Differences and Distances

  • John T. Edelman
Part of the Swansea Studies in Philosophy book series (SWSP)


The use of a word to say something requires a ‘rule’ for the use of the word — a use of the word that is independent of the use I make of it. Apart from such ‘rules’ I can say nothing at all. In this sense there is something public in the saying of anything, and this shows something about the learning of language. Augustine writes as though a child’s acquisition of language were a matter of mastering a new notation, a matter of translation, or of learning a new way to say what the child could already ‘say’ or ‘think’ on its own. But whatever may happen when, say, a speaker of English learns to speak French, the learning of language cannot always be like that, if only because such learning as that pre-supposes that one can say or think something to start with. The public or social nature of language rules out the sort of linguistic self-starter suggested by this picture of the learning of language. It underlines the fact that my learning of language will always be the learning of the language available to me in the social circumstances within which I come to speak. Indeed, it will make no sense to speak of there being or of my possessing language prior to or apart from some social life. And yet the social life within which individuals come to speak will not be the same for all.


Moral Philosophy Ethical Judgement Moral Conviction Moral View Moral Language 
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Copyright information

© John T. Edelman 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John T. Edelman
    • 1
  1. 1.Nazareth College of RochesterUSA

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