Does language have a downtown? Wittgenstein, Brandom, and the game of “giving and asking for reasons”

Pietro Salis
University of Cagliari, Italy | pietromsalis@gmail.com

Received: 29-March-2018 | Accepted: 14-July-2018 | Published: 30-June-2019
Disputatio [Jun. 2019], Vol. 8, No. 9, pp. 00-00 | DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3236918
Article | [EN] | Full Text | Statistics | Copyright Notice [es] | Vol. 8 No. 9

How to cite this article:
Salis, Pietro (2019). «Does language have a downtown? Wittgenstein, Brandom, and the game of “giving and asking for reasons”?». Disputatio. Philosophical Research Bulletin 8, no. 9: pp. 00-00.


Abstract | Wittgenstein’s Investigations proposed an egalitarian view about language games, emphasizing their plurality (“language has no downtown”). Uses of words depend on the game one is playing, and may change when playing another. Furthermore, there is no privileged game dictating the rules for the others: games are as many as purposes. This view is pluralist and egalitarian, but it says little about the connection between meaning and use, and about how a set of rules is responsible for them in practice.

Brandom’s Making It Explicit attempted a straightforward answer to these questions, by developing Wittgensteinian insights: the primacy of social practice over meanings; the idea that meaning is use; the idea of rule–following to understand participation in social practices. Nonetheless, Brandom defended a non–Wittgensteinian conception of discursive practice: language has a “downtown”, the game of “giving and asking for reasons”. This is the idea of a normative structure of language, consisting of advancing claims and drawing inferences. By means of assertions, speakers undertake “commitments” that can be challenged/defended in terms of reasons (those successfully justified can gain “entitlement”). This game is not one among many: it is indispensable to the very idea of discursive practice.

In this paper, my aim will be that of exploring the main motivations and implications of both perspectives.
Keywords |
Discursive Practice · Inferentialism · Language Games · Pluralism · Rule Following.

¿El lenguaje tiene un centro? Wittgenstein, Brandom y el juego de dar y pedir razones?

Resumen | Las Investigaciones de Wittgenstein propusieron una visión igualitaria acerca de los juegos de lenguaje, haciendo énfasis en su pluralidad (“el lenguaje no tiene ningún centro de ciudad”). Los usos de las palabras dependen del juego que se esté jugando y puede cambiar si se juega otro. No hay, tampoco, ningún juego privilegiado que dicte la reglas para los demás: hay tantos juegos como propósitos. Esta visión es pluralista e igualitaria, pero dice poco acerca de la conexión entre significado y uso, y acerca de cómo un conjunto de reglas es responsable de ellos en la práctica.

Hacerlo explícito de Brandom intentó dar una respuesta directa a estas preguntas mediante un desarrollo de las ideas Wittgensteinianas: la primacía de la práctica social sobre significados; la idea de que significado es uso; la idea de seguir una regla para comprender la participación en prácticas sociales. Brandom, sin embargo, defendió una concepción no-Wittgensteiniana de la práctica discursiva: el lenguaje tiene un “centro de ciudad”, el juego de “dar y pedir razones”. Esta es la idea de la estructura normativa del lenguaje, consistiendo en postular pretensiones y hacer inferencias. Por medio de afirmaciones, los parlantes aceptan “compromisos” que pueden ser retados/defendidos en términos de razones (aquellos que se justifican exitosamente pueden convertirse en “derechos”). Este juego no es uno entre muchos: es indispensable para la idea misma de la práctica discursiva.

Mi objetivo en este trabajo es explorar las motivaciones e implicaciones principales de ambas perspectivas.
Palabras Clave | Práctica discursiva · Inferencialismo · Juegos de Lenguaje · Pluralismo · Seguir una Regla.


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