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Language, Rules, and Rule: Austin and Wittgenstein on understanding and authority
Unformatted Document Text:  suggests that, if the pupil never shows any understanding of the numbers’ order, “then communication (Verständigung) stops at that point” (PI §143). The use of ‘communication’ in each of these formulations suggests a view of the teacher and student not as authority and subordinate but as equals, engaged together in an attempt to come to a shared understanding. And this picture of the communicative situation in turn suggests that what the teacher means, the meaning of the rule, is just as much up in the air as is the pupil’s capacity to understand that rule. The contingent, intersubjective character of Meaning comes out most explicitly in §186. 20 Responding to Wittgenstein’s insistence in §185 that a ‘pupil’ who learns the rule “add two” from a teacher may understand that rule differently than the teacher in the face of any explanation, the interlocutor takes him to be dramatizing the epistemic inequality between the teacher who knows the rule’s meaning and the student, who must somehow gain access to that meaning: “What you are saying, then, comes to this: a new insight— intuition—is needed at every step to carry out the order ‘+n’ correctly.” But Wittgenstein rejects this, and problematizes the rule itself instead: “—To carry it out correctly! How is it decided what is the right step to take an ay particular stage?” At stake here are two views about where in the process of communication meaning lies: The interlocutor takes meaning as complete prior to interaction and within the ‘teacher,’ and communication is the one-way process of transferring that already-complete meaning to the ‘pupil’; Wittgenstein’s riposte, however, takes meaning to exist only within the communicative exchange itself, and to consist in the understanding teacher and student can come to share ‘dann hört da die Verständigung auf’ that follows—as well as providing support for my claim about Wittgenstein’s emphasis, of course. 20 For indicating the importance of section §186, again thanks to Patchen Markell. 16

Authors: McFadden, Tanner.
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suggests that, if the pupil never shows any understanding of the numbers’ order, “then
communication (Verständigung) stops at that point” (PI §143). The use of
‘communication’ in each of these formulations suggests a view of the teacher and student
not as authority and subordinate but as equals, engaged together in an attempt to come to
a shared understanding. And this picture of the communicative situation in turn suggests
that what the teacher means, the meaning of the rule, is just as much up in the air as is the
pupil’s capacity to understand that rule.
The contingent, intersubjective character of Meaning comes out most explicitly in
Responding to Wittgenstein’s insistence in §185 that a ‘pupil’ who learns the rule
“add two” from a teacher may understand that rule differently than the teacher in the face
of any explanation, the interlocutor takes him to be dramatizing the epistemic inequality
between the teacher who knows the rule’s meaning and the student, who must somehow
gain access to that meaning: “What you are saying, then, comes to this: a new insight—
intuition—is needed at every step to carry out the order ‘+n’ correctly.” But Wittgenstein
rejects this, and problematizes the rule itself instead: “—To carry it out correctly! How is
it decided what is the right step to take an ay particular stage?” At stake here are two
views about where in the process of communication meaning lies: The interlocutor takes
meaning as complete prior to interaction and within the ‘teacher,’ and communication is
the one-way process of transferring that already-complete meaning to the ‘pupil’;
Wittgenstein’s riposte, however, takes meaning to exist only within the communicative
exchange itself, and to consist in the understanding teacher and student can come to share
‘dann hört da die Verständigung auf’ that follows—as well as providing support for my claim about
Wittgenstein’s emphasis, of course.
20
For indicating the importance of section §186, again thanks to Patchen Markell.
16


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