Initial demonstration - Sample Essay
To Wittgenstein’s credit, however, one might consider his meaning in another way. Wittgenstein might be referring to those previous times when words (or the particular word being sought) have been retrieved from the mind and placed on the tongue with ease. The act of saying the word has previously been associated with the desire to articulate it, and perhaps this experience is what Wittgenstein correlates with the phrase “it is right on the tip of my tongue” (235).
Still, one problem persists with this reminder, and this is the fact that no one actually uses such a phrase unless the word is not forthcoming. Therefore, what might better be said is that the phrase derives not just from the previous facility with which words have come to be spoken, but with an interplay between those experiences and the current one of not being able to articulate a given thought simply because one has temporarily forgotten a word. Therefore, some ambiguity creeps into Wittgenstein’s argument through his use of this reminder.
This discussion of rules can obviously be correlated with Wittgenstein’s discussion of the meaning and usage of language. After he concludes his Augustinian criticisms, he does make the statement that the meaning of any one word cannot be circumscribed in just one definition. Rather, continued use of the word allows people to experience it in different contexts and therefore come to a progressively wider understanding of its meaning. In the same way, a rule for using a particular word has the ability to change from the initial demonstration.
Again, Wittgenstein assembles reminders in his use of two sentences containing the same word. The uses of the word “is” in the sentences “twice two is four” and “the rose is red” have obvious differences (Wittgenstein, 113). Furthermore, the meaning of the word “is” in the second sentence can hardly be said to have the ability to be inferred from its meaning in the first. One would have to experience the word “is” in both contexts to understand fully what its meaning encompasses.
This particular reminder is effective in demonstrating Wittgenstein’s point that rules (definitions) cannot contain and impart all their meanings at once, but that meanings are derived from the usage and experience of the rule in question. A final reminder in Wittgenstein’s assembly is his use of the scenario in which a traveler encounters an arrow or signpost somewhere in the woods and proceeds to alter his course in the direction to which the arrow points.
The arrow itself, Wittgenstein argues, does not contain the information to which the traveler appeals for knowledge of which way to go. Rather, the information is contained in the prior experiences to which the traveler has been exposed in which people have acted in that way upon seeing such an arrow or signpost. This example does well to elucidate his point that rules denote their meanings through their usage, and not through some mystical impartation of meaning directly from the rule (sign) to the human who follows it.
Wittgenstein employs a method of gathering evidence for his assertions, and this method is often employed in essays as a means of substantiating ones claims. His evidence is taken from the customary uses of the rules about which he makes his arguments, and the scenarios he uses do a lot to shed light on the claims he makes. Therefore, the idea of philosophy as an assembling of reminders” does make sense in that the ideas brought to the mind of the reader are everyday matters that one might easily take for granted and of which one might thereby easily lose sight.
Wittgenstein’s idea of bringing them back to his readers’ minds allows him to use scenes that are convincing in their familiarity, though they might have been elusive for that very reason. Though some of the ideas have proven problematic, overall, the method of substantiation through the assembly of reminders has proven effective in aiding the understanding and acceptance of Wittgenstein’s philosophy.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition. Malden: Blackwell, 2001.