[lit-ideas] What He Meant (Was: Wittgenstein)

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 27 May 2004 10:36:35 EDT

R. Henninge apparently thinks that a passage from PI will illuminate what  
Wittgenstein meant (or may have meant) back in 1914, when he wrote the TLP. 
This 
 is a commentary on R. Paul's transcript of the PI passage:
When one  shews someone the king in chess and says: "This is the king",
this does not  tell him the use of the piece -- unless he already knows the 
rules
of the  game up to this last point: the shape of the king. You could imagine  
his
having learnt the rules of the game without ever having been shewn an  actual
piece. The shape of the chessman corresponds here to the sound or  shape of a
word.
--- True. But I think there is some sort of 'implicature' that if the piece  
is called 'king', it will play an important role -- as opposed to 'pawn'. It 
is  worth noting that in chess, it's the _queen_ who (which?) is the most 
powerful  piece -- even if it's the 'death' of the king that marks the defeat 
in 
the game.  The game is oriental in origin, so only orientalists like L. Helm 
may 
actually  know what the game is all about.
Wittgenstein goes on:

One can  always imagine someone's having learnt the game without learning  or
formulating rules. He might have learnt quite simple board games first,  by
watching, and have progressed to more and more complicated ones. He too  
might be
given the explanation "This is the king", --if, for instance, he  were being
shewn chessmen of a shape he was not used to. This explanation  again only 
tells
him the use of the piece because, as we might say, the  place for it was 
already
prepared. Or even: we shall only say that it tells  him the use, if the place 
is
already prepared.  And in this case it is  so, not because the person to whom 
we
give the explanation already knows  the rules, but because in another sense 
he is
already master of a  game.
---- I don't think I follow. "Mistress of a game" is a difficult sobriquet.  
I wonder how Wittgenstein can _infer_ that someone may be 'mistress of the  
game'. And what _is_ the meaning of 'mistressing' the game? I'm not sure. 
Wittgenstein continues:

Consider  this further case: I am explaining chess to someone; and I begin  by
pointing to a chessman and saying: "This is the king; it can move like  this,
....and so on."--In this case we shall say: the words "This is the  king" (or
"This is called the 'king' ") are a definition only if the  learner already
'knows what a piece in a game is'. That is, if he has  already played other
games, or has watched other people playing 'and  understood'--_and similar
things_. Further, only under these conditions  will he be able to ask 
relevantly
in the course of learning the game: "What  do you call this?"--that is, this
piece in a game.
We may say: only  someone who already knows how to do something with it can
significantly ask  a name.
And we can imagine the person who is asked replying: "Settle the  name
yourself"--and now the one who asked would have to manage everything  for
himself.

---- Interesting. I think Wittgenstein is pointing to the  
'attributive'/'predicative' distinction. He is suggesting that if 'x is called  
y' makes sense, 
one must already know that x belongs to category z.
I'm not sure it holds for all items.
E.g.
A: Is the room empty?
B: No. TUPOCK is in it.
A: Tupock?
---- I don't think that B need to _say_ what Tupock is in order for her to  
say that Tupock is in the room. It can be a book, a dog, a man, air, the room  
itself, God, ... -- McEvoy will say that Tupock must be _something_ ('a  
colourless object', at least, as he would roughly put it). But I'm not sure,  
"Tupock" can be a second-order property -- not really an object -- like 'being  
beautiful'. It can actually refer to Nothing (or Naught). 
Ditto:
A: We found it in the woods.
B: Nice!
A: We call it Tupock.
B: What is it?
A: Oh, we're not sure -- it surely ain't native.
Again, here 'Tupock' is something 'found in the woods', and is given a name  
-- but no _qua_ dog, pet, animal. It may be a rock, or a beetle, etc.
So, I don't think that to learn the meaning of 'king' one must already know  
the meaning of 'piece'?
Cheers,
JL


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