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Language Games, Knowledge, Rationality, Agency and Meaning

I sketch what I think a dispositional model involves; then consider Kripke's dismissal of dispositional explanations in the context of Wittgenstein's skeptical paradox. It seems to me that Wittgenstein does not attempt to elude or confront skeptical conclusions. His arguments and style of argumentation insist upon the community centered nature of language - and, I suggest, the backdrop continuum of meaningful experiences. This has profound implications for notions of persons, agency and rationality.

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(Excerpted from an essay in process - about process!)
In The Concept of Mind, Gilbert Ryle attacks a notion common to models of mental life: the 'intellectualist error'. Ryle's criticisms engage the dualism lingering in 'on the ground' proceedings and understanding. Dualism need not always involve an explicit bifurcation of mind from material. Any notion that positions mental acts, intentions, etc., as separate from and/or instigators of neural events encounters some version of the interaction dilemma. Richard Parry, in "Ryle's Theory of action in The Concept of Mind" argues that even Ryle does not free himself from vestigial dualism. Parry's critique provides a useful preamble to a claim I wish to make, namely that Wittgenstein espouses a dispositional account of language and meaning.

Ryle identifies four varieties of the intellectualist error:
? The notion that intelligent act is preceded by another event. This preceding event is an intellectual performance.
? Intelligent action is simply separate from the intellectual performance, with no requirement for temporal succession.
? An intellectual performance exists as a cause of the intelligent action, and the intelligent character of the action is due to the intelligent character of the cause.
? Intelligent action is accompanied by occult, internal or secret events, which operate as causes.

Ryle attacks such notions with two arguments. The first is that any claim that intelligent action must be preceded by, or accompanied by, an intellectual performance ... which may be stupid or clever, and must therefore be undertaken ... creates a vicious regress, or an impenetrable circle. A more coherent explanation, according to Parry, is that
...intelligent action is not the effect of an internal event because it is the exercise of a skill and a skill is not an event; therefore it is not either a causal event nor an occult event.
Thus, a disposition (trading upon the sense that skills are best understood as proclivities to behave in sophisticated ways in specifiable circumstances) is responsible for the intelligent (or otherwise) nature of an act - and dispositions are not events. Thus, a match has a disposition to light. When matches combine with processes bearing complementary dispositions - oxygen, air-currents, heat-producing friction, combustibles ... a fire will almost certainly ensue.
What are the characteristics of dispositions? 1) They are capable of indefinitely heterogenous instantiations; 2) intelligent dispositions can be described by lawlike statements, with the proviso that they are statements about individuals. Finally, Ryle introduces the notion of "mongrel categorical statements". Thus, statements describing how a person is disposed to e.g. play squash allow for the fact that a particular movement will be made out of a continuum of possible movements; the remainder also satisfying the disposition to play squash, but which the actual game did not 'ask for'.
All of this begins to go awry when we try to understand the sense of 'acquiring dispositions'
..."To be intelligent is not merely to satisfy criteria, but to apply them." Ryle's thesis is that "intelligent behavior occurs when a student appropriates the teacher's role, and applies it for himself and to himself."
Unfortunately, the logic of role appropriation seems to lead back to the intellectualist error: To teach is not a disposition so much as an event; an event that would stand behind the (intelligent) act as cause is 'behind' its effect, contra arguments against intellectual performances standing behind acts. Can role appropriations be said to structure a disposition rather than 'internalize' a teacher? This seems to be the only possibility. Can we be said to have a disposition to 'act', and a related disposition to apply intelligent criteria while so doing? This evades the regress, but implies the somehow unpalatable notion that we apply (intelligent) criteria in unthinking ways. An 'intelligent' act which is nonetheless spontaneous or non-reflective does not satisfy our sense of what it means to be rational. Yet ordinary usage recognizes the value of laying down 'intelligent dispositions or good habits', which can be 'triggered' by internal or external events. Indeed, we clearly include a disposition-like dimension in our not ion of rational behavior. If we could not acquire a propensity to 'behave rationally', we would have to 'rethink' problematic circumstances no matter how often they were encountered. This would be a serious impediment. Aristotle's effortlessly virtuous person, who became so by practicing virtuous behavior until it became 'second nature', would no longer count.
Perhaps the question of what triggers a disposition can be answered by recalling how the disposition was acquired in the first place. On this rendering, intelligence becomes a measure of an individual's capacity to acquire, retain and deploy dispositions. What seems worth noting is that ordinary language, and much of philosophy, remains 'in the grip of' some version of the intellectualist error Parry identifies in Ryle. The conclusion we might consider is that an 'intelligent disposition is one which includes an intelligent disposition. It appears that Ryle - and ordinary usage - is presented with a dilemma: Either admit that the monitoring (or teaching) is a 'second-tier activity or a second-tier disposition. If it is a second-tier activity, anti-Cartesian arguments are violated. If it is a second-tier disposition, the question is begged."
Parry's solution is to assimilate the monitoring with the exercise of the disposition ...
"In intelligent action we want to say that there are two activities which can be distinguished, but are not therefore so distinct as to make them as different as whistling and walking."
Parry concludes that Ryle retains a watered-down dualism, a covert version that operates without a clearly stipulated mental substance, or specific intellectual performances, by reintroducing them in shadowy terms.

This criticism could be widely applied. A way to respond would be to move dispositions from an ancillary to a central role. So ...

Solution Summary

The solution tackles comprehensively in a long and descriptive/detailed narrative the concepts of language games, skepticism and the nature of language. The work and ideas of Wittgenstein as well as Kripke is taken on in relation to the creation of meaning and knowledge construction.