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1 8 Ostensive Definitions, Indexicality, and the First Person.

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1 1 8 Ostensive Definitions, Indexicality, and the First Person

2 2 Ostensive definitions Wittgenstein’s examination of ostensive definitions is inseparable from the criticisms of his logical atomism and the rejection of the whole framework of thought about language within the tradition. Wittgenstein’s examination of ostensive definitions is inseparable from the criticisms of his logical atomism and the rejection of the whole framework of thought about language within the tradition.

3 3 Wittgenstein does not aim to show that ostensive definitions are defective by comparison with other forms of explanations of words. Wittgenstein does not aim to show that ostensive definitions are defective by comparison with other forms of explanations of words. His purpose is to prove that they are not especially privileged; in particular, that they do not lay the foundations of language.

4 4 Difficulties with ostensive definitions Difficulties with ostensive definitions Every ostensive definition is open to misinterpretation (e.g. “this bottle” meaning either the bottle, the colour, the content, the shape, etc.) “An ostensive definition can be variously interpreted in every case.” (PI: # 28)

5 5 Paradigmatic cases of ostensive definition involve Paradigmatic cases of ostensive definition involve (i) a deictic gesture, usually a pointing and (ii) a verbal formula such as “that is …”, “this is called …”.

6 6 Problems Problems What counts as a pointing gesture? What counts as a pointing gesture? E.g. pointing to a space, a noise, a smell, a day, etc.

7 7 What count as something pointed at? What count as something pointed at? E.g. pointing to an object, to its colour, shape, weight, pointing to an activity/event (a football match), etc. What counts as an admissible form of words in an ostensive definition? What counts as an admissible form of words in an ostensive definition? E.g. “This is …”, “this is called …”, “this colour is …”, “‘read’ means this colour” etc.

8 8 “And what does “pointing to the shape”, pointing to the colour” consist in? Point to a piece of paper.—And now point to its shape—now its colour—now its number (that sound queer)—How did you do it?” (PI: # 33)

9 9 The Normativity of Ostensive Definitions The Normativity of Ostensive Definitions Ostensive definitions are normative. As such they ought to be understood as rules. Hence because of their normativity, they do not differ from lexical definitions. E.g. “This is a frog” and “Bachelor are unmarried men”, guide our linguistic behaviour by providing standards of correctness for applying the expressions whose meaning they explain.

10 10 Ostensive definitions are like rules Ostensive definitions are like rules As such, they: (i) are not descriptive, (ii) they can be misinterpreted, (iii) they cannot be viewed, pace the Augustinian picture, as giving a connection between language and reality.

11 11 These features of ostensive definitions go hand in hand with Wittgenstein’s idea that meaning is use. These features of ostensive definitions go hand in hand with Wittgenstein’s idea that meaning is use. For, if an ostensive definition is a rule, it “tells us” how to proceed, i.e. how to use a given world.

12 12 Ostensive definitions are sometimes linked with the use of objects as samples. Ostensive definitions are sometimes linked with the use of objects as samples. E.g. “This is red” may be used to pick out the object as a sample of the colour red. Samples, and thus ostensive definitions so used, play a crucial role in Wittgenstein’s account of what it is to follow a rule or order.

13 13 This contributes in undermining the Augustinian picture, for ostensive definitions linked with the use of objects as sample sets the standard of use, they do not link language with reality. This contributes in undermining the Augustinian picture, for ostensive definitions linked with the use of objects as sample sets the standard of use, they do not link language with reality. An explanation of an expression by reference to a sample does not forge a link between language and reality: the sample itself is best conceived as a sign and hence as a part of grammar. As such it has, like a rule, a normative role.

14 14 Indexiality For the traditional, contemporary treatment of indexicals, see Kaplan 1977, “Demonstratives”, in Almog et als. eds., 1989, Themes from Kaplan, Oxford UP For the traditional, contemporary treatment of indexicals, see Kaplan 1977, “Demonstratives”, in Almog et als. eds., 1989, Themes from Kaplan, Oxford UP

15 15 Indexicals qua token-reflexives Indexicals qua token-reflexives Reichenbach (1947) characterized indexicals as token reflexive. As such they can be defined in terms of the locution “this token”, where the latter (reflexively) self-refers to the very token used.

16 16 Token reflexives Token reflexives “I” can be defined in terms of “the person who utters this token”, “now” in terms of “the time at which this token is uttered”, “this table” in terms of “the table pointed by a gesture accompanying this token”, etc.

17 17 The content-character distinction The content-character distinction Indexicals and referents; sentences and singular propositions Indexicals and referents; sentences and singular propositions The character of an indexical is its linguistic meaning while the content is the referent picked out in a given occasion of use.

18 18 The content of a sentence is the (singular) proposition expressed. The latter contains the object(s) referred to and the property(ies) expressed by the linguistic elements of the sentence. The content of a sentence is the (singular) proposition expressed. The latter contains the object(s) referred to and the property(ies) expressed by the linguistic elements of the sentence. Singular propositions are structured entities reflecting the structure of the sentence expressing them.

19 19 Character Character It can be represented by a function from context to content, i.e. the character qua meaning takes as argument the context of utterance and gives as value the content Contextual parameters Contextual parameters agent, time, place, possible world. They are technical notions. As we’ll see the agent may not be, pace Kaplan (1977), the speaker (e.g.: answering machines).

20 20 Pure indexicals vs. demonstratives Pure indexicals vs. demonstratives The meaning of a demonstrative (“this”, “that”,...), unlike the character of a pure indexical (“I”, “now”, “today”, “here”, …), is incomplete and must be completed by a demonstration. The content is the object demonstrated.

21 21 The cognitive significance problem The cognitive significance problem The character gives us the cognitive significance while the content (proposition) gives us the truth value. Unlike Fregean thoughts which give us both. Kaplan claims that the character is the cognitive significance, but we can be more cautious and say that the character helps classifying the cognitive significance.

22 22 On the basis of these distinctions and clarifications we can appreciate Wittgenstein’s discussion of the first person. On the basis of these distinctions and clarifications we can appreciate Wittgenstein’s discussion of the first person. Wittgenstein distinguishes between the use of ‘I’ as subject and the use of ‘I’ as object.

23 23 The First Person The point on which he [Wittgenstein] seemed most anxious to insists was that we shall call ‘having toothache’ is what he called ‘a private experience […]’; and he said that “what characterises ‘primary experience’ is that in this case, ‘I’ does not denote a possessor.” […] He said that ‘Just as no (physical) eye is involved in seeing, no Ego is involved in thinking or having toothache’; and he quoted, with apparent approval, Lichtenberg’s saying, “Instead of ‘I think’ we ought to say ‘It thinks’ (Moore 1959: 302-3).

24 24 Anscombe’s argument Anscombe’s argument Anscombe argues that “I” is not, contrary to appearances, a referential expression. Her argument is a reduction: A1. “I” is a referential term. A2. A referential term refers via the mediation of a Fregean sense or mode of presentation.

25 25 Acceptance of A1 commits us to Acceptance of A1 commits us to A3“I” has a referent. A4“I” is either a name or a demonstrative. From A4 and A3 Anscombe goes on to infer From A4 and A3 Anscombe goes on to infer A5The referent of “I” is an object or body.

26 26 From A5 and A2, we get From A5 and A2, we get A6“I” is associated with an egocentric and unsharable mode of presentation.

27 27 The use of a name for an object is connected with a conception of that object. And so we are driven to look for something that, for each ‘I’-user, will be the conception related to the supposed name ‘I’, as the conception of a city is to the names ‘London’ and ‘Chicago’, that of a river to ‘Thames’ and ‘Nile’, that of a man to ‘John’ and ‘Pat’. Such a conception is requisite if ‘I’ is a name, and there is no conception that can claim to do the job except one suggested by ‘self- consciousness’ (Anscombe 1975: 141).

28 28 For, from A4 we can also infer, For, from A4 we can also infer, A7“I” can be an empty term. “I”, though, never misses the referent. “I”, though, never misses the referent. We cannot imagine a situation when someone using the first person pronoun does not pick out herself as the referent.

29 29 Just thinking ‘I …’ guarantees not only the existence but the presence of its referent. It guarantees the existence because it guarantees the presence, which is presence to consciousness. But note that here ‘presence to consciousness’ means physical or real presence, not just that one is thinking of the thing. For if the thing did not guarantee the presence, the existence of the referent cannot be doubted. For the same reason, if ‘I’ is a name it cannot be an empty name. I’s existence is existence in the thinking of the thought expressed by ‘I …’ (Anscombe 1975: 143-4).

30 30 Since names and demonstratives can be empty terms we can infer: Since names and demonstratives can be empty terms we can infer: A8“I” is neither a name, nor a demonstrative. A8 contradicts A4. A8 contradicts A4. So, by reductio, Anscombe rejects A1 and claims that “I” is not a referring expression

31 31 See Anscombe’s classical paper “The First Person”, in: P. Yourgrau (ed.) (1990), Demonstratives, Oxford: Oxford UP, See Anscombe’s classical paper “The First Person”, in: P. Yourgrau (ed.) (1990), Demonstratives, Oxford: Oxford UP, For a critique of Anscombe’s discussion, see Corazza, “Understanding ‘I’: A Wittgensteinian Perspective”, Wittgenstein Studies, 2001, No. 2, For a critique of Anscombe’s discussion, see Corazza, “Understanding ‘I’: A Wittgensteinian Perspective”, Wittgenstein Studies, 2001, No. 2, 23-33


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