Would it be reasonable to take Wittgenstein’s case against private language as his case in favor of public language? Or is that too simple? As I was listening to episode 56, a quote from William James from Pragmatismcame to mind:
All human thinking gets discursified; we exchange ideas; we lend and borrow verifications, get them from one another by means of social intercourse. All truth thus gets verbally built out, stored up, and made available for everyone.
Hence, we must talk consistently just as we must think consistently: for both in talk and thought we deal with kinds. Names are arbitrary, but once understood they must be kept to. We mustn’t now call Abel ‘Cain’ or Cain ‘Abel.’ If we do, we ungear ourselves from the whole book of Genesis, and from all its connexions with the universe of speech and fact down to the present time. We throw ourselves out of whatever truth that entire system of speech and fact may embody.
The demand for consistency in our uses of language is, according to James, almost a matter of remaining within the bounds of sanity. If we constantly confuse the murderers with their victims, we “ungear ourselves” from the whole universe of speech – and to have a private language, supposing it were possible, is to be isolated in the corner of dunces. Are James and Wittgenstein saying the same thing on this point?
(Image by Conrad Botes.)