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Entries in pragmatism (1)


Language, Dworkin & Pragamtism

(sent to law courts)

... a couple of points about "the decorations:"

1. Pragmatism exists in two forms: (a) as "placecard philosophy" (what we do just to get the job done for now); and (b) as non-philosophy ("I quit"). I would say the former is very much part of "scholastics" (properly understood) but not the latter (in the distinction you proposed).

2. English professors and literary figures are not really the keepers of language, they are only its lexicographers, enjoyers, teachers and celebrators. When we get down to the question of how language refers and what it means, we are dealing with questions of cognitive linguistics and neuroscience on the one hand, and philosophy of language on the other. The claim that people determine what words mean is only true in a Wittgensteinian sense -- that language is use -- not in the radical proposition of "anything goes." No person is at liberty to invent meanings in language. They are only at liberty to make plays in language game (the cultural activity). If one chooses to be silly with language, one would be playing the game of silly, not language.

3. I was thinking today during the proctoring of an exam exactly what you said about Dworkin's chain novel example. In fact, I read that part of the book while kids took exams. I think it is a mistake to treat that as analogy rather than metaphor. I think the general idea is that even creativity has grounds and, as such, involves an epistemic process of some kind. I do think, however, that one could probably study serial novelists and find that what is actually going on is not what, in retrospect, Dworkin might have wanted to convey. In other words, I would take the idea as a vehicle for his thoughts -- i.e., take it as what he was thinking about serial novelists. (Serial novelists in theory?). It's only a vehicle.