Wittgenstein on ostensive definition

Inquiry 18 (3):267 – 287 (1975)
Wittgenstein's critical and constructive analysis of ostensive definition is examined. Nine fundamental logico?metaphysical errors stemming from misapprehension of ostensive definition are identified, most of which occur in the Tractatus. The Fregean holistic conception of meaning is applied to the special case of ostension. Ostensive definition is one rule among others. It is not unequivocal, it does not link language with reality, nor does it determine its own application. The role of samples in ostensive definition of perceptual properties is analysed, and the affinities between samples and Tractarian simples stressed. Samples belong to the method of representation, and not to the substance of reality. The constructive analysis is brought to bear upon the previously identified errors. Finally, a further range of problems concerning ostensive definition is raised
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DOI 10.1080/00201747508601765
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