“‘We Can Go No Further’: Meaning, Use, and the Limits of Language”

In Hanne Appelqvist (ed.), Wittgenstein and the Limits of Language. New York: Routledge. pp. 93-114 (2019)
  Copy   BIBTEX


A central theme in Wittgenstein’s post-Tractatus remarks on the limits of language is that we ‘cannot use language to get outside language’. One illustration of that idea is his comment that, once we have described the procedure of teaching and learning a rule, we have ‘said everything that can be said about acting correctly according to the rule’; ‘we can go no further’. That, it is argued, is an expression of anti-reductionism about meaning and rules. A framework is presented for assessing the debate between reductionist and anti-reductionist readings of Wittgenstein’s views about meaning and use. It is argued that that debate cannot be settled merely by reference to Wittgenstein’s general opposition to reductionism. An important argument for anti-reductionism about rules and meaning, from Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, is discussed. Putative evidence of reductionism about meaning in the Brown Book is considered; an alternative reading is proposed. The nature of Wittgenstein’s anti-reductionism is examined. It is argued, first, that Wittgenstein accepts that semantic and normative facts supervene on non-semantic, non-normative facts and, second, that at many points his treatment of meaning and rules goes beyond the kind of pleonastic claim that is often taken to define non-reductionist, quietist, positions in philosophy.



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Meaning, Use, and Supervenience.William Child - 2019 - In James Conant & Sebastian Sunday (eds.), Wittgenstein on Philosophy, Objectivity, and Meaning. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 211-230.
Wittgenstein on Language, Meaning, and Use.Dan Nesher - 1992 - International Philosophical Quarterly 32 (1):55-78.
Wittgenstein and Husserl: Context Meaning Theory.Dr Sanjit Chakraborty - 2016 - Guwahati University Journal of Philosophy 1 (1):101-112.
Ruling-out realism.Peter Carruthers - 1985 - Philosophia 15 (1-2):61-78.
Semantic components, meaning, and use in ethnosemantics.Cecil H. Brown - 1976 - Philosophy of Science 43 (3):378-395.
Towards a New Kind of Semantic Normativity.Claudine Verheggen - 2015 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 23 (3):410-424.


Added to PP

450 (#43,700)

6 months
78 (#61,855)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

William Child
Oxford University

Citations of this work

Rule-Following and Intentionality.Alexander Miller & Olivia Sultanescu - 2022 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Wittgenstein on rules and private language.Saul A. Kripke - 1982 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 173 (4):496-499.
Wittgenstein on following a rule.John McDowell - 1984 - Synthese 58 (March):325-364.
Primitive Normativity and Skepticism about Rules.Hannah Ginsborg - 2011 - Journal of Philosophy 108 (5):227-254.
Wittgenstein's Metaphilosophy.Paul Horwich - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

View all 12 references / Add more references