Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-7f7b94f6bd-rpk4r Total loading time: 0.32 Render date: 2022-06-28T10:17:54.888Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true
This chapter is part of a book that is no longer available to purchase from Cambridge Core

7 - Thinking and understanding

Phil Hutchinson
Affiliation:
Manchester Metropolitan University
Kelly Dean Jolley
Affiliation:
Auburn University, Alabama
Get access

Summary

Introduction

Consider some questions: What is thinking? What is understanding? What affords us the right to say of someone that they are thinking? What are the criteria of correctness for employment of the word “understanding” (i.e. what grounds do we have for predicating of someone understanding)? Is there something common to all instances of “thinking” and of “understanding” that helps us here? Indeed, could there be some thing or process underlying instances of thinking and understanding (respectively) that could satisfy us?

Two more questions. What view(s) did Wittgenstein hold on “thinking” and on “understanding”? Did Wittgenstein offer us an answer to the questions “What is thinking?” and “What is understanding?”?

One of the areas of philosophy to which Wittgenstein is taken to have contributed most is philosophical psychology, and he certainly had things to say about thinking (and thought) and understanding (see e.g. PI §§138–55 for a discussion of “thinking” and §§327–76 for a discussion of “understanding”). But does that mean he held or propounded, qua philosopher, (philosophical) views on these issues? Wittgenstein is taken by many to have held that much of mental life, what we call thinking, is linguistic in some deep way, and thus being committed to the notion that that which cannot speak cannot think. Consider the following passage from Matt Cartmill (a sadly indicative example, selected for its availability – i.e. its Google-ability – online):

Many Western thinkers have … insisted that because animals can't talk, their mental lives are defective in big ways, or even nonexistent. “Thinking”, wrote Wittgenstein, “is essentially the activity of operating with signs”. […]

Type
Chapter
Information
Wittgenstein
Key Concepts
, pp. 92 - 108
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
1
Cited by

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×