Interpreting Wittgenstein: Mind as Action, Mind in Action

By James Moir.

Published by The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: April 18, 2014 $US5.00

This paper considers recent debates in the study of language use concerning underpinning philosophical commitments and interpretations of Wittgenstein’s private language argument and the issue of mental states. In one interpretation people may both explicitly and implicitly communicate with one another on the proposed and oriented-to basis that their words are expressing inner thought and feelings. This view is posited by those who favour an approach to the study of language use known as discursive psychology. However, despite adopting a philosophical commitment to Wittgenstein’s notion of language games, this approach nonetheless also imports a conversation analytic concern with the action orientation of language as a methodological foundation. In contrast to this, another interpretation argues in favour of a conceptual analysis of the use of mental terms without imputing any psychological construal of those words. This approach, known as logico-grammatical analysis, argues that intelligibility of these words derives from the ability to use and react to language in a criterial fashion and that the analytic focus should be on understanding how words are used in publicly ratifiable ways. The paper considers the tension between these positions in terms of their respective application of Wittgenstein’s philosophical arguments as a means of supporting different analytic approaches.

Keywords: Wittgenstein, discursive psychology, logico-grammatical analysis, language games, public, social

The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies, Volume 11, Issue 2, April 2014, pp.15-24. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: April 18, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 438.138KB)).

Dr. James Moir

Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Social and Health Sciences, Division of Sociology, University of Abertay, Dundee, Scotland, UK

Dr James Moir is a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Abertay Dundee (Scotland, U.K.) with a research interest in the application of discourse analysis: the analysis of spoken, written and visual texts. This has ranged over diverse set of topics including: the construction of occupational identities in conversation, particularly in relation to nursing and healthcare occupations; doctor-patient interaction and shared decision-making; discourses of reading ‘body language’; representations of the ‘mind’ in film and television; talk about ‘responsibility’ in relation to environmental concerns; the representation of ‘opinions’ in political opinion polling; and the construction of ‘child development’ in terms of how children talk and discourse surrounding death. He is currently one of ten Associates supported by the U.K. Higher Education Academy’s Centre for Sociology, Anthroplogy and Politics (C-SAP) and has a specialist interest in personal development planning as a life discourse.