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2012-10-24
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
Currently developing my work at languageandphilosophy.blogetary.com Comparing the work of Wittgenstein and St Augustine on language one is aware of 

a startling dichotomy, are these two theses mutually exclusive? On the one hand we have the Augustinian theory, put simply, that language enables 

the individual to articulate ever deeper layers of his soul. On the other hand we have Wittgenstein, put simply again, language and its continued 

development IS the soul. Language gives the child (and the adult for that matter) the power to articulate, and through articulation to control, his 

feelings and by extension his environment. He can distance himself from his self, gain perspectives which are truly awesome in their power. 
Clearly such differing theses have profound consequences in many areas of study, not least that of religion.

2012-11-12
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
Reply to Les Jones
Les,
I assume by a Wittgensteinian language you include the non-verbal, non-syntactical languages- language-games, that he includes in his post-Tractatus period. For Wittgenstein the self sets the limits of syntax, in this case language and the empirical soul, as both language and the empirical soul are syntactical (elements subsumed under the whole). I am not sure if science and psychology scholars are clear on this point, so I will give it some discussion:

As far as I get it, for Wittgenstein the human soul of science and psychology is an empirical or syntactical construct (T5.641) hence measurable, while the philosophical self or metaphysical subject falls outside language and science. It "falls outside" in this manner, though Wittgenstein was a bit slow to pick up on his own ideas and I have to do some work for him here:

The self falls outside language, the world, and syntax generally, so Witt tells us, so is not accessible to science. But more than that. The self also sets the limit of the world, as he says, and hence is not found in it or among its facts or empirical syntax. Now, by "limit" he could have said "identifactory conditions". That is, the self sets the identifactory conditions for the appearance of the empirical facts or syntax he calls the soul of science and psychology.

The self sets the arena for the identification of the empirical facts of the world, of which the soul of psychology is one; yet, is not one of these facts itself. Hence, the only way that such a self can be offered to us is by a non-syntactical, non-language manoeuvure such as "showing". We can pick up talk about a self not from what any empirical syntax tells us, but from the fact that such a syntax was selected or identified in the first place.

Hence, if language is said to articulate the soul, then, either "articulate" refers to the empirical, syntactical soul of human psychology, or it refers to the identificatory conditions for the appearance of that empirical soul. That is, the non-empirical self. I just thought that this distinction (which is a transcendental distinction, after Kant) could be made.

2012-11-19
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
Reply to Les Jones
John I will be interested to hear Les' response but thought I would make a comment in the meantime.  I would be very careful with using claims made in the Tractatus to interpret arguments in the Investigations especially when it comes to such matters as language, the world and the soul.  The Kantian transcendental arguments as well as the Russellian naive atomic realism of the Tractatus are both criticised and abandoned in W's later philosophy.

There is no logical or linguistic analysis in the later Wittgenstein, he is content to demythologise ontological commitments through careful reflection of language usage and the understanding that language as a social practice means that there is no separation between language, thought and world.

That said, I cannot see how this can be equated with Augustine's nomological conception of language (which does appear to be the forebear of such naive referential theories as one finds in the Tractatus and Carnap (who W accused of plagiarism).

2013-01-11
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
I thought Witt kept transcendental idealism (TI) in the PI. TI must be the main difference between him (with Kant) and other philosophers. So for TI in Wittgenstein I'm thinking of rules, through to criteria, then language games (and imponderable evidence) in the PI, compared to the ineffable, showing, and picturing in the Tract.
Witt tackled logic first because it was the first topic introduced to him, and it was all the rage at the time. The T is a very youthful work. Later, he abandoned the idea that only a mechanistic syntax of logic could demonstrate TI when Sraffa asked him what the logical form of a greek gesture was. This does not mean that he abandoned logic, more that he was writing about wider forms of presentation other than the mechanical-logical.

Again, I'm not sure if W ever really refuted or abandoned naive atomic realism. He couldn't find an answer to the colour problem but Hintikka has suggested a solution to it, and I argue that there is no problem in any case, as it is quite possible for two colours to be present in the same visual space having witnessed it myself.

Of course W and Kant did not directly or extensively, openly, tackle TI even though their whole philosophy seemed to be TI. There are some confusions about TI that even today I don't think we have a grip on, and neither did W and Kant. For example, we have the Kantian mix-up that an object conform to concepts or conditions of appearance and the idea that there can be objects without conditions concepts (thing in itself), and the W confusion that made him speak about objects being "combined" to form state of affairs, where "combined" seems to do service as both a transcendental condition for objects and as something objects do. I sometimes wonder if Kant and W were fellow souls, or even the same soul.

2013-01-11
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
Reply to Les Jones
This and this might be of some use to you.

I think Wittgenstein basically misinterpretted Augustine, at least in this matter. If you read the passage in the Confessions that immediately precedes Wittgensteins quote, Augustine quite clearly answers the objection that, from the description, a child has some sort of language already - Augustine says quite clearly that, before he could speak, he communicated his needs through grunts and gestures, and only to express his "demands" to his caretakers.

What I think happened is, Wittgenstein started with the idea that philosophy is all of it wrong because it presupposes that all words inherently relate to the world, like the word slab related to a stone in his language-game, when in fact not all language-games are like that. In order to do this, he needed to find some example in philosophy of someone making this sort of broad generalization and Augustine seemed to have fit the bill.

But the main thing, and I think this is probably Wittgenstein's biggest failing as a philosopher, is that he failed to actually engage the individual arguments of the philosophers he was trying to debunk. Aristotles's "On Interpretation" discusses this very issue, and Aquinas fleshed it out further in his commentary on the work. Both of these positions may have been wrong, but Wittgenstein never even bothered to read Aristotle at all.

What I am saying is, the project you are proposing, being based on comparison with another philosopher, may I think be hindered by Wittgenstein's willful ignorance of the philosophical canon. As I think it says in one of the blogs, it is not even clear he read anything of Augustine's beyond the Confessions.

I just want to note, though, that I am not dismissing Wittgenstein here - I think his place as one of the most important philosophers of the 20th Century is pretty well justified. He put a check on logical positivism without which philosophy may have eventually collapsed into the sciences, which is ironic considering that his goal as a philosopher seems to have been to show that we actually should get rid of philosophy and only consider the sciences as capable of making truth-claims.

2013-01-11
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
Reply to Kevin Corbett

Although Wittgenstein rarely refers to other philosophers, that does not necessarily mean that he did not read them.  Wittgenstein was focused upon actually doing philosophy, which means more than playing with the history of ideas.  There is clear evidence that he read Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Russell, Frege, Moore and James and it is doubtful whether he could have studied philosophy at Cambridge without having to read a lot more (he definitely read a lot of literature and natural science).

If there is any philosopher who neatly fits the bill of the nomological theory of language which Wittgenstein debunks (and credits Augustine with) it is the early Wittgenstein of the Tractatus.  But consider the Biblical tale of Adam being able to spontaneously give the right name to animals and Augustine's assumption that his prelinguistic grunts and groans are fundamentally language and his belief that language is granted by God.  These are definitely aspects of the private language which Wittgenstein later attacks (not so much words naming objects but words representing private sensations or ideas).


2013-01-11
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
I am a little surprised at your labelling the Wittgenstein of the Investigations as a proponent of Transcendental Idealism.  That is definitely not how I have ever read him.  The discussion in Investigations is clearly critical of the Tractatus, of referential theories of language, of Platonism, of conceptualism and of any theories in philosophy.  Wittgesntein saw philosophical problems as created by philosophers who try to draw such conclusions from language rather than accepting that language is a social activity (and what this means - no private language).

2013-01-17
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
I agree it is more than the history of ideas, but if one sees philosophy chiefly as a means of getting rid of ideas generated by philosophy, I think those ideas should be given a good deal of close scrutiny.

I actually do not have the impression he was deeply read in the sciences. See, for example, his dismissal of natural selection.

Augustine says his cries and moans communicated there was a problem. I don't know if he implies a concept like "fundamentally language." I suppose I understand how this might figure with the private language argument, but I can't think of any other reason a hungry baby would scream other than it wants to be not-hungry and has recognized screaming seems to end his hunger.  So there is at least communication there, though it might be something of an accidental language game.

I am honestly not sure the case of Adam relates to Augustine, and if it does, I can't help but think W was just wrong. When I was studying to be a secondary teacher, most of what I learned suggested that Augustine is not far off the mark from how language learning actually happens.



2013-01-18
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
Reply to Kevin Corbett
Regarding Wittgenstein and "Natural Science", recall that he studied engineering and aeronautics and before studying philosophy at Cambridge had his hopes set on studying natural philosophy with Boltzmann (a well known physicist, until the latter committed suicide).  The whole Tractatus system is modelled upon a Machian conception of space.  Also Wittgesntein had read Heinrich Herta and intended to use a quote as the mooto for Investigations (personally i think it would have been more appropriate than the one from Nestroy). The quote from Hertz's Introduction to the Principles of Mechnaics ends "... our minds, no longer vexed, will cease to ask illegitimate questions."

Regarding a baby having a "reason" for crying - realise that you made my case for me - Wittgenstein was not arguing about how children learn language (such empirical matters are outside the realm of philosophy as far as he was concerned - traces of his Kantianism) but rather his focus was to clear away our assumptions about how language "has" to work and focus upon what follows from the way words are used. The latter is a far more involved and complex methodology than many assume - it is definitely not anything like linguistic philosophy.

2013-02-01
Wittgenstein & St Augustine
Reply to Les Jones
I know of his experience in aeronautics and engineering, but I think that there is definitely, if not an ignorance, than an active dismissal of certain scientific claims. For example, his belief that a Father Zosima was an infinitely superior psychologist than empirical scientists. Though I do not actually hold this against him, but in fact warmly embrace such a view.

As for the quote, I was merely suggesting that W did Augustine an injustice by using the quote from the Confessions as illustrative of "assumptions about how language 'has' to work". The quote is in the context of Augustine talking about his intellectual and personal development. I think, for example, in the comments of Fraizer's Golden Bough, he says that Augustine in the Confessions is constantly calls out God and while an Eastern aescetic might at the same time be meditating on a sutra (or something like this). It would seems that one must be right and the other wrong, but he says both are only wrong when what they are talking about is a theory. Basically, I think what Augustine was talking about here, if read in context, is not a theory but a confession.