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rule-following considerations


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The considerations discussed by Wittgenstein in the Philosophical Investigations, §147–202, concerning our conception of what it is for our use of a piece of language to be governed by an understanding of it, or a meaning or rule of use. Different interpretations of these passages exist, but it is generally agreed that Wittgenstein is opposing a conception of ourselves as grasping a ‘superlative fact’: a set of logical rails that dictate how we should use a term in any of an indefinite number of cases that we have not yet encountered. The deflationary account that he appears to substitute is that there are not both the use of the term and in addition such a rule or principle (or form, or universal, or idea): there is only the use. One influential interpretation is that of Kripke, which sees Wittgenstein as engaged in a sceptical dialogue, whereby the facts we can offer continually fail to play the role of rules we are following, so that eventually the judgement that we are following one rule or another seems to answer to no facts at all, or to have no truth-conditions. It is doubtful whether Wittgenstein would have accepted this description of his conclusion, but the upshot may be a similar reevaluation of what it is to apply a concept, or think or make a judgement at all.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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