Notes on Truth, Beauty, and Goodness -- Phil A231

William Jamison - Instructor


I appreciated the comment one student made that the articles Wittgenstein has written are getting easier as we go further into the book. I agree. I think it is clear that as he matured, so did his writing style. All the same, another comment I received via email, that he was "very picky" remains the case. I feel quite certain this is the nature of the philosophical enterprise. We are thinking about thinking and so picky is how things get!

I remember the comment Stuart Kauffman made while lecturing here a few years ago at our Complex Systems series that the "Fourth Law of thermodynamics is that everything keeps getting more complex."

In any case, what is Wittgenstein doing in chapter 4? The topic is Intentionality.

Consider: I expect the students of this class to come to class. This issue is not just subsumed in the particular example that Wittgenstein uses concerning Mr. N. The issue concerns all "intention" or psychological connection we might have to our use of a narrative. Our interpretation of the data of experience is considered real as we perceive it following the rules of the narrative. We are emotionally attached to the rules and the "plot" of the narrative that frames the experience. He is drawing the connection between our feelings and the language game. As he explores it, it seems that our emotions are a function of the language game.

So the reason I expect students to attend class and become emotionally attached to that expectation, is because in the language game of our university environment the narrative is basically that students come to class to learn, by being in class they accomplish learning and by not being in class they fail to learn. My job as teacher is to promote their learning as much as possible. To be a good teacher, I should do this as well as possible. This narrative follows the rules of the language game we are playing in the university environment and the words we use are meaningful because of that context. In short, my psychological motivation and experience is a product of the language game, narrative, rules, and meaning, all of which are associated with the form of life on our campus.

I realize I am using the term "narrative" and he (Wittgenstein) is using the term "language game" and that they are not synonymous. I am not sure what to think about that. Perhaps we might build our view of these relationships this way:

Intuitions are attached to sense experience. We trust our senses.

Our intuitions are given more capabilities when we add language to our abilities as we grow up. Knowing the meaning of words implies understanding a language game. The words only mean something in the context of a language game. There are rules to the language game. The rules define the narrative that is the structure of the language game.

In this sense, I view the concept of narrative as the central plot of the language game.

Language Game

The Muses:


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