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On Husserl's Theory of Language
Koichi Miyata Soka University
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1 Language as a necessary condition for science

It is well known that modern philosophy has developed from reflections upon language as its important means. It is, however, not so clear why language should be investigated within philosophy. In the introduction of the second volume of Logical Investigations, Husserl gave the reason why philosophers should start investigations of logic with those of language as follows.
Husserl stated, gAll theoretical research, though by no means solely conducted in acts of verbal expression or complete statement, nonetheless terminates in such statement. Only in this form, truth, in particular the truth of theory can become a permanent possession of science, a documented and ever available treasure for knowledge and advancing research. Whatever the connection of thought with speech may be, whether or not the appearance of our final judgments in the form of verbal pronouncements has necessary grounding in essence, it is at least plain that judgments stemming from higher intellectual regions, and in particular from the regions of science, could barely arise without verbal expression.h (Introduction, sect. 2)
Thus Husserl thought that a verbal expression, language is a necessary condition for possibility of scientific truth. A question whether or not language can express truth as expected may be posed. Naturally Husserl's answer was yes. Though our ordinary language is ambiguous and contains gessentially occasional expressionsh (Invest. 1, sect. 26) which refer different objects or events in different contexts, for example gIh and gtodayh, Husserl believed that if we contrive an adequate means, language can express truth. His theory of language and meaning is his effort to show this possibility.

2 Sign, expression and meaning

Husserl started his investigation of language from essential distinction between eexpression (Ausdruck)' and esign (Zeichen)'. He stated, gEvery sign is a sign for something, but not every sign has emeaning (Bedeutung)', a esense (Sinn)' that the sign eexpresses'. ......... Signs in the sense of eindications (Anzeichen)f (notes, marks etc.) do not express anything, unless they happen to fulfill a significant as well as an indicative function.h (Invest. 1, sect. 1) Within signs Husserl distinguished expressions from indications. An expression has a meaning and indicates something through its meaning, but an indication indicates something without meaning.
The indicative function of an indication originates in mental associations. gA thing is only properly an indication if and where it in fact serves to indicate something to some thinking being.h (Invest. 1, sect. 2) gHis belief in the reality of the former is experienced as non-evidently motivating a belief in the reality of the latter.h(ibid.) This relation of non-evident motivation represents a descriptive unity among our acts of judgments in which a (subjective) relation between indicating and indicated things become constituted for a thinker. There are no objective connections between an indicating thing and an indicated thing. Hence an indicating thing can indicate different things in different cases. An indication can't serve as a sign for preserving truth.
In opposition to an indication, a verbal expression (language) has characteristics that it indicates something (an object) through its meaning. However, a doubt whether a connection between an expression and an object has the same non-evident motivation as in the case of an indication, can arise. Husserl answered as follows. He distinguished an expression, a sense and an object. Regarding a connection between an expression and a sense, Husserl thought that when an expression is used for communication, the connection has non-evident motivation, but when it is used for expressing onefs own thought in isolated mental life, the connection has evident motivation for the thinker. In the latter case, Husserl thought that not only a connection between an expression and a sense but also a connection between a sense and an object can have evident motivation.
When an expression is used for communication, we sometimes experience that a listener can't understand evidently a sense or an intention of speaker's expression, and the listener has to guess the sense. Husserl generalized from such experiences that, when an expression is used for communication, the expression is used as an indication of speaker's signification or intention that a listener has to guess by the expression. He thought that between speaker's expression and its sense, there is a mental medium, that is to say, speaker's act of signification or an intention. He thought that as we can't know other mind directly, a listener can't know whether or not his understanding about speaker's intention that is expressed in the expression is right. Therefore a connection between speaker's expression and its sense that the speaker intends to give is non-evident for a listener. (In this case a sense is regarded as a private idea, I think.)
Then, is there any case where an expression can be used not as an indication? Husserl found the case in a usage of an expression for expressing one's own thought. Husserl stated, gExpressions also play a great part in uncommunicative, interior mental life. This change in function plainly has nothing to do with whatever makes an expression an expression. Expressions continue to have meanings as they had before, and the same meanings as in dialogue.h (Invest. 1, sect. 8)
In this case, he stated, gWords function as signs here as they do everywhere else: everywhere they can be said to point to something.h (ibid.) He continued, gIf we reflect on the relation of expression to meaning, and to this end break up our complex, intimately unified experience of the sense-filled expression, into the two factors of word and sense, the word comes before us as intrinsically indifferent, whereas the sense seems the thing aimed at by the verbal signs and meant by its means: the expression seems to direct interest away from itself towards its sense, and to point to the latter.h (ibid.)In short, Husserl said that an expression is a sign to point to its sense.
However, a function of pointing in expressions must be distinguished from that of indicating in indications. Husserl said so on the ground that, whereas an indication is existent, an expression in soliloquy can be imagined rather than actual. But I think the ground of distinguishing an expression in soliloquy from an indication is, as the quotation above shows, that, although in soliloquy a sense, an idea is already known to the thinker and words are something that expresses the sense, in dialogue the sense is never known to a listener and words can be only an indication of the sense. Though a sense is a sense of expression, it is, more fundamentally, an idea. To a thinker a connection between an expression and a sense (an idea) is evident. Husserl stated, gIn a monologue words can perform no function of indicating the existence of mental acts, since such indication would there be quite purposeless. For the acts in question are themselves experienced by us at that very moment.h(ibid.)

3 Repetition and ideation

Though a connection between an expression and a sense can be evident to a thinker at a moment, the connection is not always evident. We sometimes forget a sense of an expression and misuse an expression in our daily life. Therefore we can't privilege a thinker to assert that he knows a connection between an expression and a sense. (This is a criticism on private language.)
However, Husserl tried to make a connection between an expression and a sense necessary by ideation of an expression and a sense. Later we examine what ideation is in general. Regarding ideation of an expression, Husserl stated, gThe ideality of the relationship between expression and meaning is at once plain in regard to both its side, insomuch as, when we ask for the meaning of an expression, we are naturally not referring to the sound-pattern uttered here and now, the vanishing noise that can never recur identically: we mean the expression in specie. An expression, e.g. equadratic remainder', is the same expression by whomsoever uttered.h (Invest. 1, sect. 11)
Within expressions (language) Husserl distinguished parole from langue (in Saussurean sense), and interpreted the former as temporal=various=factual, and the latter as eternal=identical=ideal. By this distinction, Husserl introduced ontological difference within expressions, and thought that, although expressions can be both parole and langue, the latter is more fundamental for expressions.
Moreover Husserl thought that not only an expression but also a meaning of an expression is ideal. He stated, gWe distinguish assertion's ideal contents from the transient acts or affirming and asserting an assertion: it is the meaning of the assertion, a unity of plurality. We continue to recognize its identity of intention in evident acts of reflection: we do not arbitrarily attribute it to our assertions, but discover it in them.h (ibid.)
Not only an expression that is used in each expressing is idealized as an ideal, identical expression, but also a meaning of an expression is idealized as an ideal, identical meaning in repetitions of expressing. In the case of a meaning as well as in that of an expression, a meaning of an expression can be both temporal, factual in each expressing and eternal, ideal, identical in repetitions of expressing.
By this ideation of expressions and meanings, Husserl also idealized a connection between an expression and its meaning. (In this case ideation is the same as idealization.) Husserl stated, gOne repeats what is in essence ethe same' assertion, and one repeats it because it is the one, uniquely adequate way of expressing the same thing, i.e. its meaning.h (ibid.) Husserl thought that a connection between an expression and its meaning can be repeated.
Considering the previous argument, Husserl thought that a connection between an expression and its meaning that is used in isolated thinking, is not only factually evident for the thinker but also ideally identical in repetitions of thinking by ideation of an expression and its meaning.

4 Meaning and object

Not only an expression has a connection with its meaning, but also a meaning must be connected with an object. Though a meaning is essential to an expression and gRelation to an actually given objective correlate is not essential to an expression (Invest. 1, sect. 14)h, an expression that doesn't state anything about an object is of no use so long as an expression is used as a condition for science. About a connection between a meaning of an expression and an object, Husserl stated, gAn expression only refers to an objective correlate because it means something, it can be rightly said to signify or name the object through its meaning.h (Invest. 1, sect. 13)
An expression can be connected with an object because a meaning is not only a meaning of an expression, a content (idea) of thinking but also a fulfilling sense that is given in an intuition of an object. Husserl stated, gWe have the object's ideal correlate in the acts of meaning-fulfillment which constitute it, the fulfilling sense." (Invest. 1, sect. 14)
The word ecorrelate' means not only that a fulfilling sense is correlative to an object but also that a fulfilling sense is correlative to an intending sense. A fulfilling sense is a sense which given in an intuition of an object while an intending sense is a thought sense, a content of thinking. A fulfilling sense is called econceptual essence' (Invest. 1, sect. 21) and an intending sense is called eexpression's meaning simpliciter' (Invest. 1, sect. 14).
A connection between an object and a fulfilling sense is evident in intuiting the object. When an object is intuited as such and such, this esuch and such' is the fulfilling sense. A fulfilling sense can be idealized, too. Husserl stated, gThe ideal conception of the act which confers meaning yields us the Idea of the intending meaning, just as the ideal conception of the correlative essence of the act which fulfils meaning, yields the fulfilling meaning, likewise qua Idea.h (ibid.)
When we express about an intuited object that it is such and such, this expressed such and such is, so far as it is conceived as a meaning of the expression, only an intending sense. However, when it is conceived as a correlate of an object, it is a fulfilling sense. If and only if an intending sense is coincident with a fulfilling sense, an expression can be connected with an object. When we intuit an object, a coincidence between an intending sense and a fulfilling sense can be evident.
The coincidence can be idealized as identity in repetitions of coincidence. Husserl stated, gIf we at first keep to the notion of truth just suggested, truth as the correlate of identifying act is a state of affairs (Sachverhalt), as the correlate of a coincident identity it is an identity: the full agreement of what is meant (an intending sense) and what is given as such (a fulfilling sense). .........We must allow that the carrying out of an identifying coincidence is not as yet an actual perception of objective agreement, but becomes so only through its own act of objectifying interpretation, its own looking towards present truth.h (Invest. 6, sect. 39)
Summarizing these Husserl's arguments, a connection between an expression and an object is mediated through a meaning. A meaning is, first, a meaning of an expression, and, secondly, a content (an idea) of thinking=an intending sense, and, thirdly, a fulfilling sense (conceptual essence of an object). If and only if these three meaning are coincident, an expression can be connected with an object.
Husserl thought that this process of coincidence can be recognized evidently and that the process can be repeated. He thought that identity in repetitions of the process is ideal identity. He found, he believed, that there are ideal expressions, ideal meanings of expressions, ideal intending senses, and ideal fulfilling senses. He thought that a connection among them can be established definitely.
Husserl thought a connection among an expression, a meaning, and an object is essential to science. Husserl stated, gAnything that exists can be recognized as such, and can be showed clearly and defined in etruth as such'. A being can have definite qualities and relations, and anything that is definite as such can be defined objectively, and anything that can be defined objectively can ideally be expressed in definite words. A being as such corresponds to truth as such, and truth as such corresponds to a definite, univocal expression as such." (Invest.1, sect. 28) He approved ean ideal, unlimited objective reason' (ibid.).

5 Ideality and Identity

In the previous examination I intentionally regarded ideality as identity in repetitions. In Logical Investigations, however, Husserl used eideal' in another way. Husserl distinguished real objects from mathematical objects and logical objects that are non-temporal, and named the latter as ideal objects. In this case ideality is not thought as identity in repetitions but as ground for identity.
In Investigation 2 Husserl discussed the usage of esame' and distinguished likeness from identity. Husserl stated, gEach exact likeness relates to a Species, under which the objects compared, are subsumed: this Species is not, and cannot be, merely ealike' in the two cases, if the worst of infinite regresses is not to become inevitable. .........If two things are ealike' as regards form, then the Form-Species in question is the identical element, if they are ealike' as regards color, the Color-Species is this element etc. etc.h (Invest. 2, sect. 3)
Husserl thought that esame' or ealike' means ealikeness' in reality and at the same time it means eidentity' in Species or ideal object. Husserl used a dichotomy between real=various=temporal and ideal=identical=eternal.
Examining ideal objects not as identity in repetitions but as Species, Husserl asserted that a Species can be grasped through special mental acts, that is to say, eideation' (Invest. 2, sect. 15), eidealizing or generalizing abstraction' (Invest. 2, sect. 42). He stated, gThe act in which we mean the Species, is in fact essentially different from the act in which we mean the individual.h (Invest. 2, sect. 1)
In Investigation 6 Husserl named generically such special mental acts as ecategorical actsf. Husserl stated, gAbstraction gets to work on a basis of primary intuitions, and with it a new categorical act-character emerges, in which a new style of objectivity becomes apparent, an objectivity that can only become apparent in just such a founded act. Naturally I do not here mean eabstraction' merely in the sense of a setting-in relief of some non-independent moment in a sensible object, but its Ideational Abstraction, where no such non-independent moment, but its Idea, its Universal, is brought to consciousness, and achieves actual givenness. We must presuppose such an act in order that the Very Sort, to which the manifold single moments eof one and the same sort' stand opposed, may itself come before us, and may come before us as one and the same.h (Invest. 6, sect. 52)
Even if an ideal object, a Species, can be grasped through ideational abstraction from non-independent moment in a sensible object, how can the identity of an ideal object be grasped in repetitions of ideational abstractions? Husserl answered, gWe become aware of the identity of the universal through the repeated performance of such acts upon a basis of several individual intuitions, and we plainly do so in an overreaching act of identification which brings all such single acts of abstraction into one synthesis.h (ibid.) In this argument an ideal object, a Species, a Universal is not regarded as ground for identity. Rather the identity of an ideal object can be grasped through an act of identification that is a special mental act.
However this Husserl's assertion allows another interpretation that in repetitions of acts of identification an identical identity of an ideal object is not repeated, but a new identity is grasped anew because an act of identification is performed anew. Husserl's idea that identity in repetitions is grounded in identity of an ideal object is not successful because the identity of an ideal object should be grasped anew in repetitions of acts of identification.
This means that, though we suppose we use an identical expression in repetitions of it, we should not presuppose but confirm identity of the expression anew. Moreover it means that a connection between an expression and an object should be confirmed anew whenever we perform ideation of an expression, its meaning, an intending meaning, and a fulfilling meaning that is a correlate of an object. Finally it means that we have no ideal expressions that can be eternally used for preservation of truth.

6 Husserl's renewed observation in The Origin of Geometry

In The Origin of Geometry Husserl again examined a problem of language in his last years. Here science is thought as one of cultural etradition' (p. 366). If scholarly achievements, through which a researcher discovered truth for the first time, are expressed, edocumented in writing' (p. 371), and handed down in escholarly community as community for recognition' (p. 372), then the truth can be reserved.
However a non-evident connection between a verbal expression and its meaning has always been in danger because spiritual achievements have inevitably been eprecipitating' (p. 371) into permanent verbal expressions that can be repetitiously and passively handed down to anyone. The measures to meet this danger are to take the precaution of ereserving the achievements in univocal expressions' (p. 372). gThese measures pertain to scientific tradition within academic community.h (P. 372-3) gThe truth that is expressed in scientific expressions must be definitely expressed, and be everlasting and repeatable as identical.h (ibid.) The truth can be repeated as identical. This is ea scholars' conviction' (ibid.).
However such an academic community can discontinue and eacademic tradition can be interrupted' (p. 377). Then in order to restore precipitated meaning, gIt is necessary to document and confirm in definite propositions how to produce the original achievements from pre-scientific givenness in cultural world.h (P. 375) And it is also necessary to hand down without a break ethe competence to restore evidently the original meaning from vague meaning in these propositions.' (ibid.)
Here Husserl thought that, when scientific achievements is produced from pre-scientific cultural world (life-world) and documented with expressions used in life-world, even if interruption in succession of scientific achievements happens, it is possible to understand the documents and to restore the original achievements so long as expressions used in life world has been handed down.
However, expressions used by extinct nations, even if documented, can't be understood unless the usage of these expressions has been handed down.

7 A provisional conclusion

However, what does it mean to hand down expressions used in life-world? Does it mean to hand down the same language? We can easily notice that, although in language there are some parts that have been handed down considerably unchanged, such as grammatical system, there are other parts that have been considerably changed, such as vocabulary.
Even if a esame' word has been handed down, it can have different meanings. Sometimes transitions in meanings have been noticed and documented, sometimes remained unnoticed and not documented. When we notice difference of meanings, we sometimes have no way to understand previous meaning. It may be allowed to say that we use the same language as before. But saying so doesn't improve our understanding previous language.
Husserl didn't discuss in detail how a language has been handed down, and it appears that he was not interested in this problem. He only mentioned that it is essential to preserve univocal verbal expressions in order to hand down scientific achievements. However, I think that it is important to investigate how univocal verbal expressions can be preserved.
In Logical Investigations Husserl stated, gTruth as such corresponds to being as such, and a definite univocal expression as such corresponds to truth as such. Naturally not only sufficient definitely demarcated linguistic signs, but also correspondently sufficient expressions which have exact meanings, are necessary." (Invest. 1, sect. 28)
However, at the same time he confessed, gWe, however, are infinitely far from this ideal.h (ibid.) Not only it is impossible to devise univocal language, but also another difficulty in how to hand down such language arises in the Origin of Geometry.
In these difficulties, I think, it is good for mental health to give up efforts to preserve truth through verbal expressions. If it is impossible to preserve truth, the meaning of the word etruth' should change. The word etruth' can't be meaningfully connected with the word eeternal' or eideal'. In this case what meanings of the word etruth' remain?
When we observe how scholars use this word, we notice that they use the word in persuasion-game as they assert some propositions with pointing out some grounds to their opponents. They only emphasize their assertion with using the word etrue'. There are many ways to point out grounds to our opponents. We can show some factual proof, or show logical relation between our assertion and our opponents' assertion, which shows sometimes that our opponents and we have substantially same assertion. Or to strengthen our assertion we quote some similar words or passages from books, which our opponents rely on, sometimes we misuse intentionally such words to deceive and persuade our opponents. Or we can point put our private experiences, which may be psychological and can't be held in common. Or we can point out opponents' profit to be gained when they accept our assertion.
We cannot know in advance which way is most persuasive. However, we cannot increase our grounds with using the word etrue'. The word is used only for emphasizing our assertion. Husserl's trial to explain truth through corresponding among objects, truth (meanings) and expressions is a prejudice, which confers a privilege on one of these language games, which are used for pointing out grounds.
When we observe a court case, which is a typical persuasion-game, there can be many disputes on interpretation of laws and ordinances before disputes on facts. Similarly we can argue about meanings of expressions before arguing about objects, which the expressions correspond to. Any expression can be understood equivocally. We may use an expression with different meanings. In court case judges can settle a dispute about interpretation of laws. However there is no judge in ordinary persuasion-game and arguing about a meaning of an expression may not be able to be settled.

Bibliography

Husserl. E, Logische Untersuchungen 2-1 Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tuebingen, 1968
Husserl. E, Logische Untersuchungen 2-2,
(I partly used a translation by J. N. Findlay in The Shorter Logical Investigations, Routledge, 2001.)
Husserl. E, Die Frage nach dem Ursprung der Geometrie, in Husserl Archive Bd. 6, Martinus Nijhoff, Haag, 1962.

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