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Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Mind$
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Jonathan Ellis and Daniel Guevara

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199737666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199737666.001.0001

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Meaning and Understanding

Meaning and Understanding

(p.19) Chapter 1 Meaning and Understanding
Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Mind

Barry Stroud

Oxford University Press

This chapter concerns the very possibility of, and limitations on, philosophical accounts of meaning, understanding, and concept-possession. Central to the chapter is the idea, found throughout Wittgenstein’s middle and later writings, that one cannot succeed in explaining the meaning of a particular sentence or a subject’s understanding of a sentence from “outside of” all meaning, i.e., without recognizing some things as meaningful or some people as having determinate thoughts. Stroud elucidates this idea by way of a careful treatment of a variety of passages in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Grammar. The chapter draws a number of significant consequences from this idea. For instance, the idea renders unsatisfiable the powerful urge in philosophy to seek an explanation of how meaning or understanding or concept-possession could come to exist in a world originally devoid of any meaning, understanding, or concepts. That is an urge that motivates a great many projects in the philosophy of mind and language. If the arguments of this chapter are right, these projects are misguided.

Keywords:   Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar, meaning, understanding, theory of meaning, engagement, philosophy of language

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