(Sektion 43: Philosophische Untersuchungen von Ludwig Wittgenstein).
In this section, we read Wittgenstein's famous 'explanation' of Bedeutung (reference or meaning); this explanation has since been sloganized by various philosophers as: meaning as use. After the twisting and turnings of 42 sections describing various applications and occurences of language that ridicule the copy theory of meaning presented by St. Augustine in Philosophische Untersuchungen 1, Wittgenstein finally ventures forth this rather non-general theory of meaning (if we can call it that at all): most cases of meaning can be described in terms of the functioning (in a practical sense) of the language in question. Most explanation of meaning of language can be done via an explanation of the usage of language. As he hinted at in the first two sentences of the Blue Book, Wittgenstein wants to look at how words are used rather than what they (seemingly) stand for, or refer to:
"What is the meaning of a word? Let us attack the question by asking, first, what is an explanation of the meaning of a word; what does the explanation of a word look like?" (page 1).
In Wittgenstein, then, we can read a shift in the point of view
from which we philosophize
. Contrary to the view advanced in the Tractatus
and by other early analytic philosophers such as Gottlob Frege
, Bertrand Russell
, and A.J. Ayer
, philosophical analysis will not determine and situate a general theory of what language is
, rather, philosophical activity should seek to understand the practical behavior
of language -- if I can be allowed to briefly anthropomorphize language. Philosophy will not explain how
language functions (the classical Kantian
question of epistemology
transformed into the discourse of language-philosophy
), but rather will see what
is going on when language functions -- what it means for something, in this case a language, to be used. (As a result of this conceptual shift
, many philosohpers have read Wittgenstein as advancing a kind of functionalism
and others as a kind of behaviorism
, and still others as a kind of pragmatism
The ideas in this passage were also reflected earlier in The Blue and Brown Books, "If we had to name anything which is the life of the sign, we should have to say that it was its use" (page 4). And in On Certainty, "A meaning of a word is a kind of employment of it. For it is what we learn when the word is incorporated into our language" (§61). For more on this, see the node Wittgenstein on meaning as use.
43. Man kann für eine große Klass von Fällen der Benützung des Wortes "Bedeutung"--wenn auch nicht für alle Fälle seiner Benützung--dieses Wort so erklären: Die Bedeutung eines Wortes ist sein Gebrauch in der Sprache.
Und die Bedeutung eines Names erklärt man manchmal dadurch, daß man auf seinen Träger zeigt.
43. One can for a large class of cases in which the word "reference" is used--if also not for all cases of this use--explain the word thus: the reference of a word is its use in the language.
And the reference of a name is sometimes explained through pointing out the name's bearer.