[lit-ideas] Re: Sraffa's Gesture

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  • Date: Mon, 30 Nov 2015 08:03:31 -0500

We are considering Sraffa's question.

i. What is the logical form of that?

And we are considering answers, Griceian and others. Apparently Witters was
caught unawares without an answer for once!

Surely (i) allows for an answer alla:

ii. The logical form of that is X.

And we are trying to provide a conceptual analysis of X.

The 'that' is of course the Neapolitan gesture. When Grice wrote "Meaning"
he was finding Peirce more and more boring. Instead of the conventional
dichotomy between signs being conventional and natural, Grice speaks with a
new provocative lingo. A gesture MEANS-nn.

But back to the passage quoted by McEvoy, for the record:

"Even more than to [Ramsey's]—always certain and forcible—criticism I am
indebted to that which a teacher of this university, Mr. P. Sraffa, for
many years unceasingly practised on my thoughts. I am indebted to this
stimulus for the most consequential ideas of this book."

And the report on the gesture from Norman Malcolm:

"Witt[ers] was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes
must have the same 'logical form', the same 'logical multiplicity'. Sraffa
made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust
or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward
sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: 'What is the logical
form
of that?'"

One thing a conceptual analyst is sure about is that Sraffa was NOT using
lingo. "In some cases," Grice notes in his "Meaning Revisited", the
artificial communication devices might have certain other features too, over
and
above the one of being artificial."

First, and foremost:

"[T]hey might, for example, involve a finite number of fundamental,
focal, elementary, root devices, and a finite set of modes or forms of
combination (combinatory operations, if you like) which are capable of being
used
over and over again. In these cases, the creatures will have, or be near to
having, what some people thought to be characteristic of a language:
namely: a communication system with a finite set of initial devices, together
with semanticprovisions for them, and a finite set of different syntactic
operations or
combinations, and an understanding of what the functions of those modes
of combination are. As a result, they can generate an INFINITE number of
sentences or complex communication devices, together with a correspondingly
infinite set of things to be communicated, as it were. So, by proceeding
in this
teleological kind of way, we seem to have provided some provided some
rationale for the kind of characterization of speaker's meaning which I went
for long ago, and also for the characterization of various kinds of
communication systems, culminating in things which have features which are
ordinarily supposed (more or less correctly, I would imagine) to be the
features
of a fully developed language."

So, surely

ii. The logical form of that is X.

should involve something different from the typical conceptual analysis
provided by conceptual analysts like Grice, which deal with lexical items,
"What is the meaning of 'know'?", "What is the logical form of "He went to bed
and took off his trousers""? and so on.

Sraffa allegedly convinced Witters by a Neapolitan gesture that a
proposition and what it describes need not have the same logical form.

As a student at Salzburg pointed out to me -- M. Unterhuber; the Austrians
are the only German speaking people who just love the Italians -- Sraffa
was one -- rather than love and envy! -- there's more to Sraffa's gesture
that met Witters's eye.

The analyses that are based on this silly anecdote, however, do not yield
satisfying results, as a number of papers in recent essays on Sraffa, held
by the International Sraffa Society, show (Davis, Marion, Sen, to mention
a few).

Fann suggests that the Neapolitan gesture was a "kind of concrete
counter-examples which broke the hold on Wittgenstein of the conception that
LANGUAGE always functions in one way."

-- which was quite an implicature Witters drew since Sraffa's gesture is
not linguistic!

Kienzler takes a distinct, but related stance.

Kienzler argues that in the anecdote Sraffa conveyed to Wittgenstein that
the sense and the meaning of linguistic expressions are only determined in
the context of their use.

-- Which, again if poor Witters drew that implicature he was going too far,
since there is nothing linguistic about Sraffa's gesture!

The anecdote itself, however, is also in need of explanation, even if
Malcolm thought it was clear enough for a sketchy memoir!

Why does Wittgenstein accept the Neapolitan gesture as a counter-example?

He should NOT have!

Wittgenstein could argue that the gesture is emotive (alla Stevenson, that
Grice quotes -- Stevenson 1944 -- or Benedetto Croce -- and does not
describe a matter of fact.

The general form of proposition would, thus, not be applicable, as
Jacquette points out in his brilliant exegesis alla Grice.

As Unterhuber suggests, even if Sraffa's gesture IS TAKEN as descriptive
statement and it APPEARS *as
though* it does not have the same logical form as the matter of fact it
describes, a correct conceptual analysis according to the theory of atomic
facts may reveal that that nevertheless *is* the case.

But Witters was Witters.

So instead of having Sraffa's gesture make Witters reconsider what he means
by 'lingo', he went on with 'forms of life', and there jargon that made
the delight of neo-Wittgensteinians for years to come -- and they are all
properly minuted in the annals of the now International Wittgenstein Society!

Cheers,

Speranza

REFERENCES

Davis, J. B. Gramsci, Sraffa, Wittgenstein: Philosophical Linkages.
European Journal of History of Economic Thought, 9.

Fann, K. T. Wittgenstein’s Conception of Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell.

Jacquette, D. Wittgenstein’s Thought in Transition. West Lafayette, IN:
Purdue University Press.

Kienzler, W. Wittgensteins Wende zu seiner Spätphilosophie [Wittgenstein’
s Turn to His Later Philosophy]. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Kurz, H. D. On the Use of Counterfactuals in Alternative Theories of
Value and Distribution. Unpublished Manuscript, University of Graz.

Malcolm, N. Ludwig Wittgenstein. A Memoir. London: Oxford University
Press.

Marion, M. Sraffa and Wittgenstein: Physicalism and Constructivism. Review
of Political Economy, 17, 381–406.

Monk, R. Wittgenstein. The Duty of Genius. New York: Penguin Books.

Ramsey, F. P. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. [Critical Note]. Mind, 32.

Sen, A. Piero Sraffa: A Student’s Perspective. Atti Dei Convegni Lincei,
200.

Sen, A. Sraffa, Wittgenstein, and Gramsci. Journal of Economic
Literature, 41.

Sraffa, P. Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. Prelude to a
Critique of Economic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Unterhuber M. Sraffa’s Influence on Wittgenstein. Salzburg.

Wittgenstein, L. Some Remarks on Logical Form. Aristotelian Society
Supplementary, 9.

Wittgenstein, L. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (C. K. Ogden, Ed.).
London: Kegan, Trench & Trubner.

Wittgenstein, L. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.

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