Here’s a thought experiment to sharpen the point. Imagine that I don’t know any Spanish at all, but I’ve been told that “uno” is a number in that language (but not which number it is). I then give the message, “I spend uno energy.” If twg speaks Spanish and knows that word, then have I communicated to him a choice of energy expenditure here? I think yes: the communicative content of the message does not depend on my internal mental state, but instead upon the signs that I am transmitting in broader social context, which is one where “uno” definitely means “one” (even if I don’t know that myself).
Or what if I am told that -e^(i * pi) is a positive integer, but don’t know which one it is and refuse to google it. Do I communicate a valid choice if I tell twg that I choose -e^(i * pi)? If “rau” signifies a number in a legitimate language that twg understands (twgese), then my election of rau+1 should work in the same way as “uno” and “e^(i * pi)” do in the above hypotheticals. However, I think that “rau” actually doesn’t signify a number in any language (because private languages are impossible), and so twg didn’t actually communicate a number when e sent eir message and my election of rau+1 also doesn’t work. > On Jan 15, 2019, at 6:16 PM, D. Margaux <dmargaux...@gmail.com> wrote: > > >> On Jan 15, 2019, at 5:49 PM, Timon Walshe-Grey <m...@timon.red> wrote: >> >> Actually, at the time you posted the quoted message, "rau" meant "a pigeon >> or dove", so your statement is clearly incorrect. twgese is, after all, an >> evolving language - the meanings of words change all the time. > > I apologize, I should have been more precise. > > I spend rau + 1 energy, but I use the word “rau” in this context in an > anachronistic sense to mean what “rau” meant in twgese at the time you sent > your first message with the word “rau.” Hope this clarifies things. :-) > >> Also, I think your attempt to announce the Energy you will spend fails, >> because I have no idea what you thought "rau" meant, so your message did not >> communicate that information to me. > > I don’t think this is quite right. You can never know precisely what I think > anything means, because you can’t perceive directly into my mind. > Accordingly, it cannot be a precondition to successful communication that you > must know my private mental meanings if any (because that could never be > satisfied). Instead, what you can perceive are the signs and symbols that I > convey to you; and those signs and symbols are imbued with meaning by their > history of usage by a community of language speakers/writers. So you don’t > need to know what (if anything) I “thought rau meant” in my mind; instead, > all that is required for successful communication is that you evaluate the > meaning of the signs and symbols I convey to you in their full social context. > > Here, evidently, rau is a twgese word that had a particular meaning that you > yourself know at the time you first used it. So that’s what I’ve communicated > to you in my message. :-) > > [[As a more serious aside, I think the logic I’m laying out in this email is > essentially the reason why the later Wittgenstein demonstrated that private > languages such as twgese are impossible. So actually “rau” has no meaning in > either of our emails. But it’s been a long time since I had to think about > Wittgenstein, so I may have garbled the logic of it.]]