Philosophy Word of the Day – Language Games

Ludwig Wittgenstein
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According to Ludwig Wittengenstein,

the vagueness of ordinary usage is not a problem to be eliminated but rather the source of linguistic riches. It is misleading even to attempt to fix the meaning of particular expressions by linking them referentially to things in the world. The meaning of a word or phrase or proposition is nothing other than the set of (informal) rules governing the use of the expression in actual life.

Like the rules of a game, Wittgenstein argued, these rules for the use of ordinary language are neither right nor wrong, neither true nor false: they are merely useful for the particular applications in which we apply them. The members of any community—cost accountants, college students, or rap musicians, for example—develop ways of speaking that serve their needs as a group, and these constitute the language-game (Moore’s notes refer to the “system” of language) they employ. Human beings at large constitute a greater community within which similar, though more widely-shared, language-games get played. Although there is little to be said in general about language as a whole, therefore, it may often be fruitful to consider in detail the ways in which particular portions of the language are used. (Continue)

(Via Philosophical Dictionary)

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