Letter: What Wittgenstein meant

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Anita Roddick writes that Wittgenstein said: "Words enable worlds" (30 March). She takes this to mean that "the impact of a new language" could change, for example, the business world.

If Wittgenstein made this remark, it is unlikely he meant it in that way. A more plausible inference from his later work is that language is primarily an activity, and one which develops out of other human activities: it helps to develop these activities in turn but such developments are gradual and interactive. The facile idea that complex activities could be made to change simply by deliberate innovation in language was quite alien to Wittgenstein. Rudolf Carnap records that he even disliked Esperanto because it was an invented language and not one that had grown organically in use.

John Heawood