Two guest lectures by Danièle Moyal-Sharrock

Danièle Moyal-Sharrock from the University of Hertfordhsire visits the Wittgenstein Archives and the Philosophy Department in the period 10-12 September 2012. In this context, two guest lectures are organized:

  • Tuesday, 11 September, 12.15-14.00, Room 129, Sydnesplassen 12/13: Wittgenstein's Razor

    Action, in Wittgenstein, is at the origin of thought and language. That is, it has regained its rightful place in the description of our human mindedness – a place usurped by an inflated intellect and brain, in the form of content, propositions, representations, traces, or intelligent neurons. This, it is claimed, makes of Wittgenstein the first 'enactivist'. After briefly surveying the various ways in which Wittgenstein emphasizes the primacy of action in his account of mind, language and action, I pause on his 'enactivization' of basic beliefs and memory. I hope thereby to give an idea of how Wittgenstein's razor has pared off some of the excess in epistemology and philosophy of mind, while stressing that his enactivism is not anything added but rather what is left when our superfluous, unsubstantiated, explanation-hungry enhancements have been erased from the straight-forward picture of human action and cognition.

  • Wednesday, 12 September, 12.15-14.00, Room 210, Sydnesplassen 12/13: Coming to Language: Wittgenstein's Social 'Theory' of Language Acquisition

    The two main problems of native language acquisition are: the problem of learning (explaining our grasp of the meaning of words); and the problem of productivity (explaining our ability to understand and produce novel, correct sentences, when the linguistic data we encounter is flawed and limited). Fodor’s and Chomsky's solution to these problems is to posit a mental linguistic structure (universal grammar or language of thought) as the framework that obviates the need for learning and makes an explanation of productivity possible. Ironically, Wittgenstein's solution is not as far removed from Fodor’s and Chomsky's as might be supposed. For, he too posits a framework at the basis of our language-games – indeed a partly grammatical framework which includes a universal grammar. But the commonality stops here, for Wittgenstein's universal grammar is neither innate nor inner; it is rooted in our primitive reactions and transmitted socio-culturally. Wittgenstein’s account of how we come to language can be counted as a social theory of language acquisition: it is in social practices, not in the mind, that we come to language.