Meaning and Understanding

Barry Stroud

in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Meaning and Understanding

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  • Philosophy
  • Epistemology
  • History of Western Philosophy


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Almost from the beginning of his return to philosophy in Cambridge in 1929, Ludwig Wittgenstein was concerned not only with the relation of sentences or propositions to reality but also with the idea of someone's thinking or meaning or understanding something in a particular way. He also returned to the idea of a ‘limit’, this time to ‘the limit of language’. In the early parts of Philosophical Grammar, Wittgenstein takes up the question of how one can talk about ‘understanding’ or ‘not understanding’ a sentence. The implications of middle-period reflections on the impossibility of understanding language and meaning ‘from outside’ are illustrated and developed at many points and in many ways throughout Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein's remark that it is impossible to describe the fact that corresponds to a sentence without simply repeating the sentence is immediately followed by the observation that ‘this has to do with the Kantian solution of the problem of philosophy’.

Keywords: Ludwig Wittgenstein; philosophy; sentences; propositions; reality; meaning; understanding; Philosophical Investigations; limit of language

Article.  9479 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Epistemology ; History of Western Philosophy

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