I don’t know if Wittgenstein was the originator of this concept, but he seems to have made it more prominent.
I suppose the pragmatic maxim is also related to this. I always wondered, if Wittgenstein read Peirce’s argument in regard to metaphysics.
I really like your review, but I have to admit that I do not like Wittgenstein’s concepts. I am simply not sure how to use them in any meaningful way. Unfortunately this has not changed after reading your text.
For example, for me, J. L. Austin explained the whole “language as use” philosophy way better in “How To Do Things With Words” and in most cases I refer to the concept of Sprachdynamik as the principle theory of language change and development, rather than mentioning “language-games”. Language-games reinforce the elusiveness of concepts, words and language as a whole. But if you want to use language to do something you have to hold onto at least some meanings.
This contrasts your last section and I do not know how you arrived at your conclusions. Your arguments seem to refer to the elusiveness as a possible building block for ones own definitions. But this seems to be exactly what analytical philosophers try to achieve, or not? They try to find the best possible definition which can be applied to hopefully all but practically most situations. The mentioned difference between conceptual engineering and analysis does not convince me.
Family resemblances also seem to be only useful in denying problems: I cannot find a simple definition for some widely used word therefore it must be a family resemblance and not further be investigated. I am not so sure.
In his argument against private languages I cannot even understand what he means by the word language. His example for a private language is something that is fully untranslatable like the sensations of emotions. But what exactly does it mean to speak of sensations as a private language? What?
This is really unsatisfying. So for me, Wittgenstein is just one of the lesser concept manufacturers, who had luck in getting referenced over and over again. But don’t take my word on this! Maybe other people have more luck with these concepts!
Hmm… I can’t seem to find an English description of Sprachdynamik.
“They try to find the best possible definition which can be applied to hopefully all but practically most situations”—I guess that often this activity proceeds without a proper understanding of the limitations. For example, if concepts are family resmblences, then we shouldn’t be surprised if any definition has a counter-example.
“In his argument against private languages I cannot even understand what he means by the word language”—I understand him as claiming that we can’t set up an reliable, intersubjective system of discussing these internal experiences as other people can’t perform the error checking function that they can in normal language.
It is a shame that the book about Sprachdynamik is not translated into other languages. It is also an introduction to the modern Regionalsprachenforschung (science of regional and minority languages). But it is mostly about the concept that there is a synchronization effort between the competency of performing utterances (not just words, but grammar and speech patterns too) on different layers. The micro layer focuses on individual adjustments to the utterances you are hearing and reading each day. The meso layer is about recurring events like work or peer groups. And the macro layer focuses on culture defining moments like the publication of the bible. Here is a research paper (unfortunately in German, but you could translate it via Google Translate, if you want to go deeper) that uses Sprachdynamik to analyze the German minority language in Hungary by the Goethe institute. Unfortunately, I am not so well read on the international discourse. But for me it is a sufficient theory of language change and development.
I thought the analysis is the part about finding out the limitations of concepts. Of course, it can be useful to be careful with your definitions and expect that you do not find anything. But I am not so sure, if this contrasts all of analytical philosophy because you have philosophers like Popper or Russel who try to be very careful in applying their concepts. And many philosophers are very self-critical in their efforts.
I understand him as claiming that we can’t set up an reliable, intersubjective system of discussing these internal experiences as other people can’t perform the error checking function that they can in normal language.
I really like this description, this is a possible stepping stone for the introduction of the mind-body problem. But there is also the possibility of him denying these sensations in their entirety because they cannot be translated and do not have a function. For me, this is the part of having a box with no beetle at all: “it cancels out, whatever it is” (which would be a linguistic interpretation of monism). Is this a possible or an accurate interpretation of his thought experiment? I do not know because for him linguistic definitions seem to be unreachable. This is the unsatifying part for me. I am not sure, if I am getting it and I do not want to imply that I am. So I do not try to challenge these concepts. I can only say that I do not like them because they do not offer me more insights with the interpretation I have of them.
Thanks for the description
Is this a possible or an accurate interpretation of his thought experiment?
As far as I could tell from reading the book, Wittgenstein was trying to avoid taking a stance on whether or not these internal sensations exist or not. However, he strongly emphasised that he wasn’t claiming they don’t exist.
Possibly. Is this your interpretation of the paragraphs 304 and 307? But which arguments can he use to assert that, if he argued previously for not knowing definitively? I really enjoy your takes on this. I hope this is also kind of fruitful for your endeavors.
It’s my overall impression. He revisits the topic a lot.
But which arguments can he use to assert that, if he argued previously for not knowing definitively?
I don’t think he took a position. I just meant that he puts more emphasis on avoiding people mistakenly thinking he is claiming internal experience don’t exist than he does on avoiding people mistakenly thinking that he is claiming they do exist. Presumably because he was more often attacked for the former.
I see, thank you for that and thank you for the conversation.