6.04.2002

[41,42, 43] The slight of hand image is a good one. Wittgenstein wants to have an effect on the reader: If the world still looks the same after reading remarks from this book, then he has failed (or the reader has missed something because of "aspect blindness"). What we want to believe is that truth -- defined in terms of a completely disenchanted world (scientific philosophy) or something that has been buried and re-found (Heidegger's notion of altheia -- is available to use if we look in the right place, or engage the correct methodology, or follow those whose call or vocation is genuine. Wittgenstein considers these hopes not only only to be false, but explicitly anti-human. To be human is to accept, even embrace, the dynamic character of life. For Hegel in the preface to his Phenomenology of Spirit, the mark of a good party was the inevitable collapse. Indeed, the collapse is the reveller's telos. We find various renditions of this throughout modern thought. The truth of collapse is tied integrally to some notion of progress toward happy self-consciousness, or communism, or world peace, or a super-humanity, or annihilation. In Wittgenstein, we find none of this because he removes the tensions within various dualisms that animate stories of progress toward truth. What we have instead is a most human process of creativity and re-invention that can be freed from the regulatory effect of accounts of truth by philosophy, in Wittgenstein's therapeutic view.

Reinvention is discussed in remark 41. Here we return, again, to the language-game of remark 8. Now the tools are given proper names (letters), and the tool called "N" is broken. Does the command for "N" still make sense? There is a change within this language-game because "N" can no longer perform its designated task. Now we can imagine the invention of a new "convention whereby B has to shake his head in reply if A gives him the sign belonging to a tool that is broken." This would be a new kind of interchange between worker B and worker A. We can also imagine the command for "N" fading into obscurity within the history of the language-game. Perhaps a new tool would arise. How long before before asking for "N" ceases to make sense? "N" will always have sense in this language-game, even if recollection of its existence has faded and only a picture exists next to an archaic definition in a dictionary.

"N" had a physical reality. Wittgenstein tells us in 42 that the proper name "N" does not have to rely on physical existence to make sense. Names can be invented for objects that never existed. Unicorns leap to mind in response to this idea. Wittgenstein imagines a running joke between A and B.

43 captures the lesson of tool "N" for the question: What is the source of meaning? "The meaning of a word is its use in the language." This is not to be taken as an exceptionless rule, but it can be applied to "a large class of cases. Onomatopoetic terms might stand outside this class of cases. But in 43, we understand that a speaker can actually misuse a word by using it in a way that contravenes dictionary definitions and, in the process, give it a new meaning. Words do not carry meanings. They are not the basic unit of analysis necessarily. Rather, combinations of words in specific contexts produce meaning. Where does "truth" fit into this idea? Where does truth get its meaning? Now we get a sense of the radical nature of Wittgenstein's philosophical enterprise.

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