Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wittgenstein and the value of clarity again

Just in case anyone's interested, I've revised this paper. The new version is here.


  1. philo of sport, know-how, rules,etc

  2. I've just read your introductory paragraph (I'm not stopping there!), and I want to say already that, as opposed to 'clarity' as a value (in communication), I think the fundamental concept is going to be 'clarification' as a progressive process of the revision of expressions, and that we need to get clear about the criteria that determine, given two sentences, s1 and s2, whether or not s2 is an acceptable clarification of s1. s1 and s2 may even both be true in the Tarskian sense, but s2 may be "better" for the communicative purposes than s1; e.g., s2 may provide a deeper and more detailed account of a causal relation between two events, so that s2 is "preferable" for the understanding. Deliberate unclarity is bad, but the refusal to clarify is an indication of intellectual dishonesty, and should be noted as such in any communicative situation, at least in the public debate. (Let me note that Republicans regularly refuse to clarify.)

    'communication' and 'understanding' I would regard as additional and separate categories, which I think can be given definitions in formal terms, given the fundamental linguistic notions. In general, I also think an account of meaning where the fundamental intuitive guiding concept is understanding, perhaps in the sense of Dummett (Thought and Reality), rather than truth in the Tarskian sense (which I think is inadequate for natural (non-formal) and referential use of language) would be more effective in allowing us to understand the phenomenon of linguistic meaning, indeed, whether we're talking about meaning expressed in natural language use or in formal language use.

    1. Thanks for this.

      I agree that "Deliberate unclarity is bad, but the refusal to clarify is an indication of intellectual dishonesty". My focus in this paper, though, is the former rather than the latter. Actually, I don't distinguish much between deliberate clarity and accidental unclarity. Perhaps I should.

      There is at least a book's worth of issues in this area, I think. Clarification is, as you say, a very important one.