[Wittrs] New reply to Re: When Meaning isn't Use by admin
kirby.urner at gmail.com
Thu Aug 25 11:55:54 CDT 2011
> Subject: Re: When Meaning isn't Use Author: admin Date: Thu, 25 August 2011 11:55
> ... there's only one of three answers.
The terms "meaning" and "use" need to themselves come under
scrutiny from time to time.
If the purpose or intent of a picture suddenly becomes clear
when I see it differently -- when I realize it's the secret revealed
(there's an encoded message) -- we *could* say I'm now "using
the picture in a new way" and therefore its meaning (for me,
and potentially for others) has changed.
But wouldn't we often say "I'm now *seeing* the picture in a
new way" (never mind about "use"). The grammar of "seeing"
obtrudes and should be accepted, not dismissed.
Seeing words in a language you can read, versus looking
at signs you cannot interpret -- there are perceptual
differences. It's quite difficult to look at a language you
now know and regress to a time in childhood ("as if")
when you had no ability to read it.
The words "jump out" as readable. "There's no going back"
is a phrase one might use.
When we talk about sudden insights, lights going on,
puzzle pieces fitting or whatever, we're talking about
experiences of "aha!" and "eureka!", of gestalt switches.
Like when you think the river is on your left and realize
it's on the right (one of LW's examples). Your whole
sense of the landscape changes "in an instant".
Wittgenstein well knows that we have all these experiences
connected to "receiving the meaning of" and doesn't want
to banish or discount them as somehow unfaithful to his
He often draws analogies between language and music
and we know that he found music deeply meaningful.
Usage patterns take real investigation, detective work,
and we don't "just see" those as practices spread out
over time (at least unless and until we've already done
a lot of homework as philosophers).
We have to consult our own memories quite a bit.
The 'Philosophical Investigations' is a kind of guide
book, both showing us how Wittgenstein connects
the dots, and encouraging us to learn his methods,
that we might connect the dots (do philosophy)
"Aha!" moments and all the aesthetic flow that's tied
up with the meaning, the "music of sense" that, in
analytic philosophy or neuroscience, we might mis-
guidedly abstract as a ghostly "thought processes"
and imagine as a penumbra that *is* the meaning
(or "our thoughts" or whatever superstitions) do
not disappear or get swept under the rug in the PI.
PI Part 2 (as ordered by the editors) is much about
"seeing according to an interpretation". How do we
come to see in those ways and what's it like when
the interpretation suddenly changes (duckrabbit).
We say the meaning has changed.
What's important is that *even though* we may
now proceed to use X differently (or perhaps we
just walk away, satisfied), having come to these
new insights, we want to keep using the word
"meaning" in connection with these seemingly
sudden "now I can go on" moments, these
flashes of insight that accompany language
learning (i.e. the process of life itself).
Wittgenstein reliably steers us away from imagining
some simultaneous "brain process" that is
"the decoder" or something stupid, but he's not
denying that we make these utterances, nor
suggesting we stop making them.
Wittgenstein doesn't want his "meaning as use"
insight (won through investigation of how the word
"meaning" is actually used) to occlude or interfere
with commonplace statements about meaning, and
he's quite aware of music, aesthetic dimensions,
and alterations in perception and experience that
connect with this concept (of "meaning").
Once the "meaning is use" insight is anchored,
we're free to keep listening to how people use
When the world seems to "drain of all meaning"
what's that about? Some might talk of a chemical
imbalance in the brain. Wittgenstein is not one
to over-medicalize his meanings, as he's not
looking for "a theory" or explanation.
While he's wide open to investigating the subtle
and psychological, he refuses to indulge in all
the reification and pseudo-empiricism that comes
with standing psychology atop a facile / implied /
unexamined metaphysics (e.g. some goofy
theory of brain function) such that we think
we're waiting for neuroscience to tell us "what
meaning really means" (as though, after all
this time, we're still clueless).
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