Sunday, December 27, 2009

Parallel Thoughts By Wittgenstein And Sraffa

Apparently Wittgenstein wrote the following in 1937:
"The origin and the primitive form of the language game is a reaction; only from this can more complicated forms develop.

Language - I want to say - is a refinement, 'in the beginning was the deed'." -- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value (Translated by Peter Winch) (1980)
And Sraffa, I guess, wrote the following in the early 1930s:
"If the rules of language can be constructed only by observation, there can never be any nonsense said. This identifies the cause and the meaning of a word.

The language of birds, as well as the language of metaphysicians can be interpreted consistently in this way.

It is only a matter of finding the occasion on which they say a thing, just as one finds the occasion on which they sneeze.

And if nonsense is 'a mere noise' it certainly must happen, as sneeze, when there is cause: how can this be distinguished from its meaning?

We should give up the generalities and take particular cases, from which we started. Take conditional propositions: whan are they nonsense, and when are they not?" -- Piero Sraffa as quoted by Heinz D. Kurz, "'If some people looked like elephants and others like cats, or fish...' On the difficulties of understanding each other: the case of Wittgenstein and Sraffa", The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, V. 16, n. 2 (2009): pp. 361-374

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