1.26.2002

[7,8,9]These dreams of speaking like a child are pretty instructive. They give you a feeling for the contrast between the child in a language community and an adult. (Where does the translator fit in?) This is especially pronounced for you as a poet in one language and a student of poetry in another. I don't think that we are looking at two different language games here -- the child's and the adult's -- but rather a dynamic within a language game called learning. Learning appears as a process of rising to new levels of conceptualization and comfort. This process is suggested by remarks 7,8, and 9. These need to be taken together, I think, and it raises questions about Wittgenstein's strategy in keeping the material distinct by separating them into remarks.
Let me open by trying to capture the implication of what you call the "big move" in 7. If it is therapeutic, it is a painful therapy for a difficult conceptual habit to break. "All the languages games together form a language game." What is dissolved here is the idea of language. For Wittgenstein, what we call language is the result of a category error. Language does not exist. What does exist are language games. There is no language. Put that starkly, we see no container that gives language games shape. Rather, they constitute something of a complex, self-regulating system (although system implies, perhaps, too much regulation or organization.) Now ant colonies fill the metaphoric role far better than pyramid schemes. We will have to play with this imagery some more.
In 8, liberated from the belief that language games all hang together somehow to engender LANGUAGE, Wittgenstein proceeds to expand the primitive language of the workers. In addition to "slab," the workers now have number or letter sequences (and these are already in evidence in s-l-a-b), and the words "this" and "there". We remain, for this remark, in the language game of ostensive teaching since instruction is given by pointing. "This slab -- there!"
In 9, to learn the language game in 8, the child must learn the number or letter series "by heart." It must be memorized. Does this learning by rote go beyond ostensive teaching? What of teaching "this" and "there"? It does not take much to throw the simplicity of pointing out a direct relation between word and thing into the direction of complexity. Can ostensive teaching ever be conceived in a pure state? As Wittgenstein notes, pointing occurs in both the language game of learning the use of the words and in the language game of using the words. There is an integral unity or similarity or area of imbrication between the learner's game and the game of the teacher. Earlier I said that we are looking at a dynamic within a language game of rising to higher levels of conceptualization. Now I think I want to take the act of pointing as indication that crossing language games occurs. The act of pointing is the same, but the meaning of the pointing is distinguished by the context of the teacher (who points to teach) and the context of the student (for whom the point is the path to learning).

Your point about the theory of types needs to be thought through. One variation is what Russell (or was it Frege?) called the fido/"fido" problem. When using fido, am I addressing the name of a dog or using the name to call it? I need to think through this suggestive point with unusually dogged determination (sorry!).

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