06-29-2012, 07:40 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2012
| | Language and the Mind
Wittgenstein was the first to make the point that language is not a transparent tool to be taken for granted.
Locke, Hume and even Plato had theories on language - but they were all kind of like Wittgensteins theory of language in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In this, the only book ever published in his life-time, Wittgenstein argued that language is a picture of reality - and thus stands quite outside ourselves.
In the Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein completely changed course (which is quite strange seeing as he had won world wide fame with his Tractactus) and tried to show that language is internal and indeed the frame-work through which we know the world.
"The borders of my language are the borders of my world." - Ludwig Wittgenstein.
This rise of awareness around language is very specific to the 20th century - before everyone had taken language for granted. Now we can see that more than anything else, this conceptual tool (which we call language) is what makes a human human. Without being able to conceptualize something we can't understand or even fantasize about it - thus in order to be learned one must always practice language and try to expand it.
Imagine that I draw a triangle and then I point to one of the sides, and one of its points respectively, and say: "Now see this as base and this as apex". After a while I point at one of the other sides and say "Now see this as base and This as apex".
Nothing has changed but how we conceptualize the triangle - yet we experiences two completely different triangles. This is part of the magic of language - and how it sets borders to our knowledge.
Once we start to see language as being a biological adaptation we must also see the relation between the mind and language as being essential to evolution. From this stand-point we have a completely different conception of the mind than from within common scientific circles. Suddenly the mind has a job and a way to relate to the world - language enables us to know the world and studying it gives us a hint of the working of our minds.
Within the Wittgensteinan world-view the mind must be causal - and for it to be causal it must also be free. That is not true of any other object we know of, because no other object brings with it the subjective sensation of freedom and choice.