Thursday, April 26, 2007

4.002 Man possesses the ability to construct languages, whereby every sense can be expressed, without having any inkling how and what each word means. – As one speaks without knowing how the particular sounds are produced.

Ordinary language is a part of the human organism and not less complicated than it.

It is humanly impossible to gather the logic of language immediately from it.

Language disguises thought. Indeed so much so that from the outer form of the clothes one cannot infer the form of the thoughts they clothe; because the outer form of the clothes is made for a wholly different purpose than to let the form of the body be known.

The unspoken, silent agreements for understanding ordinary language are enormously complicated.

Russell on ordinary language (from Logical Atomism): “It is exceedingly difficult to make this point clear as long as one adheres to ordinary language, because ordinary language is rooted in a certain feeling about logic, a certain feeling that our primeval ancestors had, and as long as you keep to ordinary language you find it very difficult to get away from the bias which is imposed upon you by language.” (p. 205) Frege says his Begriffsschrift is a tool invented for “certain scientific purposes” and that it ought not to be condemned “because it is not suited to others.” He makes no claim, then, that it is better than ordinary language for ordinary purposes. See Weiner, p. 156 in Reck (ed.) From Frege to Wittgenstein. Weiner gives the reference to Frege as BEG, p. 6/BS, p. xi.

My first reaction: This sounds important, but can it be right? Is “complicated” the right word here? If we accept that ordinary language contains a hidden order or logic that logicians must unearth, then there does seem to have to be something complicated and unconscious going on in ordinary language. Jerry Fodor and Noam Chomsky might be interested in this. But how can we know there is such a thing to find, especially if it is humanly impossible to gather it immediately? What medium might be useful to us? Then again, much of this passage sounds quite Fregean, and Wittgenstein is not necessarily out to attack the “great works of Frege” (see the preface) at every turn. He could be in earnest here.

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