Wittgenstein, Mind, and Meaning: Toward a Social Conception of Mind

Wittgenstein, Mind, and Meaning: Toward a Social Conception of Mind

Wittgenstein, Mind, and Meaning: Toward a Social Conception of Mind

Wittgenstein, Mind, and Meaning: Toward a Social Conception of Mind

Synopsis

Where Wittgenstein argues that there is no thought without language, advocates for cognitivism argue for the priority of thought over natural language usage.This collection of papers explores the connection between Wittgenstein's criticism of the Cartesian theory of mind and his conception of language and mind, and lays the foundations for a social conception of mind, a conception that emphasises the social basis of rule-following and the philosophical significance of language learning.

Excerpt

Over the last twenty years, I have worked in two areas in contemporary philosophy: the later philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the foundations of cognitive science. Wittgenstein’s critical views concerning philosophical theories and their illusions and his positive views concerning the normative structure of our language games conflict deeply with the reductionist aspirations of many contemporary cognitivist theories of mind. Behind cognitive science as it interests philosophers is a firm commitment to naturalism, to the idea that our cognitive capacities require a naturalistic explanation of mental content, logical relations, indeed the whole logical space of reasons. Philosophers have looked primarily to computational theories, Darwinian functionalist theories, and information-processing theories to provide this naturalistic account. Wittgenstein too seeks a naturalism with respect to the mind as the formation of a second nature through acculturation into our normatively structured language games.

Wittgenstein, both in his early work and his later work, is a seminal figure in the development of analytic philosophy, in promoting the idea that natural language use is key to understanding the nature of the mind. Wittgenstein is notable, however, for his rejection of the positivists’ celebration of science. the cognitivist movement of the second half of the twentieth century, on the other hand, repudiates the linguistic turn while identifying its naturalistic project with a defense of the hegemony of science. Cognitivist theories of mind are rife with nativist theories of rules, concepts, theories, and beliefs; with psychologically real cognitive processes, structures, and concepts, all of which ride free of a dependence upon (natural) language mastery. This philosophical movement is identified in large part by its return to realist theories of thought and cognition. It is only to be expected that Wittgenstein’s later views of language and mind must conflict in profound ways with the current cognitivist movement in the philosophy of mind.

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