Russell's sense of the word 'grammar'
Topics on this page ...
- "Logic is the study of everything subject to rules"
- Wittgenstein, Russell, 'grammar', and 'the same sense'
- Must Logic be Objective?
- Russell's "philosophical grammar"
- Logic, Metaphysics, "Misdirections"
- What would the world be like without Philosophy?
- Wittgenstein and the "Last Word"
- Wittgenstein and the End of philosophy
- Wittgenstein and the "Last Word"
- What would the world be like without Philosophy?
- Theory-making in Philosophy
- Elizabeth Anscombe's Grave
- "I don't know whether they pray for me. I hope they do."
- "Go the bloody hard way!" (The duty of mankind)
- "Please go the bloody rough way!"
- The Renunciation of Vanity
- 'Ethics' versus 'morals', a distinction without a difference
Context: these are studies (some quite rough) in logic of language. Words that follow "Query" are (mostly misdirected) searches I have responded to.
"Logic is the study of everything subject to rules"
Note: this continues the discussion Meanings of the word 'logic'.
In the original Synopsis chapter "Wittgenstein's Use of the Word 'Grammar'", I wrote, following I believe Wittgenstein:
Logic is the study of everything subject to rules (cf. TLP 6.3). And the rules for using language -- including the rules of sense and nonsense -- are called 'grammar'.
Later I changed this to "Logic is the study of the rules of everything subject to rules". But I wonder, is it necessary to say so much, i.e. to use so many words? Wouldn't this serve just as well -- hasn't it the same meaning: Logic is the study of rules? [Doesn't that amount to the same thing?] Of course this is both narrower and less vague than the OED's "Logic is the art of reasoning", if indeed there are rules of reasoning.
Recently I changed this to "By 'logic' Wittgenstein meant 'the study of everything subject to rules'", which form of expression makes clear that what we are talking about is the definition of [or, rules for using] a word, not the definition of some thing named 'logic' (whatever "definition of a thing" is when it's at home).
Russell, 'grammar', and 'the same sense'
I found the following among some photocopies I made at the school library many years ago. But I did not read the book it came from, having found it to be -- as I found almost everything written about Wittgenstein's philosophy in those days -- so much "philosophy done in the old way": it was not what I wanted. But I must have looked through the book and found:
4. This broad use of the word "grammar" (which I have adopted in this book) is now very common, largely as a result of Wittgenstein's influence. But Wittgenstein did not originate it. Russell used the term in the same wide sense as for instance on page 42 of his Principles of Mathematics [[Published in 1903]]: (in a passage quoted by F. Barone in "Il solipsismo linguistico di Ludwig Wittgenstein," Filosofia, 2 , pp. 549-50).
Wittgenstein's transition views on meaning, as well as his use of "grammar," are reflected by what Moritz Schlick wrote in 1936, several years after his discussions with Wittgenstein: "Thus, whenever we ask about a sentence, 'What does it mean?,' what we expect is instruction as to the circumstances in which the sentence is to be used; we want a description of the conditions under which the sentence will form a true proposition, and of those which will make it false. The meaning of a word or a combination of words is, in this way, determined by a set of rules which regulate their use and which, following Wittgenstein, we may call the rules of their grammar, taking this word in its widest sense" ("Meaning and verification," Philos. Rev., 45 , p. 341).
Hallett, Garth. Wittgenstein's Definition of Meaning as Use. New York: Fordham Univ. Pr., 1967. Page 189.
Russell's book is not available in my provincial exile [I have since seen a copy], and therefore I do not know if he "used the term in the same wide sense". The 'same sense' is of course an extremely ambiguous expression (i.e. its meaning needs to be explained ("further explanation given") every time it is used). Further, if Russell's use of the word 'grammar' had become commonplace at Cambridge, then Russell's colleague G. E. Moore should not have been perplexed about how Wittgenstein was using it.
I also find no report of this wider sense in the OED, although I have not seen the latest edition, which confines the extension of 'grammar' to syntax and inflection.
In any case, I think what I wrote in my Preface is the safest/wisest approach:
The elements of Wittgenstein's concept 'grammar' are the tools of logic that Wittgenstein assumed the readers of his works to be already familiar with -- despite the fact that, if he did not invent all of them, Wittgenstein so redefined them that they could only be gotten from him.
Otherwise you are in danger of not seeing what is new in Wittgenstein's philosophy -- as if to say: "You can see by his jargon that he is doing the same type of philosophizing that Russell did", which he certainly was not. Also: Wittgenstein's concept 'grammar' evolved over the years (Philosophical Investigations § 81).
Given that, despite its origins, it is still from the point of view of acceptation philosophers' jargon (-- because according to the common usage 'grammar' = 'syntax [without semantics]' --), it is no more misleading to use the word 'logic' in this context than the word 'grammar'. And that is what I would do if I were writing for a wider audience than here; I would use 'the logic of the word' = 'the grammar of the word'. Because both expressions still (from the point of view of acceptation) require explanation [of their intended meaning] -- because they are both jargon.
I could revise my Preface to read this way:
By 'logic of language' I mean: a way of distinguishing between sense and nonsense in language. In Wittgenstein's case this was a method for making an objective distinction by means of what he called "grammar".
Indeed, I might have titled these pages "Wittgenstein's Grammar of Language" [-- although both 'logic' and 'grammar' have broader, and in many cases, far different, meanings than intended here --] were it not that the "logic of language", not necessarily or only Wittgenstein's logic of language, is what really interests me.
Must Logic be Objective?
First I made the revision directly above to my Preface, but then I changed that to:
By a 'logic of language' I mean: a method for making an objective distinction between sense and nonsense. (If a distinction is not objective, there is no point calling it 'logic'.) Wittgenstein's method was to identify logic with what he called "grammar".
But I should not have made that change, for two reasons. First, it narrows ["defines" in the Greek sense of setting limits to] the area of my interest too much: I want to consider all ways in which distinctions may be made between sense and nonsense. And second, because: Why must "logic" be objective? The double-quotes here allude to the oldest, most general definition of 'logic'. Insisting that logic be objective is another instance of kidnapping the Greek logos. Is everything we call a reason objective; is every distinction we make objective? [That question asks for definitions of 'objective' and 'a reason'.] On the other hand, perhaps I should only have added and extra clause to my revision:
(If a distinction is not objective, there is no point calling it 'logic', although non-objective accounts of linguistic meaning are also possible.)
Perhaps, however, the word 'logic' does indicate that I am not looking for a "theory of meaning" (some explanation of an occult process by which ideas are transferred from one Cartesian mind to another e.g.; someone at school called that "Cartesian linguistics"). Again, "an art of reasoning" -- need it be objective? (I don't know; I can't say offhand.) What is objective can be shared: it is public, an account that anyone can check; like mathematics. (That is a rule of grammar of course.)
Russell's "philosophical grammar"
I have now seen [January 2009] a copy of The Principles of Mathematics by Bertrand Russell, 2nd ed., no date but an unrevised reprint [ca. 1937] of the 1903 edition to which Russell has added an "Introduction to the Second Edition".
According to von Wright's Biographical Sketch (Malcolm 2e, p. 5-6), Wittgenstein wanted to learn about the philosophy (or, foundations) of mathematics, was directed to Russell's book and was "profoundly affected" by it; he then went to see Frege who told him to study under Russell.
In the present chapter, certain questions are to be discussed belonging to what may be called philosophical grammar. The study of grammar, in my opinion, is capable of throwing far more light on philosophical questions than is commonly supposed by philosophers.... On the whole, grammar seems to me to bring us much nearer to a correct logic than the current opinions of philosophers ... Of the parts of speech three are specially important: substantives, adjectives, and verbs. (Principles of Mathematics, Chapter iv, § 46, p. 42)
Russell here alludes to the traditional account of the grammar of our language: he is still talking about nouns ("substantives"), verbs, adjectives. However, when he writes that "The distinction which we require is not identical with the grammatical distinction between substantives and adjectives, since one single concept [as is the case with 'human' and 'humanity'] may, according to circumstances, be either substantive or adjective" (ibid.), then he is saying that, as least in some cases, philosophical investigations are "grammatical" investigations in Wittgenstein's sense.
But Wittgenstein's "philosophical grammar" was far more subtle than the received (or, educational) categories of grammar, even if he does make use of them when he writes: "As long as there continues to be a verb 'to be' that looks as if it functions in the same way as 'to eat' ... people will keep stumbling over the same puzzling difficulties" (Culture and Value p. 15). For example, when he says that "The words 'shape' and 'color' in the definitions determine the kind of use of the word, and therefore what one may call the part of speech" (Philosophical Grammar p. 61), he is inventing new categories of grammar.
I am not aware of evidence that Russell would have said as Wittgenstein said to Moore that by 'grammar' he meant "any explanation of the use of language". Indeed, with Wittgenstein we could [almost] say that 'grammar' = 'meaning'. That extension of the concept was Wittgenstein's own jargon, not an idea [not jargon] borrowed from Russell.
When Russell talks about meaning, he does not identify meaning with grammar; those are different concepts, different topics, for him. Russell distinguishes between the "psychological meaning" and "logical meaning" of a word, and says that he is only interested in the latter. Likewise Wittgenstein: "Now if for an expression to convey a meaning means for it to be accompanied by or to produce certain experiences, our expression may have all sorts of meanings, and I don't wish to say anything about them." (The Blue Book p. 65)
But should we say that Wittgenstein's "meaning is [for a large class of cases] use" versus "pointing to its bearer" distinction (PI § 43) is the same as Russell's "meaning" versus "denoting" distinction or indeed as Frege's "sense" versus "reference" distinction? But, I think, by 'meaning' in his meaning-denoting distinction Russell means "psychological meaning", whereas whatever thing is denoted (A proposition is not composed of words, but [somehow; he does not say how] of the things the words denote) is the "logical meaning" (Chapter iv, § 51, p. 47). But that is not what Wittgenstein meant by 'meaning' [clearly at least after the TLP]: 'use' does not mean the "psychological meaning", nor is the meaning of a name the thing it denotes (According to Russell in the proposition 'I met a man in the street' the man I met [that thing itself] is the "logical meaning" of the word 'man' in this instance); Russell's distinction was not Wittgenstein's.
Might we not ask: "How similar must A be to B before we say that A is the same as B?" 'The same' [identical] and 'similar' [alike] are different concepts. If two notions are similar, then they are alike in some ways -- but also dis-alike in other ways. In the cases of Russell versus Wittgenstein's jargon, do we want to point more [emphasize more] the differences or the likenesses?
Russell does not define what he means by 'philosophical grammar', but clearly he means by that expression the "true" or "logical" grammar as opposed to the apparent grammar (or, in other words, Wittgenstein's "surface" versus "depth" grammar distinction). But even when in later writings Russell rewrites propositions to show their "logical form" he does so with the traditional grammatical categories in mind. For example:
'The round square does not exist' had always been a difficult proposition; for it was natural to ask "What is it that does not exist?" ("Introduction to the Second Edition" p. x)
According to Russell's "Theory of Descriptions", if I know what I am talking about (and I may not know what I am talking about), that proposition would be rewritten: 'There is no x such that x is both round and square'. That, or something like that, would be the "philosophical-" or "logical-grammar" of the proposition 'The round square does not exist'.
Russell's treatment, like Plato's in the Sophist, is a great philosophical insight. But at the same time, it won't do. Because it still bases meaning on form [It is still an expression of that misconception], as if form were the key to meaning ["If you give a proposition its correct form, its meaning will become clear to you"]. Russell's "There is no x such that ..." may have a far better look and feel about it than "The combination of words '[such-and-such]' is a combination of words for which we have no use", but the latter account is the correct one. Meaning is not a matter of form, but of use; and where there is no use, form is irrelevant [because there is nothing for it to be relevant to. Where there is no use, there is no meaning, regardless of form.]
On the one hand, Wittgenstein did not drop from the moon: he had studied Russell and Frege. And indeed, Wittgenstein wrote that "I don't believe I have ever invented a line of thinking. I have always taken one over from someone else ... for my work of clarification" (CV p. 19 [MS 154 15v: 1931 § 2]). But, on the other hand, G. E. Moore said of Russell's Theory of Descriptions that it "was something quite new.... It was his own work, and not influenced by anyone whatever" (Quoted in Wood (1957), p. 63). And I believe the same can be said of Wittgenstein's "grammar". That is partly a question for historians to sort out, but, of course, remember that everything resembles everything else -- in some way or another.
Russell's "Theory of Descriptions" is not, however, only about form, as Wittgenstein acknowledges in PI § 70. For example, a proper name might be "defined by means of various descriptions"; the name 'Socrates' is certainly not defined by pointing to the bearer of that name (ibid. § 43).
Query: Bertrand Russell's logic of language.
I had not thought to call it that, but that is indeed what it is -- because there is nothing metaphysical about it (because nothing is hidden). But Russell's logic of language is not so distant from Wittgenstein's logic, which owes some of its foundations to the early works of Russell, as Wittgenstein's logic is from Socrates' logic.
Logic, Metaphysics, "Misdirections"
Query: is logic the language of metaphysics?
In a sense, yes, because metaphysics ([metaphysical] picture-making) floats free of any [empirical, empirically measurable] evidence (verification, falsification: metaphysical pictures are not compared with what they are imagined to be pictures of [claimed to picture]) so that one's principle criterion of correctness is the "rules of logic", not contradicting oneself e.g.
Nietzsche in his rambles said something like "Asia does not know the difference between poetry and reason". Not everything human beings imagine is philosophy. There is a difference between drawing pictures and knowledge.
Query: philosophy question? how do you know?
I think this is the first question I ever asked in philosophy [the first philosophical question I ever asked]. For many people, maybe philosophy begins here: with wanting [demanding] to know the justification for an assertion [especially, for young people, in ethics]. The question "How do you know?" is the preeminent philosophical question; it was the question that Socrates asked It is closely related to the question: "What does it mean?" (which is the question that Wittgenstein asked).
Query: logic and language.
I record this query because it came from China and was sent to the homepage. I can't help but think that my account of Wittgenstein's "logic of language" must seem utterly irrelevant to someone in China, a strange thing to call 'logic'. And indeed calling it such is jargon; it is not arbitrary chosen jargon, but it is jargon.
Query: ethics versus values.
Search engines seem designed to direct queries to the wrong pages of my site. For example, this query clearly should have been sent to the page with "Ethics versus Values", which is a principal topic of that page.
Query: who discovered the theorem of two objects cannot occupy the same space?
Query: two objects cannot occupy the same space physics law.
That is metaphysics in a nutshell, the "depth of philosophy": "Why do we feel a grammatical joke to be deep?" (PI § 111) in a nutshell. But is this not akin to a "theorem", a deduction from the picture (Isaac Newton's picture) of "matter" as "little particles of matter so hard as to be indivisible"? These queries are correctly sent to The Philosophy of Science of James Jeans.
Query: explanation of the word logic.
Query: examples of logic.
Both these queries should have been sent to What are we calling 'logic'?, where at least a few possibilities (Aristotle, Stoics, Socrates) are given. [How Wittgenstein used the word 'logic' = 'grammar'.]
Query: Abraham sacrifice philosophical issues.
There is a philosophical issue -- a very important philosophical issue -- here, not merely literary [literary criticism] and religious [theological] issues. And that there is no place in Wittgenstein's philosophy to deal with it is very revealing about that philosophy. Of course Wittgenstein might say that his work is only "a small fragment in the history of philosophy" (Recollections p. 160); -- and indeed why wouldn't he be correct to do just that?
But in his Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein says that: philosophy consists only of "houses of cards" (PI § 118) .... and yet, on the other hand, Wittgenstein certainly did judge Nietzsche to be a philosopher: "There are problems I never get anywhere near" (CV p. 9), although Nietzsche was obviously not a philosopher in the logical-philosophical [-- i.e. "the philosophy of logic" (PI § 108), which means: looking at philosophical problems from the point of view of the "logic of language" --] conception of philosophy.
It is important to point out the limits [limitations] of the logical-philosophical ["philosophy of logic"] way of doing philosophy: there are indeed philosophical questions that it never gets near, and the above search query is one of them.
"If philosophy has anything to do with wisdom ..." [Letter to Malcolm no. 27] See Abraham "after the Garden" (i.e. after the birth of morality) for my own view of this: that Abraham, our "father in faith" [i.e. in an "eternal childhood" (Kant)], was our betrayer: he was not a Greek philosopher. Fire should, I think, be seen as a symbol of our freedom from gods, and, since the essential element of human freedom is human reason, reason should be called "the fire of Prometheus".
Query: importance of geometry.
That query was sent to Philosophy of Geometry, but I don't think that page would be helpful to the young student, if that student is asking for examples of practical applications of geometry found in our everyday life, such as in the construction of railroad bridges (triangles) and in measuring farmland (squares).
What would the world be like without Philosophy?
Note: this supplements the discussion Why Philosophy cannot be Easy.
Query: imagine world without philosophy.
Query: importance of philosophy in our life.
These queries may need a definition -- in the sense of a setting of limits to the subject area of philosophy, given that historically many different things have been called 'philosophy' [There is no general (or, common-nature) definition of that word] and given as well that word's popular senses (where 'philosophy' means a 'motto' or a 'policy' or 'stoicism'). But on the other hand, our answer will show where we set those limits.
The world without philosophy would be the world without the Delphic commandment "Know thyself": it would be the world without an alternative to the unexamined life, as if Socrates had never been.
The queries were misdirected to Questions without Answers -- but in a world without philosophy such metaphysical questions [questions about "the riddle of existence"] would not exist.
In a world without philosophy, self-mystification -- especially in the form of "real definitions of concepts [non-name-of-object words]" (e.g. "What is time?" and "What is the true meaning of logic?") -- would reign -- and there would be no method for escaping the high walls of that kingdom. [There would be no distinction made between conceptual and factual investigations (Zettel § 458).]
The world without philosophy would be the world without ethics, without bright ideals: it would be mankind without our humanity because both altruism and selfishness would be nothing more than a matter of instinct. By 'ethics' we mean philosophical reflection about right and wrong, about good and evil, about values.
The world without philosophy would be a world ruled by superstitions and irrational fears, because it would be a world without critical reason [philosophy] to examine our beliefs about the causes of things. It would be a world where mankind too belonged among the "beasts wanting discourse of reason", mankind confined to an eternal childhood in the Biblical Garden (where the only commandment would be "Obey!"), without the gift of Prometheus [i.e. reason] to free humanity from nature gods.
And if we define 'philosophy' the ancient way, to include "physics, ethics, and logic [dialectic]", then it would also be a world without science. Isaac Newton called his work "natural philosophy", and that is not just a quaint form of expression: science is a philosophy, or as some philosophers would say: a branch of philosophy.
In sum, the world without philosophy would be human life without the tools of logic -- i.e. without reason: a life passed in a state of vagueness and confusion until death. It would be life without life's most worthy companion.
Wittgenstein and the "Last Word"
Note: this continues the discussion "Wittgensteinian" (A philosopher is not an ideologue).
Wittgenstein may be the latest word in philosophy, but he is certainly not the last word in philosophy. Perhaps in a hundred years students of philosophy will wonder why there was once so much interest in his work. Even I can see to the bottom of it very quickly; it is not profound. As was wrote in Socrates' Logic of Language: "Wittgenstein's philosophy answers not one single philosophical question, and certainly not the question of the universality of ethics. Socrates would not have regarded it as having anything to say to him." It cannot be long-satisfying to say that "the riddle of existence" and all life's philosophical questions are nonsense, as Wittgenstein did indeed say: there are no answers because there are no questions: "It is there -- like our life." (On Certainty § 559)
Human beings already know that they did not know the solution to the riddle of life ("There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave to tell us this."); to tell us that there is no riddle to solve is absurd, because it runs counter to all experience of living life. If that is a consequence of the way you define the word 'meaning', that is to say if this is a consequence of your "logic of language", then there is the question of how long your logic of language will be acceptable to humanity. Can you build -- or even sustain to anything more than a slow [lingering] death -- civilization on "I destroy" (CV p. 21 [MS 154 21v: 1931])? On the other hand, for his "destroying" or destructive criticism the father of philosophy was put to death (Why question everything?).
I write this despite the essential influence of Wittgenstein's work in "logic of language" on my own thinking (although he is not my only teacher in philosophy).
Wittgenstein and the End of philosophy
In his "Epilogue"  to his study of Schweitzer, Oskar Kraus wrote that he shared the conviction of Ernst Barthel that:
... the philosophy of mankind has by no means come to an end but is rather still in its primary stages. (Albert Schweitzer: His work and his philosophy, tr. E. G. McCalman (1944), p. 71)
On the other hand, it is not impossible that philosophy reached its zenith with the Greek philosophers and that it is now in its final decline. Although our age may simply be a deep cultural trough, it does appear that the best in everything is now behind us: philosophy, music, architecture, literature, civic ideals. But, then, so it must have appeared to men after the Fall of Rome; we may simply be going through another "Dark Ages". But this is true: those we call the ancient Greeks were hardly the childhood of humanity [no more than the composers of the 17th-19th centuries, nor the authors of the 17th-18th century Enlightenment were], if the birth of the human species came millennia before them [B.C. is a very long time]; from that point of view, they were indeed ancient (They were mankind's maturity). Whereas we may or may not be mankind's dotage, the science and technology that characterize our age, not an advance on our ancestors, but the cause of the end of life on earth. [I am not deprecating the sciences, but I am asking of what worth is scientific knowledge and theory -- if that is the sole life of the human mind.]
Query: blind people's language.
A worthwhile investigation would be: which concepts would this language of blind people not have? and which concepts that sighted people don't have might a blind people's language have? [Which general facts of nature would direct concept formation here?] To investigate this philosophically would require imagination to invent language-games ... In this instance, philosophy would not be anthropological, because of course, although there are actual blind human beings whom one might talk to, that is not the course a purely conceptual investigation would take. [Philosophy is not a science.] Although the investigation might benefit from hearing blind people's testimony, it would not be a report of blind people's testimony -- but would instead consist entirely of invented language-games. Because the purpose of the study would not be to better understand actual blind people, but to better understand the concepts of our own language. (If a philosophical investigation were made by a blind people their interest would be in better understanding their own concepts by trying to invent language-games for a sighted people.) An example of such an investigation is my Fable of The Born-Blind-People.
Query: Wittgenstein etymology.
As almost always, this query was directed to the wrong page. It should go to Concepts and Abstractions or the etymology of 'disciple' (which once upon a time was simply a synonym for 'student'), although there is not a lot said at either page.
Etymology is as essentially irrelevant as [linguistic] form [syntax] is to meaning (in the sense of the word 'meaning' that Wittgenstein selected for his logic of language): etymology is conjecture (sometimes documentable, sometimes not) about the origin of words, their meaning in the past [historical usage] which may be completely different from their meaning [usage] today. For example, the word 'knave' in Hamlet (or my fractured memory of it): "There's not a fool in all Denmark, but he's an errant knave." -- But Shakespeare's statement has lost its original meaning (Indeed, taken out of its historical context, it has no meaning -- i.e. it is a tautology), because nowadays 'knave' = 'fool' rather than 'servant'.
The etymology of a word is another meaning of the word 'meaning', of which there are countless.
Wittgenstein did not say, nor did he offer a theory about, what the "true meaning" of the word 'meaning' is, because there is no such thing.
There is no "meaning in itself" nor "essence of meaning" -- whatever that is when it's at home, and the answer is: it is nothing but an undefined combination of words. The "theory of abstraction" e.g. is not a picture that can be compared to anything in the world (reality); it is, like Plato's Ideas, "outside the world", "on the other side of the sky", "in the mind" -- i.e. in the realm of "dreams and vain fictions of our own devising" called 'metaphysics'.
And there is no essence in the grammar of the word 'meaning' either, but there are many family likenesses to be found in the uses we make of that word. As an example: it is not obvious that verbal meaning and real meaning naturally belong in the same class or category -- i.e. that they should both be called 'meaning': because verbal definitions are more or less arbitrary rules (conventions); whereas real meanings are by no means arbitrary, but are propositions [statements-of-fact] that may be true or false. And yet both may be answers to the question "What is thunder?"
[The failure to make a distinction here belongs to the essence of metaphysics, according to Wittgenstein: that it does not recognize the difference between a conceptual [verbal] and a factual [real] investigation, but treats all investigations as if they were questions about facts. (Z § 458) Blaise Pascal made a similar criticism.]
As another example: why should conventional meaning and "affective [emotive] meaning" fall under the umbrella of the concept-word 'meaning', when the latter "type of meaning" is by no means arbitrary? The question: "What impression does this sound make on you, what associations does it evoke, what does it suggest to you?" is hardly the same question as: "What are the rules for using this word"? And yet both may be answers to the question "What is the meaning of this literary text?"
Query: the word philosophy translated.
That is another meaning of the word 'meaning': the root-word-translation or the root-meaning: the word 'philosophy' means 'love of wisdom', from the Greek: 'philo' = 'love' and 'sophy' = 'wisdom'. Of course, this meaning of 'the meaning of a word' may make nothing clearer: "love of wisdom" -- what does that mean, after all? Does it tell us anything about philosophy -- about what philosophers do, for example?
Given that the Greeks invented philosophy, there is no equivalent for the Greek word to be translated into in any other language:
And thus it was from the Greeks that philosophy took its rise: its very name refuses to be translated into foreign speech. (Diog. L. i, 4, tr. Hicks)
That at least was the ancient view of philosophy. So far as I know -- but how far do I know? -- it is correct, although things may be found that resemble philosophy in other cultures. (According to the same author it was with the Greeks that "not merely philosophy but the human race began" (ibid. 1, 3).)
Query: undefined questions with no answers.
If they are undefined, then they are not without answers -- i.e. nonsense in the form of a question is still nonsense. Which is to say that the question-sign can only be rejected, not answered: "what is undefined is without meaning"; this is a grammatical remark. Or what else shall we mean by 'undefined' in the context of philosophy? If a word or combination of words is undefined, then it either must be given a meaning by whoever wishes to use it; or in the case of a text, it may be possible to deduce the author's intention (what the author may have meant [the author's meaning]) from context.
Query: philosophy of mathematics is not.
This query's sense comes from "fill in the blank space": ... is not mathematics. This should have gone to Philosophy of Geometry: "Philosophy of Mathematics is the view from outside mathematics".
Query: nominal definition of logic philosophy.
What does a real definition of an "abstraction" look like -- if there is no identifiable essence (because one doesn't exist)? If there were such at thing, that would be a "real definition" in this example.
[Is logic, then, not a pure abstraction? or do its rules have a real existence? or is there a third state of existence somewhere in between? (Metaphysics ["rationalism", "pure reason"] is fun.)]
Query: physics matter of fact.
I would not say (i.e. make this classification) that facts per se belong to physics, but only theories about them (although every fact is of course already "theoretical" -- i.e. conceptualized). But there are many, many issues to consider here. [Philosophy of Science.]
Query: Wittgenstein origin of mind.
The suggestiveness of this query -- but what does it ask? Does it ask for something historical, e.g. the society in which this concept [the concept, our concept] 'mind' first appeared (See Who invented the concept 'mind'?), or for "theories", like in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus ("The observer's eye is not part of the observer's own visual field") or even like Wittgenstein's "theories" about the origin of philosophy (sc. grammatical confusion) if 'theories' is what we want to call them?
You could ask: how could human beings even conceive [imagine] the word 'mind' to name a spirit (spiritual object) (It need not be of course that they were misled by false grammatical analogies in this case: that need not be the case at all: there may be entirely other things at work here); where did that picture come from?
That human beings create/invent gods/God and then use these imagined spirits/ghosts to rule [tyrannize over] their lives is maybe not so perplexing (however bizarre): forest terrors (panic), the comfort of seeing themselves as victims of malignant forces, the desire to manipulate [get around] the casual nexus through magic, the total ignorance of the cause of many things (microbes); we can easily imagine many things with respect to independently existent spirits.
But that human beings should have conceived themselves as spirits (capable of being) independent of their bodies .... Maybe if you begin by thinking about gods it does not perplex you so much (although, according to Schweitzer's experience in Gabon, the notion of 'God' or 'gods' is not found in primitive human culture). The picture exists -- now, what is its origin? -- All you can reply with is a myth of origin. And the criteria by which this myth is acceptable is that: it is satisfying (more satisfying than the facts alone; M. O'C. Drury's Philosophy of Science).
Query: philosophical sense of the word 'mind'.
The notion that there are "philosophical senses" of everyday words that are different from their everyday meaning is a notion Wittgenstein rejected as a mistaken view of how our language works (of the logic of our language), as if the investigation of the meaning of words were, not a conceptual investigation, but the investigation of facts of Reality. (The Philosophy of Mind is a grammatical investigation.)
Query: the philosophical difference between the word two and the numeral 2.
That query is correctly sent to Philosophy of Mathematics - What are numbers?. Maybe I should change "wordals", a sign [In Wittgenstein's jargon, 'sign' means: spoken sounds or ink marks on paper] I invented to contrast with 'numeral', to "word-als" for the sake of clarity? And so I did on 5 February 2006.
Query: differences between numbers and numerals in philosophy?
There is a difference in lexicography, but in philosophy there is no difference. But further we could say: the pictures that are suggested to our imaginations by that distinction have given birth to metaphysical speculations about "what numbers really are", speculations which are an example of a "grammatical joke" (PI § 111), just as are speculations about "what geometric objects really are". [A particular weather report is another example.]
Query: negative numerals.
Suppose someone said that the word 'elf' wasn't really a word because elves don't exist, and that 'elf' therefore was only a word-al, not a word. That would be the same as saying that "negative numbers" are really only numerals, not numbers.
Theory-making in Philosophy
One "runs up against the limits of language" (LE/Notes p. 14) when one tries to use a rule of grammar (or a myth or picture) to state an hypothesis about the nature of something (e.g. the world, life). Remember, however, that we ourselves are only imposer of these limits: if language is undefined it is only because we have not defined [or chosen to define] it (cf. Z § 259). This is how nonsense is produced in philosophy (cf. PP iii, p. 312). And this -- failing to distinguish between a conceptual-grammatical-logical and a factual investigation is precisely what Wittgenstein most wanted to put an end to in philosophy? I think so.
I wrote to a correspondent: "I am not a theoretical thinker; indeed, my desire is to remove everything theoretical from philosophy." And that is correct: I have no fondness for castles built in the sky ["houses of cards" (Anscombe), lexically: "buildings constructed of air"] (unverifiable pictures, imagined by their authors to be pictures of the "really real").
It's not that building castles in the sky is necessarily nonsense. -- What is wrong is not recognizing that this is what you are doing. And, indeed, these pictures may be very helpful to us: by lightening the philosopher's task of imagining possibilities.
"Philosophy gives no pictures of reality" [which is what the natural sciences do, although not in the Tractatus sense)], Wittgenstein wrote in 1913. (Quoted by McGuinness, Life Ch. 5 p. 144; cf. TLP 4.11)
Note: this supplements Visit to Wittgenstein's Grave in St. Giles Cemetery, Cambridge, England.
I received this Internet mail from Tom Tomos, to whom I am grateful:
I have just paid a visit to Wittgenstein's grave. (Saturday 4 December 2005).... The inscription has become encrusted with dust and moss and is difficult to read until up close. You may be interested to know that Elizabeth Anscombe is now buried just one row behind Ludwig.
G. E. M. Anscombe died on 5 January 2001 (born 1919). In the Guardian Newspapers obituary (11 January 2001) her student Jane O'Grady wrote:
Her translation of his greatest work, the Philosophical Investigations, was remarkable. It is quoted all over the world as if it were verbatim Wittgenstein rather than a translation, being written in an English style which is itself compelling.
Sometimes I wonder if I depend on Anscombe's translations too much, although my knowledge of German is slight and in practice I have very seldom seen any reason to alter her work.
"I don't know whether they pray for me. I hope they do."
Last October  a correspondent, who sent me a photograph of Anscombe's grave (which looks exactly like Wittgenstein's except that the dates on her stone are in Roman numerals) for which I am grateful, spoke of "a sly piece of sophistry by Drury" in having Wittgenstein laid to "rest in a Catholic churchyard". That rather disturbed me, so I will respond to that notion here (although these notes only restate parts of what I wrote on the page Wittgenstein's Religion - What manner of man was he?).
First, I cannot imagine that a man of Drury's character could ever be justly accused of "sophistry", particularly where the death of his dear friend was concerned.
What did Drury and Wittgenstein's other friends do? They asked a Dominican priest, who was a friend of Wittgenstein's, to read prayers at the deathbed and beside the grave. Note that they did not give Wittgenstein a Catholic funeral Mass, nor a Catholic burial. When his friends were discussing what they should do, Drury remembered a remark Wittgenstein had once made to him, in 1944: "I seem to be surrounded now by Roman Catholic converts! I don't know whether they pray for me. I hope they do." (Why did that popular biographer choose to leave this remark out of his account? Why, indeed.)
It should be added that Drury was not himself a Roman Catholic, and that St. Giles Cemetery has people of all faiths and non-faiths buried there. We might also note that his friends did not have a Cross inscribed on Wittgenstein's gravestone.
After Wittgenstein's death, his writings about religion and Christianity were published. Among the remarks he made is found: "What would it feel like not to have heard of Christ? Would we feel left alone in the dark?"; that was from the year 1931, when Wittgenstein was 42 years old. I am not suggesting that Wittgenstein was in any way an orthodox Christian, but I would point out another remark he made: "I am not a religious man but I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view", and when Wittgenstein said 'religious' we find that the "religious pictures" [-- Having one's life guided by "pictures" such as that of a Last Judgment was Wittgenstein's account of what religious belief amounts to --] that stayed with him all his life were Christian.
Nonetheless, because of gossip that arose after his burial that W. had "converted" (Why, what was he before?) -- i.e. had returned to the Catholic faith into which he had been baptized --, Drury was troubled about whether they had done the right thing. (As to anyone who might "object" that "Wittgenstein called himself a Jew", I would ask, first, what did he mean by that? and, second, What were Jesus and his disciples?) I think that what W.'s friends did was appropriate (They did not "go too far"; they did not have his coffin taken into a Catholic church for a funeral Mass, nor, so far as I am aware, was there an anointing of the sick); and fear of gossip should not stop us from doing what is appropriate by our own lights. Wittgenstein was, after all, their friend, not ours, and they honored him in the way they thought best at the time.
I will remark as well that I have no personal interest in W.'s having been -- or not having been -- a Christian. I myself am not a disciple of Jesus, nor in any way religious, but of Socrates. I think, however, that fairness to the facts demands that we acknowledge that W. was not in the least an atheist. Toward the end of his life he wrote that life can force the concept 'God' on us, and by 'God' he meant the God of the Bible, of which he had written that the Old Testament was its body, the New Testament its head (or fulfillment). He did not believe in the "Second Coming", but -- strange, at least to me, to say -- he was inclined to believe in Jesus's Resurrection. W. was in no way a Logical Positivist; he had more regard for St. Augustine than he had for the Enlightenment. When Bertrand Russell wrote that Wittgenstein "was a very singular man, and I doubt whether his disciples knew what manner of man he was", I must agree with him. I am deeply grateful to him for what I have called Wittgenstein's "logic of language" (as my Internet site is titled), but his world-view is quite foreign to me.
Well, so that is my reply. I must say that I think W. has been particularly ill-served by his biographers. Anscombe refused to write about W. for fear of "dragging him down" to her own level. But the consequence of her silence, as well as that of Rhees and Smythies, is that, were we without the published memories of both Malcolm and Drury as well as the remarks published in English as "Culture and Value", we would know almost nothing reliable about the man himself. In my opinion (not very humble) Wittgenstein's hearsay biographers have indeed dragged him down to their own level. Well, so say I.
"Go the bloody hard way!"
Would Wittgenstein have said that the duty of a genius is different from anyone else's duty? Every human life is lived under the demands of ethics. Duty -- i.e. moral responsibility, the moral imperative, lays the same burden on everyone. Wittgenstein told Rush Rhees: "Go the hard way; go the bloody hard way!" And Rhees was not a genius. Rhees, who was a professor of philosophy, had the same moral obligation toward his students as Wittgenstein had; and Rhees had the same moral obligation to try to be completely honest [conscientious] in his own philosophical thinking [philosophizing]. (The consequences of our actions, when foreseeable, are important to ethics. But if I do my best and my results are poor, that is not a moral fault -- nor does it release me from my obligation to keep trying to do my best.)
Wittgenstein used to say to me, "Go the bloody hard way"; and he would write this in letters as well. I remember this more often, perhaps, than any other single remark of his. (Rush Rhees, "The Study of Philosophy", in his Without Answers (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), p. 169)
Note: in his essay Rhees applied Wittgenstein's words only in the very limited sense that there is no easy way to go in philosophy; there are no formulas, no short cuts (There is no "royal road"): you have to think a philosophical problem all the way through (for yourself), confronting every obstacle; otherwise you are only playing at philosophy. (I have written elsewhere about Why philosophy cannot be easy, which is related although not identical to this idea.) However, in the following discussion I apply Wittgenstein's words to "the no small matter of how we should live our life" (Plato).
"Rhees had the same obligation ..." Otherwise Wittgenstein would have said to him: I have to go the harder way because I am a genius, but you, Rhees, can go the easier way because you are not; you don't have the same "duty" (moral responsibility) as I have. But that is exactly what Wittgenstein did not say.
"Rhees had the same moral obligation ..." I say "the same" -- but what other life can be called ethical? We must all do our best to do what is right and not to do what is wrong. Even a hack thinker like me is obligated by ethics to be completely honest when he philosophizes. If Wittgenstein had suffered a stroke and been left only able to sweep the floor, his "duty" would only have changed in its subject matter, not in the conscientiousness with which it had to be done.
I would call that popular biography's title reflective of a set of values [or a view of life] that I think Wittgenstein deplored. The worship of genius belongs to a subculture that was I believe foreign to Wittgenstein. There are many strains of culture -- i.e. many subcultures --, some much higher or lower than others. Obviously Paul Engelmann would be representative of a higher, and the author of that book of a lower. The title itself suggests a type of vanity [egoism, vainglory] that Wittgenstein would have condemned if he believed he had found it in himself. He knew that he was a genius [someone with a rare talent for philosophical thinking] and he also knew that he was vain -- but he did not exalt his vanity; he tried instead to rid himself of it: I do not think he regarded himself as a great man (CV p. 47). He did not title his book "Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations" e.g., as if he himself were the most important thing about it. That would have been to act like the publishers who put his photograph on their book covers: I think Wittgenstein would have hated this and regarded it as contrary to the spirit of his work. There is, in addition to his saying that his work was only "a small fragment of philosophy" (Recollections p. 160), this statement of modesty:
Bach wrote on the title page of his Orgelbuchlein, "To the glory of the most high God, and that my neighbor may be benefited thereby." That is what I would have liked to say about my work. (Recollections p. 168, from 1949)
The meaning of the command "Try to enter by the narrow gate" (Luke 13.24) is not the same as "Go the bloody hard way!" but they are alike in the demands they make. [Here you really could speak of a "constellation of values", because stars in the sky are symbols of high ideals, which are also high demands.]
"Please go the bloody rough way!"
Please don't give in, or despair! I know how immensely depressing things can look; and, of course, I'm the first man to think of running away, but I hope you'll pull yourself together. I wonder what lines for a logic course I recommended. Anyhow, there's nothing more difficult than to teach logic with any success when your students are all half asleep. (I've heard Braithwaite [editor of Ramsey's posthumous The Foundations of Mathematics and other Logical Essays (1931)] snore in my lectures.) Please go the bloody rough way! -- I wish you one moderately intelligent and awake pupil to sweeten your labour!
I repeat: Please go the bloody, rough way! Complain, swear, but go on. The students are stupid but they get something out of it. (Letter to R. Rhees [1905-1989], 28.11.1944, in Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents 1911-1951 (2008), ed. McGuinness, Document 321, p. 371)
The Renunciation of Vanity
Rush Rhees quotes Otto Weininger's discussion of "genius", that: "genius ... stands out precisely by its renunciation of all outward greatness [greatness in the world], by its purely internal greatness" (Recollections p. 181). However, that turns the word 'genius' into a jargon-word (which is why I enclosed it in double quotes above). It may be a case of saintly genius to "love to be thyself unknown and counted for nothing"; however, if we use the word 'genius' as we normally do -- i.e. if we apply 'genius' to the normal examples -- then we would not exclude Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Mozart, Brahms, or even Bertrand Russell and Einstein, from the list of geniuses, although perhaps none of them would be included following Weininger's criterion, because there is no "renunciation" here (to use the word 'renunciation' as we normally do): none of these men courted obscurity -- nor consistently did Wittgenstein: he was for many years a professor at Cambridge University, which could hardly be call a renunciation of "outward greatness"; Wittgenstein later even referred to this professorship as "vanity" when talking to Drury (ibid. p. 159).
Wittgenstein was spared by his death from a final lesson in humility [renunciation]. Because he said to Malcolm a year before his death:
I believe that as long as I live & as often as the state of my mind permits it I will think about philosophical problems & and try to write about them. (Ludwig Wittgenstein: a Memoir, 2nd ed. (1984), p. 78 [Letter no. 50])
When a person has only one thing in the world -- namely, a certain talent -- what is he to do when he begins to lose that talent? (ibid. p. 76)
But in the event, he was able to think about philosophy to the end, working on On Certainty up to a few days before his death.
Of the longer biographies, I have found only McGuinness's book helpful, and that only when McGuinness is not being "too clever by half" [cryptic]. But the most popular biography is decidedly middle-brow, not a bad book but not a good book either. You could also say: there is no depth to it, and in that sense it is not worthy of its subject. (I borrowed that book from the public library when it was published and I have not looked at it since, but I don't think if I reread it now I would like it any better. But obviously one might write a biography with the subtitle: "the demands of an ethical life" and in that sense the word 'duty' is not misplaced.
One man misunderstands another, and a petty man misunderstands all other men in his own nasty way. (cf. CV p. 86)
In 2008 another biography appeared, in which its author supposes that Ludwig Wittgenstein felt the "need to postulate the existence of [a] deity". (Sneering remarks are as well made about Jesus ("his beating up of a fig tree") and even the frail and innocent Christmas hymn Silent Night.) The author also suggests that the TLP should be judged by what members of Wittgenstein's extended family thought of him: "the dupe of the family" who had pulled the wool over the eyes of the philosophers at Cambridge. Someone who writes and judges like this can, of course, understand both the worth and the spirit of Wittgenstein's life and work! (Anscombe's warning is not wisely ignored. Wittgenstein said of another philosopher that he "has something to say, but he is incredibly shallow" (Recollections p. 159).)
There is no place where whether a man is deep or shallow is shown than in his thinking about religion. ("What must the man be called, who cannot understand the concept 'God' ...?" | What "manner of man" was Wittgenstein?)
'Ethics' versus 'morals', a distinction without a difference
What is the difference between 'ethics' and 'morals' [morality, "moral science"]? According to Schweitzer, the difference is that the first word is Greek in origin and the second is Latin in origin; other than that, there is no difference. If anyone does make a distinction, they are stating [i.e. making] a rule that is not commonly acknowledged [i.e. they are inventing jargon]. But by the criterion of acceptation [common English-language usage] the words 'ethical and 'moral' are equivalent-in-meaning words (They are not synonyms, if by 'synonyms' we mean 'words with similar, as opposed to identical, meanings').
In this case, what I am calling Wittgenstein's logic of language is concerned only with acceptation -- i.e. 'meaning' as defined by public [held in common] rules [or, our common "grammar"]. It is not concerned with "impressionistic meanings" (i.e. with the pictures or notions that words may suggest to an individual: e.g. "To me 'morality' means ...").
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