiction

3
terms
5
notes

now we get into an explanation of Wittgenstein's views on language (which ofc DFW agreed with, at least the later views). on ostensive definitions, and private languages, and communal language structures as a cure for solipsism, and fiction as a source of paradigmatic cases for infusing language with meaning

Pieter den Dulk, A. (2014). Wittgenstein and Wallace: The Meaning of Fiction. In Pieter den Dulk, A. Existentialist Engagement in Wallace, Eggers and Foer: A Philosophical Analysis of Contemporary American Literature. Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 132-161

and others?

135

points towards an alternative from endless deconstruction, which is also what Wallace cum suis crave.

—p.135 by Allard Pieter den Dulk
uncertain
1 year, 7 months ago

points towards an alternative from endless deconstruction, which is also what Wallace cum suis crave.

—p.135 by Allard Pieter den Dulk
uncertain
1 year, 7 months ago

(law) in the inner court

136

meditating (whether aloud or in foro interno)

quoting P.M.S. Hacker in Meaning Mind p301

—p.136 missing author
confirm
1 year, 7 months ago

meditating (whether aloud or in foro interno)

quoting P.M.S. Hacker in Meaning Mind p301

—p.136 missing author
confirm
1 year, 7 months ago

spread or branch out

136

"Thinking", a widely ramified concept.

—p.136 by Allard Pieter den Dulk
confirm
1 year, 7 months ago

"Thinking", a widely ramified concept.

—p.136 by Allard Pieter den Dulk
confirm
1 year, 7 months ago
138

Wittgenstein writes that there seem to be two ways of explaining the meaning of a word: through 'verbal' and through 'ostensive' definitions. A verbal definition explains a statement with the help of another statement. An ostensive definition is, in the words of McGinn, 'an act of giving the meaning of a wordby pointing to an exemplar'. Wittgenstein adds: 'The verbal definition, as it takes us from one verbal expression to another, in a sense gets us no further. In the ostensive definition however we seem to make a much more real step towards learning the meaning.' Obviously, verbal definitions only make connections within language, and do not bring us from language to reality. Therefore, ostensive definitions appear to be the only way of connecting words with something outside language. Baker and Hacker offer the following summary of the enormous importance of ostensive definitions, at least for the view of language criticized by Wittgenstein:

ostensive definitions provide the only possible means for correlating words with things. Only an utterance of the form 'That is ...', together with the gesture of pointing at something, can be used to correlate a word with a thing. There must be ostensive definitions in every language. They are necessary for language to represent reality. [...] Every ostensive definition forges a link between language and the world.

Through ostensive definition 'we seem to pass beyond the limits of language and to establish a connection with reality itself', writes Wittgenstein. But, to that end, the connection established by the ostensive definition must be unequivocal, infallible and definitive. 'Otherwise, ostensive definition could not provide the foundations of language. If every ostensive definition were ambiguous or left open questions about the application of the defined word, it would require supplementation', conclude Baker and Hacker, '[a]ny attempt to supplement an ostensive definition [...] must be either redundant or inconsistent with the meaning already assigned to it'.

quoting Baker and Hacker's Understanding and Meaning, p36

den Dulk later goes into the problem of ostensive definitions, using a desk as an example: when you point to a desk and say that desk is "rectangular", "furniture", "brown" etc you don't know which of the labels means which aspect of the desk. in fact, this act of definition actually takes place within language, with my pointing finger and the desk itself being part of the grammatical structures of language, despite not being words (though they can be replaced with words, which is indicative). in other words, "an ostensive definition supplies a linguistic rule, not a justification of that rule", which means that you can't justify grammar by referring to reality!

—p.138 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago

Wittgenstein writes that there seem to be two ways of explaining the meaning of a word: through 'verbal' and through 'ostensive' definitions. A verbal definition explains a statement with the help of another statement. An ostensive definition is, in the words of McGinn, 'an act of giving the meaning of a wordby pointing to an exemplar'. Wittgenstein adds: 'The verbal definition, as it takes us from one verbal expression to another, in a sense gets us no further. In the ostensive definition however we seem to make a much more real step towards learning the meaning.' Obviously, verbal definitions only make connections within language, and do not bring us from language to reality. Therefore, ostensive definitions appear to be the only way of connecting words with something outside language. Baker and Hacker offer the following summary of the enormous importance of ostensive definitions, at least for the view of language criticized by Wittgenstein:

ostensive definitions provide the only possible means for correlating words with things. Only an utterance of the form 'That is ...', together with the gesture of pointing at something, can be used to correlate a word with a thing. There must be ostensive definitions in every language. They are necessary for language to represent reality. [...] Every ostensive definition forges a link between language and the world.

Through ostensive definition 'we seem to pass beyond the limits of language and to establish a connection with reality itself', writes Wittgenstein. But, to that end, the connection established by the ostensive definition must be unequivocal, infallible and definitive. 'Otherwise, ostensive definition could not provide the foundations of language. If every ostensive definition were ambiguous or left open questions about the application of the defined word, it would require supplementation', conclude Baker and Hacker, '[a]ny attempt to supplement an ostensive definition [...] must be either redundant or inconsistent with the meaning already assigned to it'.

quoting Baker and Hacker's Understanding and Meaning, p36

den Dulk later goes into the problem of ostensive definitions, using a desk as an example: when you point to a desk and say that desk is "rectangular", "furniture", "brown" etc you don't know which of the labels means which aspect of the desk. in fact, this act of definition actually takes place within language, with my pointing finger and the desk itself being part of the grammatical structures of language, despite not being words (though they can be replaced with words, which is indicative). in other words, "an ostensive definition supplies a linguistic rule, not a justification of that rule", which means that you can't justify grammar by referring to reality!

—p.138 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago
148

Wallace's story illustrates the solipsistic problems caused by the (hyper)reflexive attitude. For this attitude causes us to regard our so-called internal processes--thoughts, feelings, et cetera--as objects, 'as things that we have', and ourselves as the exclusive 'owners' of those objects. Although this might seem like an innocent line of thought, the effects are irrevocably far-reaching. Hacker writes: 'If we think of "pain" as the name of a sensation we have on the model of names of objects (in a generalized sense of 'object'), then solipsism is unavoidable. A public language cannot be construed as the confluence of private languages that happen to coincide.' If I think that for me the meaning of the word 'pain' lies anchored in an essentially private experience, then I will never be able to speak meaningfully about my pain with others. It is impossible to connect myself to the outside world if I, from a reflexive attitude, regard the meaning of myself and the world to be derived from processes that take place inside me.

However, Wittgenstein has shown, through his private language arguments, that my understanding of myself and the world cannot and does not depend on such looking-inside. A word has a certain meaning because it has a certain use in language. That use is not invented by me at the moment that I pronounce a word while I point inside. Rather, it is the other way around, Wittgenstein writes: 'Grammar tells what kind of object anything is.' It is grammar--the use a certain word has in language--that determines what I mean when I say 'I am in pain.' Or, as Wallace summarizes Wittgenstein's position: 'a word like pain means what it does for me because of the way the community I'm part of has tacitly agreed to use pain'.

—p.148 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago

Wallace's story illustrates the solipsistic problems caused by the (hyper)reflexive attitude. For this attitude causes us to regard our so-called internal processes--thoughts, feelings, et cetera--as objects, 'as things that we have', and ourselves as the exclusive 'owners' of those objects. Although this might seem like an innocent line of thought, the effects are irrevocably far-reaching. Hacker writes: 'If we think of "pain" as the name of a sensation we have on the model of names of objects (in a generalized sense of 'object'), then solipsism is unavoidable. A public language cannot be construed as the confluence of private languages that happen to coincide.' If I think that for me the meaning of the word 'pain' lies anchored in an essentially private experience, then I will never be able to speak meaningfully about my pain with others. It is impossible to connect myself to the outside world if I, from a reflexive attitude, regard the meaning of myself and the world to be derived from processes that take place inside me.

However, Wittgenstein has shown, through his private language arguments, that my understanding of myself and the world cannot and does not depend on such looking-inside. A word has a certain meaning because it has a certain use in language. That use is not invented by me at the moment that I pronounce a word while I point inside. Rather, it is the other way around, Wittgenstein writes: 'Grammar tells what kind of object anything is.' It is grammar--the use a certain word has in language--that determines what I mean when I say 'I am in pain.' Or, as Wallace summarizes Wittgenstein's position: 'a word like pain means what it does for me because of the way the community I'm part of has tacitly agreed to use pain'.

—p.148 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago
156

[...] according to Wittgenstein, meaning is not determined by reference to the world or to the thoughts of the speaker but results from the communal structures of language users. In light of this view, the non-referentiality of literary texts does not pose a problem: fiction is not an atypical form of language use or a form of linguistic pretence intrinsically cut off from expressing anything about the world. As a result, the late-Wittgensteinian view enables us to see literature as most of us experience it: as directly concerned with our form of life, with the world we live in. [...]

—p.156 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago

[...] according to Wittgenstein, meaning is not determined by reference to the world or to the thoughts of the speaker but results from the communal structures of language users. In light of this view, the non-referentiality of literary texts does not pose a problem: fiction is not an atypical form of language use or a form of linguistic pretence intrinsically cut off from expressing anything about the world. As a result, the late-Wittgensteinian view enables us to see literature as most of us experience it: as directly concerned with our form of life, with the world we live in. [...]

—p.156 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago
159

[...] our use of these concepts cannot take place without their being 'founded' by what we could call 'paradigmatic cases': examples that are common knowledge within a certain life-form, that function as a sort of standard, and thereby form part of the foundation of our meaningful use of certain concepts. Literary fiction and other cultural products could be seen as important suppliers of these paradigmatic examples.

I have little difficuty explaining to somebody what I mean by the world 'brown' or 'meter'. But how do I explain other, more complex relationships, like 'love' [...]? I could contend that my relationship with my wife is a perfect example of 'love', but most people do not know me or my wife, and will therefore not find my example very illuminating. If, on the other hand, I suggest the story of Romeo & Juliet as an example of 'love', then almost everybody will know what I mean. The concept of 'love' cannot be explained (or defined) in one sentence; it requires stories to acquire meaning.

The most influential of these stories we can regard as 'paradigmatic cases' that form the foundation of the meaning that we ascribe to certain concepts, that 'traverse' our talk of them. We can imagine that such complex concepts are not based on just one but many of these paradigmatic cases, and that they do not signify rigid standards, but change, together with the stories that, as time passes, we come to find either more or less meaninful. People make different selections from the available paradigmatic cases and emphasize different aspects. Concepts change as the paradigmatic cases, on which we base our understanding of them, change. Such transformations are changes of our life-form, of our socio-cultural identity. [...]

[...] This Wittgensteinian approach to the functioning of language entails a view of literature that does not regard fictional texts as expressing something unreal, but as a fundamental activity within a community of language users: literary fictions offer detailed depictions of concepts that are essential to our collective understanding of reality.

—p.159 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago

[...] our use of these concepts cannot take place without their being 'founded' by what we could call 'paradigmatic cases': examples that are common knowledge within a certain life-form, that function as a sort of standard, and thereby form part of the foundation of our meaningful use of certain concepts. Literary fiction and other cultural products could be seen as important suppliers of these paradigmatic examples.

I have little difficuty explaining to somebody what I mean by the world 'brown' or 'meter'. But how do I explain other, more complex relationships, like 'love' [...]? I could contend that my relationship with my wife is a perfect example of 'love', but most people do not know me or my wife, and will therefore not find my example very illuminating. If, on the other hand, I suggest the story of Romeo & Juliet as an example of 'love', then almost everybody will know what I mean. The concept of 'love' cannot be explained (or defined) in one sentence; it requires stories to acquire meaning.

The most influential of these stories we can regard as 'paradigmatic cases' that form the foundation of the meaning that we ascribe to certain concepts, that 'traverse' our talk of them. We can imagine that such complex concepts are not based on just one but many of these paradigmatic cases, and that they do not signify rigid standards, but change, together with the stories that, as time passes, we come to find either more or less meaninful. People make different selections from the available paradigmatic cases and emphasize different aspects. Concepts change as the paradigmatic cases, on which we base our understanding of them, change. Such transformations are changes of our life-form, of our socio-cultural identity. [...]

[...] This Wittgensteinian approach to the functioning of language entails a view of literature that does not regard fictional texts as expressing something unreal, but as a fundamental activity within a community of language users: literary fictions offer detailed depictions of concepts that are essential to our collective understanding of reality.

—p.159 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago
161

[...] Wallace is not calling for a return to old truths and values. In other interviews, he says: 'we're going to have to make up a lot of our own morality, and a lot of our own values'. And: 'there's probably no absolute right in all situatons handed down from God on the stone tablets. [...] it is our job as responsible decent spiritual human beings to arrive at sets of principles to guide our conduct in order to keep us from hurting ourselves and other people.'

—p.161 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago

[...] Wallace is not calling for a return to old truths and values. In other interviews, he says: 'we're going to have to make up a lot of our own morality, and a lot of our own values'. And: 'there's probably no absolute right in all situatons handed down from God on the stone tablets. [...] it is our job as responsible decent spiritual human beings to arrive at sets of principles to guide our conduct in order to keep us from hurting ourselves and other people.'

—p.161 by Allard Pieter den Dulk 1 year, 7 months ago