If so, doesn't this characterize language as being within a language game, thus undermining Wittgenstein's anti-essentialism?

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    Found the answer to part of my question: "We can also think of the whole process of using words in (2) as one of those games by means of which children learn their native language. I will call these games "language games" and will sometimes speak of a primitive language as a language-game... I shall also call the whole, consisting of language and the activities into which it is woven, a "language game" "(Philosophical Investigations 7). Which sounds like a 'yes, all language usage is in a language game'. – calling May 1 '13 at 3:40
  • Nice find! Could you elaborate why you think this would violate his 'anti-essentialism'? Is not like any language game is the essence of language. – jeroenk Jun 3 '13 at 9:57

There is a strong case to be made that Wittgenstein did not hold any 'anti-essentialism', for in PI he clearly rejects metaphysics (eg see here).

In any case, it would be quite wrong to think that games or gameness determines the 'essence' of language. Read on in PI and you will see a game is for Wittgenstein a 'family resemblance' concept. There is no essence of a game, but many overlapping features with no sharp edges (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_resemblance).

PI 69:

How should we explain to someone what a game is? I imagine that we should describe games to him, and we might add: "This and similar things are called 'games' ". And do we know any more about it ourselves? Is it only other people whom we cannot tell exactly what a game is?—But this is not ignorance. We do not know the boundaries because none have been drawn. To repeat, we can draw a boundary— for a special purpose. Does it take that to make the concept usable? Not at all!


In Tratactus, Wittgenstein says that no proposition can say anything about itself:

3.332 No proposition can say anything about itself, because the propositional sign cannot be contained in itself (that is the whole "theory of types").

You should read this question to clarify the ideia:

Should Wittgenstein be given some credit for Godel's incompleteness theorem?

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    Isn't that the wrong Wittgenstein for this question? It's perhaps likely that on this point he didn't change his position, but the question seems to require something from the PI rather than the TLP. – Niel de Beaudrap May 1 '13 at 17:09
  • Right, @NieldeBeaudrap. Now that I've thought about my question more, I guess I'm wondering whether the proposition that all language use is in a language game implies that language games are an essential property of language use. – calling May 1 '13 at 18:40
  • What is the 'propositional sign'? – Mozibur Ullah May 7 '13 at 7:14
  • @MoziburUllah a sign that denotes/encodes a proposition? --This strikes me as similar as Deleuze in Logic of Sense, suggesting that a proposition can never say it's own sense; it demands further propositions to do that, which in turn demand further propositions, etc. :) --It also seems possible this all connects through Lacan -- the idea that the speaker doesn't have authority over the sense of the signifiers they enunciate. – Joseph Weissman May 31 '13 at 17:08
  • @Weissman: well, that interpretation does fit in with the theory of types. – Mozibur Ullah May 31 '13 at 17:16

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