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Title: An instinct for meaning
Author: Knott, H. A.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2003
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The relationship between language and human action is a pervasive theme of Wittgenstein's writings. And yet explicit references to the essentially instinctive nature of the actions into which language is woven are sparse. This thesis, by explanation and by the further development of these few remarks, aims to advance our understanding of the role of instinctive reactions in the formation and possession of our concepts. Wittgenstein has been criticised - rightly or wrongly - for viewing language too much on the model of the application of a technique, as if speaking were merely a system of rule-governed actions. Following Rush Rhees, I argue that speaking is more intimately woven into our constitution as persons than can be understood from such an over-simplified view. Wittgenstein has also been accused of harbouring a theory of concept-formation from instinctive behaviour - an accusation that is refuted. Our understanding of the nature and role of instinctive reactions (both linguistic and non-linguistic) in the constitution of our conceptual form of life must therefore, take account of the more complex picture of the nature of speaking that emerges. Examples of concepts (psychological concepts and concepts to do with knowledge and belief) which are situated in complex ways within the instinctive dimension of our lives are then discussed in detail. This investigation into the nature of the possession of our concepts is worked out in concert with a discussion of what concepts are, of what the relationship is between the conceptual and the factual, and of the level at which our concepts engage with the world. Finally, it is argued that instinctive reactions, akin to those which comprise the cornerstones of our language-games, are also implicated both in generating the perplexity that lies at the bottom of philosophical problems, and in its elucidation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available