A Stroll With William James by Jacques Barzun

By Jacques Barzun

With this ebook, Jacques Barzun can pay what he describes as an "intellectual debt" to William James—psychologist, thinker, and, for Barzun, consultant and mentor. Commenting on James's lifestyles, suggestion, and legacy, Barzun leaves us with a smart and civilized distillation of the good thinker's work.

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One can say that this is preparatory to the use of a word. But what is it a preparation/or? (P/26) The act of giving or knowing names may appear so "fundamental" to learning and even to using language just because it is transparently an example of a "purely grammatical" linguistic condition, with all the apparent flexibility or capacity (to be "true and false", for example) of expressions in that condition. Naming is through-and-through 'grammatical' because it is 'about' language, rather than yet being language-in-action.

We may say: nothing has so far been done, when a thing has been named" (P/49). 14 Applying Wittgenstein But if this diminution of the role of purely senseful or grammatical relations and rules - of mere linguistic preparation, or of a Satzsystem (or somewhat similarly of Saussure's langue, or Chomsky's 'grammar') - is so necessary, according to Wittgenstein, to an investigation of meaning, what is it about such inactive grammar that continues to tempt many philosophers and linguists, even supposed Wittgensteinians, to insist upon the overwhelming importance of our grasp of it?

Wittgenstein's imaginary opponent appears to misconceive as a "meaning" some stricdy personal - and therefore indubitably communicatively and practically non-functional - quasi-grammatical apprehension, which I have suggested would be better characterized as an "effect". For Wittgenstein the "alteration" accomplished by a meaningful gesture either with or in regard to the king would be altogether different: it would amount to a change not simply, as we might have expected, in the facts of the situation - for example, in how the chess game might stand at any moment after the king had been moved - but in the "(permitted) use of the piece", in its very capacity for further movement.

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