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Three Applications of an Austin/Wittgenstein Ontological Insight

By Laurence Goldstein


On the first page of How to do Things with Words, Austin claims that `making a statement" is primary, and `statement" derivative – a `logical construction", as he calls it, out of the makings of statements. Wittgenstein, in similar vein, takes `explaining the meaning" to be primary with `meaning" a derivative notion. He says that `[m]eaning is what an explanation of meaning explains (Wittgenstein 1974, 68). Part of Wittgenstein"s point is that giving explanations of meaning is, like the making of statements, a perfectly common, everyday occurrence, but asking what meaning is is a perverse question of the sort that gives philosophy a bad name – Austin makes the same point in his paper `The Meaning of a Word" (Austin 1961, 23-43). Wittgenstein"s diagnosis of why philosophers are misled is very simple: the mistake lies in supposing that, for every noun there is an object named (unum nomen, unum nominatum) and so coming to believe that there is something – some thing – named by the noun `meaning". He says that he wants to cure us of the temptation to look about us for some object which you might call `the meaning" (Wittgenstein 1958, 1). This is hardly a new insight. Kant famously argued, in the Transcendental Aesthetic, that the noun `time" does not name a thing and one consequence of this conclusion is that talk of the Big Bang as marking the beginning of time is nonsensical. Are there some comparably important conclusions that can be drawn from the thesis that the nouns `meaning" and `statement" do not name objects? The answer, as I hope to demonstrate, is `Yes"

Topics: Logik, analytische Philosophie, Sprachphilosophie, Kirchberg 2002
Publisher: Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society
Year: 2002
OAI identifier: oai:sammelpunkt.philo.at:1371
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