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By Jean-Luc Nancy, Sa Cavalcante Schuback Marcia

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To learn to speak is to learn to act, and our acts of speech are, for the most part, done knowingly and for a purpose. We can say what we mean and, other things being equal, what we mean and what the words we utter mean in the context of utterance coincide. So the logico-grammatical observations that are to be mustered in order to resolve philosophical problems must be news from nowhere. ’ It is no news that events occur, happen and take place, but do not exist; that they have no coloured surfaces but may emit a smell or make a noise; that there are colourful events, but no coloured ones; that they have phases, but no spatial parts; and so on.

Hacker, ‘Grammar and Necessity’, in Wittgenstein: Rules, Grammar and Necessity (WileyBlackwell, Oxford, extensively revised edition, 2009), 241–370. Philosophy: a Contribution to Human Understanding 17 But concepts are no more than abstractions from the uses of symbols, and concept-possession is no more than mastery of the use of concept-expressing symbols. So a conceptual investigation is inevitably and unsurprisingly also an investigation into the uses of words, phrases, and sentences. Linguistic investigations pertinent to philosophical enterprises are, however, very different from those of linguists.

It is no news that events occur, happen and take place, but do not exist; that they have no coloured surfaces but may emit a smell or make a noise; that there are colourful events, but no coloured ones; that they have phases, but no spatial parts; and so on. If a salient method of philosophical clarification consists in no more than reminding people of the way in which they use words, then it may seem mysterious that the problems of philosophy are not solved with the greatest of ease. If every intelligent speaker of the language is perfectly familiar with the sense-determining rules for the use of the words he uses, and if these rules are a key to resolving philosophical problems, then it may seem that any intelligent speaker ought to be able to resolve such problems ad libitum.

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