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Lecture 17

Lecture 17 - Class 1 on Wittgenstein

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University of Ottawa
Patrice Philie

Nov. 10, 2013 First lecture on Wittgenstein: rule-following THE RULE-FOLLOWING PROBLEM The passages of Wittgenstein that provide the inspiration for the argument appear, in typically compressed and gnomic form, in Wittgenstein 1953, ¶138–242, and Wittgenstein 1978 §VI. Kripke’s account was published in its final form in Kripke 1980, having been widely presented and discussed before; a similar interpretation was given independently in Fogelin 1987 (first edition 1976). There has been some controversy as to how accurate Kripke’s presentation of Wittgenstein’s views are; a number of authors have embraced the term ‘Kripkenstein’ to refer to the imaginary proponent of the views discussed by Kripke. The exegetical issue will not be of concern here. The concern will be only with the argument presented by Kripke. (For discussion of the exegetical issues see Boghossian, 1991) The central idea is easily put. Imagine an individual who makes statements using the sign ‘+’. For instance, they say ‘14 + 7 = 21’, ‘3 +23 = 26’. It might be thought that they are following the rule that ‘+’ denotes the plus function. But consider the sums using ‘+’ that they have never performed before (there must be infinitely many of these, since they can only have performed finitely many sums). Suppose that ‘68 + 57’ is one such. Now consider the quus function, which is stipulated to be just like the plus function, except that 68 quus 57 is 5. What is it about the individual that makes it true that they have been using ‘=’ to denote the plus function rather than the quus function? By hypothesis it cannot be that they have returned the answer ‘125’ to the question ‘What is 68 + 57?’, since they have never performed that sum before. The immediate response is that the individual meant plus in virtue of having mastered some further rule: for instance, the rule that, to obtain the answer to the question ‘What is 68 + 57?’ one counts out a heap of 68 marbles, counts out another of 57, combines the two heaps, and then counts the result. But now reapply the worry. How can it be known that by ‘count’ the individual did not mean ‘quount’, where, of course, this means the same as ‘count’ except when applied to a heap constructed from two piles, one containing 68 objects, the other containing 57, in which case one correctly quounts the pile if one simply returns the answer 5? One might try to fix the meaning of ‘count’ by some further rule; but this will just invite further worries about what is meant by the words occurring in that rule. Clearly there is a regress. Any rule that is offered to fix the interpretation of a rule will always be open to further interpretations itself. At this point it might be suggested th
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