Languages, language-games, and forms of life
Glock, H.-J. and Hyman, J. (eds.)
The Blackwell Companion to Wittgenstein.
- Author's Original
In this paper, after outlining the methodological role Wittgenstein's appeal to language-games is supposed to play, I examine the picture of language which his discussion of such games and their relations to what Wittgenstein calls forms of life suggests. It is a picture according to which language and its employment are inextricably connected to wider contexts—they are embedded in specific natural and social environments, they are tied to purposive activities serving provincial needs, and caught up in distinctive ways of life which creatures of a certain sort enjoy. In the remainder of the paper, I consider whether Wittgenstein's emphasis on the link between language and the circumstances surrounding its use points in the direction of an influential view widespread in contemporary philosophy of language, namely, semantic contextualism. I examine carefully a number of passages which scholars have appealed to in support of the claim that Wittgenstein advances contextualism and argue that they in fact provide no such support. The connection which Wittgenstein sees between what is expressed in the use of words and the circumstances in which they are used is not the connection the contextualist insists on.
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