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Zwischen Worte und Wörter - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Zwischen Worte und Wörter
I'm reading Gottlob Frege for the first time. I had imagined that it would be difficult going. But I'm pleasantly surprised at the clarity and concision of his prose. It's considerably easier on the mental ear than that of John Searle, who named a dog after him, and exceeds that of Ludwig Wittgenstein in what I will call, perhaps unfairly, its "Anglo-American" directness:
Wenn man in her gewöhnlichen Weise Worte gebraucht, so ist das, wovon man sprechen will, deren Bedeutung. Es kann aber auch vorkommen, daß man von den Worten selbst oder von ihrem Sinne reden will. Jenes geschieht z.B., wenn man die Worte eines anderen in gerader Rede anführt. Die eigenen Worte bedeuten dann zunächst die Worte des anderen, und erst diese haben die gewöhnliche Bedeutung. Wir haben dann Zeichen von Zeichen. In der Schrift schließt man in diesem Falle die Wortbilder in Anführungszeichen ein. Es darf also ein in Anführungszeichen stehendes Wortbild nicht in der gewöhnlichen Bedeutung genommen werden.

Wenn man von dem Sinne eines Ausdrucks ,A' reden will, so kann man dies einfach durch die Wendung ,der Sinn des Ausdrucks ,A". In der ungeraden Rede spricht man von dem Sinne z.B. der Redes eines andern. Es ist daraus klar, daß auch in dieser Redeweise die Worte nicht ihre gewöhnliche Bedeutung haben, sondern das bedeuten, was gewöhnlich ihr Sinn ist. Um einen kurzen Ausdruck zu haben, wollen wir sagen: die Wörter werden in der ungeraden Rede ungerade gebraucht oder haben ihre ungerade Bedeutung. Wir unterscheiden demnach die gewöhnliche Bedeutung eines Wortes von seiner ungeraden und seinen gewöhnlichen Sinn von seinem ungeraden Sinne. Die ungerade Bedeutung eines Wortes is also sein gewöhnlicher Sinn. Solche Ausnahmen muß man immer im Auge behalten, wenn man die Verknüpfungsweise von Zeichen, Sinn und Bedeutung im einzelnen Falle richtig auffassen will.
I wish I'd had this passage at my disposal when I taught my graduate course on "Ordinary and Extraordinary Language" back in the spring of 2002, because Frege does a better job of explaining the distinction between conventional and exceptional usage than anyone I've read. Oh, and I'll buy a beer for anyone who is willing to join me in making the daring leap between the sort of "Ausnahmen" that Frege invokes here and the sort that appear in Carl Schmitt's Political Theology and the Giorgio Agamben texts that play off of Schmitt's argument. I'm making my way to a place that's good, even if the topography looks to be rather imposing.

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Current Location: 85721
Mode: spindly yet torpid
Muse: "Strolling On The Street" - Various Artists - Metropolis Shanghai: Showboat To China

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From: bobo_amargo Date: May 16th, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Sin & Bedoubting

Well, I’ll nibble but I won’t bite. I grant that the topography is imposing, but I’m not sure about the place to which you’re making your way. I’m not familiar with Carl Schmitt’s use of the word ausnahmen, but I suspect—powerfully thirsty for a beer though I am on this warm San Francisco afternoon—that I cannot join you in your leap (though I like to make precisely this kind of connection when I can; even the mistaken ones, I’ve found, can be productive).

My German’s not yours and I don’t have access right now to the English, but this passage seems to me to deal with Frege’s attempt to get his theory of sense and reference to work with the problem of oratio obliqua (ungeraden Rede) or, more generally, what Quine came to call opaque contexts. Frege’s answer: a version of what later came to be called semantic ascent, i.e., instead of words purporting to talk about things, words purport to talk about words purporting to talk about things (related to the use/mention distinction).

Take the sentence (1) “Skylar believes that her dad is cool” and compare it to the sentence (2) “Skylar believes that the founding member of Bad Subjects who recently interviewed Charles Bernstein is cool” (for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that the definite description in the embedded noun clause of [2] uniquely individuates one Charlie Bertsch). On Frege’s theory, under ordinary (i.e., nonopaque) circumstances, the reference or Bedeutung of all of the following preserve truth (i.e., are intersubstitutional salva veritate): (a) Skylar’s dad; (b) the founding member of Bad Subjects who recently interviewed Charles Bernstein; and (c) Charlie Bertsch. What differs among these singular terms, under ordinary (i.e., nonopaque) circumstances, is their sense or Sinn. Each is true of the same referent, namely, you, but each means something slightly different. Or, put otherwise (as Frege does elsewhere), each presents you in a different mode or manner.

Now, to what do (a), (b), and (c) refer under the sign of Skylar’s belief? For Frege’s theory to work, their referring to you cannot rely on whether or not Skylar (or anyone) knows them all to refer to you; otherwise, logic is no longer the objective endeavor he argues it to be (it’s once again psychologized). But it’s patently clear that (1) above can be true without (2)’s being true. To save his theory and defeat the apparent counterexample, Frege proposed that in oratio obliqua, (a), (b), and (c) do not refer to you; rather, they refer to what they ordinarily mean in oratio directa, i.e., they refer to the way in which you’re therein presented.

I believe it’s still generally held that Davidson, in his “On Saying That,” definitively provided a way of saving referential truth, even in oratio obliqua, without indulging in semantic ascent. However, someone (I believe it was Max Black) thought it was a good idea to analyze metaphor precisely in terms of this Fregean take on semantic ascent (i.e., metaphorical expressions refer not to things or persons but to the modes by which they are presented, their senses).
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 16th, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: Sin & Bedoubting

I was kidding about the leap, at least in part. To make it would be to risk engaging in the sort of hubristic long jumping that brought Derrida down on his ass in "Racism's Last Word." Still, there's always the possibilty that I will be the exception. . . :-)

I am interested in the stakes involved in all forms of "bracketing," whether political or linguistic.

As for Frege, I was reading him in order to shore up my thinking on metaphor, so I bet that I would like what Max Black has to say on the matter.
From: bobo_amargo Date: May 16th, 2006 08:30 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Metaphor as Moonlighting

Once again, I believe it's generally held that a literalist conception of metaphorical reference (i.e., the referent of the metaphor is exactly what it would be if the words out of which the metaphor is made were being uttered literally) is the correct one.

However, I agree with you about the idea of bracketing. The way the bracketing happens, though, is by means of a pragmatic implicature. The words in question literally mean what they always do, but, given the context of utterance, implicate something else.

I'm wary of drawing political implications from logical, semantic, or linguistic distinctions -- it can be done, but it's always treacherous (as you know).

How do Agamben and Schmitt fit in, though?
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From: bobo_amargo Date: May 17th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Phenomenologically Speaking?

In this case, though, it's not that the leap is potentially treacherous that gives me pause. Rather, I believe there to be no real connection between, on the one hand, Frege's calling certain kinds of naturally occurring sentences exceptional and, on the other, what Schmitt and Agamben mean by the "state of exception." Unless I'm to believe that the very fact of propositional attitudes like believing, wanting, considering -- appropriately followed by a that-clause -- are somehow connected to the way in which despotism arrogates to itself the absolute authority to suspend the rule of law, I can't see, at least in this case, the rationale for leaping.

Then again, perhaps what you're intimating is that there's some kind of connection between the very fact (or should I say "epoch"?) of mentality and the eventual advent of the state of exception. Certainly Agamben seems to think, if I remember correctly, that that form of despotism is "wired in" to a certain kind of historical trajectory. Hmm.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 17th, 2006 04:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: Phenomenologically Speaking?

First off, my comment should have read "doesn't make a fetish of. . ." and not "does make a fetish of." That's a major typo!

I haven't read enough Frege to know whether he works for the project I have in mind. I began to think about "bracketing" via a reading of Habermas overlapping a reading of Searle and Austin. What I have in mind is a more general procedure whereby the speech acts that don't behave ordinarily are set aside from the get-go. Maybe Frege isn't doing that, though I sensed that he was.

How this might tie in to Schmitt and, through him, Agamben, is in the former's formulation that "sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception." I'm interested in who has the power to bracket and make that bracketing stick. In other words, it's the operation of bracketing itself that I'd like to focus on, not so much what gets bracketed or the links between different objects of bracketing.

As I type this out, I realize that I'm sounding awfully Derridean, which may not be a bad thing, but is not something I typically think of myself as being.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 17th, 2006 04:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: Metaphor as Moonlighting

Only insofar as Schmitt focuses on the state of exception -- "Ausnahme" is the German word for "exception," as you seem to already know, but others who read this probably do not -- and Agamben focuses on Schmitt focusing on the state of exception. There's a passage in Agamben's Homo Sacer where he briefly expatiates on the relationship between exception and set membership via Badiou. I find it very suggestive, if obtuse. It's on p.21.

Anyway, making the leap is treacherous, but perhaps worth trying anyway. What I'm working toward is a sense of the homology between bracketing in the philosophy of language and bracketing in the political arena. I haven't looked at Hannah Pitkin in years, but my gut feeling tells me that she has things to say about Wittgenstein which, when taken together with selections from the Philosophical Investigations, might point us toward an approach to the non-exceptional that doesn't make a fetish of the exception in the process. And that's where the linguistic and political might be brought together with positive consequences.
tommix From: tommix Date: May 16th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Is the morning star the same as the evening star?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 16th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This is why you need to leave Tucson, my friend. You're among heathens here. Somewhere out there are people with whom you can disport yourself in wild displays of learning. Oh, and the answer is "Yes."
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