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:
Meaning and Understanding

Show Summary Details


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

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.