[lit-ideas] Very Like A Whale

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 5 Sep 2015 07:18:19 -0400

We are discussing "Hamlet" -- especially Hamlet's and Polonius's
implicatures.

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.

Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
Polonius: By th' Mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.
Hamlet: Or like a whale.
Polonius: Very like a whale.

In the first case

i. Words, words, words.

may be said to implicate:

ii. Your question is stupid.

In the second,

iii. Very like a whale.

the implicature seems to be that, from the proper point of view,

iv. Everything is very like a whale.

Oddly, both are titles of plays, too.

In a message dated 9/4/2015 11:28:48 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
rpaul@xxxxxxxx writes in "Words, words, words", compares this with a passage in

Witters (the numerals are mine)

"Review the multiplicity of language games in the following examples, and
in others. 1) Giving orders, and 2) obeying them-- 3) Describing the
appearance of an object, or 4) giving its measurements-- 5) Constructing an
object from a description (a drawing)-- 6) Reporting an event-- 7)
Speculating
about an event--8) Forming and 9) testing a hypothesis--10) Presenting
the results of an experiment in tables and diagrams--11) Making up a story;
and 12) reading it--13) Singing catches--14) Guessing riddles--15) Making
riddles--16) Making a joke, 17) telling it--18) Solving a problem in
practical arithmetic--19) Translating from one language into another-- 20)
Asking, 21) thanking, 22) cursing, 23) greeting, 24) praying.--

He is 'reviewing'. If we stick by "--", the number decreases and he just
reviews _categories_:

1) Giving orders, and obeying them--
2) Describing the appearance of an object, or giving its measurements--
3) Constructing an object from a description (a drawing)--
4) Reporting an event--
5) Speculating about an event--
6) Forming and testing a hypothesis--
7) Presenting the results of an experiment in tables and diagrams--
8) Making up a story; and reading it--
9) Singing catches--
10) Guessing riddles--
11) Making riddles--
12) Making a joke; telling it--
13) Solving a problem in practical arithmetic--
14 Translating from one language into another--
15) Asking, thanking, cursing, greeting, praying.--

-- Note the difference between making a joke, but not telling it, and
telling a joke, but not making it (Geary made it). "He TOLD a joke; he never
MADE a joke". (cfr. Geary's HUMORISM).

If Witters is right,

i. Words, words, words.

and

iii. Very like a whale.

should apply here, i.e. after all, they're language games and should be
included in the 'multiplicity'. I suggest, for (i) that it falls within what
Witters calls 'Reporting an event' (He has "Asking", but he does not have
"Answering"). As for (ii) I would say it falls within "Describing the
appearance of an object" -- a cloud in fact.

R. Paul illuminatingly goes on to provide the context for Witters's
pretext:

"The list of language uses JL [quotes] is not the result of Wittgenstein's
trying to count the uses of language. That is something Wittgenstein
(prudently) had no interest in. It's part of [PI §23], which begins: "But how
many kinds of sentence are there? Say, assertion, question, and command? There
are countless kinds; countless different kinds of use of all the things we
call "signs", "words", "sentences". And this diversity is not something
fixed, given once for all [...]."

Touché.

I would think that when Witters writes 'assertion' he is thinking Frege.
For Frege had introduced the double symbol:

⊢p

as basic.

Max Black in his Companion to the Tractatus takes "⊢" to be a corpuscule.
Black seems to be implicating that to Witters's question:

"How many kinds of sentences are there?"

Witters's own provisional answer is:

"Assertion, question, command."

Hintikka and others took this seriously, proposing two further different
corpuscules:

?p

and

!p

Thus, "p" can remain constant -- it's a fixed corpuscule or phrastic. "The
door is closed".

"Is the door closed?"

"Close the door!"

It is a matter of debate whether Witters is counting or trying to count
(and fail) or not trying to count. In any case, in the translation he does use
"countless". And _prima facie_, 'countless' MAY be taken as an answer to
"How many?"

Notably:

A: How many stars are in the sky? Let's try to count them.
B: There are countless.

The implicature seems to be that there are INFINITE. But there is a further
implicature:

"I KNOW there are INFINITE".

And a philosopher I like (whose initials are H. P. G.) gives this precise
example as a case of nonsense:

Strictly, G's example is:

"As far as I know, there are infinitely many stars."

Mutatis mutandis, Witters is saying or implicating:

"As far as I know, there are infinitely countless kinds; countless
different kinds of use of all the things we call "signs", "words",
"sentences"".

He gives 24 'examples' within 15 slightly arbitrary categories. The
assertion, the question, and the command, sort of remain. The assertion has
become specified: as when we report an event. The question is not there, but
the
'answering' is, which seems to implicate that someone made a question. And
the 'commanding' seems to be there: it seems to be the first: 'give an
order'.

The implicature seems to be that Witters was the greatest corpuscularianist
of all, for he wants a symbol for at least the 24 cases within the 15
categories, or else he is implicating that Frege didn't know his neck from his
elbow?

Cheers,

Speranza



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