[lit-ideas] Re: Wittgenstein On The Uses Of Language

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 5 Sep 2015 03:08:15 +0200

Language can also serve to convey useful information occasionally - for
example, where that bottle of beer is, is it cold or not etc.

On Sat, Sep 5, 2015 at 2:10 AM, Redacted sender Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx for
DMARC <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

We are discussing the Wittgensteinian remark by Geary:

"Language exists to create feelings and to share feelings and to bury
feelings. Language is thoughts and feelings made flesh. Language is the
human
of human existence. It is as much meant to be played with as used to work
with. In fact, I proclaim that FUN is its first purpose. Second, I say,
is
to communicate feelings, third to create humor that makes our souls
sparkle, fourth and non-finally, to communicate ideas."

And I say Wittgensteinian because in a famous passage, Witters tries to
count the uses of language, but fails. He writes:

"Review the multiciplicity of language games in the following examples, and
in others:
Giving orders, and obeying them--
Describing the appearance of an object, or giving its measurements--
Constructing an object from a description (a drawing)--
Reporting an event--
Speculating about an event--
Forming or teasing a hypothesis--
Presenting the results of an experiment in tables and diagrams--
Making up a story; and reading it--
Singing catches--
Guessing riddles--
Making riddles--
Making a joke; telling it--
Solving a problem in practical arithmetic--
Translating from one languge into another--
Asking, thanking, cursing, greeting, praying."

I note the praying. And he said Witters was an atheist!

We were wondering if Geary (or Witters for that matter) had been influenced
by Buehler. Popper was.

In a message dated 9/4/2015 6:15:27 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
Though Popper acknowledges Buehler's priority, Popper's own version uses
different terminology - so after the "expressive" we have the "signaling"
function, and then the descriptive function. To these Buehlerian three,
Popper adds the crucial "argumentative" function. It may be argued that
the
"argumentative" function is always a W3-dependent function, whereas
"expression" and "signaling" are not and may exist as forms of
communication that
involve only W1 and W2. The "descriptive" function is perhaps a hybrid -
some
forms of description may be W3-dependent and others not: alternatively, we
might class the forms of 'description' that involve no W3 content as mere
signaling (e.g. the dance of the bee). What is vital to the theory is not
"corpuscularism" but "emergentism" and anti-reductionism: the higher
levels
emerge from the lower and always presuppose the lower - so it is
impossible
to argue without describing and impossible to describe without signaling
and
impossible to signal without expressing. But the higher levels cannot be
reduced to the lower - we cannot (validly) reduce arguing to mere
description or description to mere signaling or signaling to mere
expression. (Of
course, there have been many thinkers who have argued that we can reduce
the
higher to the lower.) In terms of this theory, the "expressive" function,
though much beloved by the literary, is very much the lowest function. It
is
always trivially present in any act of communication - in fact, it is a
function present in non-linguistic settings, for a table or a cloud
continually expresses its own state. It follows that "expressionistic"
theories of
art or communication are either radically mistaken or based on a
triviality -
or, if they have something more to them, it is because they use
"expression" in a way distinct from Buehler's theory (perhaps even as a
term that
stands for a complex compendium that involves much more than the
expression of
a communicator's 'state')."

I agree that the expressive function may (or might) be seen by some as the
'lowest' function. In terms of justification. In terms of the genetics or
ontogenesis, or even evolution, it might rank higher.

Most philosophers would argue that the pooh-pooh theory supersedes the
rather weaker ta-ta theory.

INTERLUDE:

Bow-wow. The bow-wow or cuckoo theory, which Müller attributed to the
German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, saw early words as imitations
of the
cries of beasts and birds.

Pooh-pooh. The Pooh-Pooh theory saw the first words as emotional
interjections and exclamations triggered by pain, pleasure, surprise, etc.

Ding-dong. Müller suggested what he called the Ding-Dong theory, which
states that all things have a vibrating natural resonance, echoed somehow
by
man in his earliest words.

Yo-he-ho. The yo-he-ho theory claims language emerged from collective
rhythmic labor, the attempt to synchronize muscular effort resulting in
sounds
such as heave alternating with sounds such as ho.

Ta-ta. This did not feature in Max Müller's list, having been proposed in
1930 by Sir Richard Paget.[37] According to the ta-ta theory, humans made
the earliest words by tongue movements that mimicked manual gestures,
rendering them audible.

In any case, Buehler influenced not just Popper, but Leeds-born man M. A.
K. Halliday:

Halliday's grammar is not just systemic, but systemic functional.

Halliday argues that the explanation of how language works "needed to be
grounded in a functional analysis, since language had evolved in the
process
of carrying out certain critical functions as human beings interacted with
their ... 'eco-social' environment". Halliday's early grammatical
descriptions of English, called "Notes on Transitivity and Theme in
English – Parts 1
–3" include reference to "four components in the grammar of English
representing four functions that the language as a communication system is
required to carry out:

-- the experiential
-- the logical
-- the discoursal and
-- the speech functional or interpersonal". The "discoursal" function was
renamed the "textual function". In this discussion of functions of
language,
Halliday draws on the work of Bühler and Malinowski. Halliday's notion of
language functions, or "metafunctions", became part of his general
linguistic theory

For the matter, what fascinated Halliday about Malinowski was the
'phatic':

The term "phatic communion" was coined by anthropologist Bronisław
Malinowski in his essay "The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages,"
which
appeared in 1923 in The Meaning of Meaning by C.K. Ogden and I.A.
Richards. The
term comes from the Greek "phatos" (spoken, that may be spoken), and from
"phanai" (to speak, say).

So back to Geary:

"Language exists to create feelings and to share feelings and to bury
feelings."

This is the expressive, or pooh-pooh. Note that Geary is clear that here we
are talking JUSTIFICATION and ONTOGENESIS: in human beings as a class and
in the life of EACH human being (from the moment that human being is born:
surely a baby takes time to engage in the 'argumentative' function that
Popper revered).

Geary continues:

"Language is thoughts and feelings made flesh. Language is the human
of human existence. It is as much meant to be played with as used to work
with. In fact, I proclaim that FUN is its first purpose."

So if for Popper the expressive is the lowest function and the
argumentative is the highest function, for Geary the 'ludic' is the
PRIMARY 'purpose'
or 'telos' -- "Ludic" is Latin for _fun_.

Geary continues:

"Second, I say, is to communicate feelings."

-- implicature: that need to be communicated. Witters noted that his
toothache provoked feelings in him that he could not communicate. He also
noted
that coffee provoked feelings in him, but note that 'whenever I try to
describe the aroma of Columbian* coffee I fail."

*Columbian coffee is served in Columbia cafeteria. Nancy Mitford's husband
would say "Columbia University", but Nancy thought that adding 'university'
to such well-known institution is "surely non-Upper class".

Geary continues:

"third to create humor that makes our souls sparkle",

This of course is different from _fun_. For "Humour" is, alla Hippocrates,
what makes our souls sparkle. Galen distinguished in fact four types of
humour -- and his theory is called Humorism.

The four humours were phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine and melancholic.
Hippocrates adds: "to each his humour," a phrase that some find difficult
to
translate from the Greek.

Geary adds, alla Witters or H. L. A. Hart, a 'ceteris paribus' clause, alla
"These are the fourth functions of language, but there might be more",
hence his 'non-finally':

"fourth and non-finally, to communicate ideas."

McGinn refers to this as the telementational idea, a term that fascinated
Roy Harris who taught linguistics at Oxford when nobody was learning it
("Only the poor learn at Oxford," Matthew Arnold would say). Harris wrote
about
the telementational or circuit approach to lingo, that he ascribes to
Locke. For Locke, words stand for ideas, and ideas stand for things. But
while
we can trade things, we cannot 'communicate' things (say, cows), hence a
conversation about pigs (using the word 'pig') is understood to be _in
lieu_
of the 'ideas' of 'pigs' (which Locke hoped we shared) and finally the
things we call pigs.

Huxley never understood this.

"Look at them, sir," he said, with a motion of his hand towards the
wallowing swine. "Rightly is they called pigs."

"Rightly indeed," Mr. Wimbush agreed.

"I am abashed by that man," said Mr. Scogan, as old Rowley plodded off
slowly and with dignity. "What wisdom, what judgment, what a sense of
values!
'Rightly are they called swine.' Yes. And I wish I could, with as much
justice, say, 'Rightly are we called men.'"

Cheers,

Speranza



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