Can One Grasp Propositions Without Knowing a Language?

Kuczynski, John-Michael (2005) Can One Grasp Propositions Without Knowing a Language? Teorema: Revista internacional de filosofía, 24 (2). pp. 43-63. ISSN 0210-1602

[thumbnail of Dialnet-CanOneGraspPropositionsWithoutKnowingALanguage-1254293.pdf] PDF

Download (248kB)


Wittgenstein and Brandom both say that knowledge of a language constitutes one’s ability to think. Further, they say that a language is an essentially public entity: so to know a language, and to be able to think, consist in one’s being embedded in a public practice of some kind. Wittgenstein provides two famous arguments for this: his “private-language” and “rule-following” arguments. Brandom develops these arguments. In this paper, I argue that the Wittgenstein-Brandom view strips anyone of the ability to mean anything by anything. Indeed, it strips anyone of the ability to think at all; the Wittgenstein-Brandom view is really just a version of Pavlov’s stimulus-response psychology, and shares all its deficiencies. The rule-following argument is shown to be nothing more than a failure to register the fact that, in certain contexts, epistemic operators can be given either wide or narrow scope with respect to other operators. The private-language argument is shown to be based on a failure to distinguish the conditions that are causally necessary for language from those that are constitutive of it. Brandom’s argument involves a massive over-extension of the concept of a “linguistic community”. The result is that his view becomes trivial: anything that can speak or think is by definition a member of a linguistic community; so Brandom’s “demonstration” that only encultured beings can think turns out to be an artifact of his definitions.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Philosophie > Philosophische Journale, Kongresse, Vereinigungen > Teorema. Revista internacional de filosofia > Volume XXIV (2005)
Depositing User: sandra subito
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2020 16:02
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2020 16:02

Actions (login required)

View Item
View Item