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15 - Teaching and learning

Arata Hamawaki
Affiliation:
Auburn University
Kelly Dean Jolley
Affiliation:
Auburn University, Alabama
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Summary

Seen from a certain perspective, the expressions that we use in language can seem to be, as Wittgenstein put it, “dead” (see PI §454). After all, in one sense, the expressions themselves are mere marks on a piece of paper or on the blackboard, or sounds in the air. What gives those expressions “life”, that is, what is it that makes those expressions bearers of meanings? I think that it is against the background of this question that Wittgenstein's preoccupation with teaching and learning a language gets its significance, but I find that it is not an easy matter saying what that significance is. In Section 2 of Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein describes what he calls “a language more primitive than ours”:

The language is meant to serve for communication between builder A and an assistant B. A is building with building-stones: there are blocks, pillars, slabs and beams. B has to pass the stones, and that in the order in which A needs them. For this purpose they use a language consisting of the words “block”, “pillar”, “slab”, “beam”. A calls them out; – B brings the stone which he has learnt to bring at such-and-such a call. – Conceive this as a complete primitive language. […]

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Wittgenstein
Key Concepts
, pp. 175 - 184
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2010

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