7.10.2003

[86,87] I don't mean to fall into a pattern of responding to two remarks at a time, but this series on rules is tough going. Wittgenstein seems to be going after a certain picture of language. In this picture we have a foundation of syntactical rules. Above this foundation is a closely regulated semantic plane. The subterranean plane of rules explain everything that occurs on the surface. In response to this dualism, Wittgenstein offers an image of language as a single plane, suffused with rules, but irreducible to some set of super rules. In 86, therefore, Wittgenstein returns to the simple language-game of remark 2. There builders make simple requests for "block," "pillar," "slab," and "beam." There is the linear rule at work of a request answered with a response. What could be easier? Wittgenstein devises a picture of the rule at work: four request/response lines. "Can we not now imagine further rules to explain this one/" Well, yes, we can. This line then encompasses the four simple rule-governed request/response relations. Can we imagine now a further rule that explains the meta-rule for the four simple rules? Wittgenstein does not do this. Rather, he leaves us to imagine this new problem: At what point are we satisfied that we have achieved the rule that explains all other rules? When do we stop?
In 87, Wittgenstein argues that explanations, schemas, and rules are not foundational. There is no bedrock of rules lying beneath the surface of multiple rules and meanings. Nor do these meta-rules repair gaps in the foundation of language. They can be used to prevent or repair misunderstandings, but this does not mean that because we have super-rules that misunderstandings cannot occur. All we can really say about rules is: "The sign-post is in order -- if, under normal circumstances, it fulfills its purpose." And the purpose of a rule is understood in the normal circumstance of a game.

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