Notes for Class 5
Kripke on Wittgenstein on Rule-Following
Kripke proposes a systematic interpretation of W.’s later philosophy. This is unusual and important. The focus of his interpretations are rules. In particular, the possibility of a divorce, in W.’s philosophy, between rules and reasons.
On the face of it, rules and reasons seem to be inextricably connected. Rules give reasons, there are reasons for following rules. We have seen that for W. a wrong conception of the relation between rules and subjects of thought and agency, one according to which content and point of rules depend on the interpretations, of the meanings conferred by subjects, brings havoc on the concept both of rules and of reasons. We have also seen that W. contrasts that conception with one that merges rules, and the grasp and following of them, in ongoing, inclusive, shared practices. This leaves open different ways of understanding rules and practices.
No, let us see Kripke’s version of W.’s theory.
(1) Kripke reads W. as advancing a skeptical paradox about rules, reasons, and rule-following (4). It is questionable whether W. has skeptical aims in his arguments. But he certainly holds that a conception he is addressing critically has skeptical consequences. Kripke also holds that W. proposes a skeptical solution for the paradox (this is drawn from Hume on causation). This again is questionable, but W. certainly advances a conception that does not refute but rather dislodges the contrasting view.
(2) The root of the paradox is in the contrast between the grasp of a rule, which is finite, and the infinitely many cases of its application (7-9). This contrast makes it so that the grasp of the rule cannot take up the queerness of the presence/not presence of the whole application of the rule, which conceals the skeptical implications of the conception that make rules depend on subjective meaning. This is the point of Kripke’s arithmetical example: a sum we have never computed. This is second order, not first order skepticism: not about arithmetic, but about the use of arithmetical terms (like “+”). This skeptical threat comes to expression in the regress of rules for interpretation (16-17).
(3) A closer look at the paradox. Answering it in a direct, non-skeptical way, would require individuating a fact concerning past application of the rule that would prescribe how to apply it to a new case (11). It would have to be a fact that now gives a reason for an answer. The combination of factuality (to stop the skeptic and the regress) and of normativity (to stop them in the right way) is however difficult to individuate and make good. This is the root of the queerness. A fact about past meaning, application, use should provide justification for meaning, applying, using the rule in a certain way to a new case. But not even looking into the mind of a subject could such a fact be detected (12-15).
(4) Kripke outlines and rejects different ways of understanding the fact that should provide a ground for rule-following. Facts about dispositions to certain applications (which however are finite and non-normative) (22-31). Facts about how a machine would apply the rule (either circular or non-normative) (33-37). Facts about a distinctive, irreducible experience (a feeling of conviction) (non normative – if it exists at all) (41-47). No such fact can halt skepticism and the regress. No application is right or wrong, no application is justified, therefore no rule is applied (23-24, 28, 30).
(5) The common feature of the proposed (and rejected) facts-of-rule-following that should justify following a rule in a certain way is that they either are or are related to facts about the minds of subjects. (Mental history, 21. Something in my mind instructs me; I instruct myself, 22; and: Not even looking in the mind.) This makes me say that the demand for such a fact is a demand for self-constitution. And that Kripke, just like W., recognizes its impossibility, against the test of what is required for rule-following. A condition of self-constitution can be tracked down to (a) the (putative) grasp of a totality of cases without such cases being present and (b) the identification of such grasp to what connects thinkers or agents to rule (or make of these latter their rules). Kripke remarks that such a state is utterly mysterious (51); that it would be logically impossible: nothing mental and normative is self-interpreting (53-54).
(6) No facts, no truth makers, but conditions of assertability, role within a practice (73). In particular, such conditions, with reference to assertions about meaning (77). Inclusion in a community of speakers; teaching and learning; reciprocal checking (87-91). This is all the justification there is (112).