Posted: Feb 25, 2016 2:20 pm
by don't get me started
John Platko wrote:

Yet when I have a similar hope while blowing out the candles no one ever asks, "What did you hope for?" :nono:
Are you sure you're not looking for more precision from language than it can deliver?

Yes, John, I'd agree that much of language is pretty fractal edged, but I still like to explore those edges and see if there is some kind of finer understanding that can be gleaned.
Regarding your situation of blowing out candles and making a wish/ wishing for something, I think a further distinction between hope and wish is this: The word hope is propositional in nature, that is, it describes a future situation. This situation is possible (at least to the person expressing the hope). The word describes the attitude of the speaker to this situation (i.e. positive). No claim is made about the speaker's ability to bring this situation to pass.

However, the word 'wish' seems to be more performative. By this I mean the philosophical view taken by J.L. Austin

Austin understood that contrary to traditional concerns of linguistics, which focus on the truth values of utterances, many utterances can more rightly seen as actions. The easiest examples are such performatives as 'I now pronounce you man and wife', 'We find the defendant not guilty', 'I name this ship HMS Post Imperial Hubris' and such like.

In these examples the truth condition of the world is realized by making the utterance. It is the performance of the utterance that makes reality. The couple do, in fact, become legally married at the moment the sentence is uttered by a competent person, the innocence of the defendant is established at the moment the jury foreman utters the words, and the ship is actually called this at the moment Mrs Windsor says so.

So, with the word wish, there is a performative aspect. The wishing of it is supposed by some mentalistic power to contribute to bringing about the desired situation. It is akin to prayer, but instead of asking a third party (deity) to use its power to bring about the desired outcome, the wisher himself/ herself is seen to contribute positively to the outcome by the act of wishing.
The ritualistic nature of canonical wishing bears this out. Wishing upon a star, blowing out candles, tossing coins in a fountain and the like all suggest that in some way the act of wishing contributes to the outcome.