Philosophy will use terms in its truth descriptions and in its arguments or justifications. But how is the true meaning of these terms derived? Or, how is one to interpret the meaning of these terms? Let us say that a term used in a philosophical proposition does not seem appropriate or correct to the relation or context in which it is expressed. So we argue that the proposition is untrue, reasoning that this certain term does not logically or empirically fit. The description is wrong because the term used is wrong. But, what if we are interpreting this term differently than how it was intended to be interpreted? Maybe the philosopher is using the term in some special way, in some special sense, which can only be known by studying the greater context of his work. If each word were always used in the same sense, then there would be no interpretive problems. But because philosophy is often breaking new ground, exploring new territory of reason and experience, it is forced to employ words which previously have been used only for more ordinary expressions, for old and familiar territory. So maybe the philosopher feels forced to use an ordinary, familiar word for his non-ordinary, unfamiliar, new way of reasoning or for his new theory.
This is how interpretive problems begin. The philosopher is using ordinary and familiar words in new ways and in new contexts which are unfamiliar and specific to philosophical quandries. Words which acquired meaning from ordinary activities are being extended for use in non-ordinary language games, so the meaning-use of this ordinary word is being slightly altered. Extensions of meaning, such as analogies**, take some presupposed features of a word but not all the common features which one might ordinarily associate with this word.
So one point I'm making is that words cannot be interpreted out of their given context, and that context may be larger than just the sentence. It may be the context of a whole presupposed or explicated logic or metaphysics. Another point is that we may know, generally, that words taken from ordinary use can be used in more specialised senses or contexts, and so needing a different interpretation than is ordinarily given, but this general knowledge cannot tell us when a new sense of some word is being employed. We cannot know, just by the hearing the word, that this case of use is of the non-ordinary sense. Thus, we might be arguing against this word because we are mis-interpreting its meaning or how it is actually being used.
The question may now arise: should the philosopher be using this word in this specialised case, where the word is acquiring a new sense of meaning, or is he using the word incorrectly and making a false statement? This seems to be the real question of true and false expressions, given an assumption that the philosopher comprehends his word use correctly in his specialised context. For it may be that this word is appropriate in the sense or context of his specialised or extended language-use. Then his proposition may be meaningful and true, for if you correctly interpret the intended meaning of this word the proposition would be true. If propositions are regarded as meaningful expressions and their truth depends on the right relations of these word meanings, or the right relations of the proposition parts, then any arguments against this proposition being true must accept the meanings intended. We must correctly interpret the intended meanings in the proposition, in order to judge it, because a proposition is an intended meaning. The only other alternative is to dis-regard propositional meaning and simply judge the expression as just a sentence made of word-use relations. This would be a dis-regard for meanings, not judging what is meant but judging just how words are phrased together. This is judging word-use by some linguistic logic or rule, which if not about underlying meanings than must be just about an agreed use of words or an agreed ordinary useage.
Thus, the interpretation of terms is problematic, when terms may be taken out of ordinary use-contexts and used in specialised philosophical arguments. There is the problem of knowing if a term is being used in an ordinary sense or in some special sense. And there is the problem of judging what we shall call truth, either by how words are indended to be interpreted or by how these words are ordinarily or usually interpreted. Questions of truth certainly depend on how the words phrasing such truths are interpreted, and this depends on what we decide is the rule for correct meaning. Either, `meaning' is how it is intended and depends on its use-context, or `meaning' is taken to be apriori fixed by some familiar or agreed definition.
The former choice gives philosophy and truth-description a greater freedom of expression and argument, but it results in interpretive problems which very unsettle judgements of truth. While the later choice seems to resolve questions of right interpretation and may lead to more definite judgements of truth, but it also suppresses the freedom of philosophical expression and arguments against status-quo definitions and reasoning. For example, is it not the peragative of philosophy to question ordinary definitions, ordinary beliefs, ordinary descriptions, and ordinary uses of language? I think that without even being on a high-horse, over and above the more common reasoning and uses of language, the philosopher can feel free to question ordinary thinking and expression, to question the status-quo.
Yet this is how confusions of interpretation arise. How is it possible to argue against the common use-meaning of expressions without necessarily using those same use-meanings in one's refutation? I would not be doing too well in refuting the familiar meaning of an expression if I used that same meaning-sense in my rational refutation, for that ordinary-use would then be making meaningful pragamatic sense. If, instead, I just used the expression in the newer way, in the way I believe is more correct, then there is likely to be a mis-interpretation because of its unfamiliarness. There would be no familiar clues for interpreting this term in the newer, unfamiliar use-sense. Clues have no effectiveness if there use-context is unfamiliar, and such clues would probably be mis-interpreted to the extent that this newer meaning -use is different from the familiar.
One could show the two kinds of use and then point out the distiction as well as some logical implications regarding each respective use. It seems that one could show the more familiar use-meaning as less appropriate in certain contexts, and show the newer use as more appropriate. Also, one could use clues in a more familiar way, in order to hint at the newer meaning-sense.
The interpreter could make a logical leap into comprehending the new sense of this expression. This may be possible, if the shown contextual relations force a new viewing, as it were, but it could never be gauranteed because of the habits of using the term in the familiar way. One could grasp the new use-sense, but it is more likely that the interpreter will simply see the expression as incomprehensible or as inappropriate, according to his usual understanding of how this term is ordinarily use.
Also, there can never really be any absolute justification for refuting the old sense and affirming the new, except by showing examples of the old sense failing and the new sense succeeding in some intended truth-description. But these are just some examples, the ones which happen to prove my argument, while the ordinary person might just as well give examples where his ordinary sense is pragmatically successful and the newer sense fails. Each thinker picks out different examples to prove their argument for appropriate sense-meaning. So our conlusion seems to be that different use-senses of terms are appropriate in different use-contexts.
But the philosopher would not be arguing for his use over the ordinary one, without looking into the underlying logic behind these uses. Both uses would have some essential relations. He would be taking the ordinary use and analysing its presupposed truth-conditions, then revising those conditions to better correspond to the use, or revising the use to better correspond to the logical conditions. He is not just setting his own different course for word-use, but rather he is accepting whatever consistent logic he can find and improving on the pragmatic use of these terms. He is weeding out inconsistencies and false logic. He is accepting where the term is essentially indending to go, and then re-setting its course toward that underlying essence of intension.
I don't see how there can be justification for refuting ordinary-use, or in saying that ordinary use is incorrect. Philosophers appear to make arguments against the ordinary-use of terms, such as knowledge, truth, reality. When the ordinary man uses those terms, he believes he is making good sense, and others seem to agree. But the philosopher comes along with logical proofs to refute those ordinary uses and familiar expressions. But what ultimate justification has he to do this? The ordinary man, or participant of ordinary language use, could simply counter-argue that the philosopher is distorting the usual meaning or use of such terms, or that he is inventing another system of meaning. How can the philosopher logically refute the ordinary language-use by applying his own invented system of meaning? On what basis can one system of logic refute another?
What the philosopher does is define the meaning of significant terms, or use those terms in a specialised way, in order to justify or support his larger system of belief. His new meaning, or use, is presupposed in arguments refuting the ordinary use of these terms in common expressions. In the final analysis, he is using an ordinary term or expression in a specialised philosophical language-context and thereby assuming a different, non-ordinary meaning-use. He then justifies his refutation of the ordinary-use by employing terms and meanings different from the ordinary use of language. He is inventing his own language-game and applying this in refuting the ordinary language-game or the ordinary use of these terms. So when the common folk say they have true knowledge of X, the philosopher refutes this only by altering the ordinary linguistic use or meaning of `knowledge'. He is simply not accepting of the ordinary use or meaning, and his refutation is based on a revised system of language meaning. So what is the justification for supposing that his system is better or makes more logical sense than that of the ordinary?
It can be justified by applying an underlying criteria of logical consistency and clarity. One could study the logical implications of the ordinary use to judge whether or not these contradict the implications of other linguistic uses. Ordinary uses of certain terms are always related in some way to uses of other terms. There are logical relations in any language use and in any system of belief. These implicated relations can be studied and analysed as either consistent or contradictory. Thus, the philosopher could be refuting the ordinary underlying logic, or attempting to re-fix the consistency of an underlying logic.
My other point is that the special philosophical use of a term must have been inspired by the original, ordinary use or meaning. That is, the ordinary use-meaning would be presupposed in the philosophical revision of this use-meaning. If there were not any carry-over of assumed meaning, then there would not be any sense in comparing the revised meaning with the ordinary, because the new use-meaning would be completely different. For there to be any sense in comparing a term's uses or meanings, in order to make judgements, those uses must have something in common. Thus, the philosopher has to assume at least some of the ordinary meaning of a given term, in order that his use of the term makes any sense to the listener, which is necessary for any comparison or refutation to proceed. In some sense, the philosopher refuting ordinary language-use is like the progeny denying his parental roots and using the powers granted to him by his parents to justify the killing of his parents on the grounds that his parents have no worthwhile power or use.
What then distinguishes one `language game' from another? Isn't there something we can find necessary or essential to one game but not to another? In order to say there are many `language games', or to imply that one game is significantly different from another, we need some distinguishing criteria to tell the difference between these games. Unless each of the activities in the linguistic set we call `language games' are un-recognisable from each other, there must be at least one feature in each game which distinguishes it from the others. Let us call this distinguishing feature or set of features the game's `distinguishing essence'. This would be different from what we could call `the uniting essence', which would be the necessary and sufficient feature-set common to all activities known as language games.
Can you see how senseless and incoherent a phrase is, such as `language game', if there is no way or logic for distinguishing the different members of this use-meaning set? If I speak of `language games', or even if I speak of language functions or language systems, I am already implying that my expression is general and appropriate in naming more than one different example. That is, in saying there are `language games' implies there are different `kinds' of language games, or at least implies there are different examples which are distinguishable from one another. If there were no logic or rules for distinguishing the different members or `kinds of language games', then there would be no reason for us to think `there are many'. And if there were not many distinguishably different kinds or examples, then there is no sense in saying `language games', since all we could distinguishably know would be just one language game. And if this were the case, then `a language game' would be nothing more than one kind or example of `a game'. In other words, it would simply be a game necessarily involving language, for `language' would be the necessary distinguishing feature or essence of this sort of game. `Language', or something necessarily related to language, would be the `qualifier' of this sort of game. It would `qualify the sort'. It would be the qualifying or distinguishing essence. The essence L would be the necessary and sufficient conditional criteria for all things of this sort, and would also sufficiently distinguish this kind of game from other kinds. Thus, there might be fun games, learning games, and language games, each distinguished by some necessary essence. And different sorts of these sorts can be further distinguished, such as truth language games and joke language games. One thing does become clear, which is that fun games could be also learning games, so just because a game is for learning does not necessarily mean it is not also a fun game. Thus, we can conclude that the essences which distinguish different sorts of games and which are necessarily common to each example of a sort, are not necessarily excluding the possibility of some set-members to be part of another sort of set, as well. It is just a set-rule that whatever satisfies the essence-conditions is gauranteed a membership in that specific set, that is, whatever thing satisfies a certain kind of essence-condition can, then, be necessarily called by that kind of name tied to the essence. It gains the right to be called by this name, and this name cannot be denied of it. It is necessarily tied to this name. But there is no implication that it cannot be also tied or joined to another name, another sort. It is possible, and not contradictory, that a member of one group can also be a member in another. A game is a learning game if, and only if, it satisfies the essence-condition L, and a game is a fun game if, and only if, it satisfies the essence-condition F. This is a binding and necessary logic. If the conditions are satisfied then `it is' and if not satisfied `it isn't'. Very clear. But the logic is not necessarily exclusionary. One might be able to make an essense rule which can govern exclusions, but such a project is not worthwhile for descriptive language. A game which is fun is a fun game, and a game in which one learns is a learning game, and there is no argument in this. But a game could be fun and give learning as well. Some games could satisfy both necessary conditions, and so they can be called one or the other or both as well.
Many think they succeed in pointing out how names do not necessarily have essences, that is, how all the exemplifications of a certain term do not always share any common features. This is basically accusing ordinary language of not having any necessary coherent logic. In an empirical study of language-uses, we will probably find this accusation true. Many uses or terms do not have a coherent consistent logic. And we should note that there would not be any `necessity' for coherency in language-use. Empirical findings do not show `necessity', so of course language-use is not `necessarily' conforming to any logical rules. Thus, there could be no `necessary' essences or rules. But if one were to invent `a language game' or invent a language-use, we might hope that they succeed in making this coherently logical, that its rules would be coherently related and that they would make logical sense in relation to the goal of the game or the purpose of the language-use. There would be no `necessity', in the logical sense, for an invented term-use or game-system to have `necessary logic', but it would be a good idea, a good goal to achieve. Do you follow me?
If I were to invent a new system or even just a word-use, it would be a good pragmatic achievement to make that system or that word-use conform to some logical rule or rules, in order for the efficient achievement of some greater purpose guiding the invention itself. For example, if I were to invent a new game, and the main purpose of this game was learning, then the rules invented for this game ought to act efficiently toward that intended purpose. Likewise, if the purpose of a language-game, or a language-use, is clear and informative comprehension, then the rules guiding that game or that use ought to be best for that purpose. If we found that a coherent system of rules, guiding by a common essence of purpose, was most efficient for that purpose, more so than rules non-essentially related, then the inventor ought to make certain that coherent rules are clearly defined for the game-use which are most efficient for unambiguous learning and comprehension.
Thus, necessary essences or rules are not `necessarily' in language uses, but we could say they are `efficiently necessary'. It is certainly not true that language `must' or `always does' show coherency and guiding essences, but it is true that language `ought to', assuming certain agreed essential purposes of this language, such as clear understanding and comprehension of meaning.
I can accept that not all language-uses or language functions are necessarily related, except in that they are all expressions, so I can accept different functions not all having the same aim. But if there is one actual function or purpose of language, which is `to tell the truth', then this use-function ought to be guided by some fixed rules which can tell us the difference between truth and not-truth. If the purpose is truth-description, then there ought to be some underlying rule for determining the truth-conditions. If there is no definite rule for determing truth or truth-conditions, then the language-purpose of telling the truth could never be definitely achieved, since lies, cheats, and false stories could appear as truth, just as well as any noble truth-sayer.
My last point is an example. If Wittgenstein invents a new phrase called `language game' and implies that there are a multitude of `these', then he ought to define some rule or rules for distinguishing this kind of game from others, or the meaning-use of this expression from other ones, and he also ought to tell us how he himself can consistently distinguish between different `language games'. Only if he can do all this, is his expression meaningfully coherent. If he cannot, then what is the logic or purpose in his invention of such an expression? I mean, what does he have in mind, or what examples does he have in mind, that `give reason' for using this particular combination of words? Is there not some intention to his use, and is not this intention logically related to the intension of his use? Is this not the same as `what he means' or `the idea behind the phrase'?
Wittgenstein says that all games do not necessarily share any common essence or any one rule-definition. There is no one meaning-sense of `game', to intensionally relate all games together. What reason does he give for this assertion? He says that if you look at games, they appear too differently and do not appear to share any necessary and sufficient feature. The first argument against this is that he is looking at mere appearances of true meaning, rather than the true meaning itself. Of course there is no one essential feature to all games, because he is looking for features of appearance. Yet the true essential `feature' of all games is a property of how humans relate to something. It is not a feature of appearance, of just looks or of just how games are physically structured. The concept or meaning of games, like many other terms, necessarily involves how humans interact with something structural. The essential property, or truth-condition, is necessarily tied to a kind of human attitude toward rules or structures. Thus, the concept of game is tied to a type of human activity and attitude in relation to certain rules or structure. Rules and structural appearance are part of the relational property of games, but the other pole of the necessary relation involves an attitude. So Wittgenstein is presupposing that the essential criteria of games is just to do with appearances and rules. No wonder he cannot find any common features!! He is using the wrong criteria. He is presuming the wrong kind of essential property. He has completely mistaken the ordinary use criteria, and thereby he finds that games have no connecting essence. He has created his own problem! So maybe you can see how false assertions often come to be? When one takes as evidence what is found, according to one's presupposed criteria for picking out certain things or properties as examples or evidence. Or, another grand mistake, is to accept all appearances of truth as being evidences of truth. Wittgenstein makes this mistake, as well, as he accepts all ordinary uses of language as evidence for asserting that language is generally without coherent rules. Yet by accepting all uses, he is neglecting any possible wrong uses. Unless he is simply presupposing that all uses are necessarily appropriate uses, he must be mis-taking some wrong uses as good evidence for his general assertions. This is like accepting lies as evidences for stated truths.
The second argument we can make against his reason is that he has no rational basis for recognising what are games and what are not games. He could not know that all games appear different, or do not share any essential feature, unless he presupposed some criteria for picking out what things can be used as evidence for his general assertion. What criteria is he using?
He does not have any fixed criteria in mind, and he is not accepting any official definition. He is merely using as evidence those things which are ordinarily recognised and named as games. His argument is based on the ordinary use of this word, and he sees that no other basis has any rational justification to it, since argument-by-definition is just how official people attempt to impose a fixed meaning on ordinary use. And why should we grant those officials that right? There is no rational justification for granting some people the right to be right, while denying all others as right. What reason is there for accepting one fixed definition as officially correct, while denying all others? Accepting the plurality of ordinary useages would seem to have as much justification as the acceptance of just one of these uses. In fact, if one accepts as correct any one use out of the whole set of actual use, then there seems to be an underlying acceptance of the greater use-set from which we derived any official right-use. Any argument against ordinary use, then, would appear as a contradiction since the official use-definition would have been derived out of the set of ordinary-use. This argument appears valid, when we see that an official use-definition derived from the study of ordinary-use. Nothing about the official right-use shows a justification of its superiority over other ways of use. In the final analysis, or for the final justification, it only makes sense to accept all ordinary-use as the rational criteria for true meaning.
No, I don't see how that makes rational sense. First of all, I disagree that all uses have equal status or have equal justification for being accepted as good or right uses. We can begin with a study of all actual uses, this being a set, then proceed to pick out from this set a set of right uses. Thus, we have a distinction between `what people do' and `what is right to do', the two sets not necessarily the same, though the later set being derived from the former set. If we study a complete set of actual uses, which you call ordinary-use, we can find that some of these uses show incoherence with other uses, while other uses show more coherence. Some ordinary uses can be shown to be lacking in clarity and logic, while other uses will reveal a clearer underlying system of logic. So there can be good justification for picking out some uses as better than others, or weeding out some uses as dis-harmonious and lacking in coherence. If we do not have this distinction between all actual uses and all right uses, then language use is open to being abused, and it could turn towards incoherence and confusion. We must maintain some rules and strictness, in order to disuade and weed out delinquent uses of language. Some sense of truth and rightness must be maintained; otherwise social language turns into a confused anarchy.
You want to be the official in picking out what is right and wrong use. But what gives you this right? How are you justified in this? You are studying actual uses and then picking some of these out by a criteria of coherence. Yet no use is coherent in itself. Coherency is a relation between various uses. Then I pick the related set which has more coherency, as a set system, than other related sets.
That project seems very problematic. What if, as I believe is the case, all the actual ordinary uses are tied together by loosely connected strands of relatedness. What if no such sets within the whole set can be distinguished, without implicating strands running through other sub-sets? In other words, the whole set of all ordinary uses is tied together as a family of relations, with interlacing but incomplete threads of logic running throughout. I don't believe it is possible to set apart certain systems of coherent relatedness from other sytems, when the whole is a complicated web of relatedness. Also, if your ultimate justification is pragmatic for weeding out certain of these ordinary uses, then we should look at your meaning of pragmatic.
Coherency and clarity is a pragmatic justification, in relation to the very purpose of descriptive language which is to be clearly comprehensible in speech and in interpretation. I don't think that my project is impossible of discriminating between right and wrong use, according to a principle of clarity and coherence. Some decisions will probably need to be made, which will involve a kind of valuing criteria not always clear-cut. But these decisions are not just arbitrary, even if their justification cannot be fully complete. We just have to accept that the setting of rules in social discourse is a means justified by its ends, so there may be some validity in arguments against a rule, but simply making a clear decision is justified by the value of there being a decision clearly made, that is, justification by the social value of having clearly decided rules. ....
...I accept that sense-definitions are invented criteria. They are imposed limitations on truth or on right meaning. But these impositions, these limiting conditions, are pragmatically needed for coherence in comprehension and interpretation. I am sympathetic to the ideals of democracy, but there needs to definite rules of order for the society to work efficiently. Some official rules need to be imposed, or let us say, accepted. The official rules, for guiding truth and meaningful comprehension, could only come from the Elders, the respected Teachers, from the philosophers of logic and coherence. It is up to philosophy to discover the Guiding Principles of a pragmatic logic of meaning and truth. We just have to accept a pragmatic justification for definitions of truth and false, of right and wrong. For the sense of true and false, right and wrong, has pragmatic significance in the human activities of communication, interpretation, comprehension, and cooperation. There is this pragmatic sense to the universal notions of truth and rightness. It is based on human intentions and purposes. For example, there is the intention to `tell the truth', or to `understand the truth', vs. the false, and the intention to interpret `the right meaning' or the `meaning intended' by the speaker. These intentions can be translated as pragmatic intensions or meanings. Thus, truth and true meaning are universal concepts with pragmatic meaning, the meaning of these concepts being tied to certain intentions or purposes in our social language use.
My guess is that all ordinary uses of terms have some pragmatic justification, proven by the fact that these uses have worked well, over tested time, in their respective contexts.
Is that true? You seem so skeptical about the coherency of logic in language, yet you seem so optimistic about people always grasping the meaning-use of terms in their various contexts. You think it all works well enough because people appear to understand each other. How do you know? Because conversations appear to go on uninterupted by questions of meaning? I do not take this as good evidence. I am not so optimistic as you. Your sense of comprehension seems to be the appearance of comprehension. Cannot appearances be fooling? Is the behaviorist justified in defining comprehension as an `affirming nodding of the head'? This is analogous to a court judge simply accepting as substantial evidence from the accused the statement of `it wasn't me'. Are we to be so gulible? Just because people do not ordinarily stop each other to ask for clarification in their meaning-use of certain expressions, does not at all entail that there is any real comprehension or that the conversation is working well. Unless you mean by `working well' that people are `content enough' with just talking and with the illusion of comprehension.
I think it can be found in parties and even in intimate conversations that conversers are often using terms of which their intended meaning is incomprehensible or mis-interpreted, and yet the talk just goes on, as though listeners comprehend, and as though the speaker comprehends himself. Sure, I know what is meant by toast, by trees, by weather, etc, but as conversation ranges outside of the mere mundane, there are often ambiguities in what is meant, and if one is honest and truly wanting to understand he or she will interupt at some point to question what is meant or to ask for greater clarification and qualification. To help clarify, the speaker might reply, "I mean `good'..in the sense of being tasty rather than healthy." Without this clarification I might completely mis-interpret what the speaker meant by `good', for that sense of good may not be definitely recognised due to the context of the conversation. It is certainly not found in experience that meanings of words can be simply comprehended as the context is comprehended. If this were the case, there would not be so many mis-interpretations and mis-understandings.
...My point is not just that conversations are often mis-understood, though possessing the illusion of comprehension, but that speakers very often do not comprehend their own meaning and often have no comprehensible reason for using terms in certain contexts. They simply don't know what they are talking about! Ask them and find out! Ask, "what makes you say that?", or "what do you mean by that term?" Can you clarify your definition of this term, or at least can you give me some example?" You will find that much of the time people have no idea what they mean, either by definition or by example. If one does comprehend any meaning, but not necessarily any official meaning, then one would be able to clarify or define that meaning, or at least give examples of things or events which the term represents. If a word is to have any sense at all, even to the speaker, it should either point to something definite in the world of experience, as a possible example, or it should be explicable in some sort of description or definition of unique properties, so that we can recognise what is meant from other possible meanings. I can grant that people would not ordinarily have examples or definitions in mind, when using these terms, anymore than I would need to always keep in conscious mind how to drive my car. Yet, you would't trust me to drive your car if when asked I could not clarify how to drive cars. So, if a speaker has no ability to produce any clarification, when asked, I would be quite suspicious that they did not actually comprehend what they were talking about, and therefore could not have any ability to know right or wrong use. They may appear to know their own meaning or an appropriate use of this term, just as a listener may appear to understand, and the communication may appear to be working well, but the appearance is deceptive.
Wittgenstein's sense of what properties can be thought of as essential is rather limiting, if all he is willing to consider are appearances. This basic limitation, and the subsequent presupposition as to what properties can count as essences, is all creative of the problems found by Wittgenstein, who has discovered the problems entailed by the presuppositions he accepts. Why are essences usually presupposed as properties of mere appearance? Because philosophers want a well defined dividing line between the world out there and the mind or person in here. The observer, the mind, the feelings, the subjective senses, and the attitudes of human activity are all viewed as problematic properties which one doesn't want mixed up with the objective properties of appearance and matter.
Many essences or meanings are significantly about the outside world and without any necessary relation to human activities, like trees, mountains, gold, and water. These kind of essences can sustain a significance without humans, even though humans would be needed for thinking and writing about them. There is significant meaning to the concept of natural kinds or natural essences, because there are so many examples of these essences, each of which can be sufficiently distinguished from other natural essences, and all of which have meaning independent of and un-essentially related to human activity. For example, trees, mountains, fishes and waters, can each be defined by uniquely identifying properties, so can be distinguished as natural essences. It also doesn't matter how humans relate to these things, for their meaning is independent of human activity and attitudes. Sure, it is true that humans relate physically with these natural things and that there may be concern over them or there may be an attitude of exploitation regarding them. But the essential meaning of these natural kinds is, nonetheless, independent since their meaning and language-use will remain the same whether or not there are such attitudes or human relations.
But if we speak about lumber, or fish-cakes, or thirst, then there is some meaning dependence on human-animal activity and our senses. Thus, these kind of essences are not just natural kinds, though involving natural kinds, but are meanings essentially related to our activities or needs. Their meanings cannot stand alone in the world without other relations. Food and tools are archetypal examples of this - anything of which the meaning is necessarily tied to our activities or needs. Take the home as an example. The meaning of home could not be just reduced to material substances structured in some kind of archetecture. A necessary property of any home is that it is made of some material and structured in some way, but all this is not sufficient to the essential meaning, for the meaning of a home is necessarily tied to human activity and probably to a human attitude. This would be shown, for example, in the meaning of saying, "Treat this place as your home."
Let us now return attention to strictly natural essences. The philosopher of any common-sense would not argue against an assertion that trees can be distinguished from mountains and fishes distinguished from waters. He would agree that distinguishing these natural kinds of things does involve the human senses, but he would say that their real differences exist independent of human senses. In other words, there is the activity of distinguishing these natural kinds, which involves the senses and at least some primitive conceptual abilities, yet no one of any common-sense would say that the trees, mountains and waters are different only because man sees them differently. Certainly then, these natural essences correspond, in their meaning, to real differences and real similarities of the actual material world. This is not to say that all natural essences are definitely clear-cut. Depending on how fine we try to distinguish differences by conceptual essences, those more finely distinguished essences will be less easily distinguishable. For example, there are said to be many kinds of Evergreens but what distinguishes some of these from others is not easily noticed.
Now, let me go back again to essences necessarily involving human activity and attitudes. It is almost silly to ask questions like, "how can we define the meaning of art when so much art appears so differently?" Why are different appearances problematic? Is all art supposed to look similar? Of course not! Differences from the norm is often valued in art. But my point of calling the above question silly is that the meaning of art could not be found in just appearances or in material substances. Art is not like some natural kind of essence which has meaning independent of human activty and interest. Art is not something humans found here when they consciously awoke. The meaning of art must involve some necessary property of human activity, intention or interest.
How then, philosophers ask, can we distinguish art from other things if its essence, its distinguishing properties, cannot just be found in apearances? In other words, they want to find simple objective properties which will distinguish the meaning of art. Sorry guys. It's a bit more problematic than that. But it is not a problem impossible to solve, unless one completely demands the essence to be just about appearances. Then it is an unsolvable problem created by an impossible or irrational demand. The solution could only be in finding essential properties of human attitude, activity and intention.
Wittgenstein shows money as an example of a term having multiple meanings. He knows that money has multiple meanings because there are so many different things which can be used for money. Is there good reason for his knowing? Just because coins, signed paper and even animal teeth can each be used for money, does not entail that `money means different things'. The possible material references of this concept `money' may be very different in appearance and in substance, but the conceptual meaning is still essentially the same. The meaning of `money' is not identical to the things which represent it. Those various things are just symbols of money. They are representations of money. They are examples of money. But the essence or general idea of `money' is not identical or reducible to its representations, its symbols or its examples. Different kinds of things are being `used as symbols' or representations of what money means, of the essence money. We can say that the essence or meaning of `money' is `something or some symbol used to denote an economic worth exchangeable for goods and services'. What this worth is depends on some fixed agreement of its equivalence in economic exchange. The confusion arises because the definition says, `something used to denote'. Because I say the meaning is `something used...' you might assume that the meaning is `a something used'. Then you would note that a different something is used some other time, and so on. So you conclude that many different uses equates to many different meanings. But this is wrong. The meaning is not `a something used', but rather it is `any something used', and it is not the any something which is significant to the meaning but rather the `how any something is used' which is truly significant. The use is the significant property, not the something, the symbol, nor the representation.
I would define all games as having rules to obey, even though those rules are possibly breakable. The distinct set of rules is the essential structure of the game, and a game would not be the game it's supposed to be if there was not this definite structure of rules. Those rules make-up the game, as well as those actors and actions conforming within those rules. The rules `can' be broken, but they `ought not' be broken.
But other activites are structured by rules, and they are not games.
Like what? If the teacher in my school forces me by rule to wear a tie and keep quiet, and memorise to later repeat everything the teacher says, then a set of rules certainly apply and are meant to be followed. But this doesn't seem to be a game. Especially not a game if any foul results in immediate execution! Hitler's concentration camps was not a game. The term just doesn't seem appropriate! Thus, the property of rules should be regarded as necessary in all games but not sufficient in itself as a criteria for game. This just means that some other property or properties are necessary in a complete set of properties regarded as both necessary and sufficient. All games should have at least some goal which is reachable by either skill or luck of the individual players, as they follow within the confining rules. Here we also can demand that game activities hold some room for variation, depending on skill or luck, rarther than be activities completely governed by set rules. Thus, an activity completely governed by some set script or program or routine could be a performance but not a game. Also, we can set forth the necessary condition that all games should be possible to enjoy. If something could not possibly be enjoyed it should not be called a game, it is not a game. Though this condition of enjoyment is really a negative condition, in that it is not regarded as necessary, for games can be quite unenjoyable at certain times to the ego failing in it, but the impossibility of enjoyment is a negating condition. We could go as far to say that all games are meant to be enjoyed, though not necessarily actually enjoyed. We could add that some games have no actual goal, or sense of success, except for the goal of enjoyment. Thus, enjoyment could be the only goal or what the game is meant to produce, such as `ring around the posey'. It would still be a goal, attainable or not, rather than a completely forced or ruled goal. Also, in a game the rules are meant to be respected and followed, rather than broken, and the variables of skill and/or luck have play within the confines of the rule structure. Rules, or the confining structure, can range from very loose to very strict. But if looseness falls into structurelessness then there ceases to be any sense of `a game', for there is nothing distinct which could be called `a' game. And if the structure becomes so strict that there is no freedom of play, and thus no variable of skill or luck, this ceases to be a game since its necessary variable is missing, and it turns into a `fixed program' or `obediant submission'.
Thus to conlude, these are the essential conditions for all games, and what does not satisfy these cannot be a game, according to the true defined meaning of that word. Even if some social group, such as the school for teenage delinquents, ordinarily calls some things games which do not satisfy the essential criteria, their use of term is not justified and can rightly be called incorrect. Just because some [idiot] group uses terms differently in their ordinary syntax or slang does not make problems for interpreting or justifying the right meaning, even although it does make problems for others interpreting that strange and substantially incorrect useage.
The complimenting conclusion is that whatever does satisfy these essential conditions can rightly be called a game, even if no one has ever thought to do so, even if this is not part of any ordinary application of the term. Thus, the right or justified application of this term, governed by its essence-meaning, is not determined by ordinary useage. Rather, ordinary useage should be determined by the essence-rule. Maybe no one has yet thought to call X activity a game, but because I see how X satisfies the root conditions I am justified in calling X a game, and when others see the same connexions as I they will say "How smart you are, for no one else had thought of this before, that X is certainly a game since it is in essence like other things we know as games." I mean, if truth and meaning just followed from ordinary useage, then how are new extensions and newly found connexions made? Then how do you think language expanded or evolved? By your theory of meaning, we can only derive meaning from ordinary useage which means that all meaning would be contained in how words have been used in the past. Then, what new useages could we make? How could we ever extend these meanings to other as-yet-unrelated contexts or objects?
But your essences are like ethics, rather than being purely descriptive. You are mixing truth with ethics.
But how can you speak of truth at all when your sense of truth is so relativistic.
I can speak of truth in any sense which makes sense to me. It seems to make sense to you as well; otherwise you wouldn't be arguing agaist it. But your sense of truth and meaning is equally relative, as is any ethic. You are just in favor of imposing your truth or meaning onto others.
I'm not imposing. I am just finding the essence of meanings and the truth-conditions which are, as you say, in ordinary useage. I am not inventing the meaning. I am gathering its essence. But I am not limited to the particular examples which you believe are all there is to meaning. The previously known examples do not completely determine how meaning, which is essence, can be applied in other future contexts. It is the essence which is determining its exemplification. What you confuse is that I am finding the essence or meaning in particular cases, and only in this sense are the particulars determining the found essence. Particular uses reveal the essence-meaning of terms, then once known I can see connexions and apply that essence-meaning, via the term, to other cases of particular use. It might be made more clear to say that particular use-contexts determine the essence-meaning found, while the known essence determines possible other logical contexts for appropriate use of the term.
But there seems to be an ethic in your sense of meaning.
That, I believe is true and innevitable. Truth and ethics go hand in hand.
So what is your ethic in dismissing certain ordinary uses of a term, calling that group a delinquent school? Do they not have any rights to truth? Are they not equals to your righteous philosophical school of snobery?
They have the right to live consistently by their own definitions, but if they refuse to abide by majority rules of meaning, then they are making their own culture. It would probably have many of the same root meanings as the culture they came out of, and so it might be a sub-culture or a meaningful branching out from root essences we all share.
But you call them delinquents when they share not your ethic of truth. What I cannot understand is that you say you derive your root essences by the study of ordinary useages, but why then did your study refuse the significance of that school of teenagers? What is your rule or logic behind the induction and justification of your meaning-essence? What is your rule for accepting some data and dismissing other data? If you found this group in disagreement with your defined essence, then why did you not alter your essence of truth? Instead, you dismissed the falsifying data as delinquent or sloppy or immature, or even as rule-breaking. If you have good reason to dismiss what you now call a new-culture or just delinquents, then what is it? What is your meaning of delinquent? Those who disagree with your ethic of truth? It appears to me that your rule for truth is defined by either the majority or by the group you happen to participate in. Those others, not sharing your truth essence, simply enjoy a different sense of truth or meaning. Or, it is clearer to say, they speak ordinarily in a different way.
You are right in that truth is tied to ethics. But is my ethic so bad? I am honestly trying to be fair in determining the common root meaning-essence of terms, such as game. I happen to have greater experience and a greater development of my logical mind, than those teenagers. I believe that I can find, by study, that their ordinary useages of the term game are often inconsistent and most of them do not have any clue what the others are talking about. There just a bunch of mixed up kids, needing the guidance of philosophical method and the development of rational thinking. They may think they know what is and what is not, but they actually need philosophical counselling.
But their meaning would make sense to them? And if so, isn't their meaning valid?
Of course they might have some sense of meaning in what they say. But meaning only shared by them. Maybe what they mean by `game' is anything which is `unreal', but then what is their meaning of `real'. Or maybe they mean by `it's a game' anything which is `a joke', but maybe that just means anything they think unworthy of doing. Whatever meaning we can ascribe to their useage, it will probably reduce to some simple synonomous term, because they lack in language sophistication, or we shall find that they use the term for all sorts of incompatable uses and for very different reasons, of which these distinctions they know not, for they merely use the term emotively without any logical or consistent sense. Sometimes it means this and sometimes that and sometimes even that. And when a term is used so carelessly, so over-generally, so very non-definitively; that term becomes so very confused that it causes more problems in communication than it helps to solve.
Our differences may be that their meaning-essence is more general than the one I accept, but if too general then it adds confusion to common language-use as virtually anything could be a game, until the meaning of the word becomes a meaningless cliche' or completely of a different sense than most oridinarily used. I think that these teenagers know that a common useage of the word game is exemplified in things like tennis or monopoly. They seem to be taking one necessary property of all games and making it alone a sufficient property, as in games have rules, or maybe for them any activity with the property of luck is called a game. Taking just one of the necessary properties of a whole sufficient set and accepting this alone as sufficient would result in a huge step toward over-generalising the word-use. I call this muddling the meaning.
Worse is distorting the meaning. Like for many delinquents, anything is a game if has rules which can be broken. It is a game if they can get away with breaking the rules without others catching them. This is a distortion of the true meaning of game. A game does have rules which could be broken, but the game activity is not to break the rules. Their confusion is that they are playing a sub-cultural game of `breaking the rules' with the goal of getting away with it. They are distorting the meaning of games by neglecting the condition that one should try to play by its rules, rather than try to break the rules. Yet, in effect, they have created their own game, `breaking the rules', with their rules a bit more subtle. This is a problem in philosophy and the arts.
For these reasons, for at least one of them, I should not accept this group's meaning. Because that meaning is nothing more than a mishmash, In many cases it is so very difficult to gather any definite sense of how the term is being meant. I would say they ordinarily use the term but without any definite meaning. I doubt if they could tell you what they mean, if pressed to the question. Maybe these different opinions of meaning do have some agreed sense, or maybe these folks do comprehend what each other means. But maybe this is not the case. Maybe there is no agreement and no comprehension. Like, `yey man, I know what you mean', but the person hasn't a clue what the other means. Maybe they are just hanging out, talking, you know, `saying things'. Maybe there is some sense to their behavior or their use of language, but maybe not. Maybe they are just being very sloppy or maybe just logically inconsistent. We could study their usages and determine which is the case. I'm in favor of an impartial analysis. Maybe they are making sense to each other, but then maybe there is just an illusion of making sense. Maybe it is just `saying things', without really meaning anything clear.
And my analysis would have to based on the following truth-conditions: that one knows the meaning of what one is saying or of what another is saying if, and only if, a clear and logically consistent essential definition can be expressed regarding the meaning of terms used in the sentence. The meaning of sentences must depend on the meaning of its parts, and these must give the truth-conditions of sentences. If one cannot express an essence of meaning regarding terms used, then one does not know the meaning of what is said and could not know if what is said is true or even appropriate to the ordinary language use.
Sure, without this knowing, one could be using the terms appropriately, or one could be expressing a truth, but this would be unconscious or just habitual. We should not call this unconscious use of language `knowledge', for knowledge must be the ability to explicate the meaning and truth-conditions of what is expressed. Mere appropriate use, whether by habit or by luck, could not be knowledge.
This is where Wittgenstein is confused regarding the meaning of knowledge. He thinks that knowledge is an ability to respond to some expression in a way to which the other person simply agrees, or in a way in which the conversation just carries on with the appearance of understanding. But that could be just an illusion of knowledge, an illusion of true comprehension. He has reduced the meaning of knowledge to an unconscious behavior, to learned habits. But this destroys the condition of rationality in knowledge and in truth expressions. Then, truth and knowledge ceases to require any logic to it, being reduced to just `saying things' which others simply accept, without any rational reflection, as seemingly comprehensible. If they follow along or just simply accept, then this is sufficient, in Wittgenstein's sense, to comprehension, even if they could not give any answer when asked to explain why they accept or asked to explicate the implications of what is being agreed. The test of true knowledge must be in the explication of essential truth-meaning conditions, as well as in the ability to give other examples of how this term is appropriately used.
Some will argue that giving examples or a set of possible object-references is sufficient to comprehending the meaning, but this ability to pick out and show appropriate examples of a term already presupposes some underlying criteria for doing so. We could find the criterial presuppositions implicit in the set of examples given, and that criteria may be more or less logical, more or less confused. Wittgenstein merely makes the argument that examples can be given just from learned habits of use, without any knowing of an underlying logic or illogic. This is often the case, but this is not knowledge. True knowledge is knowledge of truth-conditions, which then entails an ability to give examples of appropriate use. We could give appropriate examples without actually knowing why they are appropriate, but even if this is successful it is not a gaurantee of knowledge. It would not gauarantee appropriate use in future cases, except in those already familiar. Thus, the ability to give appropriate examples, or the ability to use terms correctly, is a necessary condition to knowledge but not sufficient. One could only Know, or gaurantee or justify, that certain examples given are appropriate, if one actually knew the truth-criteria for this appropriateness and could explicate it. The test for knowledge, then, must be in the explication of the criteria governing exemplification. This criteria should be explicable and should be judged by its logic. Otherwise we are accepting non-rational comprehension in the name of `comprehension' or knowledge of meaning.
Wittgenstein is saying that such a truth-condition for meaning or for knowledge is impossible. You won't find such a logic of meaning regarding terms, because their useage did not originate in a structure of logic.
I disagree. He is right in that not all usegaes would have explicably coherent logic. Not all people understand what they are talking about, nor do they really understand others, but because they mistakenly believe they understand they carry on using terms in their habitual ways and go on to teach their children to do the same. Certainly, expressions are learned and used without any underlying logic. That is certainly possible in the human world and is certainly evident. But this does not entail that no logic can be found. Some of our discourse is nonsense and some senseful, some without logic and some with logic. The quest for meaning and truth is a quest to find the logic and develop it where it is not. Just because some plants become sick is not a sufficient reason to be skeptical about the health of other plants or the possible healing of the sick. Wittgenstein has looked for and found the sick and the illogic in many oridinary uses of language, and then has supposed a general theory about all language and meaning based on these disapointments he has found in life. What I am saying is that part of the human quest is, and has always been, the quest for rationality in life, in expression and in knowledge. If we look at the origins and development of language and knowledge, we will find failures and negliagance regarding this quest, as well as finding successes in this grand game. And part of the quest for rationality is to weed out those failures and problems, and to heal them by re-fixing the health of rationality.
For Wittgenstein, the meaning of any word cannot be known outside of the particular context of its use. Many words have multiple meanings, or a family of meanings, so determining which of these different meanings is intended at any one time would logically require a knowledge outside of the word symbol itself. For the symbol or word is as a variable which acquires its definition from another element. So only contextual knowledge could supply clues or determinates in interpreting the intended meaning of the variable symbol. What this contextual knowledge is is a good question.
..Wittgenstein believes that the meaning of words is known just in their particular context or use. But what he means by `known' is a different use of the term than is traditional. He doesn't actually mean that words have multiple definitions or multiple distinct essences, each of which could be `known', like one would be able to repeat or write down a definition. He doesn't really think of knowledge as the knowing of rules and definitions. To know the meaning of a word, for Wittgenstein, is just to know when and how to use it in various different contexts. But the knowledge of this is not a knowledge of rules. It is more like an instinct or developed habit of behavior.
He seesm to have come to a logical distrust of rules. Rules have an inherent uncertainty in their extended applications, so he can't rely on them. But why rely on behavior? Surely, habits and instincts can make at least as many mistakes as rules. He seems to satisfy himself with a kind of behavioral instinct to do with language. I would have to believe that knowledge of how to use a word in various different contexts implies some implicit logic of right use. If this logic is not determined by logical definition, then I'm alternatively left to assume that a logical set of possible use-contexts is the meaning of `meaning', that the `sense' of a word is just tied to its possible set of contextual uses. Then, there are distinct sets for each kind of meaning or use.
Wittgenstein would say that the `right use' of a word, which is identical in meaning to `meaning', is determined by a particular context. But what logically ties the word to this context is not a general rule but is a social agreement that this word is appropriate in this particular context or in this sentence. It is an agreement only in this context and not necessarily in any other. The right use must be learned in each context.
But then how is learning developed? Each context could be somewhat different. If I have learned the right use in a few contexts, then I will logically apply this word-meaning to other contexts seemingly similar. We are each extending our knowledge, so far learned, into new contexts, and this requires a logic and recognition of similarity, of similar kinds of context.
It is granted that the context is determining of how one applies a word, or even why one applies a particular word, and it is also determining of the listener's interpretation of a meaning definition of this word. But there is no determination of correct useage or correct interpretation. No certain knowledge or determination of `the correct' is ever possible. No certainty is possible. To repeat, the context is determining of what we assume is `right use' and `right interpretation', that is, determining of our actual use and interpretation, but there can be no gaurantee of this being appropriate or `right'. Not only is the gaurantee impossible, but the only justification for `right' is agreement. Wittgenstein has no explanation or theory for how we correctly use or interpret words, or how we corerectly make connexions between words and contexts. There can be no explanation, for there is nothing necessarily correct which needs explaining. His theory is just about how we use and interpret words, and his explanation is behavioral, rather than an explaination for how people could rightly interpret meaning and truth. His position is simply skeptical, that the `right' can never be absolutely known nor fully justified. The `right' is simply what is accepted as working. Social agreement, or the continuing flow of dialogue, is all there is to `right' use or interpretation.
Still, even if certainty of right knowledge cannot be completely justified, there would seem to be an explainable logic behind believing in one's `right use' or `right interpretation'. The very attempt to make some logically justified right use of a term, and the very attempt to interpret the intended meaning-sense of expressions, would point to some logical theory underlying these attempts. I don't think you can deny that we extend the use of certain terms into new contexts, not exactly similar to how we have so-far usually applied the term. This process of extension and relating concepts in different ways is part of the quest of human understanding and expression. It is the very basis of the learning process. And even if you want to explain this process as a trial and error, based on social agreement, the process carries on by some logical rules. Those rules have a pragmatic significance to how we think, and to how we use and interpret language, even if those rules can never be fully justified. Just as the inductive principle cannot be fully justified, empircally nor logically, these rules we find in language are nonetheless necessary instruments for knowledge and understanding. Maybe the logic of these rules cannot be justified, except by saying that they are neeeded structures invented by mind to make sense of the world. So if you want to call these rules inventions of the mind, I shall agree, but I see no reason to abandon them or to deny their pragmatic use.
Wittgenstein sees an inherent problem in defining any set criteria for right application of terms. On the one hand, we cannot empirically find in common language-use any one set criteria or rule for determining meaning and/or right use. Instead, we can only find multiple criteria or derive deduce multiple rules. Thus, interpretation is problematic, since there is no essential rule for determining which criteria or rule is the correct or intended one. Also there is the argument, similar to Hume's, that we cannot inductively derive general rules from particular cases without first presupposing some general rule for recognising similarities in those different cases, and it is circular to derive that premised rule from the study of cases.
And on the other hand, we cannot absolutely define any criteria or rule, even multiple ones, because general rules will always be open-ended or incomplete, in that it cannot restrict how one shall apply it in unfamiliar cases. One would have to already know that this certain rule applies to this certain case, which implies that this case is already part of one's previous experience. The general rule can never be specific enough to gaurantee correct application in unfamiliar contexts. Or, if one knows a multitude of rules, one cannot absolutely know which one is applicable in unfamilair cases.
I not in full agreement with that. It might be true, agreed, that rule applications are problematic in that new contexts may arise where the rule is less clear or where two possible rules may logically apply. Every rule or definition may have its horizon or edges where the application is less clear. We could say that the future always holds some degree of uncertainty. Yet, nonetheless, rules can be re-clarified or more extensivley defined in order to account for new contexts. Obviously, this cannot be done with complete forsight but only after the unfamiliar context arises. Thus, I can agree, in a certain sense, that truth and meaning can never be completely eternal or absolutely fixed. I think that some roots or essences of truths and meanings could be considered eternaly fixed, for all further discussions of knowledge will have to be based on some root presuppositions, in order for there to be any understanding or even a re-adjustment of truth or meaning. Thus, truths are inherently incomplete, in regards to the future un-encountered or regarding an infinite extension of truth application. But roots remain, so some sense of eternal meanings or eternal truths can be regarded as foundational. I would go so far as to say that these foundational truth-concepts are based on foundations or real structures of the world as-it-is, though the meaning of `this world' is `as-it-is to us humans'.
Wittgenstein is pointing out the impossibility of giving a complete justification, or essence, for the right use or right interpretation of any term. It is impossible for two reasons. One is that a defined essence, like any general rule, can never be complete for all possible cases of its application.
That right there is a circular illogic. He is saying that a general rule could never completely apply to all possible cases of its application. This is nonsense! A general rule, by definition, only applies to the particular cases implicated by it. Cases not definably governed by the rule are simply not `possible cases' of applying the rule. I see no reason why a rule cannot be made sufficiently definite to include some possibles and exclude others. It makes no sense to argue that certain examples intended to be covered by the rule were not sufficiently covered. if you are basing the argument on the original intention of the rule to cover those examples, then it would certainly be possible to cover those examples intended. Or, if you mean that the rule did not expect certain examples to arise, which it would want to cover but does not, then the problem is solved by adjusting the rule to cover those examples when they arise. It can be granted new cases may arise which are not sufficiently covered by any specific rule. What shall we now do, asks Wittgenstein, as though this were some major crises. It is rather absurd in our argument to assume that this new case is meant to be covered by rule X but rule X has not been specifically defined to include this new case. Is this some proven fault of rule X? What we actually do is apply a general rule of meaning, a general essence, that is, whatever meaning suffiently covers the case. The more peculiar the case, the more general will the essence be. Then, there is the possibility of adjusting a rule to include this case. This is not the time to explain how all that works, but I don't see any big problem.
Wittgenstein's other reason for the impossibility of stating a complete essence or justification is that any essence description can never be completely defined. If the meaning of rules depend on the meaning of their terms, then one needs to define the meaning essence of each term, which leads to a further need to define the meaning of terms used in that definition, and the need goes on and on. When does it end?
It goes on until atomic essences are reached. All knowledge is ultimately based on and built from `this or that' of immediate apprehension.
Wittgenstein believes that meaning in language evolves from contexts of ordinary human activities, rather than philosophical analysis. This seems to very true, but philosophical thinking and critical analysis seems as much part of oridinary human activity as anything else. The ordinary conversation, and the ordinary need for language, is not always on the level of slabs, money and games. I think many of the issues of philosophy spring from an `ordinary' human quest for clarified rational meaning in our expressions and a quest for the truth over the false. The quest for rationality in language-use and right interpretation of meaning is very much a human quest and not just some philosophical peculiarity. I would assume that this quest is part of our human nature and has been going on from the beginnings of language development. Thus, I must assume that some degrees of rationality is underlying the structure and meaning of descriptive expressions.
Rules and meanings can be interpreted in many possible ways. That is, there is an inherent ambiguity to general rules, as there is to any descriptive proposition or general theory. This is fundamentally because language will always be somewhat open-ended in its meaning, since it must make use of general terms, the meaning which is necessarily general rather than limited to a specifically defined fixed set. No term, being just a symbol, could specifically implicate all the possible exemplifications. One way to see this is to note that a general word or symbol is thought to denote a certain set of possible examples. The essentialist bases his argument on the logical definiteness of this denoted set, at least in principle. If parts of this set were possibly indefinite, then there would be inherent ambiguity in certain indefinite cases of the term application, and this would mean an inherent uncertainty in the essentialist position that essences can be distinctly defined or that rules can be clearly applied. Yet, this inherent ambiguity and uncertainty can be shown.
He thinks that the denoted set can be defined, in principle, but this is where he is quite wrong. The denoted set of possible appropriate examples could never be completely defined, just because new possibles could always crop up unexpectedly. He wants to say that, `in principle', possibles could be defined. What he means is that they `could' be defined `if' they were already actually known. His `in principle' is a fooling logic. It is not only hypothetical but is a circular reasoning. Let me put it this way. I argue that a general meaning or rule, for interpreting words or sentences will always be somewhat indefinite in its application to unfamiliar cases. And then you argue that these unfamiliar cases could be covered, in principle or hypothetically, by the rule. How can a hypotheical principle be a good supporting argument? The rule is certainly meant to cover more than just a few particular cases, so the rule could not really explicate all the cases it is meant to cover. But let us say it is able to clearly cover all previous particular cases, those actually known, even if we could verify this by checking a thousand cases. Even still, the possible cases, those yet known, could never be covered with any certainty or definiteness, since they have never yet acurred. So, there is an inherent indefiniteness to general terms, as well as general rules, because their implicated set of exemplifications will always have indefinites, which are those possible cases, maybe covered or maybe not. We could never know what the rule will possibly sweep up or not sweep up.
It is true that certain terms or rules could be used with great definiteness and exactly define the examples limited to it, but this sort of scientific exactitude is impractical for most oridinary uses of language. And to eliminate too much generality, there would have to be a vast language of exact terms to learn. How could the ordinary person learn these exact technical terms, just for ordinary talk? So generality is practical in language, but it also implies inherent ambiguity and uncertainty in interpretation.
The multiple possibilities of interpretation just cannot be eliminated in general rules or terms, unless those generalities become completely specific rules or terms in which all possible examples are definiely known and accounted for. That would be an extremely technical term or rule, having no general or ordinary use. Some had argued that terms can be better defined for a gauaranteed correct interpretation or appropriate use, if that definition were like a governing rule. The rule-definition, they thought, would eliminate ambiguity and gaurantee a truth-condition of meaning and right use. But these rules are general, and they can be interpreted or applied in many ways. So then we need an underlying rule to guide or govern the interpretation of the unfortunately ambiguous rule. But alas, this underlying rule will need an even more underlying rule to guide us in its interpretation. When will this rule for rules end? It can never end! The only end will come when we get tired of this endless analysis, this endless justification, this endless rule-defining. Finally we give up. We just realise that it will go on on and on until we do give up. So, give up the finding or inventing of rules guiding rules, of justifications for justifications, and of analysing analysis. It will never end by its own logic. The final justification of truth-conditions or of true meaning can only be found in what is just apparent. The final justification could not be in what is hidden or in some logical inference. The justification could only end in what is apparent. For you cannot finalise a justification by saying that it is hidden from view. Final proof cannot be a hidden proof. Neither can it be a logical inference, since inference is supposing a truth or proof on the basis of some other truth which is beleived to be necessarily or probably related to the supposition. Inference is based on a logical belief which itself needs justification, so no inferrence could be a final justification. If all inference is in need of internal justification, then we cannot say that an inference could be a final justification. How could X be a final proof, if X is in need of proof? All hidden essences, or logical structures not apprarent in what is just given to view or hear, are therefore mere unjustified inferences of proof not really apprarent. Thus, the final justification of meaning in any apprarent language expression could only be in how the apparent terms or parts are being used in this apparent context. We are only left to just describe ordinary use. The finding of underlying structures can never be absolutely justified.
Never justified with absolute certainty but with probability!
The argument that rules can be interpreted in many possible ways, that it is impossible to sufficiently fix general rules for pragmatic applications, is an argument ultimately based on the impossibility of sufficiently fixing the meaning of the terms of those rules. If I can sufficiently know the meaning of the rule terms, then I will be able to rightly interpret the rule. Rules are only mis-interpreted when its terms are mis-interpreted.
I see no reason why terms cannot be fixed in their meaning, by essential definition. I could define the term in atomic particles, set as necessary and sufficient conditions. If these particles, set as conditions, needed further definition, then I could define its atomic conditions, which we could call sub-atomic conditions. Eventually we would find un-analysable conditions or essences, which we cannot define anymore than say `it is simply how people apprehend it'. These are not problems. They are inevitables. They are just the primal essences which all description must base itself. They are the most primal sub-atomic particles which can be found by descriptive analysis. Building from these basic, inevitable essences we can build up clear meaning for terms and avoid the possibility of unjustified meaning, avoiding your conclusion that terms and rules can always be mis-interpreted because no binding truth-conditions can be fixed for their meaning. Thus, I cannot accept your radical skeptism.
It is your conclusion which seems so overly-optimistic. You have so much faith in the building of logic. The first major propblem you have is building a secure foundation from your imprecise ground of un-analysable essences. It seems you are building meaning from an admitted failure of unjustifiable essences. How secure are you? But even if one ignores that great problem, which you simply re-phrase as inevitable, there are so many other problems, inevitable as well! Any term, like the rules they define, or like the rules which define them, have general applications and refer to a set of many possible things, each of which could appear very different. All which does show similarity between all the examples is the rule, or maybe is the same term signifying all those different things.
I disagree with such radical nominalism. Things or examples which we call by similar name most usually show at least some similarity. That is, similar properties can be found. This is the very reason why they were ever called by the same name. I think you insult human intelligence by implying that there isn't any real or substantial similarities to what we name the same. Maybe some names do have multiple essences, or multiple sets of similar things, but this is not the usual, and even if it is so it doesn't deny essentialism or prove any sense of nominalism.
Alright. I feel very unargumentable. Let me proceed. I was saying that all terms and all rules are general, meaning that their applications vary. In order for these generalities to sufficiently bind to their appropriate exemplifications, or to sufficiently qualify how to tell the difference between right applications and those not right, there would need to be known a rule to govern that generality. But this rule would again be a generality, so the problem carries on. It is simply a problem with generalities. They are only as binding as the underlying rules or presuppositions which work to bind them. But these binding rules can only also be generalities, each with their own general terms. In fact, an increase of rules to bind may result in more general terms in need of interpretation, so trying to solve a problem of definition ambiguity could result in more ambiguities. We see the impossibility of ultimately solving the problems of generality and ambiguity.
The only real solution is in our experience with language. By experience, that is, learning from others, we gradually gain knowledge of how words are ordinarily used and in what contexts certain words are appropriate. There need not be any binding logic to this knowledge. It is just learned by experience, by language-use.
But you are admitting a logic between words and appropriate context, or between contexts and appropriate words. A logic will be found.
Will it? Not necessarily. Look at English spelling. Can you find any necessary rules in word spelling? Teachers make some rules, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Most spellers don't learn and apply rules. They simply learn each particular word spelling, by experience and practice.
I am not saying that rules do not exist, or that rules cannot be made. I'm saying just that rules cannot necessarily solve problems, especially in the complexity of language and human activity. Rules are always general, and they cannot tell us where the exceptions are. That is the big problem. We could be told in the rule that there are exceptions, but this could only be told generally. If the rule knew of its own exceptions, then it could state those exceptions, but most rules woul not be able to anticipate its exceptions. Also, if the rule tried to show all possible exceptions, it would cease to be general and would become cumbersomely complex. But I'm not convinced that all possible exceptions could be stated, even if tried, because the unexpected or unfamiliar always seems to arise, given some time. So exceptions are unexpected, and one isn't given the needed clue to know when such is the exception and when such is not. Imagine someone telling you that men with badges can be trusted to pull a gun, but also being told that there are exceptions to this. What exceptions, you ask? Well, some men with badges are evil impersonators of the good men with badges. How do I know the difference, you ask? You cannot...each wears a similar badge! This is the state of all general rules and all general terms. It is simply the problem with generalities.
Note the relation between terms and rules. General terms can only be clarified or defined by rule-sentences. So many will say that terms are logically composed of rule-sentences. But rules are composed of terms. So rules are composed of rules, and terms composed of terms.
What we really have here are different notions of `composition', the logical implicit and the linguistic explicit.
The significant point is that general rules can be defined only by general terms, and general terms can be defined only by general rules - being defined by general terms. Rules and terms, like whole sentences and parts, are not the same, but whatever can be said of terms can also be said of rules, and vice versa. Maybe terms and rules are the same? They say that sentences are interpreted according to how the terms or parts of it are interpreted. They say the whole is defined by its parts, or that the sentence meaning is defined by its terms. But can we not also say, the parts or terms are defined by the whole sentence meaning? The meaning of terms, or parts in a sentence, can only be better interpreted when we have already interpreted the meaning of the sentence context. The context, or sentence, seems to define the meaning of its terms or parts, just as much as the terms define sentence meaning. We should explore this later. But for now, my point is that rules and terms, like general truth-propositions and general word-meanings, are all problematic in the same way, because your rules are made of terms and your terms are made of rules.
I would agree that common use is a justification of meaning which makes good sense. But ultimately, justification by common-use is not anymore justifying of truth or meaning than is justification by logical rules. What is common-use proving? That many people use terms in certain contexts, or that certain expressions are commonly heard. But such a discovery is not necessarily a discovery of truth or right meaning. Some people could be using a term wrongly. Don't you think that is possible? Or do you think that `wrong use' is a meaningless notion? I think it is very meaningful.
The great problem with justifying meaning and truth by common-use is that if all use-cases are taken to be justifying, then they are taken to be already true. If you do not take all cases as equally true or justifying, then you must distinguish which cases are truely justifying and which are not. You will need to discriminate, then, between right and wrong uses. If you take this path, then you need some logical rule or normative principle for making that discrimination of the right or the true. Then, you would be in my position. But if you do not take that path of discrimination, you are accepting all uses as right uses. You are basing your sense of meaning and truth on common useage of language, taking all uses as premises of truth and discriminating against none. Thus, your base principle or premise for deciding on meaning and truth is apriori relative. Not only is your theory and findings premised on a relative presupposition, but also this presupposition is based on a certain meaning of truth which is not all common. In other words, your apriori principle of not discriminating between true examples of meaning and wrong examples of meaning, not descriminating between true evidence and false evidence, which is assuming a relativist meaning of truth and evidence, is itself not a common use-meaning of truth. Your whole premise is apriori relativistic, and the relativist meaning of truth is hardly a common one.
I did not say there is one and only one common use-meaning of truth. My meaning or use may be less common than yours, but that is not the point. the point is that both uses are meaningful but contradictory at the same time. They don't share the same essence.
Of course not! Because you have distorted the essential meaning of truth! You are wrongly using the term. More precisely, you are not applying the essential principle of truth, which is discrimination, in determining the evidence and proof for general conclusions regarding meaning and truth. Your general conclusions merely reflect the presuppositions they are based on!
I think one has to accept that truth and meaning has the possibility of being distorted or confused. That is part of my logical premise. False evidence, distortion of truth, and mere illusion or delusion are all meaningful concepts to me and many others. You are the one who is denying these very ordinary meanings.
I do not take all language uses as substantial evidence for my understanding of meaning and truth. That would be like taking all beliefs as evidences of truth. Then there is no distinction between mere belief and truth. Of course, then, I need guiding rules in my discrimination. Rules which form the basis of what is called truth. I find these rules in ordinary use, when those rules are found to be coherently and consistently logical or sufficiently binding. If I do not find these implied rules to be guided by the more principle rule of logical consistency, then I eliminate these, or I attempt to rectify or heal them. Thus, I accept ordinary useage only when it satisfies my underlying logical or pragmatic criteria, my underlying definition of meaningful use, and I re-fix ordinary useage whenever I can, according to this criterial principle. I accept that some uses are governed by a coherent logic, while other uses are not. I also accept that true meaning is ultimately a human construction, though it should be guided by logic and the contours of experience. I accept that some defined logic or rules should guide what we call `right use'. Either this underlying logic has already been developed and is already enforcing, or it needs to be further developed and enforced. Such is my pragmatic conception of truth. Thus, justification of right interpretation is ultmately based on a logic, rather than just how interpretations are ordinarily made. Yet, rather than re-invent the wheel, or rather than re-invent language, I will try to build from the already developed ordinary use, if sufficiently logical, or I will attempt to better logically fix that use.