[7]"I shall also call the whole, consisting of language and the actions into which it is woven, the 'language-game.'" As I read this remark, I am struck by how Wittgenstein talks about language-games in the plural. It is as if what we call language is actually a mosaic composed of game tiles. But the conclusion is unexpected because the whole, too, is a/the language-game. Is Wittgenstein using "language-game" to designate the particular or the general? It would appear to be both. This is maddening -- why be imprecise when it comes to a technical term like this? Because, I suspect, we are supposed to play with it, quite literally. Also, it is a concept that emerges from philosophical reflection occurring within language-games. We want to grasp the limitations to perception engendered by the internal vantage. At the same time, we do not want to fall into inescapable nominalism that celebrates the uniqueness of the particular language-game to that extent that language-games cannot bear resemblances, comparison, or even areas of imbrication. Nor do we want to resort to the kind of generalization one makes from the illusory outside of language. The modulations demanded are attained by an almost oxymoronic mixture of playfulness and caution.

Two language-games come together around a seminar table. The immediate impression is one of insurmountable differences. "I respond to the world with the lexicon and grammar of engineering. Why do I have to read poetry?" (I'm guessing that you have heard this all before.) "Well, I respond to the world with the love of language that marks the poet. I don't have the mathematics to see the world as an engineer." Impasse. How is it overcome? (Notice I do not ask: Can it be overcome?)

Perhaps a more immediate concern arises. Am I misusing language-game by using poetry and engineering as examples?


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