2.22.2002

[20] This is certainly one of the longer remarks in Part I. A reason is there are two distinct issues addressed. 19 and 20 read as though they could be either one remark or they could have been divided by subject matter: the relation of thought to utterance and the question of where meaning resides. In the course of remark, two dualities are erased. Conceiving of yourself as a unity of mind and body in the tradition of Descartes is replaced by a new conception of yourself as a member/master of a language. To this day, I have real trouble describing this. The Cartesian image of res cogitans/res extensa as separable substances unified temporally is engrained -- a hard habit to break. Wittgenstein offers a first piece of anti-Cartesian gum here. Of course, "mind" has meaning in our language.

The step taken here is to defy the idea that thought precedes language. We may think before we speak, but thinking is not ontologically prior to speaking. Indeed, what we call thinking is a linguistic activity akin to talking to ourselves. The more urgent point for Wittgenstein, at least here, is that thinking does not necessarily precede speaking. I suppose we can say something like there is thinking in speaking and speaking in thinking. This is the sign of mastery in a language.

Until this point, we have been talking about the meaning of words as a residue of how the words are used. Wittgenstein extends this to sentences. Where words gain meaning from their locations in sentences, sentences achieve meaning by their use, their location in a paragraph or conversation or language-game. Styles of expression, the grammar of subject, verb, predicate ordering, facilitate communication in a language. The ordering is neither natural nor mental. We can conceive of this argument as a critical anticipation of Chomskyean linguistics and Levi-Strauss's structuralism.

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