Intransitive Learning

"Intransitive Learning - A Piece of Grammar"


Most definitions of the concept of learning seem to assume that when we learn, there is something we learn, something we acquire. Yet these assumptions are put in doubt by certain uses of the word “learn,” as this paper tries to demonstrate. These uses typically occur in the context of what is sometimes called learning from life. After major experiences we are sometimes inclined to say that we have learned a lot, but when asked what we have learned, we cannot say, or we can only repeat something we already knew – yet still we will say that we learned. Taking a cue from Ludwig Wittgenstein, I shall call these applications of the concept of learning for intransitive learning. The current paper attempts to outline the logical grammar of this small but remarkable area of the conceptual landscape of learning. This area is easily overlooked, especially when we operate with a certain picture of what learning is or must be. One conclusion of the paper is that in contexts of intransitive learning “to learn” functions as a psychological verb, in Wittgenstein’s sense, so that reports of intransitive learning are, at least in some respects, like avowals or expressions.