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Category Archives: Three Varieties of Knowledge

Davidson’s “Three Varieties of Knowledge”

Here is an on-line copy of Donald Davidson’s remarkable 1991 essay “Three Varieties of Knowledge”. As far as contemporary philosophical essays go, it is perhaps the finest, far-reaching essay in my memory. In terms of style it employs a jargon-free, clear language approach reminiscent of Wittgenstein’s straightforward  problem solving (without the hypnotic aphoristic gloss over of aporias). In terms of content, here is a Davidson’s powerful concept of Triangulation, and the application of the Principle of Charity in the context of Wittgenstein’s Private Language Argument. Here is the rational, yet still historically contingent process of growing knowledge, guided by communal relations. I find there to be much of Spinoza in this, and a nexus point between both Continnetal and Analytic Schools. I urge you to read this elegant, modest and yet resounding essay. I have the distinct impression that despite the 18 intervening years, philosophy has not caught up with the full consequences of Davidson’s subsuming argument.

page: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. [click on each photo there to enlarge]

At this point, this important essay is not easy to find, but is published in Subjective, Intersubjective and Objective, an excellent collection. This, and The Essential Davidson  would give you a great proportion of his bridge-building thought.

I apologize for the messy margin notes, and underlines as I didn’t imagine that others would be reading this copy, but I feel that this is an important essay, significant enough to post here for those just coming in touch with its arguments and view of the world. If you want some sense of the kinds of arguments that stem from this essay, look to my The Trick of Dogs: Etiologic, Affection and Triangulation.

The Trick of Dogs: Etiologic, Affection and Triangulation, Part I of IV

[Part II here]

Intentions: Deceiving Dogs, and Pretentious Infants

…and so it seems that, even though they themselves cannot know, they nonetheless wish to be known.

 Augustine, The City of God against the Pagans, Book XI, chapter 27

 

 

 

 

 

 

The purposeof this study is to investigate the possible connections between Wittgenstein’s approach to mind and language, and that taken by fellow philosopher Donald Davidson. Both men have been and can be read as “anti-representational,” that is, as finding that the meaning of language is not reducible to its ability to represent how reality really is, such that accuracy is derived from sheer correspondence. And both philosophers make the “horizontal move” away from reference, word/object thinking, expanding laterally, into the systems and relations which comprise, or one might say, underwrite reference itself. The ground upon which I will first train my eye will be the exact treatment Wittgenstein gives to the possibility of ascriptivesentience to non-linguistic beings, as he considers how and why we talk about things behaving in a way capable of simulating a state of mind. A close examination of sections 249 and 250 in Philosophical Investigations, a concentration their exact wording and subtle implications will be used to cantilever to a wider view of his position, an understanding of the kinds of delineations he is making, resulting in a question as to whether such distinctions, implied or otherwise stated, are necessary. The second portion of this paper will attempt to bring out the natural aporias in Wittgenstein’s thinking, by shining the light of Davidson’s thought back onto Wittgenstein’s approach. The point of contention will be the causal nature of mental predicate attributions, that is, the necessarily etiological way we talk about and conceive of the beliefs, thoughts and desires of others, such as Davidson affirms it and Wittgenstein appear to deny it. This is not meant to place Davidson against Wittgenstein, and suggest that one thinker is right and another wrong, but more to use the entire armature of their thoughts, in relationship to conceptual causation, to highlight was is possible in both. In so doing it is hoped that a bridge in thinking may be opened, a space for thoughts perhaps neither thinker would directly entertain: that is, a view towards an epistemic and panpsychic understanding of the world. In the final portion of this paper in this vein the prospective avenues of affective-thought are explored, modeled on Davidson’s conception of triangulation, opened up from his more strict analysis of truth and translation. It is suggested that beneath his conception lies a more fundamental perceptival experience of the world, that is, though experiencing others as like ourselves, and their causal relations with the world. Such a more primary triangulation, will be set, by example, into an aesthetic theory of interpretation, such that perhaps what is “revealed” is ever commenting on either an inter-subjective space of affective communicability, or an objective space of causal interactions. And while such a conclusion is not necessary, it is meant for the possibilities of thought, as both Wittgenstein and Davidson have presented them, a nexus for future understandings of how the world, our world, is both experienced and constructed as revealed and seen. 

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 How Wittgenstein Got Augustine “Wrong”

 

 249. Are we perhaps over-hasty in our assumption that the smile of an unweaned infant is not a pretense?-And on what experience is our assumption based? (Lying is a language-game that needs to be learned like any other one).

250. Why can’t a dog simulate pain? Is he too honest? Could one teach a dog to simulate pain? Perhaps it is possible to teach him to howl on particular occasions as if he were in pain, even when he is not. But the surroundings which are necessary for this behaviour to be real simulation are missing.

In these two sections Wittgenstein seems to return to his textual roots, that is, to the Augustinian question with which he begins his Investigation (what he calls “a particular picture of the essence of language”); for in the Confessions Augustine (re)tells of his behaviors as an infant, from the perspectiveof what he has learned as an adult, just preceding his ostensive description of language acquisition upon which Wittgenstein took his initial aim (α). Now that Wittgenstein brings up the smile of an infant, it is good to return to Augustine’s passage to see exactly the kind of line that Wittgenstein is attempting to draw. Augustine writes of his initial awakening of consciousness:

 

Afterwards I began to smile; first in sleep, then waking: for so it was told me of myself, and I believed it; for we see the like in other infants, though of myself I remember it not.  Thus, little by little, I became conscious where I was; and to have a wish to express my wishes to those who could content them, and I could not; for the wishes were within me, and they without; nor could they by any sense of theirs enter within my spirit.  So I flung about at random limbs and voice, making the few signs I could, and such as I could, like, though in truth very little like, what I wished.  And when I was not presently obeyed (my wishes being hurtful or unintelligible), then I was indignant with my elders for not submitting to me, with those owing me no service, for not serving me; and avenged myself on them by tears.  Such have I learnt infants to be from observing them; and that I was myself such, they, all unconscious, have shown me better than my nurses who knew it… (Confessions, 1.6.8).

In the figure of the “pretentious” infant (section 249, above), Wittgenstein causes us to encounter the nether-place where we, as linguistic beings, attribute seemingly linguistic capabilities and motivations to non-linguistic beings (be they infants, or later, dogs). He brings to light the curious ambiguity that such attributions involve, the way that we are prone to project onto the behaviors of other things, capacities they cannot justifiably be said to have. And while Augustine is satisfied with relegating these to an “unconscious,” though still willful and burgeoning state in the caseof his own infancy, Wittgenstein calls into question the very basis of such projections, asking upon what do they hang? He wants us to see that the projections themselves are completely contextual, and confined to a specific linguistic domain. That is, the criteria which comprise our justifiable attributions, for Wittgenstein, fall within our practiced useof language, the actual employ of words and nowhere else.

In section 249, he momentarily allows us to question whether smiles of unweaned infants can actually be “pretenses,” are they tricking us with their smile, but he is quick to close the door, for such an idea seems to lack footing. Instead, in investigating his own assumption that they cannot have pretension, he suggests that we may turn to any “experience” we have had that might work as evidence to deny pretension. In one sense, the appeal to experience proves empty, and that is because he wants us to see that such an assumption about the lack of deceptive capacities in infants, is not empirically based, something that one can point to, but rather is related to the way that the term “pretense” is used by us in language. There is no “experience” of the world, or infants in particular, in the sense of evidence, which supports this assumption. Yet alternately-and this is an unacknowledged aspect of experiencethat Wittgenstein draws on-there is the experience of language use itself. Each of us have used the word “pretense” in varying conditions, and that experience of use allows us to see, (or as a Wittgensteinian might wish us to see), that “pretenses” are language-game bound; that is, they are situationally governed by sense, by the way that we can informationally use words, like a game, in context. There are times it is appropriate to say something is so, and times not. This is what he means by the parenthetical conclusion: “(Lying is a language-game that needs to be learned like any other one),” as it stands in relation to the question asked above it, “And on what experience is our assumption based?”

While there is no direct evidence that infants cannot pretend, there is our experience that lying is like a game, and thus too, we have the experience of learning games themselves, that these games have to be learned. That is, there was a point when we did not know them, in the way perhaps that we did not know chess, or poker, and then a point when we demonstrably did. In the end, Wittgenstein would like to place confirmation of the intent to deceive within such a demonstrative domain, and not within anything that is supposedly going on or not going on in the infant. One can see the nature of the experience that might support such an assumption, that of the experience of use. Wittgenstein in this turn, answers his rhetorical question two ways: there is no experience upon which such an assumption is based, that is, it is not an empirical understanding, but, more subtly, there is our experience of use as a game, which informs our understanding of how our idea of “lying” works, and thus the nature of the assumption. 

He thus implicitly asserts the domain that “pretense” would fall within. That is, in that “lying” is language game, something we, as linguistic beings learn to do , it is implied that properly one can only be deceptive within those game constructs (β). This would of course relegate Augustine’s retelling of his original “the wishes were within me” and “avenging tears” to the rather more broad category of fanciful descriptions offered by a language-endowed creature upon subjects that cannot bear them, for they are not part of a game that has been learned, the proper domain of “pretense”.  Infants cannot “avenge” or “express wishes” any more than they can deceive. They do not know these “games”. Augustine seems to be over-stepping his bounds.

But something seems to be missing here, for clearly the use of the term “pretense” has meaning at times in regards to infants, for a mother in the presence of others could say to her infant who was all smiles, “Thank you for being such a good boy, even though you were hungry” and we all would understand what she meant, we would see the possible intentionality of such behavior, without skipping a beat; and we could meaningfully ponder at this “good” and ask ourselves, was the infant only pretending to be happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it not so, by example, that the assumption that infants cannot have pretenses, is certainly incompletely, and in a very real way, wrong? Wittgenstein is looking to affirm a public grounds for the knowledge of the internal states of others, and so for him to do so he feels he must produce a somewhat firm delineation for what does and does not qualify for the “knowing” of those states. We only project pretense onto infants, but know of pretense in others (adults). What serves as this delineation is the horizon of language use, supposedly attested to by our experience that such use must be learned and even that it is stage-sensitive (that is, that there is a point when learning has been accomplished and acknowledged). What is implied is that only when a subject becomes a user of language, and can make all the corresponding behaviors of confirmed “use,” are they affirmed of having “real” mental states. That is, when capable of playing the rest of the language game of correcting mistakes, attesting to experiences, seeming to choose between options of expression, do such states become properly known, not only to others, but also to oneself in self-reflection, and not merely projections (γ). What is deficient in this analysis-though it not directly stated by Wittgenstein, it is implied by his rhetorical move from “pretense” to “lying” and an appeal to the distinction between having learned to lie and not-is that although our experience of having learned language games may indeed support such an understanding of “pretense,” in no way is it clear that public knowledge of internal states is reducibleto such a horizon, for public discourse on intentional behavior–though certainly by context is responsive to a subject’s languaged confirmation, that is, for instance the ability to play the game and say such things as “I feel ‘y’ ” or “I meant to say ‘x’”–all that really is necessary for a “knowledge” of intent is the meaningful use of terms between observers of that supposed intention (δ).

In section 250 Wittgenstein moves to cement the fact that public knowledge is game-player-dependent by pointing out that dogs simply cannot be “taught” to simulate pain. And in fact, there seems something in the grammar of “simulate” that defies such a possibility. Attendant to the word appears to be all kinds of other behaviours which dogs do not possess. He poses with typical Wittgenstein humor the idea of “dog honesty,” assuming the prima facie absurdity of the idea. And he points out that even if we were able to train a dog to howl out in certain pain-implied-contexts (for instance those that might cause us to readily infer that the dog is hurt, perhaps a circus act where a cap-gun would go off, as to which a dog would then cry in pain), we still would not regard such yelps as the dog “simulating pain” in the sense of, attempting to deceive an audience. Yet, the grammars of the words “simulate,” or “pretense” for that matter, that is all the situations in which we can, and indeed do effectively use such words in description, do not seem to absolutely coincide with the capacity of the subject “to be taught” how to do it. In this sense, Wittgenstein diverges from the grammar of “pretense” when he seeks to apply the grammar of “to be taught how to”, to illuminate and to some degree restrict it, for indeed we can usethe former concept where there latter is missing. The two are not the same, and it is for this reason there are questions about the thoroughness of this misleading comparison. Though Wittgenstein’s picture of training a dog to perform pain-like behavior in certain circumstances is very effective in disabusing us of attributing “intent” in more obvious non-simulative situations, that is those in which we would not be tempted to do so, the overall question of the section, Can a dog “simulate pain”?, and the larger question upon which it can be based, Can a dog act in such a way that our ascribing belief in her is our best description of the behavior?, does not seem entirely answered by such a stark example.

Instead of a dog in a circus act, I have in mind my own experience of a bright Australian Cattle Dog who had gotten her front paw caught in a bench, a paw which was possibly broken. I took this dog to the vet, and we placed her on the table. She would put no pressure on the paw, and seemed quite injured. The vet examined her closely, and then, gently squeezed her front foot, to which she let out a sharp yelp. We can agree that no one “taught her” how to yelp this yelp, in the same sense that Wittgenstein means when asking if a dog can be taught how to simulate pain. She was not simulating. The vet announced, “Yep, it is likely broken,” and was about to take the dog off to get X-rayed. Yet being a good examiner he decided to double check the “evidence”. He then squeezed the dog’s rather healthy back paw, and to our surprise she let out the same “painful” yelp. He then squeezed another healthy paw, and the same complaint again. Now Wittgenstein’s rather tidy, “teach him to howl on particular occasions as if he were in pain, even when he is not,” seems to fall apart here, for no one had “trained” the dog to emit a “pain expression” even when there is no “pain”, yet she seemed quite capable of using the yelp in occasions that don’t seem to suit them in any simplified yelp = pain expression interpretation. In fact, if we turn around Wittgenstein’s self-question, “And on what experience is our assumption based?”, and we assume instead the capacity to hold pretenses on the part of the dog, the experiences that supported our interpretation of the first yelp seem quite divergent from those that support any interpretation of the next three. In fact, as language users, we can draw upon our linguistic senseof intention as an interpretive tool in seeking to explain the “meaning” of the subsequent yelps. The first yelp seems in keeping with “pain and its expression” (PI, 245)(ε), a typical animal response which we too it may be said to share when we say “ouch” or grimace; yet the latter three fall within another order of occasions, many of which involve our intentional use of signs. By circumstance, the dog was able to usea pain expression somewhat uniquely. Were her three “false” yelps “pretense,” it is hard to say. But it is equally hard to deny, or classify them as “pain expression”. Instead we encounter the power of mental predicate attribution as a meaningful description beyond the participant language game among language users. And it is our experience that tells us that. The vet and I could meaningfully use the term “pretend” and say to each other something like, “she’s pretending to be in pain, she must want out”. We would be clear to each other without having to consider whether she was “taught” to yelp when examined, as a simulation, as Wittgenstein comparison implies. The status of this “knowledge” or  of her “simulation” really is no more than a running interpretation of events.

At section 250′s close, where Wittgenstein would like to sew up his point about the inability of the dog to simulate pain, he determines: “But the surroundings which are necessary for this behaviour to be real simulation are missing.” The status of this “real” is interesting. What purpose does it serve? Quite apart from our example of the perhaps “falsely” signifying dog, he is pointing out that in the occasions of deceptive training, (that is a trainer that is attempting to teach deception to the dog), all the linguistic surroundings are missing. What are not present are those that would go beyond the particular shooting of the dog with a blank-loaded gun, perhaps, and its crying out, those that would precede and follow such an event to give context to such an “expression” as intentional. The dog for instance could not confess later that he was just joking. The kinds of attributions that condition our explanation of lying, for instance those that would require the dog to intend us to hold specific beliefs, do not seem to stick. All this means though, is that in such instances, more readily causes and not reasons seem to offer explanation for the behaviour. There is no need to decide that the dog wished for us to believe he was in pain.

But really Wittgenstein has grafted his concept of “real” simulation onto a narrowing of the complete grammar of pretense, that is, all the ways and circumstances in which the word can be used. What is not taken up by Wittgenstein’s example of training, but pointed out in the example of a dog’s “false yelp,” is the gradated way that we do, and in fact must, attribute mental states, those of both intent and belief, to linguistic and non-linguistic beings. And that the “real” status of such states relies only upon our relating to them as such. So when Wittgenstein asks for what experienceconfirms his assumption that dogs and infants cannot be deceptive, he is privileging one sort of experience, or evidence over another, our experience of game-like language uses, as definitive. In the caseof my dog who not only yelps when its injured paw is pressed, but also when its non-injured one is, only an imposed and mechanistic reduction of her behaviour would make of her “false” cry a completely non-intentional behavior, by definition. One is free of course to employ such a reduction, but only to the degree that it is able to cash out in meaningful discourse. More readily we can infer that she is using the same sign for two different internal experiences, both of which need not be reduced to “pain”. (It turns out she had indeed broken her foot). It is only because of Wittgenstein’s desire to confirm public knowledge of internal states, as something not just imagined, that he feels forced to deny them to a class of subjects, as unconfirmed, or as he puts it by implication “unreal” (ζ). There is a sensethat there must be a way to distinguish “real” from “unreal” simulation, if we are to affirm public knowledge of such states. I do not think that this is necessary. Buried beneath this ambiguity of interpretation of non-linguistic others is the fact of an ultimate indefiniteness of expressive behaviour itself, something that we glide over in our daily attributions and identifications. We regularly attribute, revise and reattribute both to ourselves and others, beliefs and intents that only have standing based on how well they work context by context, all of them as “real” as they can be.

And while we frequently attribute intent and belief to both infants and dogs, and it might even be argued that we do so only as a matter of habit, making them “like us” as a short-cut of explanation, and though we would like to accept Wittgenstein’s implied hard-line between the Language Game of Lying, and other non-intentional behavior, as a matter of knowledge, what this occludes is that the Language Game of Lying, among so many others, is based upon certain mental attributions (those of belief and intent) that are no more founded than the game itself. Affective attributions of belief, intent, experience and thought form the backdrop against which any particular game, such as “lying” can even take place. Such perceptual habits compose our knowledge. Attributions to dogs and infants must have as much public standing as those to full-fledged language users, insofar as they work, and the grammar of “intend” though certainly is related to, is not reducible to: “can one be taught to…”, a link that Wittgenstein tried to extend in his examples of dog simulation. It is rather the meaningful participation in a form of life called language that illumines the states of languaged and non-languaged subjects alike, as real.

Although, most correctly we would like to observe that the sentence, “That infant is smiling as a pretense” is only a fiction, we would be wrong to assume that within language games, there is any lessof a fiction occurring, for interpretations are only running descriptions. Wittgenstein is right that in most circumstances with dogs and infants the “surroundings which are necessary” are missing to meaningfully carry on with the attribution game in any over-arching narrative sense, beyond the particular context, but this does not mean that those attributions are unrightfully made, as interpretations, to their circumstances. Their status as “knowledge” remains. Indeed we commonly switch between a vocabulary of causes and a vocabulary of intents even when discussing the behavior of adults. Such vocabularies are worth only the degree to which they cash out in meaningful interaction. Wittgenstein would like us to see that mental predicate attributions of intent are the products of our language use, our experience of relating to others, and to privilege our experience of learning games as a threshold proof for public knowing of internal states, as if we could be so many chess players who are either playing chess, or not; but what is not questioned is the ultimate validity of those attributions beyond their simple use and efficacy. The question of validity floats up with use and efficacy itself, borne by that tide. For this reason it indeed makes sense that dogs can simulate pain, insofar was we can make such attributions meaningfully in real world conversations about dogs. There is no other standard. “Belief” and “intent” always bend back into use, behaviour, interpretation and experience.  In fact not only are shifting intent attributions and re-attributions part and parcel of all human interaction, but so is the ability to switch from a language of reasons to a language of causes. The explanations for behavior can involve alternately an intentionality or a causation: “He was wanting to murder me” can become “He was only drunk; it was the drink talking ” at a moment’s notice. The non-continuity of a description, the ability to switch from an intentional to a causal description, does not make the intentional description any less “real,” for an abandoned description can always be taken up again in new descriptions, as context allows. It is for this reason that the “status” of my dog’s “false yelp,” cannot definitivelybe confined to one category or another, intent or reaction, reason or cause, because the interpretation of “minds” where we seek to grant minds to be, however momentarily, is always a condition of use, and effect, and not solely the purview languaging status. The reason for this is not that dogs and infants trulypossess some hidden linguistic capacities that occasionally poke forth, but because our very own descriptions of linguistic capacities are underdetermined: the attribution of intent is always a provisional account, reliant upon subsequent events, even among speaking adults. Further, the intent-ful nature of linguistic interpretation, that is the way that we mustsee others as intending and choosing signs that “reveal” public facts about their internal states, points beyond the capacities of language itself. That is, language as it casts its light over the world, forming powerful, efficacious interpretations, cannot account for its own nature, but rather can only assume it. It is notable therefore that while Wittgenstein provides strong critique of philosophical explanations of language, he provides few or no explanations of his own, always pointing to context as a final arbiter of sense.

I think that this is what Augustine was trying to say when he describes his access to his own infant past, of which he was unconscious when he acted. From his observations as an adult, within the Language Game World as Wittgenstein would have it, he suddenly knew the intentions that infants had (η). As a languaged speaker he could come to say, by experience: “Such have I learnt infants to be from observing them; and that I was myself such, they, all unconscious, have shown me better than my nurses who knew it.”  His knowing nurses could tell him nothing of his infant states when he was an unspeaking infant, and it would be only after  they may have told him as a language speaker how he had been that unknowing infants could show  him how he once was. But for Wittgenstein, this is a kind of error, attributing game-playing capacities to non-game players. What Augustine puts forth, against Wittgenstein’s desire to draw a firmer line between languaged and non-languaged, is that language illumines the non-languaged, making clear through attributions of “sameness” what cannot be asserted by things in their own right, in their own sphere of expression. Rather than taking infants and dogs to be necessarily devoid of pretense as a fact of the matter, for us as language users, intent (and belief) become the light by which we see the linguistic and the non-linguistic world, as a matter of public knowledge. Augustine’s willing and wishing in infancy falls not to a point in logic, a “how can a non-language player language”-but expands upon the very linguistic capacities that inform them. And it is for this very reason that Augustine turns away from the sufficiency of the ostensive definition of language, that very thing that Wittgenstein critiques in his opening passage of Philosophical Investigations. Much as Wittgenstein turns to Language as a shared form of life, Augustine turns to God as the only thing that could make such capacities work: “I could seek for signs whereby to make known to others my sensations. Whence could such a being be, save from Thee, Lord?  Shall any be his own artificer? (1.6.10)”. In certain regard, “Shall any be his own artificer?” (θ) is Augustine’s own (anti-)Private Language argument (I do not know if Wittgenstein willfully, or blindly misses this).  Augustine speaks of his own capacities, but also the insufficiency of those capacities as an explanation. Only within an extra-linguistic framework, can Augustine account for the capacity to learn language in the first place. And it will be through the gradated extension of belief and intent to all things however dimly, through the light of language itself, that Augustine comes to comprehend the development of comprehension. The inter-subjective authority of others is combined with a will implicit in socialization itself, as Augustine’s God has formed it; and so we return to the original quotation that Wittgenstein opens up his Investigations:

And thus by constantly hearing words, as they occurred in various sentences, I collected gradually for what they stood; and having broken in my mouth to these signs, I thereby gave utterance to my will. Thus I exchanged with those about me these current signs of our wills, and so launched deeper into the stormy intercourse of human life, yet depending on parental authority and the beck of elders (1.8.13).

It does well to see the problematic nature of the last sentence, and why Wittgenstein does well to exclude it. While Wittgenstein would like to assign the capacity to have real intent and belief solely to the “stormy intercourse of human life,” that is the realm of Language Games, which we learn as specific capacities, Augustine sees in the capacity of language, the exchanging of signs, indication of a broader power to organize, which cannot be restricted to the capacity itself. It is rather in intent, that is even the intent that dogs and infants are said not to properly have, as “real” accept through the languaged attributions by human adults, that the widest conception of justification and experience is found; it is that intent, as it is a “really” epistemically, experientially and publicly known, which opens language use up to a domain necessarily larger than only participant games learned and played. The “will,” that is what Augustine calls the faciendi artifex, “the craftsman of making,” is both a product of language use, but also evidence for something more in terms of an explanation: for him a power not confined by the limits of language.

It is for this reason that the ultimate question of whether a dog can lie, is as profound as whether a human can. It is solely our relations with each other that determine it. The crux of intent attribution itself points not only to within language, but beyond it, to what language looks out upon, as it sheds a light over innumerable cognitive behaviors, for it is always conceivable that not even human adults can “lie” and it is only convenient to say so.

For if we were cattle, we should love the carnal and sensual life, and this would be our sufficient good; and when it was well with us in respect of it we should seek nothing else. Again, if we were trees, we could not, of course, be moved by the senses to love anything; but we would seem to desire, as it were, that by which we might become more abundantly and bountifully fruitful. If we were stones or waves or wind or flames or anything of that kind, we should indeed be without both sensation and life, but we should still not lack a kind of desire for our own proper place. For the weight of bodies is, as it were, their love, whether they are carried downwards by gravity or upwards by their lightness. For the body is carried by its weight wherever it is carried, just as the soul is carried by its love. (Augustine, The City of God, Book 11 chapter Twenty-eight)

 


Endnotes

α. To be clear, it is in the very first section of Philosophical Investigations that Wittgenstein cites Augustine’s Confessions, as he seeks to draw forth the inadequacy of any word-object account of linguistic origins or capacities. Notably though, as Wittgenstein frames his “Augustinian” picture of language, he leaves out that Augustine denies such a sufficiency of explanation, and also in quotation elides the final sentences of the paragraph which reads: “Thus I exchanged with those about me these current signs of our wills, and so launched deeper into the stormy intercourse of human. Life, yet depending on parental authority and the beck of elders”(1.8.13). Further, it is not at all clear that Augustine in this passage is holding that the essence of language is that “Every word has a meaning. This meaning is correlated with the word” (PI, secton 1), for Augustine refers to wishes which may be unconscious, minimizing any strict meaning = object/sign relation.

β. There is a rhetorical slight-of-handequation of “pretense” (249) with “lying,” (250), from a host of non-linguistic behaviors to an entirely linguistic one, that goes unqualified here. And one should note that we will have inadvertently moved from the kind of question such as: Is it meaningful to speak of infants having pretenses, that is, is it sensical at all to usethe term “pretense” to describe infants, to the under-question: Do infants have pretenses? Or, more subtly, Are they “really” pretentious?, as will be shown in his use of “real” in the following section concerning dogs. The “reality” of pretenses comes into play, and not just our meaningful descriptive discourse. It is a quiet shift.

γ. By “know to oneself” I mean the capacity to reflect upon one’s own thoughts and make judgments about them as being of one quality or kind of another, and to linguistically express those differences, with authority, as relevant.

δ. Even if the two “observers” are oneself as an agent and an observer. In such a relation to oneself, an agent is an acting or experiencing person, and the observer is position of self-reflection upon those same actions.  Of course, and “observer” is also an agent, acting and experiencing, and can fall into that position within a higher order description, that is, by being described by another observer, whether it be oneself, or another.

ε. This phraseis a placeholder halfway housebetween cause and reason, one that pre-posits its own term. When Wittgenstein talks of pain and its expression he is negotiating a place that is neither entirely causal nor entirely reason based, where language, such as “pain language” can operate with right but no justification. In this way he uses the term “pain” without quotation marks, as if there is a pure speaking of pain, a sense of meaning that is grounded in experience. Such grafting points should be noted. As the example of this dog does show, the concept of “pain and its expression” is rather a convenient fusion of concepts, for ultimately, the only way to properly express this, is: “‘x’ and its expression” and not “pain and its expression”.

ζ. He does not use the word “unreal” but indeed does deny that they are “real”, a needless claim if he did not have some ontological stake in intentional behaviors.

η. Clearly the status of this “had” is complex, as descriptions waver between attributing intents or attributing causes of behavior, the ways in which we hold either infants and dogs liable for their actions. It would be wrong though to conclude that the liability of either falls on one side of the line or another. For Augustine, indeed, it is the comprehension of the intents that he had, as an infant, and which composes his knowledge of other infants now, which inscribes him in the order of God’s creation. The social order, that is the historical criteria of justifiable attribution, is secondary to the kinds of connections between beings which underwrites it.

θ. “an quisquam se faciendi erit artifex?” literally, “Will anyone be a craftsman of making himself?”

[Part II, here]

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