Gregory Desilet: The Enigma of Meaning: Wittgenstein and Derrida, Language and Life

The Enigma of Meaning: Wittgenstein and Derrida, Language and Life Book Cover The Enigma of Meaning: Wittgenstein and Derrida, Language and Life
Gregory Desilet
McFarland
2023
Paperback
219

Reviewed by: R.A. Goodrich (ACHE Chapter of the Society for the History of Emotions – University of Melbourne & ADI Philosophy & History of Ideas – Deakin University)

Gregory Desilet plunges his readers into a hypothetical debate between the early Jacques Derrida, especially of the ’sixties and ’sevembeenties, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, mainly of the ’thirties and ’forties. It is a debate that seeks comparable concerns with language, meaning, and metaphysics by both intellectuals before pursuing significant contrasts between them. For all his interests in theories of communication and rhetoric, Desilet avoids the vagaries of thematic adaptations or rejections of decontextualised, often provocative statements by paying closer attention to published and unpublished writings emanating from the above-mentioned decades.

The Enigma of Meaning is divided into three main parts preceded by “The Life of Signs” (5-12) and succeeded by “The Signs of Life” (161-177). The first part (14-81) comprises six chapters centred upon Derrida’s response to Wittgenstein on the role and significance of mind, use, interpretation, rules, limits and justification. The second part (84-107) devotes three chapters to contrasting terms informing Wittgenstein and Derrida, specifically public and private, family resemblance and dissemination, and games and “economies” (or degrees of predictability) respectively. Chapter by chapter the third part (110-160) explores both thinkers on five central philosophical themes: other minds, metaphysics, time, truth, and “violence” (introduced by the selective categories of language).

Desilet’s ultimate aim is to view Wittgenstein and Derrida despite their differences as not confronting us with a choice between their respective accounts of language, between their “metaphors of the tool and the trace” (169). Such a choice “refuses to reduce to either/or as it continually slips into both/and” (169-170). Why? Because the “nature of language as a tool changes when supplemented with the … trace” (176). Why, in turn, should this be?  Because the “trace changes the essence of the tool by placing it within a temporal, moving context” and by doing so “the tool’s identity becomes mobile and divided as it acquires aspects from every new context through which it is used” (176). The mutual “entanglement” between trace and tool leads Desilet to declare:

Wittgenstein without Derrida can make language appear misleadingly whole. And yet Derrida without Wittgenstein can make language appear misleadingly broken. Wittgenstein calls forth Derrida, not as opponent but as supplement, drawing out the both-and/neither-nor complementarity of difference. (177)

This review essay on The Enigma of Meaning will initially pursue two complementary points of view regarding a pivotal argument exploited by Derrida without which readers unfamiliar with him could quickly lose their moorings. Next, we shall briefly focus upon the twelfth chapter on time; temporality for Derrida being so crucial to comprehending not only experience but also the nature and role of “the trace.” At the same time, our first three sections shall incorporate passing references to the early transcendentally weighted phenomenological stance taken by Edmund Husserl. In our fourth and final section, we shall examine two alternative approaches to understanding Wittgenstein that appear not to have been fully recognised by Desilet. The first draws upon a student of Husserl, Helmuth Plessner, and the second, upon another interpretation of Wittgenstein misconstrued by Peter Hacker which Desilet omits in his appendix (179-189) devoted to the latter. Considering such alternatives is warranted by a volume that could well become the standard defence for upholding how Derrida’s contribution “to understanding the complexities of language” explicitly “emerges with a metaphysical depth beyond the positions Wittgenstein occupies” (177).

I

Beneath the wealth of topics probed by Desilet’s monograph lies a pivotal line of argument deployed by Derrida which can be construed from at least two perspectives. We shall call the first point of view verbalizable experience and the second revisable binaries or hierarchies. Applied rigorously, both undermine any philosophical attempt to uphold if not access reality, be it questioning “What is …?” (119) in the case of essential meanings and phenomena or first principles and conditions. Let us begin, albeit briefly, with the first perspective.

Desilet’s eleventh chapter takes Derrida’s La Voix et le Phénomène (in the 1973 David Allison translation rather than the 2011 Leonard Lawlor one) as exemplifying Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological avoidance of the question “What is a sign?” However, as quickly becomes apparent, Husserl’s avoidance is quite unlike that in Wittgenstein’s 1933/1934 notes popularly known as the Blue Book (or the Nachlass Ts-309):

If we say thinking is essentially operating with signs, the first question you might ask is: “What are signs?” – Instead of giving any kind of general answer to this question, I shall propose … to look closely at particular cases which we should call “operating with signs.” (16; Ts-309, 26)

Husserl in his First Investigation of Logische Untersuchungen, by contrast, seizes upon a “twofold sense” of the term “sign” which can apply to an experiential “indication” (Anzeigen) and a semantic “expression” (Ausdrücke) (Vol. 2, Ch. 1, §§1-16).  Its twofold character need not exclude the possibility that the one sign can convey both aspects. For instance, “signal” may indicate the event or occurrence of conveying an utterance as well as the expression of the meaning of an utterance. Does the same apply to the use of idioms popularly thought to distinguish one language from another? However, to adapt an example from Lawlor (2021, §2, para 3), idioms can confront us with distinct meanings even within the one language without identifying the experience undergone and without ensuring which meaning might act as the actual or essential, proper or true one:

After Héloïse overheard her studious brother Hugues muttering “Il y va d’un certain pas,” she wondered whether he meant “One goes there at a certain pace or with a certain step” or “What’s at issue is a certain kind of ‘not’ or negativity.”

As Derrida (1967) insists, indicative and expressive signs whether idiomatic or not prove to be “a difference more functional than substantial” since they are “signifying relations, not terms” (p. 20; cf. p. 37). This is because the same phenomenon can be apprehended as an expression or indication, “a discursive or nondiscursive sign,” depending upon “the intentional experience [vécu intentionnel] which animates it” (p. 20). Although Husserl regards communication itself as “a stratum extrinsic to expression,” “each time an expression is in fact produced, it communicates, even if it is not exhausted in that communicative role” (p. 20). Furthermore, in Derrida’s terms, “the discursive sign, and consequently the meaning, is always involved, always caught up in [or “contaminated” with] an indicative system” of sounds, marks, and so forth, although “the reverse … is not true” (pp. 20 & 21). Husserl himself (Vol. 2, Ch. 1, §1) concedes the expressive and the indicative are “always interwoven (verflochten),” yet “must not …cut off the possibility of a rigorous distinction of essence” (p. 20). However, as Derrida (1967) asserts, this appeal to what is the essential is at best discoverable through and relies upon “the possibility of language” (p. 21); an assertion reminiscent of Wittgenstein (1945, §§371 & 373): “Essence [Wesen] is expressed in grammar” and “Grammar tells us what kind of object anything is.” Moreover, claims Derrida, the “entanglement” of the expressive and the indicative is “always produced” in mutual discourse or actual conversation for two reasons. Firstly, “expression indicates a content forever hidden from … the lived experience of another” (1967, p. 22). Secondly, “the ideal content of the meaning” has been attributed by Husserl to “sensibility”; his phenomenological project having already committed itself to “intentional consciousness” only becoming “revealed … in the reduction of the totality of the existing world in general” (p. 22) (see, e.g., Logische Untersuchungen, Vol. 1, Ch. 8, §49).

II

So far, Derrida has set the scene for detecting “entanglement” or “contamination” as the norm for all communicative acts which Desilet connects to Derrida’s “law of contamination” where, although “oppositional relations do not dissolve oppositions and thereby do not support the use of terms without their antitheses, they nevertheless alter the structure of oppositions by way of supplementation to the structure” (126). The first perspective we labelled verbalizable experience above now begins to be re-enforced by the second one labelled revisable binaries or hierarchies.

Desilet next focuses upon Derrida’s 1966 Baltimore lecture, “Structure, Sign, and Play…” which sees Derrida (by way of Claude Lévi-Strauss) indirectly pursuing the intersection of signifier and signified propounded by the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Although de Saussure, unlike Derrida, gives priority to speech (la parole) against the derivative standing of writing (l’écriture), both he and Derrida argue that a sign in sheer isolation cannot signify: it can only do so in relation to other signs. To that extent, the basically syntagmatic and syntactic sequential arrangement of individual signs in intersection with the largely semantic and phonic open-ended association of other signs (see, e.g., de Saussure, 1922, Part 2, Ch. 5 & 6) seems to imply the systemic, self-referential nature of language (la langue). For both theorists, the detectable patterns language incorporates indisputably points to its capacity for repetition. As we find Derrida declaring, “A sign which would take place but ‘once’ would not be a sign” because as an “event” it would “mean an irreplaceable and irreversible empirical particular” (1967, p. 50). He then concludes,

A signifier (in general) must be formally recognizable in spite of, and through, the diversity of empirical characteristics which may modify it. It must remain the same,  and be able to be repeated as such, despite and across deformations which the empirical event necessarily makes it undergo …. But it can function as a sign, and in general as a language, only if a formal identity enables it to be issued again and to be recognized. This identity is necessarily ideal. (1967, p. 50)

Why does Desilet focus upon the Baltimore lecture? Because it illustrates the oppositional relationship between signifier and signified of the sign itself to the point of modelling “the structure of every opposition” (127). To cite Derrida himself on the paradoxical consequences of attempting “the metaphysical reduction of the sign” which “needed the opposition it was reducing”: “The opposition is systematic with the reduction. And what we are saying here about the sign can be extended to all the concepts and all the sentences of metaphysics, in particular to the discourse of structure” granted that there were and still are “several ways of being caught in this circle” (1966, p. 281). Without the opposition between signifier and signified, there can be no sign; without the sign, there can be no discourse, leaving Desilet to elaborate that the

nature of the particular oppositional structure between the signifier and the signified is … complementary such that the signifier and the signified form a system where one cannot exist without the other and each cannot be reduced to the other without effectively destroying the system, without destroying the sign and its functionality. (127; cf. Derrida, 1967, p. 51)

Furthermore, he continues, the “logic of opposition … posits no pure instance of either pole of the opposition” which, in turn, implies that “every presumed singular identity contains the seed of its other within its essence” (128). Even casual occasions can reveal how postulating, say, a hierarchy of culture over nature is by virtue of their binary interdependences always revisable:

When Héloïse began teasing Hugues by saying, “Culture can always destroy nature,” he immediately retorted, “Yet without nature there can be no culture.”

At this juncture, we shall leave aside the transcendental and eidetic reductions comprising the phenomenological reduction characterising Husserl’s project pursued by Derrida and succinctly summarised by Desilet (e.g., 121). Nonetheless, readers may well question why Desilet’s eleventh chapter does not overtly confront the accusation notably raised by Martin Dillon (1995) that Derrida remains guilty of assuming another kind of reduction. In effect, this suggests that both Husserl and Derrida exploit a methodology of reduction. According to Dillon, Derrida employs a methodology of “semiological reduction,” one which involves an “ontological bifurcation which sets language in a realm apart from perception and denies reality” to the “world as perceived” because it is “displaced by the world as inscribed in language” (1995, p. 100). (Here, Derrida, as previously discussed, disputes the realm of indicative signs which, even in moments of self-directed monologues according to Husserl’s First Investigation of Logische Untersuchungen, are communicatively prelinguistic because “we live in the experience of the object” (Vol. 2, Ch. 1, §8).) Alternatively expressed, Dillon regards semiological reduction as “driven by an argument based on the transcendental function of signifiers” (1995, pp. 19 & 35). Why? Because cognition if not consciousness “presupposes identification which presupposes a formal ideality,” be it a concept, an essence, or a signifier (p. 19). As Dillon warns his readers from the outset of his monograph, a semiological reduction appears to beg two questions. One is “the question of the re-identification of signifiers themselves” and the other is “the question of how the play of signifiers temporalizes and makes history possible” (p. 13).

Before briefly turning to Derrida on temporality in our next section, what follows were Desilet to accept Dillon’s critique? Would he need to concede the degree to which “intentional consciousness” implies that there is an experience of something? By so doing, would he also need to concede that the experiencing subject need not be entirely removed from the “world as perceived,” from the community of persons, especially when the expressive, as distinct from indicative signs visible in nature, “extends beyond mere indication in its capacity to communicate meaning from one subject to another by means of a system of exchange … organized through structure (grammar, syntax) and categories (meaning, concepts)” (120)?

III

For those still searching for a singular absolute transcending all possible oppositional relationships, not only must they transcend the signifier-signified nexus of language but the quest for absolute unity also needs “the absence of time” (131). Returning to the “most disconcerting” First Investigation of Husserl’s phenomenological project, according to Derrida (1967, p. 56), particularly where the temporality of experience is juxtaposed with deictic or indexical expressions such as “I” and “now” which “shift with the occasion” of their utterance, they also have a fixed meaning such as “the person currently speaking” and “the present time” respectively. Yet, semantically speaking, as Husserl realises, shifting and fixed meanings cannot be invariably substituted for each other in all circumstances (Logische Untersuchungen, Vol. 2, Ch. 3, esp. §26). Derrida criticizes the conflation of “pure ideality” with temporality in Husserl which “signifies the certainty, itself ideal and absolute, that the universal form of all experience (Erlebnis), and therefore of all life, has always been and will always be the present” (1967, p. 53). On the contrary, suggests Derrida, “The I am, being experienced only as an I am present, itself presupposes the relationship with presence in general, with being as presence. The appearing of the I to itself in the I am is thus originally a relation with its own possible disappearance. Therefore, I am originally means I am mortal” (1967, p. 54). Whether such an original meaning holds in indexical or deictic cases—for example, Hugues’ present statement (to Héloïse’s query “Are you there”?) “I am there,” let alone the past “I was there” and the future “I will be there”—remains open to debate.

Given that time and experience are interwoven, it is commonly understood that every experience occurs in present time, in the “now.” Although what happens now is a distinct event different from any other we have ever experienced, yet, in the present, we can recollect the recently past and/or anticipate what is about to happen. Because what we experience now can be immediately recalled, it is repeatedly re-identifiable, such repeatability enabling us to anticipate the same thing happening again. Hence, from Derrida’s perspective, what is happening now also does not differ from every other “now” experienced. In other words, the present experience is both an event and, owing to its repeatability, not an event. Consequently, we cannot have experience in time that does not contain both event and repeatability.

Derrida’s argumentative trajectory ultimately carries the same kind of implication for time as it does for language. Experience of the present (“now”) is not simply reducible to a single experience of something present to us because it contains the re-iteration of what has passed, but no longer present, as well as what is about to occur, but not yet present. In brief, the present, to quote Lawlor (2021, §3, para 3), “is always complicated by non-presence.” This basic instance of repeatability residing in every experience is what Derrida (1967) calls “the trace” (e.g., pp. 67 & 85) which has already been implied in our previous section by the minimally re-identifiable signs of language itself.

Some readers may still have misgivings over a gap in Desilet’s treatment of re-identifiability. For example, how, in practice, does re-identifiability work when, say, Héloïse insists, “That’s my signature, Hermione”? If “signature” is in dispute, then Héloïse’s remark suggests that she is not only drawing a significant distinction between authenticity and forgery, but she is also appealing to her actual role in its inscription. Alternatively expressed, she has in effect adopted what Nelson Goodman explores as the “autographic” conditions for re-identifying her signature, whether she happened to etch or paint it, “if and only if even the most exact duplication of it does not thereby count as genuine” (1968, p. 113).  By contrast, if the sign in question is Héloïse’s above utterance in full, but now embedded within her draft playscript, performative instantiations of this playscript operate independently of its history of production. In this case, Goodman explores the sign as one of a set of complex “allographic” conditions for its (re)identification. Mistaking “what’s” for “that’s” and “bi-” for “my” in a misreading of the playscript by someone, say, an actor, director, or understudy, does not comply with the syntactic and semantic characteristics of its governing “notational” system. From a metalingual point of view, “What’s bi-signature, Hermione” has become a wh-question in the language system.

This and the previous section have concentrated upon Derrida and have particularly alluded to one of his better-known critiques of Husserl’s phenomenological project with which Desilet is obviously familiar. The next section shall shift the focus to alternative approaches to understanding Wittgenstein that appear not to have been fully recognised by Desilet notwithstanding his contention that

Both Wittgenstein and Derrida belong to metaphysical positions presenting forms of dualism, but Wittgenstein, despite his opposition to Cartesian mind/body dualism, still belongs more in the Cartesian modern tradition of oppositional structure whereas Derrida offers a genuinely different metaphysical alternative. (130)

The alternative, Desilet continues, lies in recognising oppositional relations “maximally anticipating the shifting ground of meaning under the influence of temporal succession and changing contextual boundaries” (138) irrespective of whether “temporal succession” is construed as temporal direction of past, present, and future, or as temporal order between earlier and later. Desilet then concludes:

For Wittgenstein, time affects everything, including language, but does so from the outside … For Derrida, time affects language, and everything else: without time there is no thing, no event, no position, no being—nothing. Time and space, time and matter, time and being—these oppositions name a complementarity such that each does not exist without the other. (138-139)

IV

When Wittgenstein contrasts what “behaves like a human being” with a stone or a corpse, he simultaneously raises the question of “how can a body have a mind?” (1945, §§283-284). According to Desilet, this “positions human beings as mind/bodies embedded within the world and community” before making any inferences about “the separation of mind and body” (117). So, let us begin somewhat indirectly at first by recounting the way in which Peter Hacker and colleagues interrogate the longstanding binary distinction between mind and body, between mental and physical phenomena.

Maxwell Bennett and Hacker (2003, e.g., pp. 72-74, 103-106) claim that past and present followers of René Descartes are guilty of committing the mereological or part-whole fallacy. The fallacy is traceable within, for example, Part One of Descartes’ Les Passions de l’âme where the passion of the soul is a mental state or thought which directly results from the activity of the brain that causes us to act. However, that body and mind, or that which has spatial extension and that which has not, can causally interact remains puzzling. After all, as Harry Smit and Hacker (2014, pp. 1080 & 1084) argue, conceptually speaking because “the mind is not an entity of any kind,” the mind having “a relation to the brain” simply does not apply and “makes no sense,” although the brain’s neuronal activities are “a causal condition,” a precondition, for, say, our capacities for remembering, rehearsing, and reciting things. Hacker and his co-authors consequently cleave to Wittgenstein’s contention that an “‘inner process’ stands in need of outward criteria” (1945, §580). In his 1949 “Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment,” Wittgenstein separates the criteria demonstrating someone’s capacity and “the criteria for ‘inner states’”: “Even if someone had a particular ability only when, and only as long as, he [or she] had a particular feeling, the feeling would not be the ability” (vi, §36).

Equally puzzling for Hacker and colleagues is that the mind and/or the brain is predicated as having psychological attributes which belong to the person as a whole. This, in effect, upends the former conception of person in which the psukhē (commonly but misleadingly translated as “soul”) was reconfigured. To quote an earlier article by Bennett and Hacker, the psukhē is no longer construed “as the principle of life, but as the principle of thought or consciousness” (2002, p. 12). After noting that Aristoteles upheld “the principle that only living beings have a psuchē,” Smit and Hacker (2014, p. 1091) describe the psukhē, by contrast with Cartesian conceptions of mind, as “a biological principle.” By identifying psukhē solely with the thinking mind (res cogitans), its other functions as enumerated by Aristoteles were frequently reclassified by Cartesian adherents as material or bodily features (res extensa). Because Descartes conceives of thinking as awareness or consciousness, thinking therefore comprises volitional, ratiocinative, and imaginative powers as well as sensory apprehensions ranging from perceptions to passions. In the first book of the Peri psukhës (On the Soul), we find Aristoteles articulating the conceptual conflation in question:

We speak of the soul [psukhē] as being pained or pleased, being bold or fearful, being angry, perceiving, thinking …. Yet to say that it is the soul which is angry is as if we were to say that it is the soul that weaves or builds houses. It is doubtless better to avoid saying that the soul pities or learns or thinks, and rather to say that it is the man who does this. (408b, 11-15)

It is a conceptual confusion which, outside “secondary” uses typical of child-play, Wittgenstein also depicts by virtue of our enactive and verbal interchanges as follows: “only of a living human being and what resembles (behaves like) a living human being can one say: it has sensations; it sees; is blind; hears; is deaf; is conscious or unconscious” (1945, §§282 & 281).

On reviewing Hacker and his co-authors, Jasper van Buuren (2016, pp. 226-227) questions what they understand by the mereological relationship between brain and person and between mind and person. To contend, following van Buuren, that Hugues’ brain is part of Hugues suggests that it is not part of the person Hugues so much as part of the person Hugues’ body. In other words, Hugues not only has a body of a particular size and weight which includes mouth and hands, lungs and brain, blood and bones, but he also is and, so to speak, lives through his body. Again, the person Hugues, whilst he continues to live, has a mind, a mind which can be said to belong to him. What the foregoing omits is that Smit and Hacker distinguish the concept of a person and that of a human. Whereas a human is a “rational, language-using” creature with “powers of intellect and will,” a person “is not a substance but a status concept,” a creature “capable of participating in a culture” and assuming “moral agency and responsibility” (2014, pp. 1092-1093 passim). Furthermore, Smit and Hacker warn us against conflating two senses of the human body, namely, “the body (the living organism) that a human being is with the body (the somatic features) that a human being has” (2014, p. 1083). That Bennett and Hacker elsewhere conceded that they are primarily concerned with “human beings qua possessors of those characteristics that render them persons” so that the brain “would be part of the human being” not the person leaves van Buuren unconvinced (2016, p. 226). Without considering whether mental properties might supervene upon physical ones (see, e.g., Robert Francescotti (c.2009)), van Buuren surmises, “Even if the mind is not literally a ‘part’ of the person, there must be some kind of mereological relationship between person and mind” (2016, p. 227). However, given Bennett and Hacker’s appeal to the unifying role of the psukhē “as that which encompasses and transcends the opposition between the mental and the physical,” then how, van Buuren asks, do they explain a person as both a physical and mental being whilst being “encompassed” by that which is “not reducible to the physical or mental” (2016, p. 228)?

In the apparent absence of an answer to this question, van Buuren looks to a student of Husserl whose philosophical anthropological theory has gained increasing interdisciplinary attention (see, e.g., Shawn Loht (2020) in this Journal). Drawing upon the largely non-Cartesian anthropological theory of Helmuth Plessner (1928) regarding “levels of organic life,” van Buuren argues that Hacker has overlooked the “threefold structure” of “our bodily existence” in the world (2016, p. 230). Baldly summarised, at an objective “level” (die Stufe des Objekts), our physical bodies are, firstly, “things among other things in the world” as are plants despite their variability (2016, p. 230). Secondly, at a subjective “level” (die Stufe des Subjekts), each organic body is “a center of sensorimotor activity” in the sense of being “open to the world” in a manner befitting most animals (2016, p. 230). Thirdly, from a positional or perspectival “level” (technically called exzentrische Positionalität), humans are distinctively “at a distance to both the body as object and the body as subject” because generally “we can always distance ourselves from any relationship we have to ourselves or the world” including other persons (2016, p. 230).

For readers more familiar with Wittgenstein, the positional capacity for distancing oneself in order to make connections, perceive relationships, resolve disparities, and the like complements his “concept of a surveyable representation [übersichtliche Darstellung]” which “characterizes the way we present things, how we look at matters” (1945, §122). Surveyability equally underpins Wittgenstein’s dual methodological attention that subsequently comes to the fore upon the interpretive role of interlocutors’ beliefs and upon logico-syntactic rules (1945, §§185ff.). Desilet’s initial focus, it is worth noting, centres upon the latter (45ff. & 179ff.) before summarising others’ arguments for the former (48ff. & 181-186 passim). For Wittgenstein in a critique not unlike Derrida’s, the distortion of surveyability emerges when “the question of the essence” of phenomena, be it thinking or language, feeling or literature “sees the essence of things not as something that already lies open to view, and that becomes surveyable through a process of ordering, but as something that lies beneath the surface” which somehow “an analysis is supposed to unearth” and where the answer claims “to be given once for all, and independently of any future experience” (1945, §92).

However, as Beth Savickey (2014) cogently argues, the foregoing translation of übersichtliche Darstellung endorsed by Hacker is highly contestable. She has at least two reasons, the first concerning the very phrase and the second concerning the Philosophische Untersuchungen itself. Translations of Űbersichtlichekeit are not merely “surveyability” or “overview,” but possibly more so “clarity” or “perspicuity,” “plainness” or “transparency” (2014, pp. 101-102). Similarly, not only “representation,” but also “account,” “depiction” or “portrayal” can translate Darstellung (2014, p. 112). For Hacker, Savickey continues, “the central preoccupation of the Investigations is the nature of language”; for Wittgenstein “it is life (i.e. all the expressions of life in language)” making a “representation of life … inherently dynamic” (2014, pp. 111-112). As Wittgenstein himself pointedly remarks, “Every sign by itself seems dead. What gives it life? – In use it lives. Is it there that it has living breath within it? – Or is the use its breath?” (1945, §432). Further elaboration can readily be found in Wittgenstein’s Zettel, including, for example, how “to explain our understanding of a gesture by means of a translation into words” and vice versa (1948, §227). This then elicits the remark:

How can these gestures, this way of holding the hand, this picture, be the wish that such and such were the case? It is nothing more than a hand over a table and there it is, alone and without a sense. Like a single bit of scenery from the production of a play, which has been left by itself in a room. It had life only in the play. (1948, §238).

In fact, the Zettel constantly applies other examples of understanding wrought by übersichtliche Darstellung to the arts, especially music and poetry (1948, §§155-176).

Now, let us return to Plessner’s tripartite approach as summarised by van Buuren. It ultimately reveals the limits of the mereological fallacy employed by Hacker and colleagues. Owing to the positional or perspectival capacity to “distance from our relationship to the external world,” we can focus upon “an inner world” and “a social world” in mediated rather than immediate, idealised rather than perceptual ways, a focus conducted as mental thinking rather than as embodied processing (2016, p. 232). Moreover, the above-mentioned subjective and objective senses of the body in effect are dual “aspects of the one and same body” without necessarily implying that one sense is reducible to the other (2016, p. 234). That Héloïse, for example, has a brain and two hands is one way of classifying parts of her body. However, brains are not perceived, possessed, or deployed in the way hands are. Why? Because, as van Buuren succinctly contends, “our hands are part of our first-person world” whose bodily appearance has “immediate practical” meaning when feeling, gathering, moving, touching, and so forth (2016, pp. 234 & 238). However, the “appearance of the brain,” which fulfils its complex functions independently of us, “presupposes the third-person perspective of science” (2016, p. 234). If the foregoing account holds, then Hacker’s mereological accusation falls short. According to van Buuren, it needs to differentiate between two different kinds of part-whole relationships in terms of parts and aspects, namely, that “between a part of the body and the body as a whole” and that “between a partial aspect of our bodily existence and this existence as a whole, whereby the whole is the person” (2016, p. 237).

In conclusion, Desilet’s volume extolling the “metaphysical depth” achieved by Derrida in comprehending “the complexities of language” beyond the logico-linguistic explorations of them by Wittgenstein (177) demands our attention. Nonetheless, one might wonder whether both philosophers were aiming at the same metaphysical trajectory with greater or lesser success. Those sympathetic to Desilet’s conclusion may well question how to determine what counts as “the same” here. Of course, none of us can definitively determine, to echo Bernard Williams,

what counts—what will have counted—as going on in the same … way. Nothing can do that, finally, except the future itself. The Last Word, as always, will lie with what actually comes about. (1998, p. 44)

References

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Bennett, Maxwell and Peter Hacker. 2002. “The Motor System in Neuroscience: A History and Analysis of Conceptual Developments,” Progress in Neurobiology 67(1): 1-52.

——-. 2003. “The Mereological Fallacy in Neuroscience.” In Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, 68-107. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Derrida, Jacques. 1966. “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences.” In Writing and Difference / L’Écriture et la Différence. Translated by Alan Bass, 278-293. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978.

——-. 1967. “Speech and Phenomena: Introduction to the Problem of Signs in Husserl’s Phenomenology.” In Speech and Phenomena: And Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs / La Voix et le Phénomène. Translated by D.B. Allison, 1-104. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

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Arnaud Dewalque, Charlotte Gauvry & Sébastien Richard (Eds.): Philosophy of Language in the Brentano School: Reassessing the Brentanian Legacy

Philosophy of Language in the Brentano School: Reassessing the Brentanian Legacy Book Cover Philosophy of Language in the Brentano School: Reassessing the Brentanian Legacy
History of Analytic Philosophy
Arnaud Dewalque, Charlotte Gauvry, Sébastien Richard (Eds)
Palgrave Macmillan
2021
Hardback 117,69 €
XVII, 322

Reviewed by: R.A. Goodrich (ARC Centre for History of Emotions – University of Melbourne & ADI Philosophy & History of Ideas – Deakin University)

The publication of Philosophy of Language in the Brentano School is a valuable addition to the range of recent English language anthologies probing the impact of Franz Brentano upon philosophical enquiries. The past two decades has seen several collections: those edited by Denis Fisette and Guillaume Fréchette, Dale Jacquette, Uriel Kriegel, and Robin Rollinger come immediately to mind. The volume under review edited by Arnaud Dewalque, Charlotte Gauvry, and Sébastien Richard is also one of the latest volumes of the forty published since 2008 within the History of Analytic Philosophy series under the general editorship of Michael Beaney. Beaney’s series introduction (v-viii) not only upholds the need for analytical philosophers to delve into the formative debates and topics since the 1870s that anticipate contemporary analytical and phenomenological concerns and conceptions, but also to recognise the heterogenous contexts out of which analytical philosophy developed, even when such contexts appear to have been marginalised if not altogether neglected.

What immediately confronts contributors and readers alike is, as Beaney concedes, whether Brentano developed a substantial philosophy of language. Irrespective of how we might respond, there is sufficient evidence that, whilst probing the nature of mental phenomena, Brentano’s published and unpublished work demonstrates enquiries into the role and function of language and meaning. This, in turn, raises the issue of whether other intellectuals influenced by him during his quarter-century of teaching or thereafter pursued his linguistic concerns (apart from Anton Marty (see, e.g., 130-135)). Accordingly, we shall begin with the carefully crafted introductory chapter by the volume’s editors which subtly orients readers in the face of the above-mentioned doubts when providing a rationale for their anthology. Thereafter, rather than summarising all fourteen remaining chapters, we shall explicitly concentrate upon chapters from two phenomenological phases debated within Philosophy of Language in the Brentano School. The first focuses upon how Brentano himself engages the question of context which nowadays is still seen as central to analytic philosophy. The second focuses upon how Roman Ingarden, a student of two of Brentano’s influential students, fundamentally transforms phenomenological conceptions of language. Each pivotal chapter chosen will include a paired but contrasting contribution within this engrossing anthology.

Indeed, readers will become increasingly aware of the consistently interweaving nature of this anthology. Those encountering less familiar intellectuals for the first time will have little difficulty acquiring more background in later chapters. For example, the logician Bernard Bolzano first mentioned in Guillaume Fréchette’s second chapter (e.g. 42ff.) re-appears in Hélène Leblanc’s sixth chapter (e.g. 127ff.), Bruno Leclercq’s tenth chapter (e.g. 209ff.) and Maria van der Schaar’s twelfth chapter (e.g. 248ff.). Or again, the linguist Karl Bühler first mentioned in the introductory chapter (e.g. 3 & 25) re-emerges in Fréchette (e.g. 50-51) before dedicated explorations of him in Basil Vassilicos’ fourteenth chapter (279ff.) and Kevin Mulligan’s fifteenth chapter (299ff.). However, for those easing into this anthology’s breadth of reference may find at its deepest level a wrestling with Immanuel Kant’s challenge: “although all our cognition commences with experience, yet it does not on that account all arise from experience” (1787: Introduction B1).

I

Chapter One immediately announces “the basic assumption” said to be “arguably shared” by Brentano and his followers: a philosophical analysis of meaning is “inseparable” from considering “what goes on in the mind and what there is in the world” (1). The foregoing is reiterated more forcefully as a “shared conviction that a philosophical analysis of language—and, more pointedly, of what it is for signs and sounds to be endowed with meaning—cannot possibly be disconnected from a philosophical analysis of mind and reality” (4). This is next followed by a succinct explanation of the complexities facing the transmission of Brentano’s thinking amongst “the breadth of [his] intellectual progeny” (2), especially in the case of “language, sign and meaning” (4). Two generally familiar questions arise here. Irrespective of where his “outstanding students”—for example, Anton Marty, Alexius Meinong, Kazimierz Twardowski, and Edmund Husserl—subsequently located themselves within the Austro-Hungarian empire or beyond, did they share a relatively “unified” conception of what philosophy and thereby philosophy of language comprises, or should they be regarded as “a heterogeneous group of scholars working on similar topics in a similar way” (2)? To what extent is the foregoing further complicated in that “most of them founded … their own school” (2) such as Marty in Prague, Meinong in Graz, Twardowski in Lwów, and Husserl in Göttingen and then Freiburg?

Some readers might be tempted by an alternative approach here when considering Brentano’s widely disseminated appeal to the study of “mental phenomena as a science” outlined in Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte (1874: 2-14). The conjunction of science and philosophy, however construed, invites a marked contrast in perspectives. As Robert Merton contends, “scientists ordinarily publish their ideas and findings not to help historians reconstruct their methods but to instruct their contemporaries and, hopefully, posterity about their contributions to science” (1968: 5). Hence, it would be futile to search conventional scientific texts alone as a means of reconstructing the actual history of scientific enquiry, let alone its indebtedness to precedents grounded in the practice of generations past. In fact, it should not surprise us that, when Brentano observes that

psychologists in earlier times have already pointed out that there is a special affinity and analogy that exists among all mental phenomena … which physical phenomena do not share,

he firstly elaborates this as:

Every mental phenomenon is characterized by what the Scholastics of the Middle Ages call the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object, and what we might call … reference to a content, direction toward an object … (1874: 68)

which is subsequently amended to read:

… all mental phenomena really appear to be unextended. Further … the intentional in-existence, the reference to something as an object, is a distinguishing characteristic of all mental phenomena. (1874: 74-75)

If simply alluding to the “Scholastics”—or metonymously to Thomas Aquinas—characterizes a “scientific” enquiry, this can, from an historical point of view, be characterized in Merton’s terms as one of the following: firstly, as re-discoveries involving “substantive identity or functional equivalence”; secondly, as anticipations where “earlier formulations overlap the later ones” but without “the same set of implications”; or, thirdly, as foreshadowings which, in extreme cases, proclaim “the faintest shadow of resemblance between earlier and later ideas as virtual identity” (1968: 13 & 21). Moreover, the bulk of scientific enquiry can function successfully without any knowledge of foundational precedents. Is this exemplified by the sheer succession of mediaeval logico-linguistic debates upon which conceptions of modes of being, understanding, and signifying and out of which the notion of intentionality was to emerge? Is this why only two of Boethius Dacus and Petrus Aliacensis, Duns Scotus and Gulielmus Occamus, to mention but four crucial figures, are passingly mentioned once by Brentano (1874: 178)? As Merton claims, the physical and biological sciences can function through a “process of obliteration by incorporation” unlike the humanities and social sciences where “previously unretrieved information is still there to be usefully employed as new points of departure” (1968: 35). However, despite Brentano’s apparent conjunction of science and philosophy, Dewalque, Gauvry, and Richard can always retort that they are principally dealing with the contributions of philosophers, not scientists per se.

To reconstruct Brentano’s approach to language, Chapter One seizes upon the manuscript Logik containing Brentano’s notes for his 1869/1870 and 1870/1871 courses at Würzburg and 1875 and 1877 courses in Vienna. The manuscript is interpreted as an interlocking set of tenets (6ff.). These tenets, Dewalque, Gauvry, and Richard believe, assume the form of a “research programme” for Brentano’s students and their students (10ff.). Even glimpsing a few tenets in Logik reveals how Brentano’s notion of language operates amidst a dense conceptual intersection, including communication, generality, meaning, thought, and translatability:

[1] “Language, in its essential meaning, is the sign of thinking” (EL 80, 12.978[9]);

[2] “Language has at first the purpose of communicating thoughts” (12.988[2]);

[3] “Because language is the expression of thought, they say, it reflects thought. Certainly the word is dissimilar to thought, and that is why people’s languages ​​can be different from each other, while thinking is the same, and we translate thoughts from one language into the other” (12.998[2]);

[4] “Language generally has the purpose of expressing … our mental phenomena … (expressing the content of our psychic phenomena; what is presented, judged, desired …)” (13.008[2]);

[5] “Only when combined with other words do [syncategorematic or non-self-contained expressions] contribute to the expression of a psychic phenomenon, e.g. “No stone is alive,” “He struck me,” etc.” (13.009[1]);

[6] “What would Jupiter [the Roman god] mean? Since there is no thing Jupiter? So here the name can only mean my idea of ​​Jupiter, otherwise it meant nothing” (13.013[2]);

[7] “… as Plato [inadmissibly] said, both [“ox” and “dog”] are similar to a general thing, “animal,” an animal in itself, an animal species? – Then we would have to accept something general besides individual things, a world of generalities, a world of ideas” (13.013[8]);

[8] “… the phenomenon in question is not an idea, but a judgment. That which is judged as such is the meaning” (13.020[6]).

What Dewalque, Gauvry, and Richard conclude from the Logik is twofold. On the one hand, “linguistic analyses should never be made in isolation” (8) and, on the other hand, because we cannot “infer the structure of thought from the structure of language,” “some expressions are misleading in a systematic way” to the point of needing to be paraphrased so that “the addressee will not be tempted to posit fictional entities” (10).

Before Chapter One ends with a brief chapter-by-chapter précis (21-25), readers are given a justification of the anthology’s purview by four suggestive ways in which analyses of language by Brentano and followers “anticipated four historical stages of the analytic tradition” (16ff.). Three of the four stages nominated are explicitly initiated by chapters in Part I. Denis Seron pursues Sprachkritik or the critique of epistemically opaque language in the case of Brentano and Fritz Mauthner (77ff.); Dewalque investigates the appeal to how misleading expressions are diagnosed by ordinary language in the case of Brentano and Gilbert Ryle (95ff.); and Leblanc approaches the intentionality of communicative functions largely by way of Marty (119ff.). The fourth stage nominated, the integration of mind and metaphysics, ontology and psycholinguistics, percolates throughout the anthology. Dewalque, Gauvry, and Richard (19-20) avoid committing themselves to an unduly linear progression of the ideas characterizing each stage. For instance, contrasting roles are apportioned for Brentano and Marty in anticipating the third stage of intentional theories of communication associated with Paul Grice whose seminal 1957, 1969, and 1980 papers make no mention of them. Nor do they presume that such a progression is inevitably a result of immediately proximate influences. Nonetheless, no mention is made here of the earlier role of Hermann Lotze recently debated by, for example, Nikolay Milkov (2018) and Denis Fisette (2021). At the same time, Chapter One concedes some noticeable reversals. Just as earlier analytic philosophers regarded logic to be an autonomous theoretical discipline, Brentano and followers construed it as a practical one; just as later analytic philosophers regarded linguistics to be an autonomous discipline, Brentano construed it as one subservient to psychology.

Proposals about the “historical stages” of analytic philosophy of language are constantly prey to alternatives. For example, in so far as Van Quine and Thomas Kuhn since the ‘sixties interrogated the nature of translatability and interpretation and that of scientific theories and commensurability respectively, do they represent another distinctive analytic phase that happens to investigate cognate topics probed by Brentano and his leading students? Surely this example in common with any other faces at least two questions: “From whose perspective?”  and “By what criteria?” The first question alerts us to the following kinds of considerations. When exploring the formation of one or more historical phases of analytic philosophy of language, we may well be in danger of conflating quite different cognitive perspectives. In the words of R.G. Collingwood, we are not engaging in an act of recollection where “the past is a mere spectacle”; rather, the past is “re-enacted in present thought” (1936: 293). When we explore formative processes purportedly involved in a designated stage, we are of course assembling evidence or probabilities retrospectively from our particular perspectives. Consequently, the past is not waiting to be discovered as if it were immutable or inert. The second question shifts our focus to the methods by which we construct historical explanations of any phase of analytic philosophy of language. Here, Paul Roth’s investigation of explanatory case-studies contends that “there is no separating the analysis of explanation from attention … to cases … taken to be exemplary instances of problem solving” (1989: 469). By so claiming, Roth provides us with a set of criteria by which any historian of analytic philosophy of language can be evaluated (1989: 473): how the historical account under examination establishes “the importance of the occurrence of the event” or phase; what “is problematic about this event” or phase; why “other rational reconstructions” fall short; and, how the account “solves the problem … set.”

II

Two of the five chapters comprising Part I focus upon the degree to which Brentano’s construal of meaning as contextually sensitive directly connects to trends in Austro-Germanic philosophy as well as Anglo-American analytic philosophy. Here, we shall particularly focus upon Guillaume Fréchette’s Chapter Two. His contribution exemplifies at least three alternative ways of positioning the philosophy of language when re-assessing the legacy of Brentano: firstly, by examining Brentano’s actual texts and lectures; secondly, by contextualizing Brentano within the larger history of philosophical enquiry; and, thirdly, by contrasting Brentano’s dominant or successive claims with those defended by his students. Instead of probing the third alternative, this section shall conclude by raising the challenge in Charlotte Gauvry’s Chapter Three to a context principle in Brentano.

Fréchette rapidly identifies several related but not mutually implicit ways analytic philosophers construed the “context principle.” The principle, sourced to the introduction of Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik by Gottlob Frege (1884: x), is the second of three characteristically deployed by the vast majority of those espousing analytic philosophy, namely, “the meaning of the words must be asked in the sentence’s context, not in their isolation.” Fréchette (39-40) selects half-a-dozen re-formulations of Frege, particularly those associated with Michael Dummett and Van Quine, beginning with Frege’s subsequent elaboration indicative of his wariness of psychological appeals:

People suppose … that the concept originates in the individual mind [Seele] like leaves on a tree … and seek to explain it psychologically by the nature of the human mind [Seele]. (1884: §60, 71).

At first, Dummett appears to be elaborating Frege’s second principle in logico-linguistic terms:

the assignment of a sense to a word … only has significance in relation to the subsequent occurrence of that word in sentences …. for Frege, the sense of a word or expression always consists in the contribution it makes to determining the thought expressed by a sentence in which it occurs …. The sense of a word thus consists … in something which has a relation to the truth-value of sentences containing the word. (1981: 193-194).

This interpretation follows Dummett’s endorsement of another analytic principle nowadays often projected on to Frege and the opening of his 1923 article Gedankengefüge, the holistic principle of (semantic) “compositionality”:

For Frege, we understand the sense of a complex expression by understanding the senses of its constituents. In particular, we grasp the sense of a whole sentence by grasping the senses of the constituent expressions, and … observing how they are put together in the sentence…. When the complex expression is a complete sentence, Frege calls the sense which it expresses a ‘thought’ [or “a proposition”]. (1981: 152-153)

By extolling both principles, Dummett seems to shift ground when later claiming

What distinguishes analytical philosophy … is the belief that a philosophical account of thought can be attained through a philosophical account of language, and, secondly, that a comprehensive account can only be so attained (1993: 4)

before resorting to a psychological gloss when suggesting that “it is possible to grasp the sense of a word only as it occurs in some particular sentence” (1993: 97). Behind his so-called “linguistic turn,” Dummett’s contestable account of the origins of analytic philosophy virtually reflects Ludwig Wittgenstein’s radical contention about “certain forms of proposition in psychology, such as ‘A believes that p is the case’ and ‘A has the thought p’” (1921: 5.541). These together with “‘A says p’ are of the form ‘“p” says p’” (1921: 5.542). In other words, the psycho-linguistic relation between beliefs or thoughts and what they intend is the same as the relation between statements or sentences and what they intend. As a result, the logical structure of an ideal language reveals the structure of mental processes. So far, this group of analytic re-formulations appear to have a rather tenuous connection with Brentano as cited in our previous section.

Turning to Quine’s 1968 lecture “Epistemology Naturalized,” Fréchette (42ff.) dismisses the foundational role given to Frege because Quine assigns “the recognition of contextual definition, or … paraphrasis” to Jeremy Bentham (1968: 72). Without specifying Bentham’s posthumously published Essay on Logic on “exposition by paraphrasis” of propositions about “an entity of any kind, real or fictitious” (circa 1831: ch. 7, §7-8, 246-248), Quine regards that explaining an expression “need only show … how to translate the whole sentences in which [that expression] is to be used” and hence the “primary vehicle of meaning is seen no longer as the word, but as the sentence” (1968: 72). Elsewhere, by propounding the semantic primacy of sentences or propositions and thereby contextual definitions, Bentham is acclaimed by Quine (1975) as embodying the second of five historical “milestones” in the development of empirical philosophy.

By contrast, Quine is dubious about the worth of Brentano whom he regards as reviving “‘intentional’ … in connection with the verbs of propositional attitude” (1960: 219) exemplified by a person’s cognitive and affective relation towards a proposition (“Gianna believes that Gianfranco will buy her a gelato”; “Gianfranco hopes that Gianna can forget his promise”). Intentional idioms, he continues, create logically discordant divisions between, say, “referential” and “non-referential occurrences of terms,” “behaviorism and mentalism,” and “literal theory and dramatic portrayal” (1960: 219). Ultimately, Quine would not “forswear daily use of intentional idioms, or maintain that they are practically dispensable,” yet declares:

One may accept the Brentano thesis either as showing the indispensability of intentional idioms and the importance of an autonomous science of intention, or as showing the baselessness of intentional idioms and the emptiness of a science of intention. My attitude, unlike Brentano’s, is the second. (1960: 221)

Quine’s unease here with Brentano remains unremarked in Chapter Two as it delves into the latter’s Austro-Germanic intellectual background. Fréchette finds that the Prague-based Bernard Bolzano had already pre-empted Bentham’s appeal to paraphrasis in his 1810 monograph Beyträge zu einer begründeteren Darstellung der Mathematik [Contribution to a More Grounded Presentation of Mathematics]. He seizes upon Bolzano (1810: 55-56) stating that “any scientific exposition” must begin its “simple concepts and the word that [one] chooses for their designation” by distinguishing “such explications [Verständigungen] from a real definition” which Bolzano would call “paraphrases” [Umschreibungen (or, less charitably, “circumlocution”)] (cited 42). The notion of Verständigungen is later elaborated with reference to context [Zusammenhange] in Bolzano’s 1837 magnum opus, Wissenschaftslehre, Versuch einer ausführlichen und grössentheils neuen Darstellung der Logik [Theory of Science: An Attempt at a Detailed and Largely New Presentation of Logic]. Given the familiar circumstances of encountering an unknown sign [Zeichen] “with several others whose meanings are known,” then, in such cases, we come to recognise “the meaning of the sign from its use or from its context [aus dem Gebrauche oder Zusammenhange]” (1837: vol. 4, 547) (cited 42 & 52n.6). Furthermore, where expressions threaten to mislead us by their seeming referential function, Bolzano does not hesitate to paraphrase them. For example, he deals with the term “nothing” in the existential assertion “Nothing is more certain than death” by the following paraphrase “The idea of something that would be more certain than death has no object” (1837: vol. 2, 212ff.) (cited 43).

Having pinpointed Bolzano’s references to paraphrasis, context, and use, Fréchette (43-44) turns to examples in Brentano. The paraphrastic strategy concerning propositions about fictional entities emerges in correspondence with J.S. Mill where Brentano (1874: 170) notes:

The proposition, ‘A centaur is a poetic fiction,’ does not imply … that a centaur exists, rather it implies the opposite. But if it is true, it does imply that something else exists, namely a poetic fiction which combines part of a horse with part of a human body in a particular way. If there were no poetic fictions and if there were no centaurs imaginatively created by poets, the proposition would be false. In fact the sentence means just that, ‘There is a poetic fiction which conceives the upper parts of the human body joined to the body and legs of a horse,’ or (which comes to the same thing), ‘There exists a centaur imaginatively created by the poets

—or “There is a poet imagining a centaur.” This is succeeded by the Jupiter case we included as Tenet (6) from Logik (EL 80, 13.013[2]).

Brentano concludes:

The truth of the proposition does not require that there be a Jupiter, but it does require that there be something else. If there were not something which existed merely in  one’s thought, the proposition would not be true. (1874: 170)

However, the issue of Brentano’s notion of context is less straightforward. This is partly because of his intensely internal, tripartite psychological conception of any meaningful utterance or proposition. This involves first-person acts of perception, observation, and judgement, enhanced, for example, by memory and verbal communication (1874: e.g. 32 & 29). Gauvry’s hypothesis in Chapter Three is that “the so-called ‘context’” for any expression

to be meaningful is nothing more than the expressive sentence whose function is to express a mental act. That is the reason why the content of this meaningful sentence (which has not necessarily a propositional form and which can instead adopt the form of an ‘exclamation’ or a ‘request’) is nothing else than the mental content of the act expressed by the sentence.” (71)

Even when Brentano talks in passing of “an actual finished statement (a speech)” [ein eigentlicher fertiger Ausspruch (eine Rede)] in Logik (EL 80, 13.001[2]), there appears to be no example of the expression “context of sentence (or proposition)” [Zusammenhang des Sätzes]. Nor, Gauvry adds (70-71), does Brentano—unlike Wittgenstein (1945, §583)—focus upon the interactional and normative circumstances or surroundings in which speech occurs. To the extent that Brentano fixes upon the mental content of psychic acts, can he be regarded as upholding what analytic philosophers since Frege regard as context, be it sentential or social?

III

All five chapters comprising Part II focus upon the ways Brentano’s theory of meaning as subjective was strenuously debated by his students, especially Husserl, Meinong, and Twardowski, amongst themselves and their students. Each aimed to develop alternatives whereby meaning could be construed in objective terms. Although better known for his works in ontology and aesthetics translated into English since the ‘seventies, Polish phenomenologist Roman Ingarden, influenced by both Husserl and Twardowski, investigated language and meaning on numerous occasions. In what follows, we shall selectively examine Sébastien Richard’s Chapter Seven on Ingarden as “the peak” of efforts amongst Brentano’s lineage after Husserl (1894, 1901 & 1902) and Twardowski (1912) to reconcile “the subjective and objective aspects of meaning” (163). Attention will then be paid to Olivier Malherbe’s Chapter Eight which proposes how a close analysis of Ingarden (1931) leads to two distinct conceptions of meaning.

Initially Richard (esp. 147-158) provides brief summaries of critiques launched by Husserl, Meinong, and Twardowski accompanied by an illuminating set of charts. Thereafter, he emphasizes Ingarden’s discomfort with Twardowski and Husserl for variously suggesting that meaning’s objective and communicable character is somehow tantamount to what is instantiated by various meaningful acts. To the extent that Twardowski appeals to a contrast between the concrete and the abstract not unlike, say, various red garments and redness or various equilateral and isosceles, scalene and skewed triangular shapes and triangularity, the process of abstraction results in a second-order psychological act focused upon the actual first-order mental activity before it. To the extent that “Investigation II” in Husserl (1901) recognises much the same process, meaning by contrast is construed as an “ideal species” (or “ideation”) (158) underlying any manifestation of it. For Husserl, Richard states:

Meaning is neither something real in our thought (it is not a mental content) nor something in the real world (it is not an empirical object), but an ideal ‘species’ instantiated in the individual contents of mental acts. In this sense, meanings are ideal entities. (154)

However, Husserl does not deny a role for mental contents. To quote Richard, “it is still the content of the mental act that is responsible for the directedness toward the object of a name” (154). For Husserl, “ideal species” not only justifies the objectivity of meaning, it also rationalises its communicability by, it also seems, implicitly transforming Brentano’s Tenet (3) previously listed from Logik (EL 80, 12.998[2]). In Richard’s words again:

different language users can understand each other not because the content aroused in the mind of the listener is sufficiently similar to the content indicated in the mind of the speaker, but because their contents are instantiations of the same ideal species … (154)

In Das literarische Kunstwek, Ingarden (1931: §17, 91-95) finds that “ideal species” make meanings unchanging when the same words, each possessing its “intentional directional factor,” can assume different meanings owing to their logico-syntactic role within sentences. This, in turn, connects with determinate and indeterminate relationships or specifications. For example, for Gianfranco to assert, “Consuls in ancient Rome exerted enormous power” leaves open or relatively indeterminate who or what is specified by “consuls,” “ancient,” and “power” unlike Gianna stating, “The compact between consuls Iulius Caesar, Pompeius Magnus, and Licinius Crassus exerted supreme political and military power over ancient Rome from 60/59 B.C.” In his 1937 companion volume revised as Vom Erkennen des literarischen Kunstwerks, Ingarden on “verbal and sentence meanings” (1937/1968: §8, 24ff.) is taken by Richard to concede that, even if words or expressions “have only one meaning,” this is not a fixed state of affairs: a word’s meaning can shift with different contexts by being “tied to other words, pronounced or written by different speakers at different times, in different places and sentences” (159). To avoid communication becoming an interminable, if not random, “guessing game,” “an expression is something ‘intersubjective’”; an expression being “an entity whose meaning is accessible to different persons” (159).

Whilst Ingarden synthesizes aspects of both Husserl (e.g. 1901: Investigation 1, 206ff.) and Twardowski (e.g. 1912: 124ff.)—for instance, that “we confer meanings to words” and that “meaning is produced by subjective operations” (albeit temporally divisible) (160)—he construes meaning “not as part of a mental act, but as a unitary whole” (160). Alternatively expressed, Richard continues “that meaning exists potentially in expressions and can be actualised by different persons implies that it can be separated from them. In other words, meaning ‘transcends’ every mental act,” and, although we can “be mistaken when we re-actualise the meaning intention of a word,” this can usually be rectified (160). This, in turn, leaves Richard to sketch something of the complexity of Ingarden’s synthesis (drawn from 1931: §18, esp. 97ff.) of both his teachers:

the creation of meanings is not a creation ex nihilo. It is carried out from an ideal material that is structured into an expression by a cognitive agent. When someone produces an expression, on the one hand, she [or he] actualises some ‘pure qualities’ in its material parts and, on the other hand, she [or he] organises these ‘meaning elements’ into a whole. In other words, an expression does not instantiate a whole ideal meaning (Husserl), but contains (material) parts that instantiate pure qualities and that are structured (given a form) by subjective ‘forming operations’

—adding that “ideas” for Ingarden are not “types of mental content,” but “ideal concepts of objects, ideas that subsume the objects to which our words refer” whereas “pure qualities” are kinds of “‘bare universals’ that can be (ideally) concretised in ideas and instantiated in (realised in) real objects and (actualised in) meanings” (161).

A closer reading of the context of literary fiction enables Malherbe to examine amongst other factors Ingarden’s distinctive conception of language as an intentional multi-layered entity and its bearing upon the nature of meaning. The formation of language, especially the spoken (Sprachgebilde), whilst composed of various layers, comprises “unified homogenous elements” in each layer which “always maintains organic relations” with the other layers (172).

Alongside his overarching distinction between the completed work itself and its many individual concretisations by readers or listeners (1931: e.g. §8, 37-38; §62, 332ff.), Ingarden also introduces its many layers, the first three of which Malherbe (172) unhesitatingly regards as “essential”:

[a] the stratum of linguistic sound formations based upon the phonemes or distinctive significant sounds of a spoken language (for instance, forty-five in German, thirty-seven in Polish) and including rhythm and tempo as well as subsequent manifestations of Gestält qualities of tone;

[b] the “central” stratum of units of meaning which include categorematic or “nominal” and syncategorematic or “functional” words that project (entwirft) acts and attributes, events and persons, states and things. In combination with finite verbs that convey tense, aspect, etc., meaning unfolds in the form of sentences which can then combine to form segments and genres of discourses or texts. As Malherbe, who limits himself to individual words (173-176), succinctly states, this layer is “the core of linguistic signification” (172);

[c] the stratum of represented “objectivities,” that is, the objects, events, circumstances, etc. projected by units of meaning and their particular structural qualities—simple or paratactic, complex or hypotactic—which form the work’s style (e.g. “The fire began raging. Gianfranco gripped the person nearest to him tightly. Although frightened, Gianna sat still” and “When the fire began raging, Gianna, whom Gianfranco gripped tightly, sat still although frightened”); and

[d] the stratum of schematized aspects, which is “impossible for the reader to actualize with complete precision the same aspects that the author wanted to designate through the structure of the work,” nonetheless, for all their indeterminacies are “held in readiness” (paragehaltene) for readers or listeners by which they can picture the represented objectivities forming its plot and characters (1931: §42, 265ff.).

So far, as Malherbe argues, meaning is cognitive or intellectual (“rational”) which all works necessarily possess albeit in differing degrees.

Beyond that are metaphysical and aesthetic (“axiological”) qualities which Malherbe at first calls without pursuing “the stratum of writings” nor its “Gestalt quality” which may or may not form “a fifth layer” (172 & 185n.4), but acclaimed as such by, for example, René Wellek (1949: 152). Thereafter, Malherbe derives the second affective (or “irrational”) conception of meaning from metaphysical qualities which range from the grotesque and sorrowful to the sublime and tragic. Such qualities are “usually revealed” in “complex … disparate situations or events” pervading if not shaping all within them (1931: §48, 290-293). Metaphysical (and aesthetic) qualities can potentially define a work as artistic since their apprehension draws upon all layers although subject to the constraints upon concretisations mentioned above (1931: §49-51, 293ff.; cf. 1937/1968: e.g. §12. 62; §13a, 72ff.; §14, 90; etc.). As Malherbe concludes, the second conception of language is “value-driven” whose authors find themselves “in a particular attitude … more receptive to special types of value” and whose language itself is shaped (and words are chosen) in a very different way in order to allow some values to be enshrined in it, either as an end, or a … mean[s] to other ends. (183-184)

IV

Limits upon length obviously prevent us from assessing Richard and Malherbe in light of, say, Anglo-American reviews of and reservations about Das literarische Kunstwerk since Paul Leon (1932) onwards. Some readers, too, might wonder why both authors have not included research since their co-edited 2016 volume on Ingarden’s ontology. Quibbles aside, a close reading of Philosophy of Language in the Brentano School teaches us that we ought not presume, in the words of Robert Hanna (2008: 149), that “the analytic tradition was all about logic and analyticity” and “the phenomenological tradition was all about consciousness and intentionality.” Hanna provocatively continues: “analytic philosophy and phenomenology alienated themselves from their Kantian origins,” yet could jointly renew themselves by “re-thinking and re-building their foundations” by reversing the foregoing trend (2008: 150). Clearly, Dewalque, Gauvry and Richard’s anthology begins this renewal.

 

 

References

Bentham, Jeremy. ca. 1831. Essay on Logic. In The Works of Jeremy Bentham. Edited by John Bowring, vol. 8, 213-293. Edinburgh: William Tait, 1843.

Brentano, F.C. 1869-1877. Logik [EL 80, 12.956-13.491]. Edited by R.D. Rollinger. Graz: Franz Brentano Archiv Graz, 2010 [accessible at: http://gams.uni-graz.at/archive/objects/o:bag.el.80-html-norm/methods/sdef:HTML/get (reviewer’s translation)].

——-. 1874. Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte / Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint [2nd edn., 1924]. Edited by Oscar Kraus & Linda McAllister; translated by A.C. Rancurello, D.B. Terrell & L.L. McAllister. London & New York: Routledge, 1995.

Collingwood, R.G. 1936. “History as Re-enactment of Past Experience.” In The Idea of History with Lectures 1926-1928. Edited by W.J. van der Dussen, rev. edn., 282-302. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Dummett, Michael. 1981. Frege: Philosophy of Language, 2nd edn. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co.

——-. 1993. Origins of Analytical Philosophy. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co.

Fisette, Denis. 2021. “Hermann Lotze and the Genesis of Husserl’s Early Philosophy (1886-1901).” In The Idealism-Realism Debate among Edmund Husserl’s Early Followers and Critics. Edited by R.K.B. Parker, 27-53. Cham: Springer Nature.

Frege, Gottlob. 1884. Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik: Eine logisch mathematische Untersuchung über den Begriff der Zahl. Breslau: Wilhelm Koebner (reviewer’s translation).

——-. 1923. “Gedankengefüge / Compound Thoughts.” Translated by R.H. Stoothoff. Mind 72(285), 1963: 1-17.

Grice, H.P. 1957. “Meaning.” In Studies in the Way of Words, 213-223. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.

——-. 1969. “Utterer’s Meaning and Intentions.” In Studies in the Way of Words, 88-116. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.

——-. 1980. “Meaning Revisited.” In Studies in the Way of Words, 283-303. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Hanna, Robert. 2008. “Kant in the Twentieth Century.” In The Routledge Companion to Twentieth Century Philosophy. Edited by Dermot Moran, 149-203. London & New York: Routledge.

Husserl, Edmund. 1894. “Twardowski’s Zur Lehre vom Inhalt und Gegenstand der Vorstellungen: Eine psychologische Untersuchung.” In Aufsätze und Rezensionen (1890–1910). Edited by Bernhard Rang, 349-356. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1979.

——-. 1900 & 1901. Logische Untersuchungen / Logical Investigations. Edited by Dermot Moran; translated by J.N. Findlay [second 1913 edition; two volumes]. London & New York: Routledge, 2001.

Ingarden, R.W. 1931. Das literarische Kunstwek / The Literary Work of Art. Translated by G.G. Grabowicz. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

——-. 1937/1968. Vom Erkennen des literarischen Kunstwerks / The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art. Translated by R.A. Crowley & K.R. Olson. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

Kant, Immanuel. 1787. Kritik der reinen Vernunft / Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd edn. [“B”]. Edited and translated by Paul Guyer & A.W. Wood. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Leon, Paul. 1932. “Critical Notice: Das Literarische Kunstwerk.” Mind 41(161): 97-106.

Merton, R.K. 1968. “On the History and Systematics of Sociological Theory.” In Social Theory and Social Structure, 3rd edn., 1-38. New York: The Free Press.

Milkov, Nikolay. 2018. “Hermann Lotze and Franz Brentano.” Philosophical Readings 10(2): 115-122.

Quine, W.V.O. 1960. “Flight from Intension.” In Word and Object, 191-232. Cambridge, Mass: The M.I.T. Press.

——-. 1968. “Epistemology Naturalized.” In Ontological Relativity and Other Essays, 69-90. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969.

——-. 1975. “Five Milestones of Empiricism.” In Theories and Things, 67-72. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981.

Richard, Sébastian & Malherbe, Olivier (eds.). 2016. Forme(s) et modes d’être: L’ontologie de Roman Ingarden / Form(s) and Modes of Being: The Ontology of Roman Ingarden. Brussels, Bern, Berlin: Peter Lang.

Roth, P.A. 1989. “How Narratives Explain.” Social Research 65(2): 449-478.

Twardowski, Kazimierz. 1912. “Actions and Products.” In Kazimierz Twardowski on Actions, Products and Other Topics in Philosophy. Edited by Johannes Brandl & Jan Woleński; translated by Arthur Szylewicz, 103-132. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999.

Wellek, René. 1949. “The Analysis of the Literary Work of Art.” In René Wellek & Warren Austin, Theory of Literature, 139-158. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co.

Wittgenstein, LJ.J. 1921. Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung / Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Translated by D.F. Pears & B.F. McGuinness. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963.

——-. 1945. Philosophische Untersuchungen / Philosophical Investigations, 4th rev. edn. Edited by P.M.S. Hacker & Joachim Schulte; translated by G.E.M. Anscombe, P.M.S. Hacker & Joachim Schulte. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

Michael Potter: The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, 1879–1930: From Frege to Ramsey

The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, 1879–1930: From Frege to Ramsey Book Cover The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, 1879–1930: From Frege to Ramsey
Michael Potter
Routledge
2019
Paperback £31.99
522

Reviewed by: Piotr Stalmaszczyk (University of Lodz, Poland)

Michael Potter is Professor of Logic at Cambridge University, his studies in the history of analytic philosophy and the philosophical foundations of mathematics include an overview of philosophies of arithmetic from Kant to Carnap – Reason’s Nearest Kin (2000), a critical introduction to set theory – Set Theory and Its Philosophy (2004), and a study of Wittgenstein’s Notes on Logic (2008). His most recent book, The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, 1879-1930, is a comprehensive introduction to the work of four philosophers, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Frank Ramsey, in the half century, from 1879 (the year in which Frege’s Begriffsschrift was published), till Ramsey’s death in 1930.

Analytic philosophy is one of the most important sources for modern philosophy of logic and mathematics, for philosophy of language, and for philosophy of mind. According to some philosophers and historians of philosophy, it is not only one of the most important developments in twentieth-century philosophy, but the most important one, at least in the English-speaking world (cf. Beaney 2007: 1). Michael Dummett has famously defined it in the following way:

“A succinct definition would be: analytical philosophy is post-Fregean philosophy. Frege’s fundamental achievement was to alter our perspective in philosophy, to replace epistemology, as the starting point of the subject, by what he called ‘logic’. What Frege called ‘logic’ (…) embraced precisely what is now called ‘philosophy of language’.” (Dummett 1978: 441).

Though the above definition is far from being uncontroversial, there is a general consensus that the achievements of Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein were crucial for the early developments of analytic philosophy; with the work of Ramsey featuring less prominently in historical overviews. Several general and more detailed studies have already investigated the origins of this movement in considerable detail (it will suffice to mention the works by Michael Beaney, Michael Dummett, Hans-Johan Glock, Scott Soames, and Stephen Schwartz). However, there is still a need for studies analyzing, reanalyzing and contextualizing the achievements of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Ramsey. This is precisely what Potter does; additionally, the author’s ambition is to trace the changes within the philosophers’ thought (the ‘genetic approach’).

The choice of the four philosophers in Potter’s monograph is connected with their unquestionable and durable relevance to current philosophy: Frege’s notions of sense and reference are central to modern semantics, Russell’s theory of descriptions may be regarded as a “paradigm of philosophy”, philosophy of language continues to be influenced by Wittgenstein’s picture theory, and Ramsey’s argument against the particular/universal distinction retains its validity (2). Assuming that analytic philosophy originated in 1879 with the publication of Frege’s Begriffsschrift and the birth of quantifier-variable logic, it might be claimed that further work by Frege, and also by Russell, (early) Wittgenstein, and Ramsey, flowed directly from this new logic. Throughout his study, Potter hopes to convey “a sense of the exhilarating progress they made, and of the extent to which modern analytic philosophy is in their debt” (3).

The detailed organization of this book is similar to the approach  characteristic of the author’s former studies. The book is divided into four parts, further divided into numerous chapters (21 devoted to Frege, 24 to Russell, 18 to Wittgenstein, and 10 to Ramsey), and each chapter is followed by concise suggestions for further reading. The book concludes with an extensive bibliography and a detailed index. Each part starts with a short biographical sketch (in the case of Russell and Wittgenstein, concentrating on the relevant time span), in which Potter contextualizes the life of the respective philosopher. Further contextualization, which takes into consideration appropriate ideas and developments, is provided in the more thematic chapters. Thus conceived, the parts offer a detailed chronological and thematic guide to the work and legacy of the individual philosophers.

Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) is generally associated with developments in modern predicate logic and analyses of sense and reference crucial for contemporary philosophy of language. He devised a symbolic language for logic, provided the seminal analysis of the meaning of an expression, offered a semantic analysis of identity statements, and formulated the context principle; he is also credited with putting forward the assumptions that lead to formulation of the compositionality principle and introducing the notion of presupposition (of the assertion). In the part on Frege (5-144), Potter provides an overview of logic before 1879, from the Stoics, through Aristotelian logic, transcendental logic, empiricism and idealism, to Boole’s early example of modern axiomatic logic. Potter observes that The Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847) is the only plausible competitor as the harbinger of modern logic; however, even though Boole “had devised an algebraic calculus of considerable sophistication for solving problems in categorical and hypothetical logic, it fell short of unifying the Aristotelian and Stoic traditions” (19).

Potter devotes five chapters exclusively to the Begriffsschrift (the German title is rendered by the author as ‘Concept-Script: A formula language, modelled on that of arithmetic, for pure thought’), one of “the most remarkable books in the history of human thought” (21). The five chapters are concerned with foundations of logic, propositional logic, quantification, identity, and the ancestral. In order to fully appreciate Frege’s achievements it is necessary to understand the aim of his concept-script, the significance of his notation, usage of particular symbols, and, especially, the revolutionary introduction of a notation of quantifier and variable to express generalizations, all explained by Potter. In the short presentation of Frege’s account of function and argument, Potter observes that three features are worth stressing: the fact that in the decomposition of sentences a function is obtained by removing part of an expression, not part of its content; the possibility of replacing grammatical predicates; and, most importantly, Frege aimed to “decompose, and hence discern function-argument structure in already existing sentences, not to explain how the sentences acquired their meanings in the first place” (29).

In the remaining chapters in this part, Potter discusses in detail other studies and ideas of Frege: the Grundlagen (in 4 chapters), sense and reference (3 chapters), the Grundgesetze (2 chapters). Potter also tackles the development of early philosophy of logic, the Frege-Hilbert correspondence, the importance of Frege’s late writings. The discussed issues include the crucial components of Fregean semantics and philosophy of mathematics: the context principle, the concept and object distinction, the status of numbers, names and descriptions, different conceptions of sense, the reference of a sentence, (un)saturated senses, and more. Paul Pietroski remarked once that Frege “bequeathed to us some tools – originally designed for the study of logic and arithmetic – that can be used in constructing theories of meaning for natural languages” (Pietroski, 2005: 29–30). The discussion provided by Potter demonstrates the relevance of these tools for a number of current disciplines – he mentions the Fregean legacy in logic, philosophy of language (especially formal semantics and pragmatics), and mathematics. A possible addition to this list would be philosophy of mind, where Frege’s legacy is seen in, for example, contemporary discussion on different approaches to reference.

In one of his earlier studies, Wittgenstein’s Notes on Logic, Potter compared his analysis of Wittgenstein’s text to the work of a historical detective (Potter 2008: 3). Also, in The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, Potter offers analyses exemplary of a detective’s work; additionally, an important feature of his analyses is connected with discussing those ideas that were NOT followed by the individual philosophers; for example, he observes that although Frege introduced rules and basic laws of propositional logic, he did not discuss the question whether every logical truth expressible using only negation and the material conditional is provable in this system of truth-functional logic (35). Below, I mention the book Russell might have written (had he not met Wittgenstein); and, at yet another instance, Potter comments on the ‘one place we might expect to find Ramsey’s influence, given the closeness of their interactions in 1929, is in Wittgenstein’s later work, but in fact this influence is notably muted’ (468). Another example of Potter’s approach can be found in chapter 69, where he discusses Ramsey’s idea of universals, with the aim, among others, to unravel the (missing) influence on Wittgenstein’s departure from Frege’s views (the binary distinction between saturated and unsaturated entities).

Part II (145-312) is devoted to the achievements in the philosophy of Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) during the appropriate period. In the sections tracing the early influences upon the philosopher, Potter focuses on Bradleyan idealism, and McTaggart’s reading of Hegel. He also discusses Russell’s early work on geometry (An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry, 1897), moves next to Russell’s education in mathematics, and then the influence of, and further collaboration with, Alfred N. Whitehead. He also discusses G. E. Moore and his switch from absolute idealism to platonic realism, and the influence of the Italian mathematician, Giuseppe Peano. Important sections are devoted to Russell’s early, middle, and late logicism, his changing views on judgment, his studies of denoting, truth and theories of truth, types, the relationship between acquaintance and knowledge, the status and different understanding of facts, and approaches to monism. The list of topics important for Russell’s philosophy reads like an index of key topics in 20th century philosophy of language, with considerable implications outside this discipline.

The discussion demonstrates the importance of careful reading of texts, but even more so of direct contact – for Russell, meeting Peano, and the young Wittgenstein, was one of the turning points in his thinking about mathematics and philosophy of mathematics: ‘In May 1913 Russell began writing a book on the relationship between acquaintance and knowledge. He never completed it, partly as a consequence of Wittgenstein’s criticism” (365). One might only speculate about the developments in Russell’s philosophy had he not met Wittgenstein.

Russell’s (and Frege’s) influence and legacy in philosophy of language is indisputable. Potter offers an interesting comment on two crucial texts: ‘Much as Frege chose to write ‘On sense and reference’ as if it was about the philosophy of language, even though his real concern was primarily with logic, so also Russell presented ‘On denoting’ as if his concerns were with analyzing George IV’s curiosity about the authorship of Waverley rather than with solving the logical paradoxes’ (309). This resulted in both influence and controversies within analytic philosophy, and challenges offered by ordinary language philosophy, notably by Strawson. Potter notes that ‘ordinary language philosophy withered after Austin’s death (…) but its demise did not mark a return to Russellian analysis’ (312), which is a consequence of the linguistic turn in philosophy dominated by Rorty, Dummett, and Davidson. It might be added that the influence of ordinary language philosophy has been rediscovered in contemporary linguistics, especially pragmatics.

Though not directly connected with the topic of the book, it is interesting to observe that Russell ‘was the only one of the four philosophers discussed in this book to receive major public honours in his lifetime (the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Order of Merit)’ (149).

It would probably be difficult to find two philosophers so different in personality and way of life as Russell and Wittgenstein. Their philosophical concepts also differ, though they strongly influenced one another. Part III (313-415) is devoted to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (1889-1951) early work. The first sections of this part provide insight into the development of Wittgenstein’s ideas, especially those connected with ‘facts’, ‘pictures’, and ‘propositions’. Potter offers here some ‘archeological’ research into the history of ideas and discusses the Bodleianus, the version (kept now in the Bodleian Library, hence the name) preceding even the typescript known as the Prototractatus. This first version of the Tractatus was concerned with theses 1-6: ‘what stands out straightway is that the outline ends not with the injunction to silence of the final published version but with a technical claim (..) about the expressive power of a certain notation. (…) The central claim of the 1916 Tractatus is thus that the world may be pictured logically by means of propositions obtained from elementary propositions by recursive application of the N-operator’ (319).

In the following chapters, Potter elucidates the changes Wittgenstein made to the final version, with fascinating discussion of the purported ‘solipsism’ (chapter 54), i.e. thesis 5.6. (‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world’); this discussion is continued in the chapter on ‘the metaphysical subject’. Other chapters focus on ordinary language, on ethics, and on the mystical element in the Tractatus (chapter 62). This chapter also includes a useful – though brief – note on the possible reading of the Tractatus, which would distinguish, pace James Conant and Cora Diamond, the outer part and the inner part: the outer part (the ‘frame’) would consist of senseful instructions for reading the inner nonsensical part. As succinctly observed by Potter: ‘it is not altogether clear, however, which sentences belong to which part’ (405).

The final chapter of this part discusses the legacy of the Tractatus, and concentrates on issues such as elementary propositions, the picture theory, and briefly comments on the relation to, and legacy in, Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. Potter stresses that ‘the popular conception of two Wittgensteins was always too simplistic’ (409). He concludes his discussion by observing that Wittgenstein was right ‘to dismiss as incoherent the persistent attempts of philosophers to conceive of our representation of the world as undertaken from one viewpoint among many’ (415).

The last part of the book (417-471) is devoted to Frank Ramsey (1903-1930), a British philosopher, mathematician, and economist; the least known of the four philosophers discussed by Potter, due chiefly to his premature death at the age of 27. It has to be noted, however, that recent years have seen growing interest in his work and legacy, cf. the chapters in Lillehammer and Mellor, eds. (2005), and the most recent comprehensive monograph by Misak (2020). Ramsey’s contribution to philosophy is centered predominantly around the topics of truth, knowledge, belief, and universals. Potter also discusses his work on the foundations of mathematics, and traces the possible influence of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus on Ramsey’s conception of truth. The chapters on truth and knowledge demonstrate the potential of Ramsey’s ideas for contemporary discussions not only in semantics, but also in pragmatism, and philosophy of mind. A similar observation is to be made in connection with the chapters on the foundations of mathematics; however, in the final chapter, Potter comments also on the unfortunate misunderstandings and problems with the appropriate reception of Ramsey’s work.

The four philosophers discussed in Potter’s book all contributed to the rise of analytic philosophy, their legacy is still important today in a wide variety of disciplines, including philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of mathematics, logic, and linguistics (especially pragmatics and semantics). Michael Potter’s study constitutes a comprehensive guide to their achievements and legacy. The book should be of considerable interest to anyone studying the roots of contemporary philosophy, and especially philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. It would be most interesting to see a comparable study tracing the parallel developments of analytic philosophy and pragmatism and phenomenology (for some preliminary studies on analytic philosophy and phenomenology, see the contributions in Beaney 2007). Such a study might contribute to the development of ‘ideochronology’, dealing with the chronological relationship between philosophical ideas (modelled after glottochronology, which deals with the chronological relationship between languages).

Readers of Potter’s earlier books will recognize his ‘detective’s approach’ in this most recent volume. Potter meticulously traces the sources of ideas, discusses mutual influences, and carefully analyzes changes and shifts in theories, which makes his study almost a log-book for analytic philosophy.

References

Beaney, Michael. 2007. “The analytic turn in early twentieth-century philosophy.” In: Beaney (Ed.), The Analytic Turn. Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology. New York & London: Routledge, 1-30.

Beaney, Michael (Ed.) 2007. The Analytic Turn. Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology. New York & London: Routledge.

Dummett, Michael. 1978. Truth and Other Enigmas. London: Duckworth.

Lillehammer, Hallvard and D. H. Mellor (Eds.). 2005. Ramsey’s Legacy. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Misak, Cheryl. 2020. Frank Ramsey. A Sheer Excess of Powers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pietroski, Paul M. 2005. Events and Semantic Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Potter, Michael. 2000. Reason’s Nearest Kin. Philosophies of Arithmetic from Kant to Carnap. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Potter, Michael. 2008. Wittgenstein’s Notes on Logic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Giuliano Bacigalupo, Hélène Leblanc (Eds.): Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy

Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy Book Cover Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy
History of Analytic Philosophy
Giuliano Bacigalupo, Hélène Leblanc (Eds.)
Palgrave Macmillan
2019
Hardback $99.99
XVII, 237

Reviewed by: R.A. Goodrich (ARC Centre for History of Emotions – University of Melbourne & ADI Philosophy & History of Ideas – Deakin University)

This nine-chapter anthology edited and introduced by Giuliano Bacigalupo and Hélène Leblanc is one of the recent volumes within the History of Analytic Philosophy series. The series aims not only to open debate and research into its nominated field of philosophy, but also to engage those thinkers nowadays regarded as “founders” of the analytic movement. These include Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein—as well as those influencing and succeeding them—who shaped contemporary concerns as much rooted, for example, in the logico-linguistic as in the psycho-phenomenological terrain. To that extent, the three main parts of Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy respectively step readers into language broadly and narrowly conceived; competing conceptions of space and time; and theoretical approaches to existence and philosophy. Whilst so doing, contributors (re)position Marty against both his contemporaries such as Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl as well as current philosophers such as Graham Nerlich and Alberto Voltolini (who contributes the penultimate chapter of the anthology).

Readers will therefore find that this volume is not merely an exegesis of one of the less familiar figures associated with Brentano’s intellectual circles, it is also an act of retrieval in an historical or diachronic sense. It consequently shares a duality of aims traceable in recent anthologies centred upon Marty, including, for instance, those edited since the ’nineties by Kevin Mulligan, Robin Rollinger, Laurent Cesalli with Hamid Taieb, and Guillaume Fréchette also with Hamid Taieb. Therefore, this review essay faces two tasks. Firstly, it will critically probe the actual way in which Marty is presented in light of contemporary debates with particular reference to the logico-linguistic realm which at least half the chapters engage. Secondly, it will examine more closely how this philosophical anthology more generally operates historically despite the editors’ overt declaration that “this volume is not a reconstruction of Marty’s theories for historical purposes” as distinct from an effort to resurrect his thinking “via the lenses of a contemporary perspective” (3).

I

Because Marty has tended to be recruited as a precursor of Paul Grice by Frank Liedtke (1990), Laurent Cesalli (2013) and Guy Longworth (2017) amongst others, let us begin by concentrating upon two opening chapters. In Chapter Two, François Recanati counters this tendency by proposing a marked contrast in their respective conceptions of communicative acts. Grice (1957: 213-223; cf. 1980: 290-297) claims that two distinctive kinds of meaning operate within our acts of communication. For example, if Laura says, “Those dark clouds mean that it will rain,” then the meaning of “dark clouds” functions as a “natural” sign of an impending change of weather. In other words, in cases like “dark clouds” where “rain” can be inferred or predicted from the fact that they are present, Laura is giving expression to “natural” meaning. By contrast, if her older sibling Lucantonio keeps pointing to the wispy grey sky overhead, repeatedly exclaiming “You’ll see, it will rain,” his pointing can be taken to mean “it will rain.” However, it does not as a matter of fact actually follow that it will rain since Lucantonio may well, for example, be teasing or mocking others accompanying him. Here, the meaning communicated is not “natural”: it is not a case of what follows from what. Rather, what Lucantonio means by pointing and playfully declaring “it will rain” reveals a communicative intention of leading his listeners to recognize his intention of teasing or mocking them. Meaning here, now tied to the speaker’s intention of inducing a particular psychological effect amongst his listeners by their recognition of his intention, is regarded by Grice as “non-natural” meaning.

Recanati reminds readers that Grice (1969: 93ff.), even when subsequently elaborating his analysis of a speaker’s intention and a listener’s response, did not waver from upholding “non-natural” meaning as independent of “natural” meaning nor did he explicitly resort to rationalising the difference purely in terms of, say, conventions or rules governing acts of spoken communication. Instead, to cite Recanati, “Communicative intentions have a nested structure and […] potentially involve an infinite sequence of sub-intentions pertaining to the recognition by the hearer of a previous sub-intention” (14).  So, for Recanati, “to make the speaker’s communicative intention fully ‘overt’,” Grice needs to allow the communicative intention to be “reflexive” (14). This perhaps explains why Grice concedes that the listener’s recognition is grounded “at least partly on the basis of” the speaker’s utterance (1969: 94, 96).

Turning to Marty (1908: 283ff.), there appears to be no evidence for treating “natural” and “non-natural” meaning in strictly binary terms. Recanati contends that Marty construes the two kinds of meaning as “continuous” (15).  Indeed, he continues, human behaviour itself can be “a natural sign of ‘internal psychological processes’” (15 (citing Marty)), especially in instances such as involuntary tears of sorrow, grief or anguish and screams of pain, horror or fear. Yet, if Laura’s tears merely expressed her sorrow, that alone is insufficient a criterion for being a communicative act. From Marty’s perspective, for Laura to engage an act of communication, her principal intention should be directed at her listeners, inducing in them “a matching attitude towards the object of the expressed thought” (15) where expressing her own psychological response is but a means to that end. That said, when Laura’s tears on the death of her beloved nonna enable her listeners to align themselves with her anguish, grief, or sorrow, then for Marty unlike Grice an instance of “natural” meaning need not exclude an instance of “non-natural” meaning.

Pursuing the difference between Marty and Grice further, Recanati finds the former assigns “only one semiotic relation” which characterises “natural” meaning whereas “non-natural” meaning comprises “three distinct semiotic relations at work” (17). The three relationships are said to be the expressive meaning of the utterance; the wider or communicative meaning of the utterance; and the narrower or denotational meaning of the utterance. Collectively, as some readers might surmise, Marty’s threefold depiction seems to form an antecedent of that of Karl Bühler (1918: 1; cf. 12-13) initially in his review of theories of sentences and subsequently in his seminal Sprachtheorie (1934: 34ff.) on three basic semantic functions of language. For Recanati, the threefold relational features underpin how Marty “views linguistic communication as continuous with natural meaning” without incorporating the “nested/reflexive structure” Grice assigns to communicative intentions (19 & 18). The line of demarcation between Marty and Grice is that the latter ultimately adheres to the view that “a natural sign ceases to be a natural sign as soon as the hearer recognizes that it is produced deliberately” (20).  Recanati re-enforces what is at stake by briefly alluding to the highly frequent use we make of experientially- or situationally-bound utterances when interacting with others, best known as the deictic field or indexical dimension of language. Consider, for example, when Laura and Lucantonio are momentarily separated in a crowd and lose sight of each other. Lucantonio shouts, “I am here” to the relief of Laura (whether or not she deictically replies, “Now I see you”). Here, as Bühler (1934: 93ff.) in Part Two of Sprachtheorie also maintains, both “natural” and “non-natural” meaning are at play within the deictic field. Lucantonio’s communicative intention to advise or re-assure Laura that he is in her vicinity exemplifies the “non-natural” and, for Laura, his very act of shouting embodies a “natural” sign indicating his location to her.

In Chapter Three, Mark Textor continues investigating Marty and Grice on communicative intentionality and meaning, but adds the contrasting position of Marty’s teacher Brentano. According to Textor, what Brentano, unlike Marty and Grice, brings to the debate over the nature of meaning is that it primarily centres upon the speaker’s utterance “independently of whether utterances are made in order to influence the thought [or response] of others” (35).  This, we are told, can be best demonstrated by counter-examples of “non-natural” meaning without communicative intentions found in assertoric judgements. Let us revisit the situation where Lucantonio, when first looking at the cirrostratus clouds overhead, states “I claim that it is going to rain.” If Laura afterwards reports, “He claimed that it was going to rain,” all she has conveyed is what was communicated by his initially uttered claim, not any effect it had upon her. Again, if Lucantonio afterwards conceded that, despite his subsequent teasing and mocking manner, the very presence of cirrostratus clouds first became associated with the assertion “It is going to rain,” then this can be done without implying his utterance was necessarily true. Nor was the assertion self-referential in the way that Marty (1908: 495) and Grice (1969: 112-113) exemplify, including addressing one’s imagined future self or pretending to address someone else.

By Textor’s account, in so far as statements of claims or contentions instantiate judgements and evaluations more broadly, they reveal the speaker’s attitudes. Such attitudes contain the speaker’s (rational) commitment that his or her assertions or assumptions are correct. That is to say, the “non-natural” communicative meaning of utterances here is definable without reference to any listeners. Textor formulates his point as follows: “If I assume that p, I am committed to the correctness of my assuming and the state of affairs that p is worthy of this attitude” (54). Textor’s solution, for some readers, might still leave gaps in their understanding of Marty’s more controversial commitments “about how things are” (42). What are the consequences of Marty’s somewhat paradoxical handling of claims or judgements about entities or events that do not exist? Perhaps, it is here that they should consider the interpretive strategies of other contributors. For example, Ingvar Johansson in Chapter Five argues that the later Marty does not identify “non-real” with “non-existing” or “subsisting” with another mode of existing unlike “real” ordinary objects (100). Furthermore, Alberto Voltolini in Chapter Eight takes Marty to be analysing the “non-real” as “grounded” upon the “real” (184).

If nothing else, the respective attempts by Recanati and Textor to draw Marty into latter-day arguments surrounding Grice warn readers against searching for simple one-to-one correlations between an intellectual precursor and his putative successor. That each often appears to express comparable solutions is not tantamount to concluding that each is responding to an identical set of problems.

II

The second section of this review essay will focus upon Kevin Mulligan’s lengthy Chapter Nine in Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy. By so doing, it will give us the opportunity to examine, albeit briefly, how Marty (when leaving aside his approach to communicative acts discussed above) construes language as threatening to undermine philosophical enquiry. At the same time, Mulligan himself traces the way in which Marty’s strategies when dealing with modality, logic, and intentionality anticipate those influentially deployed by Wittgenstein.

Modality pervades much of our attitude towards and thinking about our actions, ideas and world, ranging from certainties, doubts and necessities to obligations, possibilities, and willingness. Marty (1908: 354) seizes upon the erroneous way we construe not some, but “all possibilities” which “are, of course, merely something non-real,” something “treated as things, which have effects and are effected.” How does it come about that we treat possibilities, and for that matter impossibilities, as if they were “real” in the sense of being “causally efficacious” as Mulligan succinctly notes (199 (cf. e.g., Johansson 100; Mac Cumhaill 123, 129; Sattig 170, n. 6; and Voltolini 183-184))? Marty’s reply unequivocally identifies the problem in largely linguistic terms:

All our names have as their inner linguistic form either the presentation of a substance or of an accident, thus of something real. But we always designate the non-real, too, indeed even what is completely fictitious, with the help of a substantive (such as […] possibility, impossibility, etc.) […] or with the help of an adjective which is attributed to a real or apparent subject as a predicate or attribute… (1908: 354-355)

We are, in brief, misled by our use of nouns and adjectives into thinking of possibilities either as substances or as if they were properties inhering in substances. Because “language uses expressions for what is real also for what is non-real,” we face “more disastrous” epistemological consequences such as when “a physicist takes for the truth what is, in his [or her] field, merely a picture and an attempted illustration” (1908: 356). Whilst we find many analogous examples in Wittgenstein (1945) of how possibilities become conflated with actual states of affairs when our “forms of expression […] send us in pursuit of chimeras” (§94; cf. §194), Marty appeals to “inner linguistic forms” which Mulligan immediately understands to be “a conceptual presentation which has a certain function, that of directing an interlocutor’s attention to what the speaker has in mind” (199).

What has been ignored at this juncture in Chapter Nine, especially from a more linguistic point of view, is how and why Marty should have appealed to the contestable notion of “inner linguistic form”; a notion explicated through debates against which Marty reacted by Werner Leopold (1929) & (1951) and through earlier iterations of Noam Chomsky’s transformational generative theory of language as first broached by Sige-Yuki Kuroda (1972: 8ff.). On the information given, it is not entirely obvious how such inner forms, which Marty finds in metaphors particularly and language development generally, can be connected with linguistic signs of, say, the “non-real” and the “fictitious” yet have no role in their meaning.

Next, Mulligan deftly portrays the manner in which the kinds of difficulties besetting modality in effect ricochet throughout the way consciousness is all too often erroneously depicted irrespective of whether emphasis is laid upon cognitive, conative, or emotional factors. We need only witness here how Marty summarises his analysis of earlier thinkers from Aristoteles onwards:

One wanted to get to the bottom of the secret of consciousness and in so doing took more or less seriously a linguistic picture used in the description of the peculiar process. The more abstract locution […] of what is thought in the thinker (and likewise what is felt in one who feels) […] is, in my opinion, only justified as a fiction of pictorial, inner, linguistic form, […] but leads to a falsification as soon as it is taken more seriously. (1908: 397)

Similarly, Wittgenstein (1945), when considering how easily one enters “that dead end in philosophizing where one believes that the difficulty of the problem consists in our having to describe phenomena that evade our grasp” (§436), continues:

expectation is unsatisfied, because it is an expectation of something; a belief, an opinion, is unsatisfied, because it is an opinion that something is the case, something real, something outside the process of believing. (§438)

In what sense can one call wishes, expectations, beliefs, etc. “unsatisfied”? What is our prototype of non-satisfaction? Is it a hollow space? And would one call that “unsatisfied”? Wouldn’t this be a metaphor too? (§439)

Mulligan then turns to how Marty and Wittgenstein oppose the view of logic as a framework or scaffold and its implications for how propositions are construed. Marty, citing Husserl in passing, questions “the picture” of an “ideal framework which every language fills up and clothes differently” (1908: 59). Instead, he suggests, “The tissue of the elementary meaning-categories” of propositional forms within logic “stands to real language and their makers more like a pattern which they try to trace” and “not as a frame which would stand before the consciousness of all in the same way and which they would merely fill out in different ways” (1908: 59). Wittgenstein examines “the question of the essence of language, of propositions, of thought” and finds that his attempts to comprehend the nature of language, especially “its function, its structure” that “already lies open to view, that becomes surveyable through a process of ordering,” is not the target of such a question (1945: §92). Instead, he remarks:

 

The essence is hidden from us’: this is the form our problem now assumes. We ask: “What is language?”, “What is a proposition?” And the answer to these questions is to be given once for all, and independently of any future experience. (1945: §92)

Such a misunderstanding immediately leads to “the sublimation of our whole account of logic” with the “tendency to assume a pure intermediary between the propositional sign and the facts. Or even to purify, to sublimate the sign itself” (1945: §94). Logic, the “essence” of thinking, “presents an order: the a priori order of the world; that is, the order of possibilities, which the world and thinking must have in common,” the quest for which is aligned with a superordinate “order existing between the concepts of proposition, word, inference, truth, experience, and so forth” (1945: §97).

As Mulligan realises, the rejection by Marty and Wittgenstein of logic as a framework or scaffold applies to “conceptions of propositions as ideal entities, as intermediaries […] as immanent or private objects” (208). Equally, propositions do not “represent states of affairs or the world in a sui generis and irreducible way” by virtue of a “special sort of unity” (208). He does acknowledge that Marty only implicitly construed natural language to be pervaded by a “family of structures more or less akin to one another,” with terms forming “a complicated network of similarities, overlapping and criss-crossing” popularly characterised nowadays as “family resemblances” (Wittgenstein 1945: §108, §66 & §67). However, Mulligan believes Marty’s theory of language was more explicitly developed by Karl Bühler (1934: 247ff.) especially when Bühler analysed the processes of merging or fusion where “partial, overlapping similarities hold” within the symbolic field of language under the concept of the “synchytic” (210).

For Mulligan, the above-mentioned distortions afflicting philosophical enquiry lead both Marty and Wittgenstein to make “the critique of language necessary” (212). Marty overtly identifies the habitual role language can and does play:

the presentation of thing and property always and everywhere forces itself on us, if not as a consequence of an innate necessity, then thanks to the power of a strong and general linguistic habit. (1908: 355)

Wittgenstein, too, is convinced that linguistic habits are deeply engrained when commenting how “problems arising through a misinterpretation of our forms of language […] are as deeply rooted in us as the forms of our language” (1945: §111). In addition, Mulligan draws our attention to the “affective and conative” dimension of misleading images and metaphors in philosophy (214). Marty, for instance, writes of the potency of urges:

An instinctive urge leads us, at first, to take whatever appears in a sensory fashion to be real, i.e. to ascribe “external” reality to it; to the colours, sounds, places and changes of place which are present for us in sensation or hallucination

to the point where

We therefore transfer what in them is intuitive and forces itself upon us as real, in an instinctive belief, into the mind. (1908: 396)

Wittgenstein, too, is mindful of how wrestling with “the workings of our language” occurs “despite an urge to misunderstand them” (1945: §109).

Both thinkers noticeably vacillate over what precisely they define as misleading within language per se (its symbols or similes? its analogies or metaphors?). However, what is not in doubt, as Mulligan observes, is that both agree that philosophy’s “first task is to identify the misleading pictures” which impair if not corrupt philosophical enquiries which take their “first orientation from them” (217). Hence, it is hardly surprisingly when, in the course of asking how philosophical problems about mental processes and states arise, Wittgenstein (1945: §308) should insist that the “first step is the one that altogether escapes notice.”

III

Having pinpointed crucial views given significant weighting within Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy to Marty’s approach to communication and language, in the limited space remaining let us briefly question how, in practice, this anthology construes its task of illuminating the history of analytic philosophy.

First of all, when is analytic philosophy clearly identifiable? Indeed, are we safe in saying that its origins can be unequivocally traced to a set of Anglo-Germanic thinkers? Jan Claes and Benjamin Schneider in their logico-linguistic analysis (59ff.) have little hesitation drawing upon the multi-volume 1837 Wissenschaftslehre by Bernard Bolzano whereas Voltolini when delving into kinds of being and first- and second-order properties of existence (175ff.) alludes to the 1884 monograph Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik by Gottlob Frege. Again, Johansson, when tracing the antecedents of Marty’s conception of space as a container (99ff.) contrasts the superficially similar metaphors of spatiality in Immanuel Kant as well as Isaac Newton without specifying their respective texts. If nothing else, such examples suggest the shifting, albeit implicit, commencement dates and associated canonical texts in what have been and can continue to be taken as analytic antecedents.

Secondly, was analytic philosophy ever a unified, self-aware intellectual movement? After all, the first attested use of the attributions “logico-analytic philosopher” and “analytic philosopher” was first coined a century later by John Wisdom (1931) when exploring Jeremy Bentham’s posthumously published Notes on Logic (circa 1831) and its technique of paraphrasis and analysis of propositional meaning. Even a cursory glance at Clare Mac Cumhaill (121ff.) or Thomas Sattig (153ff.), both juxtaposing Marty and contemporary debates in the field of spatio-temporal apprehension, reveals the tendency to refer to clusters of modern thinkers and their arguments considered relevant to the contentions being raised rather than owing to their analytic credentials.

Thirdly, are we, in view of the foregoing, witnessing convergences upon a specific problem rather than a convergence of specific problems in the unfolding of analytic philosophical debates? Does this, on the one hand, suggest that philosophical movements are open-ended by nature to the point where critical exchanges amongst self-nominated “schools” or “movements,” such as the analytic, the phenomenological, and the pragmatic, gradually became commonplace? On the other hand, need being open-ended preclude the occurrence of distinctive phases (as distinct from problems) of the kind the Bacigalupo and Leblanc volume seems to make manifest when threading logico-linguistic discussions through so many of its chapters?

To that extent, have the detailed explorations here of Anton Marty’s assumptions about language helped to demonstrate two crucial features? The first, more specifically, in many of the debates and problems engaging Marty in the decade preceding the twentieth-century’s first world war the anthology has, perhaps unwittingly, exposed the centrality of the confrontation between “ideal” formal language associated with logic and “ordinary” natural language associated with everyday discourse as what marks analytic philosophy of the period. To return to Werner Leopold, he intuitively senses the foregoing tension between theories of “ideal” and “ordinary” language—a topic most recently addressed by Hans-Johann Glock (2017: 214-220; cf. 2008: 39ff., 52ff., 115-116 & 153ff.), Kelly Jolley (2017: 229-238), and Scott Soames (2017: 34-40)—when he finds Marty’s “theoretical mind” employing “an a-priori approach going from meaning to form” whilst admonishing “philosophers’ overemphasis on logic” (1951: 368). In fact, Leopold proclaims to his audience of linguists: “Marty is a philosopher who does not use language for the purposes of philosophy, but applies philosophical thinking in the service of linguistics” (1951: 370).

The second feature, more generally, was initially voiced by Moritz Schlick, founder of what became the Wiener Kreis:

Every philosophical movement is defined by the principles that it regards as fundamental and to which it constantly recurs in its arguments. But in the course of historical development, the principles are apt not to remain unaltered, whether it be that they acquire new formulations, or come to be extended or restricted, or that even their meaning gradually undergoes noticeable modifications. (1932: 259)

If “some terminological dispute of the old from the new” occurs amongst “the various adherents of a ‘movement’” and results “in hopeless misunderstandings and obscurities,” then these only dissipate, Schlick (1932: 259) claims, when “the various principles” at “cross-purposes” are “separated from each other and tested individually for meaning and truth on their own account […].” Not unlike Bacigalupo and Leblanc rejecting the task of reconstructing Marty’s theories “for historical purposes” (3), Schlick believes “cross-purposes” are “best” handled by disregarding “entirely the contexts in which [disputed principles] have historically arisen” (1932: 259). Or, for those of us who prefer to talk in terms of analytic philosophy as a “tradition,” perhaps we ought to heed the widely disseminated view of Alasdair MacIntyre that any tradition, presumably including intellectual traditions, can be characterised as an

argument extended through time in which certain fundamental agreements are defined and redefined in terms of two kinds of conflict: those with critics and enemies external to the tradition […] and those internal, interpretive debates through which the meaning and rationale of the fundamental agreements come to be expressed and by whose progress a tradition is constituted. (1988: 12; cf. 354ff.)

Furthermore, as Glock (2008; 212ff.) elaborates, the tradition ascribed to analytic philosophy is one “held together both by ties of mutual influence and by family resemblances.” Clearly, Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy ultimately sides with “internal, interpretive debates.”

References

Bühler, K.L. 1918. “Kritische Musterung der neuen Theorien des Satzes.” Indogermanisches Jahrbuch 6: 1-20.

Bühler, K.L. 1934. Theory of Language: The Representational Function of Language. Edited by Achim Eschbach; translated by D.F. Goodwin. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co., 1990 [abbreviated as Sprachtheorie in the review essay above].

Cesalli, Laurent. 2013. “Anton Marty’s Intentionalist Theory of Meaning.” In Themes from Brentano. Edited by Denis Fisette & Guillaume Fréchette, 139-164. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi.

Glock, H.-J. 2008. What is Analytic Philosophy? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Glock, H.-J. 2017. “P.F. Strawson: Ordinary Language Philosophy and Descriptive Metaphysics.” In Analytic Philosophy: An Interpretive History. Edited by Aaron Preston, 214-228. New York: Routledge.

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Liedtke, Frank. 1990. “Meaning and Expression: Marty and Grice on Intentional Semantics.” In Mind, Meaning and Metaphysics: The Philosophy and Theory of Language of Anton Marty. Edited by Kevin Mulligan, 29-49. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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The Philosophy of Perception: Proceedings of the 40th International Ludwig Wittgenstein Symposium Book Cover The Philosophy of Perception: Proceedings of the 40th International Ludwig Wittgenstein Symposium
Publications of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society – New Series 26
Christoph Limbeck-Lilienau, Friedrich Stadler (Eds.)
De Gruyter
2019
Hardback 109,95 € / $126.99 / £100.00
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Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy Book Cover Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy
History of Analytic Philosophy
Giuliano Bacigalupo, Hélène Leblanc (Eds.)
Palgrave Macmillan
2019
Hardback $99.99
XVII, 237

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Routledge Research in Phenomenology
Komarine Romdenh-Romluc (Ed.)
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2017
Hardback £105.00
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