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Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Mind$
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Jonathan Ellis and Daniel Guevara

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199737666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199737666.001.0001

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Meaning and Understanding

Meaning and Understanding

Chapter:
(p.19) Chapter 1 Meaning and Understanding
Source:
Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Mind
Author(s):

Barry Stroud

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199737666.003.0002

This chapter concerns the very possibility of, and limitations on, philosophical accounts of meaning, understanding, and concept-possession. Central to the chapter is the idea, found throughout Wittgenstein’s middle and later writings, that one cannot succeed in explaining the meaning of a particular sentence or a subject’s understanding of a sentence from “outside of” all meaning, i.e., without recognizing some things as meaningful or some people as having determinate thoughts. Stroud elucidates this idea by way of a careful treatment of a variety of passages in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Grammar. The chapter draws a number of significant consequences from this idea. For instance, the idea renders unsatisfiable the powerful urge in philosophy to seek an explanation of how meaning or understanding or concept-possession could come to exist in a world originally devoid of any meaning, understanding, or concepts. That is an urge that motivates a great many projects in the philosophy of mind and language. If the arguments of this chapter are right, these projects are misguided.

Keywords:   Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar, meaning, understanding, theory of meaning, engagement, philosophy of language

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