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Ian MacKenzie WITTGENSTEIN AND AESTHETIC RESPONSES In the posthumously assembled and published Blue and Brown BooL· and Lectures and Conversations, Wittgenstein asserts that aesthetic responses are not causal responses. They name the objects, or targets, of feelings, rather than their causes, and are not open to experimental revision. No alteration to a work of art which led to the retraction of a judgment could prove conclusively that the judgment had been directed at that particular aspect. Changing a work of art produces a new object and a new response. Since Wittgenstein also states that thought takes place in language, so that any change of wording produces a different meaning, his view of aesthetic response complements the New Critical doctrine of "the heresy of paraphrase." Yet it is possible to distinguish between aesthetic responses which may well have no causal element and those which name a particular aspect of an object and thus seem to have definite causal implications. It is also often argued that "stylistic" changes can be made to a text which alter its affective character (and thus aesthetic response) but not its meaning. If this were so, it would be necessary to qualify Wittgenstein's assertions about causality and aesthetic response. Wittgenstein argues that thought is purely linguistic. "When I think in language, there aren't 'meanings' going through my mind in addition to the verbal expressions: the language is itself the vehicle of thought" {PI, §329).1 We can lead people from one form of expression to another by suggesting, "So you really wanted to say . . .," but this is a way of clarifying someone's ideas for him, not of expressing something he had thought but not expressed. The notion that "what he really 'wanted to say', what he 'meant' was already present somewhere in his mind even before we gave it expression" is mistaken {PI, §334). 92 Ian MacKenzie93 Wittgenstein continues, "Now if it were asked: 'Do you have the thought before finding the expression?' what would one have to reply? And what, to the question: 'What did the thought consist in, as it existed before its expression?'" {PI, §335). He has no use for the nonverbal, intuited eidetic essences of Husserl. Wittgenstein does not consider the idea of private sensations to be very helpful. It is possible, but unverifiable, that one section of mankind has one sensation of"red" and another section another {PI, §272), but as long as one knows what someone is looking at, if not what he sees, one can use words with shared meanings to discuss the object in question.2 Even if "every familiar word, in a book for example, actually carries an atmosphere with it in our minds, a 'corona' of lightly indicated uses . . . this simply goes for us. But we have to communicate with other people without knowing if they have this experience too" {PI, p. 181). Wittgenstein is not arguing that we do not intend or understand a sentence we utter until it is completed. "A whole thought" can occur to us "in a flash" {PI, §319) and we then utter the proposition. Wittgenstein compares this with searching for a tune which has momentarily escaped the memory: "suddenly I say 'now I know it' and I sing it. What was it like to suddenly know it? Surely it can't have occurred to me in its entirety in that moment!" {PI, §184). Wittgenstein's answer is yes, just as one can intend the construction of a sentence in advance because one knows the language. Understanding, like intending, is possible because we know the language . "Tb understand a proposition is to understand a language" {PG,§84). Meaning is inseparable from use— it is use in a language. "If you know how to use a word, you know its meaning" {WVC, p. 237). Ostensive definitions ofthe "This is a table" variety, familiar to anyone who has suffered unenlightened foreign language teaching, only make sense if one already knows the meaning of the word. Pointing to something and saying, "This is red," could be understood by someone unfamiliar with the adjective to mean this is paper, shiny, light, thin, etc. {PG, §24). Words cannot be defined ostensively or referentially, but...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 92-103
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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