Understanding the Essence of the Text ‘Wittgenstein and Anthropology’ by Veena Das: 4 Interesting Insights That Arise!

Understanding Culture and Language through Wittgenstein and Anthropology!

 ‘Wittgenstein and Anthropology’ by Veena Das

Understanding the Essence of the Text ‘Wittgenstein and Anthropology’ by Veena Das: 4 Interesting Insights That Arise!

Philosophical questions lead to turning back into the past. It is this key belief that motivates one to explore the essence of the text, Wittgenstein and Anthropology by Veena Das. As a consequential framework of not being able to move forward in the futuristic approach. Culture and its subsequent copyright over humans as their hallmarks of being civilized and organized. According to Tylor: ‘culture is a whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’. Focuses on man as the performing entity and as acquiring the habits and capabilities himself. Thus, culture resembles an inscribed text. Learning came to be seen as shaping the individual as a picture of the text and inscribing memory through painful rituals. Find the intrinsic relation between words used in a statement: for instance, faking an identity, here after analyzing the statement, we understand that fakeness and identity are related as they are being used in the same statement. Culture develops out of a dialogue between individuals and society and cannot be shaped or defined by an individual as an isolated proposition as it simply doesn’t fit in an isolated realm of existence and its basic ideal is about co-existing as companions. The individual in the society identifies his language and thereby his identity by carving out certain symbols, signifiers and depictions as correlated to the society he has to thrive in. Therefore, his language undoubtedly has arisen out of interaction with the society, but it doesn’t simply stay restricted to it, it evolves as distinct and complicated into his perception. Languages arise as distinct as they are formed on perceptional bases and those bases are varied in each individual’s mind and so they mean something different and unique to each individual experiencing them. No particular culture is bound by a specific set of rules and norms, each culture has its distinct and varied ideas and no particular rule or norm can be imposed on a given culture as it cannot satisfy different contexts and audiences.

Scenes of Instruction arising in Wittgenstein and Anthropology

According to Das, in Wittgenstein and Anthropology, the mouth and verbal narratives are used as utterances and determinants of an evolving language and the specific term for which the facial expressions, actions and voice modulation is being used. A sense of achievement upon correctly pronouncing and uttering the learnt words in the scene of instruction which also reflects utterance as a determinant of development, self-esteem and confidence levels of the individual learning them into ‘complete primitive language’. Fictional language is considered language of the primitive, who invent a language of their own, independent of any pre-existing language, development of a culture different from the ones already existing. Child who invents his own language and culture, finds place in the mythological realm and asking the child to inherit the culture of the parents and expressing his voice and opinions in that culture is like imposing a set of norms and rules in their fragile minds. Here’s where empathizing with the child by stepping into his realm/perception of his culture and language is crucial. Introducing children to folk tales of bravery, valor, rebellion makes them understand complex domains such as authority, compliance, violence, obedience, family and kinship. Child as an entity is considered as negligible or unseen by the family members and thus in turn by the society itself. Observation is one strategy as suggested by several anthropologists as by grasping the technique of learning certain systematical chronologies in a language such as number series, alphabets, etc. Kripke criticizes Wittgenstein by stating that his formula and set of rules of following a given rule is eventually unyielding and doesn’t provide a proper framework for interpretation and understanding. A skeptic is himself doubtful about a particular conceptual structure and thus he sets out in the quest of the solution and so any methodology suggested by him about interpretation is thus incomplete and negligible for application. Understanding of a particular system and thus reciprocating it in one’s behavior is justified and judged as ‘right’ manner of reciprocation based on imitation. In other words, the assessor judges the actions portrayed by the child as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ based on the system they followed to portray the same action and not by stepping into the child’s realm of language and culture.

A pre-conceived notion of the moral principles and the distinctions of right and wrong, a norm- based system of governing the ideals and principles of a child. The ‘skeptical paradox’ according to Wittgenstein and as summarised in Wittgenstein and Anthropology, if everything in the society can be governed and applied according to a fixed criteria and phenomena of terminologies then it can also be put into conflict with it in the same manner. It applies to an isolated individual only. The agreement in which the child is put into and the actions and emotions in which he engages in with regard to it, is complex with rules, customs, habits, examples and practices. Order is correlated as action, then as demonstration and then as proposition. Three varied circumstances of order being manifested based on the purpose of usage. A child simply cannot be sustained as expressing his learned words in his behavior according to the pre-conceived system of utterances, he is further compelled to express his own desires using the same utterance after expressing his learnings. Whenever someone follows a rule blindly, they simply do not follow it to a certain extent, they also symbolize some meaning and reference to it, based on their perception and understanding of the rule. Boys are taught about wrath, vengeance and authority by explaining them about the rules they learn in the community. Distinction of rules into regulative and constitutive. Rituals considered as constitutive in nature as they are in accordance of the given rules. Just like in chess, the rules in language are autonomous and cannot be framed or justified by putting them in reference to reality. Language cannot determine rules for all conceivable circumstances whereas chess can. ‘Forms of life’, ‘criteria’ and ‘grammatical investigation’, ‘ethnographic surplus or excess’ can be understood as some key concepts arising from the text Wittgenstein and Anthropology.

Language and Sociality in Wittgenstein and Anthropology

The text, Wittgenstein and Anthropology considers language as a mark of human sociality. Forms are created by and for those in possession of language. While focusing on the conventional- it ignores the distinction of natural and social. The text also emphasizes on form but not on life. Ethnological/horizontal sense: emphasizes on notions of social institutions such as marriage and property and states that they are varied. Distinctions in language between higher and lower forms of life by citing examples of playful habits while having food such as poking at it with a fork and pawing at it or pecking at it. Vertical sense: marks limit of considering something as human and provides conditions of the use of criteria as applied to others. Since it is based on a specific criterion, it only expects those possessing a form of life to express pain as it simply doesn’t exist as a form of life.

Everyday Life and the Problem of Skepticism in Wittgenstein and Anthropology

Styles of killing people and wielding of words was interwoven as understood in Wittgenstein and Anthropology. Many times, despite of knowing the context of usage, the words seem unrelated and irrelevant. Ideals of violence and aggression such as Tamil riots, Sinhala woman example can be observed. In addition, recovery from madness in an everyday perspective which also includes ‘paramount reality’, transcendence as momentary escape from attention, Illusion, trance and artificiality of need. On the other hand, disease is interlinked with social relation and therapy is aimed to address the synthesis of moral, social and physical presentation. According to Azande, not much curious about the inherent cause which is possibly causing the effect, instead they relate it to witchcraft, and consider civilization to be the highest epitome of mannerism and being straightforward and normal. Rationality is therefore essential in this context and also to find double meaning in each conversation. A use of puns and sarcastic notes, it is important to not only use the words but also experience their meaning and laugh at them. Rumor works well as being an example of being withdrawn from language in terms of trust and being controlled by one’s words. A necessary means of communication, capacity to build solidarity, anonymity of the source is included in the enunciative and performative aspect. Mechanism of rumor which is the communicative aspect leads to skepticism and doubting each term associated with it and thereby dismantling relations of trust and entering into ruined terms of communication which are indirect instruments of gauging trustworthiness and fear nexus. This primarily destroys source of speech and disappearance of access to context.

Complexity of the Inner in Wittgenstein and Anthropology

First person and third person indicative asymmetry is explained in depth in Wittgenstein and Anthropology. Falseness doesn’t hold weightage when there is a first- person indicative, since we are referring to verb meanings here. One’s intrinsic beliefs and perceptions of certain emotions and feelings cannot be misinterpreted but the sensual impressions can still be misinterpreted. Grammatical coherence doesn’t allow one to misinterpret or misbelief upon any concept. In order to make sense of the concept one has to make non-sense of the society and thus statements should be made according to the frame of reference used and not out of irrelevance and misinterpretation.


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