Chapter

Meaning and Understanding

Barry Stroud

in Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Mind

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199737666
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199933372 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199737666.003.0002
Meaning and Understanding

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This chapter concerns the very possibility of, and limitations on, philosophical accounts of meaning, understanding, and concept-possession. Central to the chapter is the idea, found throughout Wittgenstein’s middle and later writings, that one cannot succeed in explaining the meaning of a particular sentence or a subject’s understanding of a sentence from “outside of” all meaning, i.e., without recognizing some things as meaningful or some people as having determinate thoughts. Stroud elucidates this idea by way of a careful treatment of a variety of passages in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Grammar. The chapter draws a number of significant consequences from this idea. For instance, the idea renders unsatisfiable the powerful urge in philosophy to seek an explanation of how meaning or understanding or concept-possession could come to exist in a world originally devoid of any meaning, understanding, or concepts. That is an urge that motivates a great many projects in the philosophy of mind and language. If the arguments of this chapter are right, these projects are misguided.

Keywords: Wittgenstein; Philosophical Grammar; meaning; understanding; theory of meaning; engagement; philosophy of language

Chapter.  9688 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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