tblt.gif

Tang Ben Forum

Chinese Software

美國.洛杉磯

tangben@tangben.com

 

懷疑是不對的

陳真

之前在這討論群和「阿米巴醫學人文報」上登過一篇「懷疑是不夠的」,回應一位台大社會系學生有關醫療的「社會學分析」報告。我說她的報告堥S有「分析」, 也看不到「社會」的影子。

另外,我也提到國內許多人總喜歡談「顛覆」、「解構」、「社會建構」、「霸權」等等這些東西,講得朗朗上口,像一種「時髦」似的。讓人聽起來覺得很彆扭。因為,我們往往發現覆述這些詞彙者,他所要講的無非只是一種極其普通的含義。

比如「顛覆」,大約類似「我要講它壞話」「我要詛咒它」的意思;比如「解構」,大約是「那也沒什麼了不起,它不過是什麼什麼」之類的意思;比如「霸權」,大約只是「這東西吃人夠夠,讓我真他媽的不爽」的意思;比如「社會建構」,差不多就是說「這玩意兒原來是假的、冒牌的、不科學的」。

其實,如果我們要講的就只是這樣一層意思,何必講得那麼文謅謅?我們原有的日常生活詞彙就綽綽有餘了,不是嗎?

如我前文所提,比如說像「社會建構論」(social constructionism)其實並不是這樣的意涵。它可以隸屬一個更大的標籤,就是前文所說的SSK(知識社會學及社會知識論),這大標籤包含「『社會』這東西在知識的形成過程中,起了什麼作用?」這個主題下的一切討論。

不管有多少類型的討論或主張,「社會建構」講的並不是一種陰謀論,不是說有一群科學家別有企圖,在科學操作上動手腳,幹了見不得人的勾當。它要講的,可以這麼說,就是我(們)在認識這個世界或所謂「真實」(reality)時,是透過什麼樣的「眼光」?這「眼光」是我一人所能獨撐?或者它是屬於「一群人」?

換個方式說,當一個「概念」(concept)(也就是指的「知識」或指整個我們所認知的「世界」(reality))形成時,它的內容是「上帝」「給定的」(given)?或者是「一群人」涉入其中?如果是純粹上帝給定,那麼,任何一個有足夠心智能力的「個人」,都能辨識出或「發現」某種「真理」。如果是「一群人」支撐起「概念的形成」,那麼,便沒有「一人科學」或「一人知識」這種東西。知識之所以是知識,科學之所以是科學,是因為有「一群人」參與在這堶情C

常會引起爭議或混淆的原因可能是在於,我們不習慣做抽象思考,並且太喜歡亂「推論」,甚至老急著「做結論」。這恐怕都是太強調所謂「科學教育」的某種遺毒。就好像如果有人說「愛情比麵包重要」時,你不要去想究竟是哪一家麵包店或哪一種麵包,也不要「推論」說「那麼,我們是不是都不應該吃麵包?」,或甚至結論說「愛吃麵包的都不懂愛情」。

我當然不是要說抽象思考比較厲害,而只是要說它是不同於「眼見為憑的世界」的另一種「想事情的方式」,這樣的思考,不是要找到一個肯定的答案或結論(台灣教育太喜歡強調「答案」,好像沒有「答案」就活不下去一樣);藉著思考,把事情想清楚,就是它的目的。「想清楚」,不意味著任何一種答案,就像把收音機調清楚一樣,沒有什麼答案不答案的。至於收音機要播報些什麼,那是另一回事了。所以,抽象思考,基本句型大約就只是不斷地問「這意思是說…點點點?」、「你的意思是說…點點點?」是一種「努力把收音機調清楚」的過程。

回到SSK。我們知道許多概念脫離不了「社會」,就好比說,錢之所以是錢,是因為「我們」大家說它是錢,如果「我們」說它不是,那它就只是「一張紙」。你在這張「紙」媕Y絕對找不到「錢」的一絲影子,因為「錢」是我們「建構」起來的一個東西。錢,不存在這世界上,而存在我們的腦子堙C在這意義上,「疾病」,何嘗不是如此?!疾病不存在,它只是一種概念。

看得出來,這種強調以「社會」眼光來看事情的方式,會隨著一個概念本身的「自然」屬性升高而升高其爭議。比如腦瘤和精神分裂症,說腦瘤這個概念有社會成份,必然會引起較多爭議,而精神分裂症因為比較「看不見」,所以很容易被知識社會學家任意「汙衊」、分析來分析去的。

爭議性更高的,大概就是數學或物理。我們知道一個數學定理之所以「正確」,不是因為「一群人」(即「社會」)開會協商的結果;一加一等於二就是等於二,也不是誰「發明」出來的。

一粒石頭就是一粒石頭,一棵樹就是一棵樹,沒有人去「建構」它,它還是存在那堙C如果是這樣,那SSK還有什麼好談的呢?我猜,不管正反雙方,一般對SSK的理解和爭議大約頂多是停留在這個高度。之所以如此,仍然是因為我們不習慣做抽象思考,以及愛做「結論」的心態所致,我們一直急著想爭辯真假對錯,其實,這些思考沒有可供認知的「內涵」(content),所以也不會有真假。就好像我們沒辦法把「愛情比麵包重要, 對或錯?」拿來當「是非題」考學生一樣,因為這沒有什麼對錯,這只是一種「看事情的方式」。如果無法明白這點,我們就會陷入許多不必要而且可笑的爭執中。

如果我們明白這類思考是怎麼一回事,那麼,即使是數學,即使邏輯,即使是「上帝」,都不是不可質疑的了。

好比說「數學哲學」(philosophy of mathematics),可能是長這樣。地上有個計算機,一隻小狗走過去,左前腳踩到“5”,右前腳踩到“x”,左後腳踩到“6”,右後腳踩到“enter”,於是出現一個數字30。我們會不會說這隻小狗剛剛進行了一場算數演練?我們會不會說這個“30”是一個「正確」「答案」?如果會,那所謂「正確」是相對於什麼情況下而言?「正確」的「判準」(criteria)是什麼?當我們說「某人給了一個正確答案」時,究竟是什麼意思?同樣地,魯賓遜飄流荒島,每天早上吃兩顆椰子,先吃一顆,再吃第二顆,我們用望遠鏡天天都偷看到這一幕,會不會因此說魯賓遜憑一人之力,「發現」了一加一等於二的「數學定理」?這些問題的「答案」如何,當然不重要,它不是在求一個「是」或「不是」的答案;重要的是你要藉著它澄清些什麼問題,或者說,你藉著這些例子,要說些什麼。

所以,當我們聽到有人在研究「數學哲學」時,千萬不要生氣,不要激動,研究者並不是要告訴你數學哪一個定理錯了,也不是要說數學是一種假的人造物,堶悼是陰謀;當然也不要誤會,研究者不必然是個數學高手,他可能常常數學考不及格也說不定。就好像批評某人演技很爛,自己不一定要很會演戲或懂得「表演學」一樣。

哲學如果還有一點什麼「實際」用處,那大概就是幫助我們把事情想清楚吧。

再回到SSK。數學物理等這些「硬科學」的確是它的「好例子」,但例子就是例子,例子有千千萬萬,例子從來都不會是問題「本身」,例子只是拿來談更抽象的想法。

哲學上,通常是把「知識」或「概念」籠統做為一個檢討對象,即便是SSK,也不是要「顛覆」一門又一門的學科,更不是檢討特定理論「真假」,這種誤解實在是雞同鴨講。

為什麼學術上總是會有這麼多基本的誤解?原因也許很多,但,台灣社會「一味搞流行」的心態,以及向來輕視思考、重視「實際練習」或「覆述大師言論」的「教育」方式,也許難辭其疚。有時,我真不禁要為佛洛伊德、傅科、孔恩(T. Kuhn)、巴柏(K. Popper)、馬克思等等這些莫名其妙在台灣流行的「明星」感到悲哀。我雖對他們的想法所知無幾,但卻明白他們的許多追隨者往往只是在糟塌他們。題外話。

檢討數學物理,對SSK的支持者而言,也許還不夠酷,更酷的是懷疑整個語言或知識的可能性。有一個當代著名哲學家叫做Saul Kripke,可說是始作俑者。這個立場,或許可以說為後來SSK的發展鋪下地基,因為它論證「社會」是一切知識的必要基礎。

簡單說,Kripke從解釋維根斯坦的想法中,提出一個號稱「人類有史以來『最激烈的懷疑論吊詭』(the most radical skeptical paradox)」,就是「我們的知識或語言是不可能的」。為了挽救這個可怕的危機,於是,他說好佳在「社會」這東西提供了出路。

無可否認,Kripke的想法,不但對SSK,即使在一般哲學上,都產生了重要而長遠的影響,但我卻完全不認同他說的。底下附檔是今年2月時寫的,就是在指出這個人對維根斯坦的誤解。

我相信﹕懷疑主義是離維根斯坦最遙遠的一種態度。我跟他一樣,相信一切「普通常識」。比如說﹕「我住在地球上」,比如說「人要吃東西才能活」,比如說「魚不會打電腦」,比如說「我沒辦法搭公車去月亮」等等等。

齊克果(Kierkegaard)說的﹕「形而上學家專門在空中造漂亮樓閣,但是,根本沒有人住在那堶情C」

要相信,不要懷疑。懷疑是不對的。

在這討論群上,我也曾登過一個英文附檔,叫做「自然主義知識論能多自然?」,這次這篇也許可以叫做「社會知識論能多社會?」我反彈了這兩種截然不同的立場,一個是頭腦硬梆梆、擁有過度「信心」的「笨蛋科學家」,一個是口沫橫飛、愛做解釋的「壞蛋社會學家」,它們都或多或少扭曲了「真實」,這都不是凡人居住的世界。

這天地實在很奇妙,「我們究竟如何能知道些什麼?」類似這樣的一些問題,幾千年來,不知困惑多少人,耗盡多少人的一生心血和聰明才智。不過,這些問題,其實不該只是所謂「哲學家」的專利,因為這等於只是在問「我是誰?」「我從哪裡來?」「我往何處去?」「我該怎麼活?」的問題。維根斯坦對學生說的﹕「如果哲學只是讓你學會操弄一堆艱深的邏輯符號,而不能幫助你面對生命中那些最重要的問題,研究哲學有什麼意思?!」

我們活著,看著自己、看著周圍世界,如Martin Heidegger說的,竟然真的「有些東西存在,而不是空無一物」;我們不會有這樣一種衝動,想弄明白這些跟我們的生命最貼切的問題嗎?「我是誰?」「我從哪裡來?」「我往何處去?」「我該怎麼活?」唸哲學,就像一種尋找「回家的路」的過程。我覺得我好像找到了。就像生了一場大病後痊癒的感覺。我回到了家。

如維根斯坦說的,我本來以為這個「家」必然充滿各種驚奇之物和不可思議的艱深智慧,結果沒有,什麼都沒有,這個「家」平凡簡單得無絲毫令人驚奇之處。這個發現,卻讓我感到神祕而驚訝無比。

8 Oct. 2000

附文﹕維根斯坦與懷疑主義

A Critical Evaluation of Kripke's “Skeptical Interpretation” of Wittgenstein

Emir Hsing-zen Chen

496, King’s College, University of Cambridge, Feb. 2000

Contents

Kripke’s Skeptical Argument

The Phantom of Epistemological Verificationism

The Paradox Does Not Exist

The Theme of Agreement and Guidance

Conclusion

Wittgenstein’s thinking, with regard to meaning, is generally considered to display both sociological and naturalistic orientations; commentators have thus suggested these two ways of reading his philosophy.[1]  One explains Wittgenstein’s ideas as revealing that thought and language are essentially social, such that knowledge cannot claim to uncover timeless and universal truths; the other emphasizes the naturalistic side, regarding humans as “primitive being” to which one grants instinct but not ratiocination in various linguistic communication.[2]  Taken literally, many passages in Wittgenstein’s works do indeed make it tempting to read him as advocating a sociology of knowledge.[3]  I argue here, however, that we should not give in to this temptation.  In particular, I suggest that we reject Saul Kripke’s highly influential interpretation of Wittgenstein’s argument as culminating in a skeptical paradox, the solution of which requires the adoption of a social theory of meaning.  Based on my reading, although Wittgenstein’s writings do contain a distinctively sociological element, his philosophy of language cannot be interpreted as sociological in character in the way that Kripke does; instead, it emphasizes that there are various natural constraints which are prior to our language-games.  Kripke captures only a superficial aspect of Wittgenstein’s account of meaning, and the full potential of its central feature, i.e., the naturalistic element, is never properly explored. 

More specifically, I will also argue that Kripke’s interpretation gives a distorted picture of Wittgenstein’s philosophy by misinterpreting/misunderstanding the considerations of rule following and private language as leading to a version of epistemological skepticism.  On my reading, Wittgenstein does not attempt to invent a skeptical paradox; nor has he developed any theory of meaning to resolve it.  His philosophy is in a crucial sense fundamentally opposed to the basic premise underlying Kripke’s skeptical thesis.  What Kripke sees as the frail epistemological foundation of our rule-following practices, Wittgenstein presents as a solid bedrock of unreasoned agreement in the natural responsiveness of human beings.  Wittgenstein has not argued against the possibility of private language either.  The aim of his “private language argument” remains somewhat obscure; however, it is best directed at demolishing Cartesian mentalism which was inherited by the traditional empiricist theory of meaning.  Kripke’s “skeptical solution” therefore finds no target, because such a paradox does not exist.  The misreading arises from Kripke’s failure to appreciate Wittgenstein’s critique of the nature of philosophical problems and also his insufficient consideration of Wittgenstein’s opposition to philosophical theorizing.[4]  I thus conclude that using the sociology of knowledge as a key to understanding Wittgenstein is wrong.

Kripke’s Skeptical Argument

    Inspired by Wittgenstein’s “Philosophical Investigations”, Kripke (1982) has presented an account of meaning, arguing that a private language is impossible because it falls victim to a skeptical paradox which questions the very intelligibility of any language, public and private.  However, the possibility of a public language can be restored by means of what Kripke characterizes as a “skeptical solution” to the paradox.  The “skeptical paradox” he attributes to Wittgenstein appears in the first half of PI 201:

[N]o course of action could be determined by a rule, because every course of action can be made out to accord with the rule….if everything can be made out to accord with the rule, then it can also be made out to conflict with it.  And so there would be neither accord nor conflict here.[5]

    

According to this passage, Kripke argues that “[w]hen I respond in one way rather than another to such a problem as ‘68 + 57’, I can have no justification for one response rather than another”; perhaps in the past I used ‘plus’ and ‘+’ to denote a function which I will call ‘quus’ and symbolize by Å:[6] 

               x Å y = x + y, if x, y < 57

                                   = 5  otherwise.

There is no fact of the matter whether 125 or 5 is the correct answer to the question “68 + 57”.  Kripke therefore concludes that the meaning of every expression is “indeterminate” because there is no “fact-in-the-world” that differentiates a word’s meaning one thing from its having any number of other possible meanings.  If this is right, then, “the main problem is not ‘How can we show private language…to be impossible?; rather it is, ‘How can we show any language at all…to be possible?”[7]  Having confronted this paradox, “it seems that the entire idea of meaning vanishes into thin air”.[8]  We cannot even claim that we understand one another.  Kripke thus insists that “Wittgenstein has invented a new form of skepticism…the most radical and original skeptical problem that philosophy has seen to date”.[9]

In order to dodge the skeptic’s challenge to the factual character of meaning, Kripke’s Wittgenstein offers a “skeptical solution”, arguing that our ordinary language can be justified through human “intersubjective agreement” in responses within a community, without refuting the paradox; viz., attribution of meaning does not require the type of justification which would force us to conclude that language is conceptually impossible.  Needless to say, such an “intersubjective agreement”, i.e., consensus, cannot be accomplished without being associated with communally recognized conditions for the appropriate application of concepts.  On this account, to say a proposition is true does not mean that it corresponds to an independent reality; rather, it means that the proposition meets some generally understood conditions of acceptability which Kripke calls “assertability conditions or justification conditions”.[10]  In brief, the skeptical paradox is simply part of Wittgenstein’s covert strategy; he introduces it in order to shift us away from a truth-conditional account of meaning and to encourage us to adopt a conception of meaning as consisting of “assertability conditions”, i.e., conditions of appropriate use. 

This skeptical solution thus entails a denial that private language is possible, because no individual is able to provide any criterion of correctness, i.e., normativity.  If we are to make sense of any concept, we must postulate the existence of a community of other members.  The individual’s acts can then be compared with those of the community and thereby judged correct or incorrect.  In short, meaning is a social product which can only be achieved by collective practices; if there were no consensus, there could be no language.  Clearly, what we have here is a sociological account of meaning.

Kripke is right in pointing out the customary and institutional character of language-use.  Contrary to the Tractatus, the later Wittgenstein does emphasize the diversity of linguistic activities and views them as human social phenomena which change over time.  Nevertheless, despite these superficial similarities, I argue that the community view is wrong, for this is not the significance of the passage in PI 201.  Kripke has fundamentally misconstrued the intention of Wittgenstein’s argument by formulating it within a framework of epistemological skepticism.  Such a misreading appears mainly due to a failure to take seriously enough Wittgenstein’s radical position that philosophical problems are ill-founded, stemming from conceptual confusion. 

The Phantom of Epistemological Verificationism

Although Kripke denies this charge, it seems that the basic premise underlying Kripke’s skeptical argument is verificationism; viz., an assertion has meaning only if there is a way of verifying whether or not it is true.[11]  In fact, his position in taking Wittgenstein as an epistemological skeptic would not allow him to dodge this charge with impunity.  Given the verification principle, there can be no private language, because a putative private linguist can have no independent criteria on its intentions, dispositions and memories that its performance can be judged as rule-following.  This epistemological doubt, however, can be plausibly raised against a public language as well.  As Hoffman points out, the trouble arises from Kripke’s underestimating the power of his own skeptical paradox.  What the paradox shows is not that there is no justification for responding one way or another to a problem such as ‘68 + 57’, but that “there is no such thing as responding one way or another to a problem such as ‘68 + 57’”.[12]  If so, then it is meaningless to talk of “intersubjective agreement”, and hence, public language.  That is to say, the “skeptical solution” which Kripke attributes to Wittgenstein is not a solution at all, because “it is also subject to the very skeptical doubt it is designed to circumvent”.[13]

To put it differently, if Kripke insists on interpreting PI 201 as a skeptical paradox, then it must be about the matter of “ultimate justification” of meaning in order to be a genuine skeptical paradox.  However, faced with such a paradox, Kripke will inevitably be caught in a dilemma: either he shows that the skeptical paradox proves to be unwarranted and entirely loses the basis of his community argument, or he concedes that the skeptical paradox cannot be refuted, and accepts that all language is impossible.  But how can one use language to argue against the possibility of anything’s being a language?  Kripke has chosen the latter way to go on and ends up running in a circle. 

For Kripke, only public language is possible; viz., our language exists only when it is sustained by a community.  However, such a public language cannot be justified by showing that its applications agree with a community’s consensus, because any such justification presupposes precisely what it sets out to explain.  That is, the objection raised by Kripke in his attack on the dispositional views, to the effect that the dispositionalist cannot give a satisfactory account of normativity and mistake, actually can as well be directed at Kripke himself.  Roughly, Kripke’s argument seems to be that if the vast majority goes one way rather than another, then the agreement in the community practice establishes a standard against which the correctness of an individual’s performance can be judged; viz., what is to count as evidence on any matter and why it is to do so are simply up to human groups to determine.  In other words, the community gets things right only in the sense that it determines what is to count as being right.  If so, like a private language, “that only means that here we can’t talk about ‘right’”.[14]  This problem of circularity can be illustrated by Wittgenstein’s remark on colour:

What do light blue and dark blue have in common?”.  At first sight the answer seems obvious: “They are both shades of blue”.  But this is really a tautology.  The answer to this really ought to be “I don’t know what game you are playing”.[15]

 

Intriguingly, Kripke seems also to have recognized this problem of circularity.  He says at the end of the book: “If Wittgenstein had been attempting to give a necessary and sufficient condition to show that ‘125’, not ‘5’, is the ‘right’ response to ‘68 + 57’, he might be charged with circularity.  For he might be taken to say that my response is correct if and only if it agrees with that of others.”[16]  In the same passage, however, he rejected the objection by arguing that “[t]his cannot be an objection to Wittgenstein’s solution unless he is to be prohibited from any use of language at all”.  Kripke says that he is not looking for necessary and sufficient conditions for following a rule; such conditions would constitute a ‘straight’ solution to the skeptical problem, and have been rejected.[17]  However, the trouble with Kripke is that if he can make the community view plausible in spite of the skeptic’s paradox, why should the paradox constitute a serious threat to the dispositional theses or a private language?  Having put aside the epistemological worry, there is no reason why the individual cannot set up linguistic rules by videotaping himself, noting symbols etc., in order to allow his own or others’ applying checks on his performance which are independent of the individual’s intentions, dispositions and memories.  It is thus far from clear in what sense the assertion condition approach is not just predicated on community-wide dispositions; viz., why can Kripkean community not be analyzed as just the summation of individual intentional behaviour?[18]

Kripke seems to be too lenient with his own thesis while being too strict with its rivals.  This partiality for the community view can be further exposed from the following considerations.  One of Kripke’s objections to the dispositional theory of meaning is that it fails to tell us “what we ought to do in each new instance”.[19]  That is, we feel “guided” in our linguistic behavior by what we mean, as if directed by a set of instructions; but nothing of this sort could be obtained by an individual’s brute disposition.[20]  However, as Horwich rightly points out, “it is rather odd that Kripke states this ‘guidance requirement’ so forcefully”; “for he himself comes to the view that there are in general no such guiding facts of meaning”.[21]  Kripke says,

 

[t]he entire point of the skeptical argument is that ultimately we reach a level where we act without any reason in terms of which we can justify our action.  We act unhesitatingly but blindly….[A] speaker may,…, follow his own confident inclination that this way is the right way to respond, rather than another way.[22]

 

Horwich therefore criticizes that “if this is going to be eventually admitted, then it should not have been insisted at the outset that facts of meaning must have the character of instructions”.[23]  If acting blindly is acceptable for the community theses, why is it not good enough for the dispositional view?  Kripke’s argument against the dispositional view is thus undermined.  Also, based on my previous discussion, if the skeptical paradox gives grounds for denying the possibility of a private language, equally it should give grounds for denying the possibility of a public language.  I thus suggest that the sociological reading of Wittgenstein is indefensible.  In the next section, the clarification of Wittgenstein’s conception of the nature of skepticism will further highlight the implausibility of Kripke’s reading.

 

The Paradox Does Not Exist

As I have shown above, Kripke’s skeptical solution sets us on the wrong track: either it leads us to go round in a circle to look for the phantom of the ultimate justification for our linguistic rules, or it leads us to draw an absurd conclusion, i.e., that our language is impossible.  This dilemma arises from the implicit verificationism underlying Kripke’s argument for the community thesis.  The way to escape from it is to confine Wittgenstein’s arguments on the foundation of rule-following within an ontological framework.  As Shanker has pointed out, whereas traditional epistemology maintains that the basis of our knowledge must be justified “in order to eliminate skeptical doubts”, Wittgenstein insists that “the proper concern of epistemology is to remove the logical confusions that are exemplified by the entertainment of skeptical theses in situations where doubt is logically excluded”.[24]  Wittgenstein further argues that

 

[s]cepticism is not irrefutable, but obvious nonsense if it tries to doubt where no question can be asked.  For doubt can only exist where a question exists; a question can exist where an answer exists….Where you can’t look for an answer, you can’t ask either.[25]

 

That is to say, the skeptic’s question, for Wittgenstein, is simply a pseudo-problem which stems from conceptual confusion and thus calls for grammatical clarification rather than philosophical theorizing.  Once we have grasped the appropriate uses of linguistic expressions, the skeptic’s doubts would simply “vanish”.  Such an attitude towards epistemological skepticism remains consistent throughout all of Wittgenstein’s writings.[26]

To put it differently, the key to understanding Wittgenstein’s paradox in PI 201 lies in his radical attitude towards epistemological skepticism which is explicitly expressed in the same section.  To many critics’ surprise, Kripke seems to forget to read the latter half: 

[i]t can be seen that there is a misunderstanding here from the mere fact that in the course of our argument we give one interpretation after another; as if each one contented us at least for a moment, until we thought of yet another standing behind it.  What this shews is that there is a way of grasping a rule which is not an interpretation.

   

    It is clear that the “paradox”, as Wittgenstein claims, arises from a “misunderstanding” of rule-following.  If in order to follow a rule, we must interpret it, then we must interpret the interpretation.  That is to say, an interpretation brings forth more interpretations; “it would be almost like settling how much a toss is to be worth by anther toss”.[27]  We will then commit ourselves to infinite regress.  It is thus clear that interpretation should not play the ultimate role in justifying our linguistic behaviour.  In PI 198, Wittgenstein says,

 

“But how can a rule shew me what I have to do at this point?  Whatever I do is, on some interpretation, in accord with the rule,” –That is not what we ought to say, but rather: any interpretation still hangs in the air along with what it interprets, and cannot give it any support.  Interpretations by themselves do not determine meaning.

 

Wittgenstein therefore insists that interpretation must “come to an end”.[28]  However, Kripke has entirely misunderstood Wittgenstein’s “anti-interpretation” argument by taking the indeterminacy of interpretation as a main source of his skeptical argument.[29]  He has been wrong from the very outset, because it simply makes no sense to ask whether our language is possible or not.  Our language “is not based on grounds; it is not reasonable (or unreasonable).  It is there—like our life.”[30]  It is thus meaningless to say that our grammatical rules can be justified by describing what is represented or how it is agreed upon through any social mechanism, for “any such description already presupposes the grammatical rules”.[31]  What we have to do is to accept our language without any justification; any “attempt at justification needs to be rejected”.[32] 

However, such a claim that “there is no further possibility of interpretation for our language” should not be deemed as a deficiency, because there is nothing left for an interpretation.[33]  As Wittgenstein puts it,

 

[i]f I am correct, then philosophical problems must be completely solvable, in contrast to all others.  If I say: here we are at the limits of language, then it always seems // sounds // as if resignation were necessary, whereas on the contrary complete satisfaction comes, since no question remains.[34]

 

Therefore, he suggests that the “best answer” to the skeptic’s challenge

 

is really don’t you understand it?  Well, if you understand it, what is there left to explain, what business is there left for an explanation?[35] 

 

Kripke’s misunderstanding of the anti-interpretation argument results in one of his principal worries that the potentially infinite extension of a concept’s use makes knowledge of that concept impossible.  It is true that there is an infinite number of possible interpretations of following a rule, however, “it does not mean that everything is following”.[36]  In other words, the possibility of misinterpreting a rule is not sufficient to undermine the fact that there is a genuine rule to be learnt.  Kripke seems to misconstrue the indefinite application of a concept as being like “infinite rails” which should guide us to move in a certain way; viz., he mistakenly believes that we must look at the entire, potentially infinite extent of a concept’s application if we are to make sense of it.[37]  This argument sounds like this: a grocer should doubt whether his grocery is real or not if he does not know every item of stock it has.  To use Wittgenstein’s metaphor, this fallacy is “like saying that the light of my reading lamp is no real light at all because it has no sharp boundary”.[38]  Wittgenstein further illustrates this point:

 

how is the concept of a game bounded?…Can you give the boundary?  No….none has so far been drawn.  (But that never troubled you before when you used the word “game”.)[39] …We are unable clearly to circumscribe the concepts we use; not because we don’t know their real “definition”, but because there is no real “definition” to them.[40]

 

That is to say, the “failure” to grasp the infinite set of truths of a concept is not a sign of ignorance or resignation.  It does not prevent us from using that concept; neither does it falsify the reality of it.  A blurred concept is still a concept.[41]  In short, no doubt can be raised here.

 

The Theme of Agreement And Guidance

Based on an illusory guidance picture of rule-following, Kripke further asks which is the right way to respond to guidance in following a rule.  His attitude towards this problem is, however, highly ambiguous.  On one hand, he stresses, in a strong naturalistic tone, that “we act unhesitatingly but blindly”.[42]  On the other hand, he insists that rules can be established only within the context of a social community, and there is no criterion, apart from disagreement with other social groups, by which such rules could conceivably be wrong.  We are certainly not saying that the two views, i.e., the sociological and the naturalistic, are necessarily incompatible with each other.  However, it is far from clear that how he blends the two orientations into the community view; neither is it convincing that the naturalistic approach is simply required to supplement the sociological reading of Wittgenstein.  Given my criticism of Kripke’s objection to the dispositional thesis, it is implausible to claim that the social has the priority over the natural in determining meaning. 

Kripke is right in pointing out that “agreement” is the key notion in Wittgenstein’s explanation of rule-following.  However, such agreement in following a rule is a naturalistic phenomenon.  One should not treat it as a sociological phenomenon.  This is because it emphasizes a shared inclinations of human beings.  It is not set up through discussion of it or reflection on it; rather, the agreement refers to “something more inward, more essential”, i.e., the automatic character of our natural response.[43]  Our language-game certainly only works “when a certain agreement prevails, but the concept of agreement does not enter into the language-game”.[44]  Instead, “it is the pre-condition of language-game”.[45]  That is, we agree in the language we use.[46]   Wittgenstein continues,

 

[d]isputes do not break out over the questions whether a rule has been obeyed or not….That is part of the framework on which the working for our language is based…That is not agreement in opinions but in form of life”.[47]  

 

In other words, we all agree in “the natural way we do” before we lay it down as a linguistic rule.[48]  Kripke’s community view, however, simply commits us to a consensus-based theory of language by misinterpreting the “bedrock” facts in language formation, facts concerning our general agreement in our response to instructions.[49]  Wittgenstein insists that if these facts are misinterpreted, we land ourselves with philosophical problems. 

    Wittgenstein further says, “our being so certain of being able to go on is naturally very important”; we thus do not need any criterion for “deciding” whether the next step is “the same” as the previous one.[50]  Nor do we “feel excited about what a rule will tell us to do next, because it always tells us the same thing, and we do what it says without any hesitation”.[51]  However,

 

does this mean…:same is what all or most human beings with one voice take for the same?--Of course not….What criterion do you use, then?  None at all.  To use the word without justification does not mean to use it wrongfully.[52]

 

That is, the notion of agreement is a “spontaneous decision”; it means: “that’s how I act; ask for no reason!”.[53] 

    Wittgenstein sometimes calls such agreement “revelation” and stresses that “where we can only expect the solution from some sort of revelation, there isn’t even a problem”.[54]  “If I have exhausted the justification for my following the rule in the way I do, I have reached bedrock”.[55]  Thus, the real danger here is “giving a justification of our procedure where there is no such thing as a justification”.[56]  Apparently, Kripke commits such a mistake.  He is worried that we must explain how we can be certain that someone has followed a rule, and thus tries to set up “guidance” by providing an unwarranted “solution”.  However, he fails to see that our ordinary language is adequate enough.  As Wittgenstein says, not only do we not think of guidance as such in following a rule, but also when we are asked to seek such guidance, we are not able to do so.[57]  Wittgenstein continues,

 

[t]he difficult thing here is not, to dig down to the ground; no, it is to recognize the ground that lies before us as the ground.  For the ground keeps on giving us the illusory image of a greater depth, and when we seek to reach this, we keep on finding ourselves on the old level.  Our disease is one of wanting to explain.[58]

 

Indeed, what we ought to say is: “This is simply what I do.”[59] 

    Wittgenstein further argues that “[i]n grammar you cannot discover anything.  There are no surprises.  When formulating a rule we always have the feeling: That is something you have known all along.”[60]  He regards this “certainty” as not “something akin to hastiness or superficiality, but as a form of life”.[61]  He concludes that “what has to be accepted, the given, is forms of life”;[62] only in “this stream of life” do words have meaning.[63]  Certainly,

 

we could say people’s concepts show what matters to them and what doesn’t.  But it’s not as if this explained the particular concepts they have.[64]

 

This last passage runs a fortiori counter to the task Kripke envisages for a systematically sociological account of language.

    Having said this, I conclude that if we are always able to know how to move to the next step, it is superfluous to suppose that meaning is determined by a process of consensus-making.[65]  Kripke’s community view captures only a superficial aspect of Wittgenstein’s account of meaning, and the full potential of its central feature, i.e., the naturalistic element, is never properly explored. 

 

Conclusion

Based on a skeptical argument about the possibility of our language, Kripke has developed a sociological theory of knowledge from Wittgenstein’s thought.  However, although Wittgenstein’s account of meaning contains sociological element, any such theory is fundamentally inconsistent with Wittgenstein’s critique of the nature of philosophy.  Kripke not only fails to appreciate Wittgenstein’s opposition to philosophical theorizing, but he also fails to do justice to Wittgenstein’s basic conviction that our “ordinary language is all right”, and “philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language”.[66]  As Kierkegaard criticized metaphysicians, the skeptic seem also to have “built castles in the air, dwellings no one lives in, and to create a fantastic language for fantastic beings”; “there is a comic pretentiousness in the disparity between their speculative systems, and the actualities of human existence”.[67]

Actually, Wittgenstein does not invent any skeptical paradox to doubt the intelligibility of our linguistic behavior; on the contrary, the main concern of the later Wittgenstein is to show that the certainty of our ordinary language lies neither in philosophical verification, nor is it based on the elimination of doubt by appealing to some solid epistemological foundation.  In Wittgenstein’s view, our language acquires its certainty from unreasoned bedrock of human nature and the question about how to follow a rule has never presented any puzzle to us.  The skeptic’s doubt, for Wittgenstein, is simply a pseudo-problem; any thesis built on it is doomed to failure.  Clearly, the advocates of the “skeptical interpretation” of Wittgenstein is, from the outset, getting on the wrong track.  The community view which is based on it therefore loses its support.

 

 

 

 

 

 References

 

Works by Wittgenstein

BB  (1997) The Blue and Brown Books. Oxford: Blackwell.

LFM (1976) Wittgenstein’s Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics, Cambridge

      1939. C. Diamond (ed.) Sussex: The Harvester Press, LTD.

NB  (1961) Notebooks 1914-1916 G. H. von Wright et. al. (eds.) trans. by G. E. M.

      Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

OC  (1995) On Certainty. Oxford: Blackwell.

PI   (1963) Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Alden

      & Mowbray Ltd.

PO  (1993) Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951. J. C. Klagge & A. Nordmann (eds.)

       Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company

PR  (1975) Philosophical Remarks. R. Rhees (ed.) trans. R. Hargreaves and R.

      White. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

RC  (1977) Remarks On Colour.  G. E. M. Anscombe (ed.) L. L. McAlister & M.

      Schattle (trans.) California: University of California Press.

RFM (1978) Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. G. H. von Wright et. al.,

       (eds.) trans. by G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

RPP  (1980) Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology Vol. I & II. Oxford: The

       University of Chicago Press.

 T   (1995) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. trans. by D. F. Pears & B. F.

       McGuiness. London: Routledge.

 WVC (1979) Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle: Conversations Recorded

       by Friedrich Waisman.  B. F. McGuiness (ed.) J. Schulte and B. F.

       McGuiness (trans.) Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

 Z   (1967) Zettel. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright (eds.); trans. by G. E.

       M. Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

 

 

Works by Other Authors

Bloor, D. (1997) Wittgenstein, Rules and Institutions. Lodon: Routledge. 

Davies, S. (1988) Kripke, Crusoe and Wittgenstein. Australasian Journal of

       Philosophy 66: 52-66.

Hoffman, P. (1984) Kripke on private language. Philosophical Studies 47: 23-8.

Horwich, P. (1990) Wittgenstein and Kripke on the nature of meaning. Mind and

       Language 5: 105-21.

Kripke, S. A. (1982) Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary

       Exposition. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

McDowell, J. (1984) Wittgenstein on following a rule. Synthese 58: 325-63.

Phillips, D. Z. (1993) Wittgenstein and Religion. London: St. Martin’s Press.

Shanker, S. G. (1984) Sceptical confusions about rule-following. Mind: 423-9.

Shanker, S. G. (1987) Wittgenstein and the Turning-Point in the Philosophy of

       Mathematics. N. Y.: State University of New York Press.



[1] Certainly, these two views are not necessarily opposite.

[2] Cf. OC, 475.

[3] For example, in RFM, he said: “The application of the concept ‘following a rule’ presupposes a custom.” (VI, 21); “A game, a language, a rule is an institution.” (VI, 32); “The word ‘language’, ‘proposition’, ‘order’, ‘rule’, ‘calculation’, ‘experiment’, ‘following a rule’ relate to a technique, a custom.” (VI, 43) etc.

[4] In PI 109, he says, “we may not advance any kind of theory.  There must not be anything hypothetical in our considerations”.  Cf. PI, 133.

[5] See also RFM, VI, 38.

[6] Kripke (1982), pp. 21, 8-9.

[7] Ibid., p. 62.

[8] Ibid., 22.

[9] Ibid., p. 60.

[10] Ibid., p. 74.

[11] This point has been made by many, e.g., Davies (1988), Horwich (1990).

[12] Hoffman (1984), p. 25.

[13] Ibid., p. 26.

[14] Cf. PI, 258.

[15] BB, p. 134.

[16] Kripke (1982), p. 146.

[17] Ibid., p. 87.

[18] Cf. Bloor (1997), p. 68.

[19] Kripke (1982), p. 24.

[20] Ibid., pp. 10-11.

[21] Horwich (1990), p. 110.

[22] Kripke (1982), pp. 87-8.

[23] Horwich (1990), p. 110.

[24] Shanker (1987), pp. 33-4. 

[25] NB, 44e; T, 6.51; PR, 149.

[26] Cf. Shanker (1987), pp. 33-6.  This argument, however, should not commit Wittgenstein to be opposing epistemology.  Rather, Wittgenstein wants to demonstrate the unintelligibility of epistemological skepticism and in the process to elucidate the proper nature of epistemology.

[27] Z, 230.

[28] RFM, VI, 38. Cf. Z, 229-31, 234-5; PI, 1, 140; OC, 191-2.

[29] McDowell (1984) has also mentioned this point.

[30] OC, 559. Cf. RPP, II, 632, 689; Z, 391.

[31] PG, 55; Z, 358; PR, 7; Z, 364. Cf. OC, 191-2.

[32] PI, p. 200e.

[33] Z, 231; PO, p. 177.

[34] PO, p. 182-3.

[35] PO, p. 177.

[36] RFM, VII, 47.

[37] Cf. Shanker (1984), p. 425.

[38] BB, p. 27.

[39] PI, 68. Cf. PI, 69-71, 99-101.

[40] BB, p. 25. Cf. PI, 99.

[41] PI, 71.

[42] Kripke (1982), p. 87.

[43] PI, 173.

[44] Z, 430. Cf. RFM, VII, 26.

[45] RFM, VII, 9.

[46] PI, 241. Cf. PI, 242; RFM, VI, 39; RFM, I, 156.

[47] PI, 240-1. Cf. PI, 242; RFM, VI, 30, 39.

[48] LFM, 107.

[49] Cf. PI. 217; Z, 231.

[50] RFM, I, 3; RFM, VI, 21.

[51] Cf. RFM, VII, 56; LFM, 107.

[52] RFM, VII, 40; Cf. OC, 205-6.

[53] RFM, VI, 24.

[54] PR, 149.

[55] PI, 217.

[56] RFM, III, 74.

[57] BB, p. 25.

[58] RFM, VI, 31.

[59] PI, 217. Cf. PI, 211; OC, 359; RFM, III, 74.

[60] WVC, 77-8.

[61] OC, 358.

[62] PI, p. 226e.

[63] RPP, I, 240; Z, 173.

[64] RC, III, 293.

[65] RFM, I, 3. Cf. PI, 219.

[66] BB, p. 28; PI, 124.

[67] Cite in Phillips (1993), p. 200.

 

論壇主頁

今日短評

快訊快評

今日幽默

今日妙語

新聞述評

網友論壇

縱論天下

脫口秀

兩個兩岸

獨語天涯

咖啡廳

人生自白

美國筆記

景涵文集

天才兒童

西雅圖夜話

網友漫筆

楓葉傳真

劍橋偶拾

美國札記

千里帷幄

情詩欣賞

燕山夜話

千載清謠

瑞典茉莉

聚焦香港

澳洲思絮

洛城夜話

創業雜誌

法律世界

新科技

網友來函

喜馬拉雅

財經趨勢

自由言論

華府鉤沉

星條旗下

社區服務

日耳曼專稿

銀幕縱深

硅谷清流

 

 

 

對本網站有任何建議或有任何體會要與大家分享,請發往 tangben@tangben.com

一九九九年七月二十二日正式上網
Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 TANG BEN