This book presents a new theory of grammatical categories - the Universal Spine Hypothesis - and reinforces generative notions of Universal Grammar while accommodating insights from linguistic typology.
AUTHOR: Wittgenstein, Ludwig TRANSLATORS: Luckhardt, C. Grant; Aue, Maximilian A. E. TITLE: The Big Typescript: TS 213 SUBTITLE: German-English Scholars' Edition PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing YEAR: 2005
Chaoqun Xie, Center for Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies; Foreign Languages Institute, Fujian Normal University
The editors and translators, C. Grant Luckhardt and Maximilian A. E. Aue, deserve credit for presenting a high-quality German-English edition informing the reader about various important themes that are to be recurring in Wittgenstein's later thoughts. As noted in the Introduction, Wittgenstein began what it is to be called ''The Big Typescript'' at the time of his return to philosophy in 1929 to study for a PhD as an ''Advanced Student'' (vi-e). In addition to providing some background information about the text, the Introduction talks about how the text is edited and translated to ensure scholarliness and readability. Indeed, they made it. As I see it, anyone interested in Ludwig Wittgenstein should not miss The Big Typescript written between the Tractatus and the Philosophical Investigations. In what follows, I will present a summary before making some critical evaluations.
Topically speaking, this typescript can be roughly divided into 19 parts. Part 1 is about understanding. For Wittgenstein, the word ''understanding'' is not metalogical, and understanding, which consists in having a particular experience, doesn't begin until there is a proposition; understanding is a correlate of explanation. Of course, it might be helpful to be reminded of the fact that understanding is closely related to interpreting.
Part 2 concerns meaning. According to Wittgenstein, the concept of meaning originates in a primitive philosophical conception of language, and meaning is ''the location of a word in grammar'' (26e); since the meaning of a word is what the explanation of its meaning explains, what we should ask is not about the definition of meaning but the definition of explanation of meaning (cf. Wittgenstein 1953). Wittgenstein furthers argues that meaning is not an experience but a stipulation (35e). In the second part, Wittgenstein also discusses meaning as feeling, primary and secondary signs, etc.
Part 3 is related to the issue of proposition. Wittgenstein believes that a proposition is everything with which one means something, that meaning is laid down in grammar, that ''proposition'' is equivalent to the words ''language'' and ''grammar'' and that what is to count as a proposition is determined in grammar. In this part, the similarity of proposition and picture, the relationship between proposition and reality, the nature of hypothesis and the problem of the ''Heap of Sand'', among other things, are also illustrated.
Part 4 is entitled ''Immediate understanding and the application of a word in time''. The questions Wittgenstein attempts to answer include: How does understanding a sentence accompany uttering or hearing it? Is the meaning of a word shown in time? Is the meaning of a word only revealed in the course of time as its use develops? Does knowledge of grammatical rules accompany the expression of a sentence when we understand it -- its words? Is meaning, when we understand it, grasp ''all at once'', and unfolded, as it were, in the rules of grammar?
Part 5 is devoted to the nature of language, where Wittgenstein asks, among other things, Can we use explanation to construct language to get it to work? What effect does a single explanation of language have, what effect understanding? Can one use the word ''red'' to search for something red? Does one need an image, a memory- image, for this? For Wittgenstein, language is not defined as an instrument for a particular purpose, the connection between language and reality is made through explanations of words, which explanations belong in turn to grammar, and language functions as language only by virtue of the rules we follow in using it, just as a game is a game only by virtue of its rules. Wittgenstein is against talking about ''meaning something'' as an indefinite process but about the actual use of the word, and ''meaning something'' should be talked about ''only when it is part of the language-calculus'', but ''then we really don't need the words 'meaning something', for that always suggests that we are dealing with processes that don't belong to language but stand apart from it, processes whose nature is essentially different from that of language'' (157e).
Part 6 discusses thought and thinking, where Wittgenstein places much emphasis on the mechanism of thinking, the location of thinking, the purpose of thinking and the reason for thinking, and how one explains the essence of thought by its purpose, its function. As far as the reason for thinking is concerned, Wittgenstein's point is that ''It is not possible to give a rational basis for why we should think'' (180e).
Part 7 is devoted to the discussion of grammar, where Wittgenstein argues, among other things, for the unaccountability of grammar to any reality and the arbitrariness of grammatical rules. At one point, Wittgenstein reminds us that ''Our investigation shouldn't endeavour to discover the exact meaning of words; but ¡give exact meanings to words'' (199e) and that ''Our task is not to improve our language, to make it more exact, or possibly even to try to replace it with an 'ideally exact' one'' (200e). For Wittgenstein, language and grammar should be viewed as a calculus, ''as a process that follows fixed rules'' (203e).
Part 8 is focused on intention and depiction, where Wittgenstein elaborates upon the following questions: If in copying I am guided by a model and thus know that I am now moving my pencil in such a way because the model goes that way, is a causality involved here of which I am immediately aware? If we ''depict in accordance with a particular rule'', is this rule contained in the process of copying (depicting), and can it therefore be read out of it unambiguously? Does the process of depicting embody this rule, as it were? How does one use a general rule of representation to justify the result of representation? How are out thoughts connected with the objects we think about? How do these objects enter out thoughts? In this part, Wittgenstein criticizes the confusion related to the words ''psychological process'' and ''mental process'', arguing that the process of copying on purpose, of copying with the intention to copy, is not essentially a psychological, inner process.
While Part 9 concerns logical inference, Part 10 deals with generality. In Part 10, Wittgenstein argues that the proposition ''The circle is in the square'' is not a disjunction of cases, and has nothing to do with a particular position. Wittgenstein criticizes the inadequacy of Frege's and Russell's notation for generality and his earlier understanding of generality. Part 11 discusses expectation, wish, belief, reason, motive, intention and other related topics.
Part 12 dwells upon philosophy, where Wittgenstein points out that the difficulty of philosophy is not the intellectual difficulty of the sciences, but the difficulty of a change of attitude. In discussing the view that our grammatical investigations are fundamental, Wittgenstein emphasizes that ''The importance of grammar is the importance of language'' (305e), that ''All that philosophy can do is to destroy idol'' (305e) and that ''Philosophy is not laid down in propositions, but in a language'' (313e). This part touches upon various important issues related to the study of philosophy that are to be further expounded in the Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein 1953).
Part 13 concerns phenomenology, dealing with visual space in contrast to Euclidean space and its relationship with the seeing subject. Minima Visibilia and colors and the mixing of colors are also discussed in this part. Part 14 talks about the representation of what is immediately perceived, idealism, ''having pain'', memory-time, ''here'' and ''now'' and, color and experience as formal concepts. The last 5 parts concern the philosophy of mathematics. Part 15 focuses on the foundations of mathematics, Part 16 on cardinal numbers, Part 17 on mathematical proof, Part 18 on inductive proofs and periodicity and Part 19 on the infinite in mathematics and the extensional viewpoint.
Ludwig Wittgenstein is a legend both in terms of life and work. Anyone with a nodding acquaintance with him might not deny that he, as one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, has been and is still surprisingly exerting so much impact upon so many lines of inquiry, from religion to linguistics, from psychoanalysis to the arts, and from ethics to an increasing number of fields outside philosophy.
The Big Typescript provides an ideal and essential access to understanding how Wittgenstein developed his philosophical ideas and thoughts after the Tractatus and before the Philosophical Investigations. For me, those sections on understanding, meaning, proposition, the nature of language, thought and thinking, grammar, intention, and philosophizing are particularly inspiring and thought- provoking; as a matter of fact, it can be said that Wittgenstein's work on these and other related topics have made visible contributions to the development of the philosophy of language and pragmatics. To be more specific, I think Wittgenstein has made direct or indirect contributions to the formation and development of speech act theory proposed by Austin (1962), even the controversially influential relevance theory (Sperber and Wilson 1986/1995) has drawn upon much from Wittgenstein's ideas. Interestingly if not unfortunately, Wittgenstein largely goes unmentioned in these works. What I mean by this is not that all Wittgenstein wrote down is correct and flawless; it is self-evident that no man is perfect and that no man can be perfect. And Wittgenstein is no exception. One may not and need not agree with all Wittgenstein has said, but it would be oversight to ignore him, especially for those interested in language use, language understanding and language interpreting. Reading Wittgenstein, one may be greatly impressed not only by his presentation of extraordinary ideas in ordinary language, but also by his uniquely compelling mode of presentation and illuminating rhetoric, which is quite different from much of present-day scholarship.
In sum, Luckhardt and Aue have done a good job of providing an accessible edition of Wittgenstein's Big Typescript that is essential to understanding and interpreting the evolution of Wittgenstein's thoughts after the Tractatus. Anyone interested in Wittgenstein should consider possessing a copy of it.
Austin, J. L.1962. How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sperber, D. and D. Wilson. 1986/1995. Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Wittgenstein, L. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Dr. Chaoqun Xie is an associate professor at the Foreign Languages Institute, Fujian Normal University. Currently, he is also a post-doctoral research fellow (supervisor: Prof. Ziran He) at the Center for Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China. His research interests include pragmatics and philosophy of language.