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

  • From: Adriano Palma <Palma@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 5 Sep 2015 06:04:25 +0000

Wittgenstein denies he is "counting" anything, why do you keep lying?

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

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
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.


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

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

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

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

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.'"



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