Notes for Class 4

 Objectivity: Naturalism and Rule-Following
The semantic problem with self-constituting states or contents is that they do not seem to abide by the two main kinds of semantic determination, reference and description.
Since self-constituting thought, by construction, define their own aboutness, they are not semantically individuated in relation to objects in the world. Therefore, it is not clear how to understand them in terms of reference.
In a certain way, self-constituting states and contents are descriptive: they specify conditions individuating the states or contents they are. For instance, the specification of an action or of an intention individuates what action or intention it is (what mental state), by its very taking place or actualization.     But there are problems also in this respect. As just said, the descriptive specification is not all there is to the semantics of self-constitution: there is also an obvious reflexive dimension, which consists in some sort of indexical dimension. But unless we can relate self-constituting states and contents to the world, it is not clear how to specify this semantic dimension. (Think also of the first person.)
What is true of the semantics of self-constituting states, is true also of their intrinsic normativity. Mental states and contents are in part individuated by their conditions of correctness; this holds also of self-constituting ones; if there are problems with the semantics of those states, such problems naturally extend to their normativity, their possibilities of error and correctness.
This latter issue comes in full light in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy and in Kripke’s interpretation of it. Wittgenstein, like in a completely different respect Hume, is an arch-anti self-constitutionalist. Hume’s opposition to self-constitution is centered on the concepts of mind, self, and agency. Wittgenstein’s, on the concepts of language, rules, and meaning.
(2) Wittgenstein
I want now to summarize W.’s normative attack on self-constitution (of contents or meanings and of the corresponding mental states).
(a) Language as a Practice
Three features of a practice are important to understand W.’s views: It is systematic, ongoing, and shared. By systematic I do not mean orderly (language is messy!) but inclusive and (somehow) holistic. By ongoing I mean that it is present as an activity, not as a formal scheme. It is a social activity of a certain sort, with a certain point.
§§ 49, 50: Systematicity, Holism
                § 120: Ongoing, social character.
            (b) Rules
            If language is a practice, its basic, explanatory elements are not ideas or axioms but rules, ways of engaging in such practice with some sort of prescriptive force. Language is shot through with rules and rules are immersed in its practice.
             §§ 50, 54
            (c) Meaning
            However, there is something else we associate (apparently with justification) to language and which we require from its practice: meaning (by x I mean y) and understanding (I understand x as y). This demand seems to put more burden on the concept of a rule. In particular, it seems to take up a self-constitutive connotation. The state of mind, the flash, or the subject of it, makes itself understand or mean something by something-
            §§ 146, 147, 149: Language game of writing down series of signs according to a certain formation rule. Understanding as knowing one’s meaning, state of mind.
            §§ 159, 161: Was hast Du getan?
            § 197: Flash and self-constitution of meaning/understanding.
            (d) Interpretations and the Paradox
            That the self-constitutive insight does not work well for language and understanding becomes clear if we consider what would it be if rules were subjected to a condition of self-constitution (along the lines suggested by W.). That is, if the role of rules were a matter of conferring them a certain content or point by an act of thinking/decision by one or more subjects. This would raise the problem of many interpretations and interpretation of interpretations. Paradox: rules cannot operate as rules. If they are understood in a sort of self-constitutive way.
            §§ 198, 213
            (e) Error
            The possibility of a regress of interpretations gives place to a problem with the possibility of error or correctness in what is to follow a rule. This calls in question the individuation of what rules we are following and the objectivity of meaning (private language).
§§ 201.  202 (Rule following)
            §§ 243, 256, 258 (Private language)
            (e) Back to Practice
            W.’s asks to rethink the conception of language as a practice.                                                          §§ 197, 198, 199

Data inizio: 
Mercoledì, 13 Ottobre, 2021
Data fine: 
Giovedì, 13 Ottobre, 2022

© Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza" - Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Roma