One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wittgenstein's "Investigations": Augustine and the Essence of Human Language

I suppose Wittgenstein saw something here most of us (including perhaps Augustine) wouldn't have seen. But isn't that, to some degree, the way we all read: We sometimes find things other than what the author intended.

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Of course in his Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein quotes the Latin of Augustine's Confessions (I. 8). I will simply give the English translation:
When they (my elders) named some object, and accordingly moved towards something, I saw this and I grasped that the thing was called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out. Their intention was shown by their bodily movements, as it were the natural language of all peoples: the expression of the face, the play of the eyes, the movement of other parts of the body, and the tone of voice which expresses our state of mind in seeking, having, rejecting, or avoiding something. Thus, as I heard words repeatedly used in their proper places in various sentences, I gradually learnt to understand what objects they signified; and after I had trained my mouth to form these signs, I used them to express my own desires.
[In the text this passage appears in Latin, German, and English. G. E. M is designated as the translator.] 
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