lpdev wrote: ↑
Sat Nov 11, 2017 6:16 pm
In order to understand that context in which the word is used, the child has to understand the preceding conversation, which means it has to have understood other words it already learned. But what about the first times when the child doesn't know any words yet and does not understand the conversation and therefore doesn't know the context the conversation conveyed? That's when the senses come in. The perception of the world itself also delivers a context, the visible fact that it is snowing, the feeling of cold when a snowflake touches the hand, the sound of the snow when you walk in it etc… Thanks to the senses there always is a context.
Why can't the social situation provide the context? If every time something happens it is accompanied by the same words then the word will be associated with the event. For example if they hear 'walk' before every occasion they go out, they will associate the word and the activity. But they need not know exactly what 'walk' means. As we know, a dog can make such associations, but I do not think a dog can distinguish 'walk' from 'run', 'go out, 'get some exercise', 'go shopping'. Nor do I think the dog associates 'walk' with any specific perception.
You say that someone can only understand the nuances by attempting to communicate. But in your example you site cases where that person passively hears someone use the same word differently in different contexts. Now, he might might of course mistake the usage of “hot” as being good looking, but don't you think that he might catch on that there is a difference after a while by just listening? Of course he will learn to use the word correctly when he uses it wrongly and is corrected, what I argue is that correction definitely is not the only way we learn language, even in cases of nuances.
The correctness consists simply of using that word in the same way as everybody else, so that we are understood in the way we want to be, There is no 'correct definition' for a word like 'hot', only the way it is used, which is what a dictionary records.
I stressed the importance of the observation made at the same time as the word is used. Remember, we talk of cases where people learn words by not getting them explained to them. These words are those that can be described by language and therefore are defined using words exclusively. These words are the ones I would not include in a core of language, because they build upon other already defined words. I look for words that cannot be explained but have to be experienced.
I think the only way we 'experience' words is when we use them to talk to one another.
Try to explain to a man who is blind since birth what the color blue is.
A person blind from birth can learn the circumstances when we use the word
'blue'. If you asked them; 'What is the colour of the sky?
' they would answer 'Blue
'. That they are not getting any visual sensation makes no difference; I am not blind and I can talk of 'chair' or 'dragon' or 'electron' without needing to be looking at any of those things or even having any distinct mental image of them. A word is not a sensation.
If you read that paragraph again more carefully, you'll see I didn't state that. I say that it might well be that our internal perception differs, but that it isn't relevant because it doesn't affect communication, assuming both people are able to see the same range of colors. We have no problem talking about colors, do we? This in fact shows that the actual personal perceptions is not the important factor for communication but identity is, meaning that an observation will lead to the usage of the same words by two persons when the observed objects or properties are the same. In reverse, that's how we define observations to be objective: when we perceive them in the same manner
Indeed, that is what I am saying; the words are not labels for our personal perceptions. (I'm not sure about the final sentence).
Me: This is in Wittgenstein, but also J.L.Austin; the observation that words are not just descriptive, they are acts.
Well, if they say that words are acts they misuse language. The act of uttering a word is an act. The act of writing a word down is an act. A word itself is not an act, it is a concept for a specific sound and/or a symbol/a list of letters. Of course words can be something else than descriptive, like a command that engenders an act in somebody else. But it is the word as a piece of information that leads the other person to act, the word itself is not an act. Are you sure the two authors actually said that? It really makes no sense.
I agree if we just said a word to ourselves it would not be an act - but then it would not be a word either. If I am just talking to myself, then any sound (or no sound at all) would do. But words are used to communicate
, which is an act.
As Belinda has suggested, it would be a lot easier if you read some stuff on this. If you are interested in this subject, surely it makes sense to look at what philosophers have written?
I explained how that family resemblance came to be and why we can use word like that. A clear definition does not hinder that usage, it might even facilitate it by expressly listing the properties that can then be used to describe something else.
And what would a clear definition look like? We are back with the problem that if the definition consisted of words, that list of properties, then we would also need clear definitions of all the words used in that list, and the words in those definitions would need definitions, ad infinitum.
Earlier you implied the meaning of a word was related not to words but to a 'perception'. That is the jump we would have to make, from the word to something that is not a word. For example, we might say the only word with a clear meaning was 'That!
', accompanied by the act of pointing to an object. (This is discussed in Russell).
I absolutely agree that the idea that words are somehow attached to objects, or are labels for internal feelings, seems the common sense one, but we have been unable to come up with a coherent account of how they do this. As all my name dropping might suggest, it isn't for a want of trying!