On Language.

We learn and teach words in certain contexts, and then we are expected, and expect others, to be able to project them into further contexts. Nothing ensures that this projection will take place (in particular, not the grasping of universals nor the grasping of books of rules), just as nothing insures that we will make, and understand, the same projections. That on the whole we do is a matter of our sharing routes of interest and feeling, modes of response, senses of humour and of significance and of fulfilment, of what is outrageous, of what is similar to what else, what a rebuke, what a forgiveness, of when an utterance is an assertion, when an appeal, when an explanation — all in the whirl of organism Wittgenstein calls “forms of life.” Human speech and activity, sanity and community, rest upon nothing more, but nothing less, than this. It is a vision as simple as it is difficult, and as difficult as it is (and because it is) terrifying.

Stanley Cavell, Must We Mean What We Say, p. 52

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2 responses to “On Language.

  1. Maybe the best piece of text of the book! It’s inspired, in some respect, in one line of the Blue Book:
    “I know what a word means in certain contexts” (BB, p. 9)

  2. Wow, that’s actually really helpful, didn’t know that, thanks!

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