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Right now I'm trying to read Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. Before I bought the book I heard that it is one of the difficult philosophical books to understand. I agree with this observation, it's been really difficult for me to try and understand.

I still don't quite understand the main concept of the book, language games. Can anyone please explain language games and the significance of it? Keep in mind I know the definition of it, so please don't just copy/paste some definition from Wikipedia or a philosophy dictionary. If you understand what language games is and it's significance, please actually explain it and maybe even give an example or two.

Thanks
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it. You can have multiple language games within a single overarching natural language (such as English), and English itself can be seen as one massive language game. A language game needs players - that is, people to use the vocabulary for the purposes for which it is intended.

An example of a language game might be the theology of a specific religion (as is appropriate for these forums). Catholic theology, for example, has developed a rich language game over the years, with jargon such as transubstantiation, immaculate conception, true god from true god, begotten not made, salvation, grace, faith, works, you name it.

While these terms are usable in one sense in everyday English, the language game of Catholic theology is also in a sense more self-contained than English as a whole - you need to be a player to understand how these terms are used in everyday life, and how Catholics debate about religious doctrine using them. They all have special meanings for the players, and that meaning simply is the way they're used - or rather, there is no such thing as "meaning" proper, but only the way people use words.

Wittgenstein thinks that problems arise when you take vocabulary from a language game and export them into another language game. So, for instance, if we were to take the Catholic concept of the soul and import it into the language game of Western science, then we might ask a question like "is the soul measurable? Does it have mass? Where does it go, physically, upon death?" But this is a violation of the language game - in the "home" language game in which the word "soul" is used, these types of questions as applied to it don't even make sense - the scientist is looking for an answer where there is none, and in the process falsely thinking that he is either discovering paradoxes or refuting the claims of Catholicism.

So, all philosophical problems that seem to be head-scratchers - for example, "how do I know that there exists a real world corresponding to my mental representations?" are actually instances of inappropriately crossing language games, and are problems to be dissolved by clarifying the use of language, rather than solved on their own terms. That is because the terms don't make sense - since languages are just actions we perform and the way we use words, we have smooth sailing if we grease our language games to use them appropriately and deal with the world efficiently.
Ban's avatar

Jeering Regular

The basic concept, as far as I understand it, is that language overall is a complex thing, but language-games as a subset represent fairly simplistic uses that are context dependent. The context, or actions, are 'woven into' the language because they are what give the terms of the language-game meaning. A ways of thinking of it is to say that words themselves are meaningless without a context. So, when I say the word "check," for example, what it means depends on the context in which I'm saying it. If I'm sitting across from you and we're playing chess, then I'm probably speaking in a defined terminology associated with chess. If I'm sitting across from you and we're in a restaurant, I'm speaking in another defined terminology suitable to eating out.

Our use of language is meaningful based on rules, and those rules are determined by our actions. It's just a model for deconstructing language use, to get at the idea of how language is part of human behavior.
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it. You can have multiple language games within a single overarching natural language (such as English), and English itself can be seen as one massive language game. A language game needs players - that is, people to use the vocabulary for the purposes for which it is intended.

An example of a language game might be the theology of a specific religion (as is appropriate for these forums). Catholic theology, for example, has developed a rich language game over the years, with jargon such as transubstantiation, immaculate conception, true god from true god, begotten not made, salvation, grace, faith, works, you name it.

While these terms are usable in one sense in everyday English, the language game of Catholic theology is also in a sense more self-contained than English as a whole - you need to be a player to understand how these terms are used in everyday life, and how Catholics debate about religious doctrine using them. They all have special meanings for the players, and that meaning simply is the way they're used - or rather, there is no such thing as "meaning" proper, but only the way people use words.

Wittgenstein thinks that problems arise when you take vocabulary from a language game and export them into another language game. So, for instance, if we were to take the Catholic concept of the soul and import it into the language game of Western science, then we might ask a question like "is the soul measurable? Does it have mass? Where does it go, physically, upon death?" But this is a violation of the language game - in the "home" language game in which the word "soul" is used, these types of questions as applied to it don't even make sense - the scientist is looking for an answer where there is none, and in the process falsely thinking that he is either discovering paradoxes or refuting the claims of Catholicism.

So, all philosophical problems that seem to be head-scratchers - for example, "how do I know that there exists a real world corresponding to my mental representations?" are actually instances of inappropriately crossing language games, and are problems to be dissolved by clarifying the use of language, rather than solved on their own terms. That is because the terms don't make sense - since languages are just actions we perform and the way we use words, we have smooth sailing if we grease our language games to use them appropriately and deal with the world efficiently.


I think I vaguely understand it, but I'm dense so I'm still having a difficult time understanding it exactly.

So is the mixing up of language games sort of similar to the equivocation fallacy?

I understand your example with the example of the soul being a word originally from the catholic language game and then being converted to science. However what I don't understand (but I want to understand) is your last paragraph. I don't understand how the question you posed in the last paragraph can be solved just by clarifying our words and fixing the language games back to where they belong.
Gonecrazy12345
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it. You can have multiple language games within a single overarching natural language (such as English), and English itself can be seen as one massive language game. A language game needs players - that is, people to use the vocabulary for the purposes for which it is intended.

An example of a language game might be the theology of a specific religion (as is appropriate for these forums). Catholic theology, for example, has developed a rich language game over the years, with jargon such as transubstantiation, immaculate conception, true god from true god, begotten not made, salvation, grace, faith, works, you name it.

While these terms are usable in one sense in everyday English, the language game of Catholic theology is also in a sense more self-contained than English as a whole - you need to be a player to understand how these terms are used in everyday life, and how Catholics debate about religious doctrine using them. They all have special meanings for the players, and that meaning simply is the way they're used - or rather, there is no such thing as "meaning" proper, but only the way people use words.

Wittgenstein thinks that problems arise when you take vocabulary from a language game and export them into another language game. So, for instance, if we were to take the Catholic concept of the soul and import it into the language game of Western science, then we might ask a question like "is the soul measurable? Does it have mass? Where does it go, physically, upon death?" But this is a violation of the language game - in the "home" language game in which the word "soul" is used, these types of questions as applied to it don't even make sense - the scientist is looking for an answer where there is none, and in the process falsely thinking that he is either discovering paradoxes or refuting the claims of Catholicism.

So, all philosophical problems that seem to be head-scratchers - for example, "how do I know that there exists a real world corresponding to my mental representations?" are actually instances of inappropriately crossing language games, and are problems to be dissolved by clarifying the use of language, rather than solved on their own terms. That is because the terms don't make sense - since languages are just actions we perform and the way we use words, we have smooth sailing if we grease our language games to use them appropriately and deal with the world efficiently.


I think I vaguely understand it, but I'm dense so I'm still having a difficult time understanding it exactly.

So is the mixing up of language games sort of similar to the equivocation fallacy?

I understand your example with the example of the soul being a word originally from the catholic language game and then being converted to science. However what I don't understand (but I want to understand) is your last paragraph. I don't understand how the question you posed in the last paragraph can be solved just by clarifying our words and fixing the language games back to where they belong.


You can fix it by realizing that the word "soul," as used by Catholics, is not something to be measured scientifically, and so asking questions about its measurement is nonsensical. So, the problem dissolves - there is no problem.
Ban's avatar

Jeering Regular

I Refute Berkeley Thus
Gonecrazy12345
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it. You can have multiple language games within a single overarching natural language (such as English), and English itself can be seen as one massive language game. A language game needs players - that is, people to use the vocabulary for the purposes for which it is intended.

An example of a language game might be the theology of a specific religion (as is appropriate for these forums). Catholic theology, for example, has developed a rich language game over the years, with jargon such as transubstantiation, immaculate conception, true god from true god, begotten not made, salvation, grace, faith, works, you name it.

While these terms are usable in one sense in everyday English, the language game of Catholic theology is also in a sense more self-contained than English as a whole - you need to be a player to understand how these terms are used in everyday life, and how Catholics debate about religious doctrine using them. They all have special meanings for the players, and that meaning simply is the way they're used - or rather, there is no such thing as "meaning" proper, but only the way people use words.

Wittgenstein thinks that problems arise when you take vocabulary from a language game and export them into another language game. So, for instance, if we were to take the Catholic concept of the soul and import it into the language game of Western science, then we might ask a question like "is the soul measurable? Does it have mass? Where does it go, physically, upon death?" But this is a violation of the language game - in the "home" language game in which the word "soul" is used, these types of questions as applied to it don't even make sense - the scientist is looking for an answer where there is none, and in the process falsely thinking that he is either discovering paradoxes or refuting the claims of Catholicism.

So, all philosophical problems that seem to be head-scratchers - for example, "how do I know that there exists a real world corresponding to my mental representations?" are actually instances of inappropriately crossing language games, and are problems to be dissolved by clarifying the use of language, rather than solved on their own terms. That is because the terms don't make sense - since languages are just actions we perform and the way we use words, we have smooth sailing if we grease our language games to use them appropriately and deal with the world efficiently.


I think I vaguely understand it, but I'm dense so I'm still having a difficult time understanding it exactly.

So is the mixing up of language games sort of similar to the equivocation fallacy?

I understand your example with the example of the soul being a word originally from the catholic language game and then being converted to science. However what I don't understand (but I want to understand) is your last paragraph. I don't understand how the question you posed in the last paragraph can be solved just by clarifying our words and fixing the language games back to where they belong.


You can fix it by realizing that the word "soul," as used by Catholics, is not something to be measured scientifically, and so asking questions about its measurement is nonsensical. So, the problem dissolves - there is no problem.
I think he was referring to the real world/mental representations thing you posed in the last paragraph.
Ban
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Gonecrazy12345
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it. You can have multiple language games within a single overarching natural language (such as English), and English itself can be seen as one massive language game. A language game needs players - that is, people to use the vocabulary for the purposes for which it is intended.

An example of a language game might be the theology of a specific religion (as is appropriate for these forums). Catholic theology, for example, has developed a rich language game over the years, with jargon such as transubstantiation, immaculate conception, true god from true god, begotten not made, salvation, grace, faith, works, you name it.

While these terms are usable in one sense in everyday English, the language game of Catholic theology is also in a sense more self-contained than English as a whole - you need to be a player to understand how these terms are used in everyday life, and how Catholics debate about religious doctrine using them. They all have special meanings for the players, and that meaning simply is the way they're used - or rather, there is no such thing as "meaning" proper, but only the way people use words.

Wittgenstein thinks that problems arise when you take vocabulary from a language game and export them into another language game. So, for instance, if we were to take the Catholic concept of the soul and import it into the language game of Western science, then we might ask a question like "is the soul measurable? Does it have mass? Where does it go, physically, upon death?" But this is a violation of the language game - in the "home" language game in which the word "soul" is used, these types of questions as applied to it don't even make sense - the scientist is looking for an answer where there is none, and in the process falsely thinking that he is either discovering paradoxes or refuting the claims of Catholicism.

So, all philosophical problems that seem to be head-scratchers - for example, "how do I know that there exists a real world corresponding to my mental representations?" are actually instances of inappropriately crossing language games, and are problems to be dissolved by clarifying the use of language, rather than solved on their own terms. That is because the terms don't make sense - since languages are just actions we perform and the way we use words, we have smooth sailing if we grease our language games to use them appropriately and deal with the world efficiently.


I think I vaguely understand it, but I'm dense so I'm still having a difficult time understanding it exactly.

So is the mixing up of language games sort of similar to the equivocation fallacy?

I understand your example with the example of the soul being a word originally from the catholic language game and then being converted to science. However what I don't understand (but I want to understand) is your last paragraph. I don't understand how the question you posed in the last paragraph can be solved just by clarifying our words and fixing the language games back to where they belong.


You can fix it by realizing that the word "soul," as used by Catholics, is not something to be measured scientifically, and so asking questions about its measurement is nonsensical. So, the problem dissolves - there is no problem.
I think he was referring to the real world/mental representations thing you posed in the last paragraph.


Oh, my bad.

I think Witti would say that the idea that perceptions are representations is a Cartesian invention that causes confusion when applied to everyday language, since in everyday life we think that we directly perceive objects without the mediation of ideas.

The reasons that the early modern philosophers introduced the distinction was to account for perceptual relativity and the errors of the senses - but in everyday life, we don't take errors of the senses to mean that our "representations" are failing to "match up" with external objects. We just directly perceive objects, and sometimes have a harder time doing so. So the question of whether the external world exists would be bad language - it's taking the everyday sense of "external world" and converting it into an unknowable realm beyond our perceptions. But people just don't use the term that way in everyday life.
I Refute Berkeley Thus
The reasons that the early modern philosophers introduced the distinction was to account for perceptual relativity and the errors of the senses - but in everyday life, we don't take errors of the senses to mean that our "representations" are failing to "match up" with external objects. We just directly perceive objects, and sometimes have a harder time doing so.


What about when we misread something, or find something unexpectedly unintelligible - don't we take that what we read (our "representation" ) isn't what is written (doesn't "match up" )?
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I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it. You can have multiple language games within a single overarching natural language (such as English), and English itself can be seen as one massive language game. A language game needs players - that is, people to use the vocabulary for the purposes for which it is intended.

An example of a language game might be the theology of a specific religion (as is appropriate for these forums). Catholic theology, for example, has developed a rich language game over the years, with jargon such as transubstantiation, immaculate conception, true god from true god, begotten not made, salvation, grace, faith, works, you name it.

While these terms are usable in one sense in everyday English, the language game of Catholic theology is also in a sense more self-contained than English as a whole - you need to be a player to understand how these terms are used in everyday life, and how Catholics debate about religious doctrine using them. They all have special meanings for the players, and that meaning simply is the way they're used - or rather, there is no such thing as "meaning" proper, but only the way people use words.

Wittgenstein thinks that problems arise when you take vocabulary from a language game and export them into another language game. So, for instance, if we were to take the Catholic concept of the soul and import it into the language game of Western science, then we might ask a question like "is the soul measurable? Does it have mass? Where does it go, physically, upon death?" But this is a violation of the language game - in the "home" language game in which the word "soul" is used, these types of questions as applied to it don't even make sense - the scientist is looking for an answer where there is none, and in the process falsely thinking that he is either discovering paradoxes or refuting the claims of Catholicism.

So, all philosophical problems that seem to be head-scratchers - for example, "how do I know that there exists a real world corresponding to my mental representations?" are actually instances of inappropriately crossing language games, and are problems to be dissolved by clarifying the use of language, rather than solved on their own terms. That is because the terms don't make sense - since languages are just actions we perform and the way we use words, we have smooth sailing if we grease our language games to use them appropriately and deal with the world efficiently.
like how in yugioh people invented word usages to describe certain actions when playign the game that someone outside of it would not even comprehend?
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it.


How is the personal usage of language a subset of language beyond the consideration of language as a field of study?
Aeggnis
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it.


How is the personal usage of language a subset of language beyond the consideration of language as a field of study?


What is personal usage of language?
Lucky~9~Lives
Aeggnis
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it.


How is the personal usage of language a subset of language beyond the consideration of language as a field of study?


What is personal usage of language?


I thought Wittgenstein demonstrated that there's no such thing as a private language.

Maybe though I'm mistakenly assuming in this context, personal is a synonym for private.
Gonecrazy12345
Lucky~9~Lives
Aeggnis
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it.


How is the personal usage of language a subset of language beyond the consideration of language as a field of study?


What is personal usage of language?


I thought Wittgenstein demonstrated that there's no such thing as a private language.

Maybe though I'm mistakenly assuming in this context, personal is a synonym for private.


Me too.
- ninja
Lucky~9~Lives
Aeggnis
I Refute Berkeley Thus
Language games are subsets of languages as a whole as you use them in everyday life - that's it.


How is the personal usage of language a subset of language beyond the consideration of language as a field of study?


What is personal usage of language?


The "subset" he is discussing?
Lucky~9~Lives
I Refute Berkeley Thus
The reasons that the early modern philosophers introduced the distinction was to account for perceptual relativity and the errors of the senses - but in everyday life, we don't take errors of the senses to mean that our "representations" are failing to "match up" with external objects. We just directly perceive objects, and sometimes have a harder time doing so.


What about when we misread something, or find something unexpectedly unintelligible - don't we take that what we read (our "representation" ) isn't what is written (doesn't "match up" )?


Maybe. But this doesn't shake people out of naive realism to think that perceptions are in general only representations of objects. Or at least, not that I'm aware. That idea seems to come along with Galileo and Descartes, with the rise of the new science.

Ryu Kei Shou Kawazu
like how in yugioh people invented word usages to describe certain actions when playign the game that someone outside of it would not even comprehend?


Yeah. Life Points, Attack, Monster, etc. They have a specialized meaning in the context of the card game. You wouldn't ask someone how many attack points they have.

Aeggnis
How is the personal usage of language a subset of language beyond the consideration of language as a field of study?


As has been said, Wittgenstein does not believe that there is a such thing as a "private" language, if that's what you mean by personal. Otherwise, I'm not sure what you mean.

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