Gisela Susanna Bengtsson: How does a child learn to understand grown-ups?

The starting point for my discussion is the passage from Augustine’s Confessions that forms the beginning of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. Augustine’s recollection of how he learned to speak as a small child is juxtaposed with Frege’s answer to a question he poses in the midst of a discussion of problems that adhere to functions and signs that designate them: How does a child learn to understand grown-ups? I argue that the comparisons implied in Frege’s answer are meant to show that the passageway into a language cannot be theoretical in character. Frege argues that leading someone into a language requires «entgegenkommendes Verständnis». I point at difficulties that adhere to the translation of this expression to the English idiom «a meeting of minds», and go on to suggest a correspondence between our communication in language in everyday life, as Frege depicts it, and the means he uses for elucidatory purposes. The comparison shows, I argue, that when Frege uses the expression «entgegenkommendes Verständnis» as a presupposition for language acquisition, he speaks of understanding as it is found in our everyday communication in language. My paper ends with a discussion of a possible parallel between Wittgenstein’s conception of ‘agreement in judgments’ and Frege’s conception of ‘entgegenkommendes Verständnis’. A comparison between Frege’s approach to, and conception of philosophical difficulties and Wittgenstein’s investigations of such difficulties in Philosophical Investigations forms a background for my discussion as a whole.

Keywords: Frege, Augustine, Wittgenstein, entgegenkommendes Verständnis/a meeting of minds, language acquisition, agreement in judgments, concept-script, scaffolding/Gerüst, conceptual investigation