7.08.2003

[82,83] More on rules and what it means to say that behavior is "rule-governed." Clearly "governed" is not synonymous with "determined." In confronting a rule (a stop sign), I could obey it, disobey it, or miss it completely. In remark 82 Wittgenstein wonders if we (philosophers? social scientists?) can ascertain a person's understanding of a rule either by observation or by inquiry? Is it possible that a person is not aware of rules he or she is conforming to? He is seeking an understanding of our relation to the rules we follow, but at the same time behavior cannot be reduced to rules.
In remark 83, he makes this point more strongly. "Do we not play and make up or alter rules as we go along?" There must be a language-game devoted to the creation of new rules. I think of the sort of informal rules that arise in child's play. I remember playing sandlot baseball pickup games. There was no umpire. Since we knew the rules of baseball we were able to proceed. But when a dispute arose there was no final judge. For those instances when a dispute could not be resolved by argument there was an invention: the "do-over" rule. This way play could continue. For those of us who were Catholic, there was an underlying belief that in doing a play over, God would resolve the issue. Justice always reigned.

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