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Discuss and evaluate Wittgenstein’s critique of the Augustinian picture Free essay! Download now

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Discuss and evaluate Wittgenstein’s critique of the Augustinian picture

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Downloads to date: N/A | Words: 1700 | Submitted: 16-Jun-2005
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This essay evaluates Wittgenstein's critique of the Augustinian picture of language. Wittgenstein shows that this picture is incorrect and that language does not in fact have any fixed or pre-defined meaning. Words only take on meaning through their use.


Augustine seems to find the idea that language can be compared to some kind of precise calculus an intuitive one, as most people do naturally. Wittgenstein feels that it is wrong to attempt to remove names from their everyday applications and that meaning can only be ascertained through looking at use. In this essay I will discuss Wittgenstein’s various criticisms of the Augustinian picture and go on to argue that Wittgenstein is rightly trying to undermine a deep seated false picture that lies at the root of much of modern philosophy of language.

In Wittgenstein’s text, the Philosophical Investigations (PI), he uses a quote from Augustine’s Confessions as his opening passage in the work:

When they (my elders) named some object, and accordingly moved towards something, I saw this and grasped that the thing was called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out. Their intention was shown by their bodily movements, as it were the natural language of all peoples: the expression of the face, the play of the eyes, the movement of other parts of the body, and the tone of the voice which expresses our state of mind in seeking, having, rejecting or avoiding something.

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