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Lecture 9.....
Instructor:  Jeremy Jackson   |    Jan 4, 2017

Location:    Online    |   Blackboard


Key concepts - you will be responsible for knowing a number of definitions of key concepts. You may be asked to give an accurate definition and example of any of the key concepts. Key concepts are in italics, bolded and colored red throughout the notes.

Discussion questions - the lecture notes contain three discussion questions. These are to be answered on Blackboard at the times given in the syllabus.

Critical points - there are some points that require extra emphasis because they are fundamental to the example or concept being discussed. Critical points are bolded, in italics and colored orange.

Course learning objective questions - These are the questions given in the learning objectives document.


The Problem of Psychology


We have reached about 1965 in the history of our discipline. There has been one problem that we have seen recurring throughout our history and so throughout this course. Have you seen it?

You may have noticed that in this course I have used the history of psychology to illustrate the very basic problem that psychology has struggled with since its inception. What is the problem? Well, it's simple really, it's just the problem of:


It is the problem of how to determine what things are, what they really are.


We started with Aristotle and his question:

What is the SOUL?

The soul question was then replaced by Descarte's question:

What is the MIND?

Then, as Watson said, Descartes' question was replaced by Wundt's question:


Then came Neisser with another word for the same old thing. His was the question:


In the last 2500 years we have gone from the metaphysical theory that human psychological, mental capacities/phenomena are:

The essential whatness of a body so defined


a set of structured patterns of information transformation

Interestingly, in the past 40 years, we have almost fully transitioned away from Neisser's theory to the new metaphysical theory that psychological phenomena are:

Brain phenomena

When we say:

memories are in the brain


depression is an illness (a chemical imbalance in the brain)

We are saying:

Psychological phenomena are brain phenomena. Now, it's important just to be clear that not all psychologists think that mental phenomena are brain phenomena. Some think that mental phenomena are:

partly brain phenomena and partly mental phenomena

But it is fair to say that we are on the way to thinking of mental phenomena as largely brain phenomena. Just look at the following clips:

1) Professor John Gabrieli gives an Introduction to Psychology (our Psychology 1100) lecture at MIT. MIT is perhaps the most prestigious technical university in North America. It is extremely difficult to get in. Only the brightest students in the world with the best grades can go there....



Here, professor Gabrieli teaches the young MIT psychology student:

i) The mind is brain function

ii) Brains generate songs

iii) The firing of neurons ARE memories, desires, etc,.

iv) We do not hear songs, we hear what our neurons interpret

Now watch Professor Paul Bloom give his first Introduction to Psychology lecture at Yale. Again, a very prestigious American university....



Or what about Baroness Susan Greenfield, Commander of the British Empire, FRCP, Member of the House of Lords, Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology, Lincoln College, Oxford University....



But there still is this problem that we saw in Lecture 1 and that all psychologists have struggled with throughout our history. There is still the problem of what the mind or what consciousness is. Watch Baroness Susan Greenfield struggle as all her predecessors have done...



Here, the Baroness says:

1) Consciousness is what the brain does

2) Consciousness is a first-hand, private experience

3) We loose consciousness when we fall asleep

4) Consciousness can not be operationally defined because it can not be stated in behavioural terms (one can be consciousness but not DOING anything)

5) Consciousness can not be defined in terms of a "higher set", meaning it is not an anything. It does not belong to a higher category of phenomena (like a chair belongs to the higher set, furniture)

6) Consciousness can not be defined

7) YET.....we all know what consciousness is


How can we know that consciousness is what the brain does but not have an answer to the age-old question, what is consciousness?

How can we know that consciousness is a private experience but not have an answer to the age-old question, what is consciousness?

How can we know that we loose consciousness when we fall asleep but not have an answer to the age-old question, what is consciousness?

As we saw earlier, this issue matters a lot to us. It is the question of whether psychologists have their own subject matter distinct from neuroscience, medicine, neurology, etc.! Really, it's the question whether we even have a subject matter at all!

We must be able to clearly say what consciousness is in order to be able to clearly say what we are studying in our discipline.

Now, I'd like to show you that throughout the course we have actually seen three different methods of addressing what is it problems in science. It might surprise you a bit that it is not the "solutions" to the problem of what consciousness is that I am really interested in you knowing, it's the METHODS we use to address such questions that I would like you to know.

In fact, we have seen three methods in the course so far. They are:

1) Aristotle's Method - you could say as well, the method of metaphysics.

2) Operationism

3) Construct Validity Theory

The following table compares and contrasts these three methods.


But there is ONE MORE method we need to learn about. One more way to answer what is it questions. Let's turn to that now.

The Ordinary Language View (OLV)

The fourth method of determining what things are was given by Ludwig Wittgenstein around 1935-1950. It is called the ordinary language view.

Wittgenstein was a very well known, very well respected philosopher born in Austria in 1889. If you were to survey modern philosophers and ask them who was the most important philosopher of the last century, Wittgenstein would garner more votes than any other philosopher (we know this because it has been done!).

So well respected was Wittgenstein that once, the great economist Maynard Keynes (the inventor of Keynesian economics!) wrote about Wittgenstein....

"Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5:15 train."

He was so important and influential, he has even found his way in to "modern" popular culture....



As John Cleese hints in the clip, Wittgenstein's work related to ways in which misunderstanding can arise when we misuse or have difficulty with language.

Wittgenstein published only one work in philosophy in his life. It was a book on logic called the Tractatus. He told his supervisor, Bertrand Russell, perhaps the greatest philosopher in Europe at the time, "don't worry I know you won't understand it." The Tractatus is regarded as one of the most difficult, arcane and intellectually challenging works ever written in philosophy.

When Wittgenstein finished it, he thought that he had written the final word on philosophy, that he had solved all philosophical problems.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Wittgenstein is that, later in his career, he realized that the Tractatus was entirely wrong. That he had misunderstood the problems of philosophy completely!

His later life was dedicated to developing an entirely new and different view on the nature of philosophy and philosophical problems. He wrote these ideas down in notebooks but never actually published them. After his death in 1953 this work was published in a book called "The Philosophical Investigations".

The essential idea of the book is that philosophical problems as they had been conceived to that point in history were nothing more than linguistic confusions. They were not real problems at all. The problem of the nature of the mind, for example, was not a real problem, just a problem that looked like a problem because of the confused way in which the problem had been phrased.

Something like this....Consider the problem:

What is the weight of acceleration?

Is this a real problem, or is this a pseudo-problem? Is this question answerable or is there no answer because the question itself is meaningless? Wittgenstein would say that the question has no answer because the question itself is nonsense, not meaningful.

He would say the same about the question:

How does the mind interact with the brain?

He would say that, although it might not look like it at first, the question itself is actually meaningless. It is like the question:

How does three interact with red?

There is no answer to questions like this because numbers are not the kind of things that can meaningfully interact with colours.

In the film about Wittgenstein's life below, it suggests that what Wittgenstein was doing was to try to:

Show the fly the way out of the fly bottle.

What this means is just that he wanted to show the philosopher (the fly) how to see that the solution to his/her problem (the way out) was really to be found in their misuse of language (the fly bottle), not in some deep reality underlying the problem.

The following is a short (15 minute) film about Wittgenstein's life. As he is thought by many to be the greatest intellectual that ever lived (including Einstein and Newton), it's worth a look....



Now let's look more closely at Wittgenstein and the OLV he developed.

We will look first at the logical features of the OLV and then go on to perhaps the best paper ever written about the OLV - The Grammar of Psychology by Gordon Baker and Peter Hacker.

Before we begin with The Grammar of Psychology, I’d like to review the basic principles of Wittgenstein’s position.  Here goes:

1)The problem with philosophy and much of psychology is the failure to correctly employ common language. Philosophers and psychologists go wrong when they disobey, ignore or flagrantly violate the rules for the use of common language psychological terms. When a philosopher claims, for example, that "consciousness is not an anything", they fail to recognize that consciousness is a STATE of a person. Consciousness is, in fact, a state of self-awareness. Philosophers and psychologists similarly go wrong when they claim that consciousness can not be defined. Consciousness is defined, it is defined in books that contain definitions. That is, in dictionaries.

2) The meaning of concepts is given by the rules for their use. When we learn a language we are essentially learning these rules. When a child says “Mum, what is intelligence”, the mother normally responds by articulating the rules for the use of the concept of intelligence.  If concepts are used according to the rules for their use, then they have been correctly employed. As soon as one violates the rules for the use of a term, one runs the risk of incoherence – speaking nonsense.

3) Linguistic rules are not discovered; they are laid down by language using creatures. Hence, it is only possible to learn what intelligence means, not discover what it is.  In this sense, linguistic rules are similar to the rules of a game – we invent the rules of Monopoly, we do not discover them. It was this insight that lead Wittgenstein to speak of the language game when describing many of the features of language use.

4) Psychologists and philosophers are not free to use common language terms in any way they deem fit. They must follow the existing rules for the use of these concepts.  If they do not follow the rules for the use of existing concepts in their work, their work is at risk of being incoherent or meaningless.  Imagine a game of ‘Hockey’ in which we decide to play by our own rules. Imagine that according to my rules, the lowest number of goals wins the game, a goal is scored when the puck hits the boards, no fewer than 20 players are allowed on the ice at one time, each player must use a tennis racket and that there are 2 week penalties for placing two skates on the ice at the same time. Imagine that my team plays be these rules and yours plays by the actual rules of hockey. What would happen on the ice is not hockey – it is simply incoherent to claim that the game of hockey is being played here. In fact, what would happen on the ice is similar to what happens when philosophers and psychologists use common language terms incorrectly – meaningless, nonsensical discourse with no possible relevance to the truth or the facts.

5) Rules for the use of terms are not theories. As such, it makes no sense to theorize about what concepts mean. Just as it makes no sense to theorize about the true nature of the game of Monopoly, or the real value of "Park Place" it makes no sense to theorize about the true nature of intelligence.

6) It follows from 1-5 that what something is, is given by the rules for the use of the concept that denotes that thing. What consciousness is is given by the rules for the use of the concept of consciousness. Hence, the only sense in which it is meaningful to wonder about the essence or true nature of consciousness is to wonder about how the concept of consciousness is correctly used.  The essence of consciousness is in its correct use, not any reality underlying the concept of consciousness – although this reality certainly exists, the meaning of the word consciousness is not contained in, for example, the firings of neuron’s. Now, since the rules for the use of the word consciousness are that it is a state of a PERSON, not a state of a PART OF A PERSON, consciousness can not be a brain process. Why? because a brain process is a state of PART of a person.....the brain.

7) There is an internal relation between meaning and reality. The common view that there exists a reality of objects/phenomena independently of a language and that linguistic concepts (i.e., mind, number, intention) name each of these objects/phenomena of reality (called the Augustinian picture of language by Wittgenstein) is flawed. This is a very challenging and subtle point that is often misunderstood.  Wittgenstein is not saying that there is no such thing as reality, that all there is are words.  He is saying that language is a necessary precondition (i.e., constitutive) for statements about reality. That the meaning of a word and the nature of an object denoted by that word are tied up together – internally related. We must not, for example, imagine a reality in which there exists a brain object (an object that is the brain) and a separate, independent concept that we use to name that object. What the brain is in the first place is given by the concept of brain – the object and the concept can not be separated. But this does not mean that the concept and the object are the same thing.  There are objects and concepts. Concepts are linguistic, rule-guided, human constructions that denote (give meaning to statements about) the objects/phenomena of reality.


Now lets work through excerpts from Baker and Hacker's, The Grammar of Psychology


1) Page 2, 2nd Paragraph, first sentence, “Wittgenstein distinguished sharply between conceptual, philosophical investigations and empirical, scientific ones.”

This is because empirical investigation – observations of natural phenomena – can only lead the scientist to discoveries about “X”, not discoveries about what “X” is.


Let’s take a look at some examples. Suppose I want to know what intelligence is. Hacker is saying that this is a conceptual/philosophical question, not a question that can be answered by making empirical observations.


Now, it stands to reason that if I don’t know what intelligence is, there must be some question about where to start looking.


But suppose I ignore this problem and just start looking. Imagine that I begin my search in an English Tea Shop.  I walk in and start looking. I open all the jars and smell the contents. I take pictures; I determine the chemical make-up of the various substances inside the shop and so on.  Following my exhaustive investigation, I take all this data back to my lab and conclude that intelligence is high in caffeine, aromatic and has the appearance of dried black leaves.


But you complain. You argue that my research is pure nonsense because intelligence is not TEA! But I am not easily swayed. I argue that your common understanding of what intelligence is may well be flawed.  I argue that all you have are crude unsubstantiated hypotheses about what intelligence is and so your primitive ideas have no scientific relevance. I argue that science is an empirical discipline in which we require empirical support for our hypotheses about what things are (this is CV Theory).  Since all you have is rationalizations, your claim is unscientific.  I, on the other hand, have made exhaustive observations and so have some empirical data upon which to substantiate my claim.


And I don’t stop here. I exclaim, how do you know that intelligence is not TEA? Where did you get this from? Isn’t this just your understanding of what intelligence is? What if my understanding is different? Why on earth should we rely on your definition of intelligence? What if intelligence is something different to me than it is to you? (not a CV Theory idea, but a very common objection to the ordinary language view)


But Baker and Hacker are saying that this is all nonsense because it is not possible to scientifically discover what intelligence is.  He is saying that what intelligence is, is a matter for conceptual (i.e., definitional) analysis not empirical analysis. And, since conceptual analysis is logically prior to empirical discovery, we must define intelligence before entering into empirical investigations about intelligence.


Let’s look at another example.  Look at this page right now and write down every single thing that you see.  Do an empirical investigation of the writing on the page. Now, tell me how many blighters you found. 


I found 4 blighters on the page.  How many did you find?  None perhaps?


Why did you find none? Why could you not find any blighters? Even if you looked for 100 years, could you find one then?


Now, here is a good illustration of the primacy of meaning.  The reason that you can’t and never will find a blighter has nothing to do with metaphysical concerns about the true nature of blighters.  It has nothing to do with my meaning for blighter or your meaning for blighter.  Further, the reason you can’t find any blighters has nothing to do with empirical observation, unsubstantiated hypotheses or any other such thing. 


There is one very simple reason that you can’t find a blighter and this is just because you do not know the meaning of the term blighter.  As soon as I give you the definition of blighter (not my definition but THE definition), you will also easily be able to find the 4 blighters on the last page – by the way a blighter is the phrase “on the” found in Critical Issues course readings written by college professors between the years of 2013 and 2014.


So the point is definition/meaning/conceptual clarification of it first, then discovery about it. Once you have the definition of blighter then you can observe how many blighters are on the page.

2) Paragraph, second sentence, “Conceptual investigation is logically prior to empirical theory building, and no factual discoveries concerning what is signified by a given concept can have bearing on the philosophical clarification of that concept (just as no empirical measurements can have any bearing on what we mean by our metric terminology)”


Now, this view is logically incompatible with the logic of construct validation theory.


If no empirical measurements can have any bearing on what we mean by our measurement terminology, then no amount of administering psychological scales to subjects can tell us anything about what those scales measure.  Baker and Hacker are saying that the fact that my scale correlates .6 with the number of minutes you spend on the cell phone tells us nothing about what my scale measures.  This correlation does not tell us, for example, that my scale is measuring sociability. But this is the premise upon which construct validation is based. That is that the network of empirical findings with a scale (the nomological network) tells us something about what the scale measures.


For example, suppose I measure the number of millimeters of rain on any given day in the lower mainland. Now, imagine that I hypothesize that my rain scale is measuring some underlying, as yet unknown hypothetical construct. I’m not really sure what it measures but my early tentative hypothesis is that my scale is measuring weather patterns.


So in order to further validate my scale as a measure of the construct weather patterns, I collect temperature data, and percent cloud cover data for the purpose of determining the correlation between my scale and other weather data. Now, not surprisingly, I find fairly high correlations of .6 and .7 respectively.  According to the logic of construct validation, these data lend support to my initial hypothesis that my scale is, in fact, measuring weather patterns.


But Baker and Hacker are saying that these data tell us nothing at all about what my scale measures.  They are saying that my scale measures millimeters of rain.  The correlations with cloud cover and temperature do not tell us that my scale is measuring weather patterns; they only tell us what particular weather patterns millimeters of rain is correlated with.


In fact, I’m sure that Baker and Hacker would say that one could not even form a hypothesis that the scale measures weather patterns in the first place if one did not already know what the scale measures.  By the way, millimeters of rain is also highly correlated with traffic accident rates.  Does it make sense that we are measuring accident rates when we are measuring millimeters of rain? Hacker would say no....and that this absurdity is one of the logical consequences of CV Theory.


Now, to extend the example a little, imagine that I correlate my scale with measures of depression and find a strong correlation between millimeters of rain and depression.  Is this evidence that my scale is a psychological measure? The answer according to the logic of construct validation is yes. The answer according to Hacker is no.  Hacker is saying that the correlation with depression is a finding about the relationship between weather and psychological states. It shows us that our psychological states are related to the weather.  It does not show us that millimeters of rain is a measure of psychological states. In fact, by definition, we know that millimeters of rain is not a measure of psychological states.


3) Page 2, 2nd Paragraph, third sentence. “This does not imply that empirical discoveries may not induce us to modify existing concepts.”

Now this is a very important but often misunderstood point. Wittgenstein is not saying that the meaning of concepts is for ever fixed.  He is saying that under normal circumstances meaning can and does sometimes change.


The passage about the definition of mass by Ernst Mach we saw earlier in the course is a very good example of this.  In that passage, Mach was changing the definition of mass in order to make the concept more clear in certain boundary cases. The same happened in the example Baker and Hacker give of the definition of one meter used in modern physics.


Recall the astronomical example of meaning change we looked at earlier....


PRAGUE (AP) — Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.....

If what a planet is can cause such contentious debate in modern astronomy, imagine the struggle over defining the sole, mind or consciousness. A planet is a trivially simple concept in comparison to the highly ramified, blurred, every day concepts of mind. I think, for a large number of reasons, this has a lot to do with why we struggle with the "what is it" question in psychology.


4) Page 2, 2nd Paragraph, fourth sentence. “But clarification of existing concepts is not furthered by substitution of novel ones, and resolution of puzzles generated by existing concepts is not achieved by substitution of different ones.”


So if we become frustrated with the unclarity of the concept of intelligence and decide to deal with this problem by replacing the concept of intelligence with the new concept of ‘IQ’, this does not solve the philosophical/conceptual problems with the concept of intelligence. IQ is not intelligence and no amount of studying IQ will help us gain clarity about what intelligence is.


Or to use an example from Cronbach and Meehl, if we become frustrated with the ambiguity of the concept of anxiety and decide to replace it with “ml of palm sweat”, this does not resolve the problem with the concept of anxiety.


Now this is very important because it addresses the problem with the operationists so called solution to the problem of scientifically studying psychological phenomena. The operationist solution is to simply ignore existing psychological constructs and replace them with new operationally defined constructs such as “IQ” or “g” or “ml of palm sweat”.  But this solution merely side-steps the real problem, which is what is intelligence, anxiety, etc.


It also addresses the problem with the modern psychiatric desire to replace psychological states with brain states. As noted earlier, the standard view in modern psychiatry is to sidestep the problem of what depression, ADHD, Residential School Syndrome, etc., are by saying that they are nothing but physiological brain states. But saying that depression, for example, is just a brain state does not solve the problem of what depression is. It merely replaces the concept of depression with a physiological brain mechanism.  And replacement of exiting concepts with novel ones does not solve conceptual problems with existing concepts. 


5) Page 2, 3rd Paragraph, first and second sentence. “The concepts which philosophy of mind must clarify are everyday concepts. They are not the technical terms of...an advanced science.”


Baker and Hacker are saying that conceptual confusion arises in psychology because psychology deals with everyday psychological constructs. These constructs (as he said above in paragraph 2) are not sharply bounded (i.e., clearly defined).  Hence, their meanings are often highly complex, and not admissible to simple, clear definition. And for this reason, conceptual confusion often arises when we deal with the everyday constructs of psychology....eg, is it the mind that thinks, the brain that thinks or the person that thinks....what is correct use here? That's the kind of problem philosophy and psychology need to deal with!


However, the technical concepts of science are normally well-defined (i.e., operationally defined) and hence, do not normally create the kinds of conceptual problems encountered with everyday concepts....In statistics, for example, the concept of a p-value does not cause a problem. There is one, agreed to, public, shared definition of the p-value.


5) Page 2, 3rd Paragraph, third, fourth and fifth sentence. “When a philosopher attempts to elucidate the concept of mind, of thinking or believing, of wanting or intending….”


Now we have seen a good example of this early on in the course when we read part of Aristotle’s attempt to elucidate the concept of the soul. The issue here is that Aristotle is attempting to clarify a concept that is already in use.  We already have and use the concept of the soul. We are all already taught what this concept means, when it should and should not be applied and so on. If Aristotle thinks that he is dealing with something else, some other essence or underlying phenomenon, then Baker and Hacker are saying that he is mistaken. They are saying that Aristotle’s job is not to make up a new concept of soul but to clarify the use of the concept of soul that we already have. 


Now it’s important that everyday concepts are pre-existing. It’s important because it restricts what a philosopher or psychologist can say about what they are.  Baker and Hacker are saying that a psychologist is not free to make up their own definition of intelligence, mind or intending because these concepts are already in use.


6) Page 3, quotation. “Thinking is an enigmatic process and we are a long way off from complete understanding of it”. And now one starts experimenting. Evidently without realizing what it is that makes thinking enigmatic to us.  The experimental method does something; its failure to solve the problem is blamed on its still being in its beginnings.


But is thinking enigmatic? Is it really?  When you say…”Please be quiet, I’m thinking”….or….”Why do you do that, what were you thinking?” Is thinking enigmatic?  Do you struggle with the nature of it?


Baker and Hacker might say that psychologists and philosophers have turned questions such as the nature of thinking or intelligence in to enigmatic mysteries. They have convinced us all that the nature of thinking is a deep mystery to be solved by special forms of philosophical or experimental investigation.


Philosophers have convinced most that the solution to the problem lies in metaphysical style rational analysis in which we must theorize about what things are. And they have developed numerous theories to account for the mysteries they have created - these are the pseudo-problems Wittgenstein is talking about.


Modern psychologists have also conceived of such problems as a mystery.  But their attempts to solve their problems have been experimental. In psychology we believe that the solution to the problem of the nature of thinking, for example, will be to experimentally discover it. Perhaps in an fmri study. And so we ask people to think, while we look carefully at brain activity - this is a CV Theory style approach to the problem of what thinking is.


But Baker and Hacker are saying that no empirical discoveries can tell us anything at all about what thinking is.  At most, psychological research can only shed light on the neural correlates of thinking and the physiological preconditions for thinking. I am sure that Wittgenstein would also note at this point that in order to discover the neural correlates or physiological preconditions of thinking, one must already know what thinking is.


7) Page 3, paragraph 1, first and second sentences. “Our psychological concepts, Wittgenstein insisted, are widely ramifying, lacking in unifying employment and not readily surveyable. They are not typically illuminatingly defined by atomization into necessary and sufficient conditions.”


In this passage, Baker and Hacker note that operational style definitions (atomization into necessary and sufficient conditions) are not sufficient to clearly represent the meaning of complex psychological constructs.  Consider trying to operationally define the mind. The concept of mind is exceedingly complex and used in many different ways. We might say, for example:


I am of two minds on that problem……I have half a mind to end this charade….An idea just popped into my mind….What kind of mind does it take to conceive that dastardly plan…..I have had Jennifer Lopez on my mind all day….I’m not wrong I just changed my mind….Hacker has a keen, intimidating mind….and so on.


The concept of mind is employed in very many different ways in very many different contexts (i.e., widely ramifying and lacking in unifying employment). Although we can all use the concept of mind, we are often unable to describe all of the complex ways in which it is used and are often ignorant of the logical features of concepts – for example, it may not be clear to us whether the mind is kind of thing which has a separate existence form the brain or is not an object or thing in any sense.


In this regard, Wittgenstein called for an entirely new method of philosophy.  In the course of his lectures in 1930-33 Wittgenstein claimed that philosophy as he was now practicing it was not merely a stage in the continuous development of the subject, but a new subject (in Kuhn's language this would be a paradigm shift in philosophy). Wittgenstein wrote in the early 1930’s...


“A commonsense person, when he reads earlier philosophers thinks – quite rightly – ‘sheer nonsense’. When he listens to me, he thinks – rightly again – ‘Nothing but stale truisms’. This is how philosophy has changed.”


This quotation illustrates nicely the sharp break in the evolution of philosophy that Wittgenstein envisaged (This never happened by the way. Philosophy has not changed in any noticeable way since Wittgenstein.)


But the point that Wittgenstein wants to make is that the traditional methods of philosophy – the development of metaphysical, and/or epistemological theories about the true essence of nature, reality, the mind, and truth are fundamentally misguided.  Wittgenstein wrote:


“Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical”.


And the fundamental reason why they are nonsensical is that they are based in the misapplication of language. A philosophical mystery is nothing but a linguistic confusion - so the mind-body problem is just a nonsensical question based in the misuse of language. It is a question like...."How does my big toe interact with Thursday"....there is no answer to questions that make no sense.


In the second part of the quotation above, Wittgenstein anticipates the common person’s view of his work as nothing but stale truisms.  What does this mean? Well simply that Wittgenstein’s method is just to show how common language is correctly used - for example to say that not all words are names for things. To you and me it is an obvious, stale truism that numbers are not objects in the same sense as chairs or tables.  But to the modern philosopher of mathematics who believes that number-words are names of numbers, that numbers are objects, that they can be proven to exist, and that they are objects of mathematical experience this is a (incoherent) mystery. And so it appears that, according to Wittgenstein, the job of the philosopher is actually prophylactic against the tendency of the philosopher (not the common language user) to employ confused uses of everyday concepts!


8) Page 3, paragraph 1, third sentence. “Nor can they be explained by private ostensive definition, for one does not acquire the concept of a headache, of intending or dreaming….by having a headache, an intention or dream….”

A private ostensive definition is an idea that comes from philosophy.  This is the idea that our understanding of the meaning of a mental concept is given by our own private recognition of the mental event. I know, for example, what a headache is just because I have headaches and can tell you what my headache feels like.


Now this is tricky. Let’s look at the idea of an ostensive definition. An ostensive definition is definition by illustration or example. So let’s say you ask me “What is red.” PART of the definition of red is given by recourse to examples.  I may ostensively define red for you by pointing at a red object.  So a private ostensive definition is just definition by “privately pointing at” private experiences. So, the idea goes, PART of the meaning of a headache is your own inward, or private pointing at your own headache.


This idea is related to the view that the meaning of a mental expression is linked to the experience of it. Under this view, what happiness, for example, means to me may be different that what it means to you because we both experience happiness in different ways.


But Wittgenstein argues that there is no such thing as a private ostensive definition. His argument against the private ostensive definition is, in part, known as the private language argument.


Baker and Hacker refer to the basic idea in the latter part of the sentence when he says that the concept of a headache is not acquired by having one. In fact, we all understand the concept of ‘heart attack’ and know what this means even though we have never had a heart attack. It is not necessary to have a mental experience in order to know what the word that denotes this experience means.  It is not necessary to be intelligent in order to know what intelligence means and this is because intelligence is not defined by private ostensive definition.


Now, as I noted above, the private language argument shows the fallacy in the common and related practice of private, individual definition or meaning.  In the private language argument, Wittgenstein showed that language is public and shared, not private and accessible only to the individual language user. What depression means is given by the correct ways in which the concept is used in common language (its manifold uses and circumstances of employment as Hacker says in sentence five of this paragraph). This use is public and shared and is not contained in the private medium of the mind.


9) Page 3, paragraph 1, last sentence. “The only way to get a given psychological expression in sharp view is to elaborate in detail its manifold uses, to examine the circumstances of its employment.”


This is really Wittgenstein’s critical insight – that the meaning of a word is given by the use of the word.  The use of words includes explanations of how to use the word. So when a young person is taught how to employ an expression, part of what they are taught is the meaning of the expression.


Now, Wittgenstein is saying that words are used according to rules for the use of the word.  So this means that what we teach when we explain how to use a word are rules for the use of the word.


10) Page 4, last paragraph, first sentence. “The positive task of philosophy of mind is the clarification of psychological concepts and the resolution of philosophical problems about the mind; it is not concerned with constructing theories about the mind….”


Baker and Hacker are saying that philosophy should not involve the constructing and testing of theories about what things are.  In the next two sentences he makes it clear that both empirical theories and philosophical theories of the mind should not be a part of philosophy.


He then says that what philosophy should involve is “the description of the use of mental expressions, of the circumstances in which they are employed, the complex grammatical structures in which they occur (and those which they cannot significantly occur), of the behaviour in different circumstances which provides grounds for their use…..”  And, as Baker and Hacker note in the previous paragraph, this process can not be short-cut by stipulating a single, simple (merkmal) definition of a concept as if this definition captures the actual meaning of the term.


Now, if we can not define by merkmal definition, then operational definitions of psychological concepts do not correctly define them. We may operationally define intelligence as a score on an IQ test, but this does not mean that the IQ score is a measure of intelligence.  Intelligence is a complex, somewhat subjective concept.  When we learn to use the concept of intelligence we do not learn a measurement grammar (concepts involving the units of intelligence measurement, measurement devices and methods of intelligence measurement). It follows from this that there is no such thing as a measurement of intelligence, just like there is no such thing as the weight of a number.


Just to finish this off then, here is a critique, from the Ordinary Language point of view, of Professor Greenfield's talk on consciousness that we watched earlier....



That's enough for now.....go ahead and read the rest of the paper and ask in class if you have questions.




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