American University
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Wittgenstein on meaning and understanding

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posted on 2023-08-04, 13:23 authored by Zahia Benzarour

The purpose of this dissertation is to present Wittgenstein's theory of meaning as use and investigate its consequences for the problem of other minds. Wittgenstein builds his philosophy on the critique of the idea that the meaning of a word is an object (referential theory of meaning), and the first chapter of this dissertation offers a presentation of the referential theory; in this chapter I also take as an instance of the refutation of the referential theory the example of Russell's theory of description. The second chapter presents Wittgenstein's arguments against the notion that the meaning of a word is a private object, and presents the notion of rule-following. The third chapter shows why Wittgenstein rejected the notion of understanding as an inner process, followed by an explanation of Augustine's ostensive definition. The fourth chapter deals with Wittgenstein's theory of meaning as use by explaining the notions of form of life, language-game, family-resemblance and grammar. My focus in the fifth chapter is on the consequences of Wittgenstein's theory on the problem of other minds, i.e. that the problem of other minds does not exist at all when we understand that it is not an inner process that gives words meaning. I also deal with the distinction of symptoms and criteria. The last chapter is on my disagreement with Wittgenstein and some critiques concerning different notions such as that the meaning of a word is its use in the language, and how Wittgenstein never made the distinction between the meaning of a word and the meaning of a sentence. In addition, I will maintain that private language is possible when we refer to sensations and feelings.



American University




Ph.D. American University 1988.


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