The Life of The Sign

Edward Minar

in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199287505
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 The Life of The Sign

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Groping for direction in the midst of his investigation of rule-following in Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein remarks: ‘Language is a labyrinth of paths. You approach from one side and know your way about; you approach the same place from another side and no longer know your way about’. This article examines Wittgenstein's conception of philosophy, his methods, and the instructions he provides for our use of his ‘album’ of ‘sketches’. It examines some features of how agreement functions in Wittgenstein's treatment of rule-following by working toward an interpretation of his apparently climactic conclusion in Investigations: ‘If language is to be a means of communication there must be agreement not only in definition but also (queer as this may sound) in judgments. This seems to abolish logic, but does not do so’. To locate the significance of agreement in the practice of rule-following, this article looks at Wittgenstein's remarks about ‘the life of the sign’, a theme from the outset of the Investigations.

Keywords: Philosophical Investigations; Ludwig Wittgenstein; rule-following; language; philosophy; agreement; practice; logic; judgment; life of the sign

Article.  9851 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; History of Western Philosophy

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