On Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, Part I, sections 1-33 and 191-360 (written around 1946).
What is linguistic meaning? Wittgenstein argues that it’s not some mysterious entity in the mind, but that it is a public matter: you understand a word if you can use it appropriately, and you know the context in which it’s appropriate to use it and how to react when you hear it in that context. W. calls such a context a “language game,” and sees language as big heap of these games, spanning a wide range of human activity. Words don’t just name objects; they could be commands, or variables, or exclamations, or even meaningless when considered outside of a particular game. When philosophers pull words out of the kinds of settings in which they originated and try to figure out what they really mean, that creates bogus philosophical problems.
This discussion is part 1 of 2; we only get through the first sections of the book in detail, and you’ll have to listen to part 2 for a good explanation of the famous “private language” argument. Read more about the topic and get the text. The foursome is joined by Philosophy Bro (the two posts of his we read part of are here and here).
End song: “Kite,” by New People from The Easy Thing (2009), written and sung by Matt Ackerman.
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