Monday, April 11, 2011

Remarks 11-15


These Remarks play on an analogy between the words of a language and tools. In Remark 11 introduces the tools metaphor for words, noting that the diversity of uses of words is analogous to the diversity of uses of tools - in contrast to the inference from Augustine's quote that the use of words is primarily to name objects. In Remark 14, the analogy is continued by considering whether anything is gained by trying to fit all tools under a common functional description - to modify something, as - for example a saw modifies the shape of a board. The point, of course, being yet again to demonstrate the folly of Augustine's "one size its all" view of the use of words.


Remark 15 returns to a continuing theme from Remarks 10 and 13, the question "what do the words of a language (in particular, those of the language of Remark 8) signify?" In this Remark, the word signify (bezeichnen in German) is in quotes (in Remark 10 it is in italics) which suggests that answering the question involves not addressing what that specific word "means" in the sense of a definition but the larger question of the nature of the association of word and object. In this Remark, the suggestion is that the most straightforward application of "signify" is when an identifying symbol is physically attached to an object - ie, the association is physical. Then, for example, each tool that the builder in Remark 8 uses might bear such a symbol. When a tool is needed, the builder would show the assistant the appropriate symbol, and the assistant would bring a tool bearing that symbol.

I find this Remark rather strange. W is trying to refute Augustine's severely limited concept of meaning as being an association between word and object that can be taught ostensively and therefore analogized to pointing. Yet here, the association is even more limited - physical attachment.

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