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Language, Rules, and Rule: Austin and Wittgenstein on understanding and authority
Unformatted Document Text:  alone’ or hold out ‘one’s own meaning.’ Thus he refuses speakers any privileged relation to the meaning of their words separate from their ability to work it out among others: 21 ‘But do you really explain to the other person what you yourself understand?...—Any explanation which I can give myself I give to him too.—‘He guesses what I intend’ would mean: various interpretations of my explanation come to his mind, and he lights on one of them. So in this case he could ask; and I could and should answer him. (PI §210, compare §208) Crucially, if Wittgenstein avoids understanding meaning in terms of reference, and instead situates it within communication, among others, then he opens the space to understand both language and political rule beyond the aporiae present in Hobbes and Austin, respectively. Because Kripke takes reference to be essential in any theory of meaning, he interprets Wittgenstein as concerned about the kind of facts to which language refers, shifting from internal, mental facts to conventional social facts. But this simply reinstates the dynamics that appeared so problematic in Austin: meaning remains a matter of reference to conventions; conventions are thus still definitive for communication, settling what and how much a speaker can communicate with another person prior to and independent of her encounter with that other; and the speech of the community is secured as meaningful, but also insulated from others and from the world, by the assignment of interaction’s vulnerability and risk to the (only provisionally included) individual alone. On the view of Wittgenstein I’ve tried to put forward, by contrast, meaning appears as a matter of shared understanding reflected in practice; conventions arise from communication, while the communicative possibilities of a human encounter depend on the participants’ ability to bring features of themselves and of the world to shared attention—to engender response in others, and cultivate responsiveness 21 See also PI §232 & 237, defining ‘rule’ in relation to what one can teach another; here Wittgenstein adopts first the position of the ‘teacher’ and then that of the ‘student,’ attempting to read another’s ‘rule’ off of his actions. 18

Authors: McFadden, Tanner.
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alone’ or hold out ‘one’s own meaning.’ Thus he refuses speakers any privileged relation
to the meaning of their words separate from their ability to work it out among others:
‘But do you really explain to the other person what you yourself understand?...—Any explanation
which I can give myself I give to him too.—‘He guesses what I intend’ would mean: various
interpretations of my explanation come to his mind, and he lights on one of them. So in this case he
could ask; and I could and should answer him. (PI §210, compare §208)
Crucially, if Wittgenstein avoids understanding meaning in terms of reference,
and instead situates it within communication, among others, then he opens the space to
understand both language and political rule beyond the aporiae present in Hobbes and
Austin, respectively. Because Kripke takes reference to be essential in any theory of
meaning, he interprets Wittgenstein as concerned about the kind of facts to which
language refers, shifting from internal, mental facts to conventional social facts. But this
simply reinstates the dynamics that appeared so problematic in Austin: meaning remains
a matter of reference to conventions; conventions are thus still definitive for
communication, settling what and how much a speaker can communicate with another
person prior to and independent of her encounter with that other; and the speech of the
community is secured as meaningful, but also insulated from others and from the world,
by the assignment of interaction’s vulnerability and risk to the (only provisionally
included) individual alone. On the view of Wittgenstein I’ve tried to put forward, by
contrast, meaning appears as a matter of shared understanding reflected in practice;
conventions arise from communication, while the communicative possibilities of a human
encounter depend on the participants’ ability to bring features of themselves and of the
world to shared attention—to engender response in others, and cultivate responsiveness
21
See also PI §232 & 237, defining ‘rule’ in relation to what one can teach another; here Wittgenstein
adopts first the position of the ‘teacher’ and then that of the ‘student,’ attempting to read another’s ‘rule’ off
of his actions.
18


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