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"How is with-meaning distinguished from without-meaning in discussing philosophical problems?" These are logic of language remarks apropos of that question and other philosophical questions.

Fool's gold and Philosophy

Query: Socrates' recognition of his own foolishness.

If wisdom is knowledge, then ignorance is foolishness. And Plato's Apology does call the artisans who think they know what they do not know foolish for that reason (Apology 22d-e). See the preface that comes at the end.

The Preface that comes at the Beginning

The idea of "definition by family resemblances" is not Wittgenstein's own, but rather is a misunderstanding invented by readers of his work. He did not aim to replace one theory of meaning with another, but only to replace a picture of how it seems to us that our language must work (as exemplified by Socrates search for a standard in ethics and later by the speculations of Plato in metaphysics) with a simple description of what we find when we examine the facts in plain view (That was why he wrote: "Don't think, Look!" in PI § 66), not that Socrates wasn't fully aware of what we find when we look at the facts in plain view (Examining those facts was part of his method in philosophy).

If the meaning of a common name is not the common nature (essence) it names, then what is the meaning of a common name? Wittgenstein's idea of "family resemblances" simply sets that question aside. It does not answer it, for an answer must tell us how one "family" (named by a common name) is to be distinguished from another "family" (named by a different common name), and Wittgenstein's account of common names does not do that. From the viewpoint of Plato, Wittgenstein's account is fool's gold.

Topic on this page ...

Catch-all Categories

Query: what does the word 'phenomena' mean?

Is it like the word 'thing'? a catch-all category, for we might even speak of the phenomena of the word 'the', meaning its role in our language. (A fisherman does not use a net that catches everything in the water; he only wants fish, and only certain species of fish, not all. What makes a concept useful to us? What makes any tool useful -- the work we want to do with it?)

Query: describe or give the definitions of the following ...

Describe or define: Model: we do not define the word 'cow' except ostensively, but we may describe a cow. Now what about a point in geometry? Just the opposite of a cow: we do not define the word 'point' ostensively, and we do not/cannot? describe a point either (although the concept 'describe' is very fluid). But cows and points are both things, are they not? And both -- to use another catch-all category -- in some sense also both phenomena?

Query: meanings of words, with explanations.

If a definition does not teach you how to use a word, then is it what we call -- or want to call -- a 'definition'? By 'definition' we mean: an 'explanation of meaning', but an explanation that does not teach/tell you "how to go on" -- do we want to call that an 'explanation'? The 'meaning of a word' is 'an explanation of how the word is (or is to be) used' -- or what else do we want to mean by the word 'meaning' (and not only in philosophy-logic-of-language)? Words are tools ...

Query: length of a single point, geometry.
Query: point of interest, what is geometry?
Query: geometry; why does a point have no size?

Why? The answer is by now prosaic: Because the word 'point' is not the name of an object, it can have neither length nor size. Which is simply an issue of grammar, not metaphysics.

Query: what part of speech is 'number' as used in mathematics?

This shows you that 'noun' is a catch-all category ("the name of a person, place or thing").

Do we already know what common words mean?

Apropos of the discussion of Philosophy of Language versus Philosophy, an important remark Wittgenstein made ("Investigating the uses of words, which is only a part of what is attempted here, is not carried out for any linguistic purpose ..."), although I don't know if what it goes on to say is fully correct. I don't know that all we do in Logic of Language studies is give a description of the uses of a word "to those who already know what the word means" ("From the Minutes of the Moral Science Club, 14.11.1946" in Wittgenstein in Cambridge (2008), Document 358, p. 404). -- I don't think that people do know "what the word 'mind' means", for example. If a word suggests all sorts of grammatically irrelevant pictures to your imagination, then you are confused about that word's meaning, I would say, even if you are able to use that word in your non-philosophical moments of day to day life. For it is after all the philosophical moments that interest us.

"Investigating the uses of words ... is not carried out for any linguistic purpose, as shown by the fact that the description of the uses is given to those who already know what the word means ..." (Note: these are not necessarily Wittgenstein's exact words but only a summary of what he said.) "... the general form of a philosophical question is, "I am in a muddle; I don't know my way." [Comment: there is no "general form"; someone seeking to discover how he should live his life is not in a linguistic muddle; Wittgenstein could only make such remarks by cutting the branch of Ethics off from Philosophy, which is an eccentric, unjustified and historically unjustifiable exclusion.] Wittgenstein said that the way to clear up such muddles is shown by what Mach wrote about 'temperature' and Hertz about 'force'. [Comment: we only know "what those words mean" when we ask how temperature and force are measured ("air pressure") -- but if those words suggest countless grammatically irrelevant pictures to us then do we "know what they mean"? And so are we talking about different definitions of 'mean' or about the nature of philosophy? And, no, I don't know what the "or" part might mean here.]

Part of what Wittgenstein is reported to have said, I either don't understand or I think is mistaken:

... who already know what the word means, rather these uses of a word are discussed as characterizations of the concept for which the word stands.

The notion that a word stands for a concept is simply another entrance into the path of complete darkness: for does not 'concept' here amount to 'invisible or intangible object' -- and then we are back to the picture of "All words are names and the meaning of a name is the thing the name stands for".

If you are unclear about the features ("characteristics") of a concept ... -- what does that mean unless that you do not know the meaning of (or, how we use) the concept-word? As indeed himself said: "The word 'concept' is too vague by far." And this is why I defined -- i.e. made this rule for my own use in philosophy-logic -- the word 'concept' as 'rules for using a word'. Otherwise, as with such synonyms for 'concept' as 'notion', 'idea', we drown in a sea of vagueness. (When using some words philosophy needs life-buoys [and that is why I made my rule].)

There is an ambiguity in the use of the word 'proposition' which can be removed by making certain distinctions. I suggest defining it arbitrarily rather than trying to portray usage. (Wittgenstein's Lectures, Cambridge 1932-35 (1979, repr. 1982), ed. Ambrose, p. 11)

Vagueness -- or "ambiguity" -- undermines our efforts to make always an objective distinction between sense and nonsense in philosophy. For that reason I would be very wary of allowing a word such as 'concept' to be catch-all category in our thinking.

... Rush Rhees said puzzlement often occurred when there was a conflict of uses. Wittgenstein [said] this is often called a contradiction. He cited a passage from Hertz's Principles of Mechanics, in which the latter said that people ask about the essence of matter etc. because a lot of defining criteria have been heaped on these notions, and these criteria are in conflict. This irritates our mind and makes us ask "what is the essence of so and so?" The answer is not given by giving further criteria, but by giving less criteria. When these contradictions are avoided, the question is not answered, but the mind no longer perplexed ceases to ask it. Wittgenstein said he must confess that this passage seemed to him to sum up philosophy. ("From the Minutes of the Moral Science Club, 23.2.1939" in Wittgenstein in Cambridge (2008), Document 246, p. 296)

But, if that is true, and I don't know whether it is ever true, that is only because Wittgenstein takes Ethics ("we are discussing no small matter, but how to live") out of the basket of Philosophy, as if Ethics were not part of the pie (A pie chart shows the parts of a whole).

Apropos of Hertz giving less criteria (But is it clear that "giving less criteria" is what we want or that this does not distort our concepts [Wittgenstein's "Philosophy" e.g.]?) I can't see that this would help in the least when we are talking about a concept such as 'God'. Criteria are already there, and unless you are going to simply change the concept, change the rules of the game ... The game is there, defined by its rules, and if the rules are complicated, or if they are inconsistent with one another -- or if because of those rules that concept is not consistent with our experience of the world (i.e. if we treat that concept/picture as an ordering principle or indeed as if it were an hypothesis about the world) -- nonetheless you can't pretend they're not there. Pretending that they are not there will not put your mind at rest. Nor should it. (A complicated concept may reflect man's fundamental puzzlement about existence.)

The original Philosophical Investigations' motto was taken from Hertz

[This is the passage from Heinrich Hertz apropos of "force" and "electricity" which McGuinness (p. 297n) quotes from the author's own Introduction to The Principles of Mechanics (translator unnamed); the sentence italicized, apparently by McGuinness, was at one time to be the motto of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations (before he changed it to the Nestroy quotation, in 1947). The "question as to the nature or essence"] is mistaken with regard to the answer which it expects. It is not by finding out more and fresh relations and connections that it can be answered but by removing the contradictions between those already known and perhaps reducing their number. When these painful contradictions are removed the question as to the nature of force will not have been answered; but our minds no longer vexed, will cease to ask illegitimate questions."

Is Philosophy no more than Ways of Looking at Things?

Note: this continues the discussion of Philosophy's First Question.

A philosopher says: "Look at things this way!"

So Wittgenstein wrote in April 1947 (CV p. 61). But I have written, following Socrates, countless times that philosophy is a "thoroughgoing use of reason", but ... if philosophy is no more than ways of looking at things, then how is one way to be selected rather than another? The answer is that it is selected by the criterion of our aims in philosophy. For example, clarity is one; another is to discover how we should live our life; another: what is reality and what illusion? Those are the three aims that have always been the subject matter of philosophy -- i.e. that have defined the subject 'Philosophy' -- its three parts, namely, Logic, Ethics, and Metaphysics, without which aims it is hard to know what we would be calling 'Philosophy'. (If you try to extend/expand a concept too far, it breaks maybe; then one says: "Are you speaking metaphorically when you call this philosophy?")

Question: but, then, is Philosophy -- does Philosophy amount to this: ways of looking at things -- No!, rather, to rational ways of looking at things. Whatever is irrational is also not philosophical. Any project in philosophy, if it is to be philosophy, must use thoroughgoing reason if it seeks to deny the possibility of thoroughgoing reasoning. The assertion that "Reason itself undermines reason by pointing out the limits of reason" is a fundamental misunderstanding of the logic of language; when e.g. we point out that there is no bedrock beneath the bedrock we are only pointing out a rule belonging to our concept 'reason', as is shown by this: that the contrary of that (i.e. 'There is bedrock beneath the bedrock') cannot even be described -- i.e. it is no more than an undefined combination of words. Questions about the concept 'reason' do not belong to metaphysics; they are not "real definitions".

If philosophy really -- i.e. if we cannot find counter-examples -- is, or amounts to, nothing more than ways of looking at things (and what else would it be, for the combination of words 'absolute point of reference' is undefined). And is that statement a way of looking at things, i.e. of looking at Philosophy? (Well you know I don't know ... because I do not know what if anything is being asked.)

'A philosophy is a rational way of looking at things'

"Philosophy is rational ways of looking at things" -- but that is not a Socratic definition, because it doesn't tell us how to differentiate [distinguish] philosophy from all other things. For are there not rational ways of looking at things that do not belong to Philosophy but to other subjects. If it is amended to: "Philosophy is rational ways of looking at things in [the context of] logic, ethics and metaphysics" -- is it now a Socratic definition? It would have to be a real definition (as is Wittgenstein's "Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language" (PI § 109)) -- or would it? Is it itself a way of looking at philosophy? Which is it: (1) a way of looking at philosophy, (2) an historical hypothesis about philosophy, or is it (3) a thesis about the nature of philosophy? Of the three, it appears to be the last. (Can you say about Wittgenstein's statement that it is a way of looking at things? I don't see a way to do that. But then there is this statement: Z § 690: "Our motto might be: "Let us not be bewitched"." A motto guides how you should live or think or both -- but can't that be based on the facts of the case; "Face facts!" as a motto.)

Query: things to know about philosophy.

That philosophy amounts to "rational ways of looking at things", but that of those there are many. "Every way of thinking is all right as long as it isn't stupid," Wittgenstein wrote to Sraffa in 1935. (Wittgenstein did not say what he meant by 'stupid', however; he would not have meant 'non-rational' (as religious faith e.g. is).) Not every way of thinking is philosophy, however.

Query: Wittgenstein's view on language.

"The philosopher gives you a frame of reference (or, world-picture), a frame within which thoroughgoing reason can be applied." Obviously that is a logical "can" -- i.e. the method by which reason can be applied is defined in rules or can be described as it is shown in the philosopher's own practice (A philosopher who "doesn't use reason" is not what I call a 'philosopher' nor his word 'philosophy'). But doesn't the physicist do that as well, for Isaac Newton gave rules for reasoning in philosophy (and in a different way so do Arthur Eddington and James Jeans, for they try to give a general picture of how the standard set for scientific explanations changed in the last century, e.g. with the loss of absolute time and space and strict causality).

"But is there no truth? in science e.g. Is science no more than ways of looking at things?" Physics: if we look at things this way, then we are able to do some things that we want to do. That's all. If a cat loses its foot (as in Pinocchio), it has never been known to grow back. Surely that is a fact [a generalized statement of fact], not a way of looking at things. Yes, it is. But facts by themselves are neither philosophy nor science. Ah, but then are you saying that philosophy is theoretical? If it pleases you to call any and every way of looking at things a 'theory', then please yourself. What, then is Wittgenstein's later work theoretical; does he have e.g. "a theory of language games" and "a theory of family resemblances"? I would say that using the word 'theory' to = 'way of looking at things' or to designate a simile [comparison, metaphor] contributes obscurity rather than clarity; because the word 'theory' in philosophy suggests 'metaphysical theory' -- i.e. a statement about what is "really" real: Here is the hidden, underlying reality behind the appearances. And Wittgenstein's later work is not that. But, then, is false to say that philosophy is nothing more than ways of looking at things? If by 'a way of looking at things' we mean 'a frame of reference', then no it is not false.

However, if we wish to talk about individual statements made in philosophy, e.g. Wittgenstein's descriptions of the grammar of words when those are statements of fact, then that claim is clearly false. Therefore, it would be clearer to say: A philosophy is a way of looking at things. Apropos of From which side is the door to Philosophy barred?: it is only within the context of Wittgenstein's logic of language that the claim that the door is barred from the outside can be made in the way that Wittgenstein made that claim (e.g. Kant's similar claim about the door was a claim about "the limits of the human mind", not about the limits of language [namely, sense and nonsense]).

"The Socratic Mind"

Even if, as it is, "Virtue is knowledge" is only one way among other possible ways to look at things (But are all the other ways rational), that doesn't make that statement not belong to Ethics. If, as Wittgenstein said (and this, therefore, includes his own work), "A philosopher says: Look at things this way!", then to say that something is no more than a way of looking at things is not to say that is not philosophy [i.e. that it is not a thoroughgoing use of reason], nor that Philosophy does not exist. For what is Wittgenstein's work in philosophy, his selection of the meaning he chose, on my account and I believe on his account at least in the Philosophical Grammar ("Let's only concern ourselves with ..."), the distinction he chose, the particular definition of 'sense' and 'nonsense' that he chose [for his "logic of language", in my jargon], the particular meaning of the word 'meaning' that he chose, is as well a way of looking at things [specifically at language meaning in the context of philosophy], and nonetheless he does classify his work as philosophy.

"The good is the useful or beneficial" ["the useful and/or the excellent"], and the bad just the opposite: the dysfunctional or harmful, with no distinction made between an ethical and a practical good, because such a distinction is unnecessary within its context (from its perspective, point of view). -- "The good is the useful" (Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 6, 7-8) is also a (more or less useful) way of looking at things in Ethics -- i.e. useful to becoming a better human being, or, "growing in goodness", just as "Virtue is knowledge" is. For ethics is practical wisdom, because precisely what concerns man in ethics is what is beneficial or harmful in "care [or, tendance] of the soul", that is to say, to the reasoning mind of man, which, if it knows what is good and what bad, will choose what is good; and if it ever chooses what is bad, it does this through ignorance, mistaking what is harmful for what is beneficial (No one deliberately does harms to himself or others unless he is under that delusion that what he is doing is beneficial).

What is more beneficial to the soul, that is to say the Socratic mind or reason, because reason, the life of reason, is not only an excellence proper to man, it is the excellence most proper to man, and therefore that part of virtue that man should be most concerned about [solicitous for]. The life of reason: what is beneficial and what is harmful to it.

... and what is most important is what is beneficial to the care of the Socratic mind or reason ... But, well, you can't identify the two, because it is the ethical mind, which makes use of reason, but is not reason (Reason is only a tool in ethics) which is the Socratic mind.

And can I prove [demonstrate] that reason occupies that position? No, I can only point out that to disprove the proposition that reason is the excellence most proper to man, requires that reason be used to do it. (And this is testimony to something or other about man, for one does not reason with an animal or a small child.)

Socrates' use of the word 'soul'

The Greek word 'psyche' meaning the 'mind' or 'soul', but not 'soul' in the theological or metaphysical sense (Plato and Orphism) -- i.e. the picture of a disembodiable spirit (i.e. ghost) -- but rather 'soul' in the sense of 'mind' = 'reason' or 'intellect', is "the Socratic mind", that is, the word 'soul' as used by Socrates. It is only the later Plato's and Aristotle's use of the word 'soul' that, when talking about ethics, includes the irrational aspects of man, such as moods, emotions and dispositions. It is here as I once wrote, and as I still convinced, every step away from Socrates that his followers have taken has been a misstep. (Maybe clearer: 'successors' or 'heirs' of Socrates in philosophy.)

Variation: and by 'soul' here I mean 'the rational mind' or 'Socratic mind' or 'the ethical aspect of man' or "ethical personality" (Schweitzer's or his translator's form of expression) (and not Plato's and the theology of Catholic Christianity's soul, which is the picture of a spirit -- i.e. ghost, which picture is a grammar for the word 'soul', but not the grammar of the word 'soul' as used by Socrates).

Query: importance of tautology over contradiction.

It is not that contradictions are less important -- but only that contradictions in form are not necessarily also contradictions in sense -- i.e. nonsense. For example, as we normally speak, 'Come' has a use in our language -- i.e. a sense -- and 'Don't come' also has a use, but 'Come and don't come' does not: that combination of words is a "contradiction in sense", not only in form. (Note.--What this distinction must not suggest is that it is a contradiction's meaning that is either meaningful or meaningless! [cf. PI § 500]) But next look at the combination of words 'Come then and don't come then' (pointing to a different time on the clock at each 'then') -- that would not be a "contradiction in sense". And therefore contradictions are not a sure guide to either truth and falsity or sense and nonsense in philosophy.

Tautologies are important (1) because they sometimes show grammatical-conceptual connections we might overlook, and (2) because we very often mistake tautologies for statements of fact.

Plato's Tautologies

Note: see also the expanded discussion: Plato's method of tautologies in Ethics.

Yes, those propositions are tautologies -- but they are useful tautologies, as e.g. is the rhetorical question: If the good man does harm to his enemies, then what does the bad man do to them? (which is simply a "grammatical" question). As, with respect to Hume -- "'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger" (A Treatise of Human Nature ii, 3, 3) -- is the rhetorical question: If the wise (the philosophical) man thinks that, then what does the fool think? If Hume's statement is not contrary to reason, then what is! (Prior to that question, however, is the question of what Hume means by the word 'reason', because it is not at all clear what he means by it.)

Rather than 'It is not contrary to reason to prefer ...' Hume could say 'It is not unreasonable to prefer ...' And if the reasonable man says that, then what does the unreasonable man say. And if the unreasonable man says the same thing, then there is no distinction between reason and unreason and therefore both the words 'reasonable' and 'unreasonable' are nonsense -- "sound without sense".

As to slavery, does the good man enslave other men? Does the good man exploit other men (wage, debt and tax slavery)? Does the good man "buy cheap and sell dear" (Xenophon, Memorabilia iii, 7, 6)? For if the good man does that, then what does the bad man do? (Tautologies as rhetorical questions. I don't know if I should use question marks after these or not.)

And so I have said that ethics is practical. However, on the other hand, one cannot do what is good if one does not know what is good, for if one is mistaken about what is good, one will do what is harmful rather than beneficial, through ignorance. I cannot think of a more useful-to-ethics way of looking at this than that "Virtue is knowledge": If man knows what the good is, then he will do what is the good (For Socrates, cf. Nicomachean Ethics 1145b22-28), if, that is, man is to be regarded as a creature of reason and not an irrational bit of matter.

Any breaking of the connection between the concepts 'goodness' and 'knowledge' is anti-Socratic. (Note:--If Socrates' task were not the thoroughgoing use of reason in philosophy, then he would have no task or "mission", for what would it be?) Any divorce, as in e.g. Nicomachean Ethics 1103b26-30 (referred to by Guthrie, Aristotle (1981), p. 79 [although of course, if by 'to know what goodness is' Aristotle means 'to know what virtue is in itself', then such knowledge is neither necessary to nor indeed possible for ethics (because no one can know nonsense, i.e. the meaning of an undefined combination of words]), and this is as I wrote almost thirty years ago, and as I still believe, that every step away from Socrates that his followers have taken has been a misstep. (Maybe 'followers' in the sense of 'successors' or 'heirs' of Socrates in philosophy.)

And who am I having this discussion with? I am talking to myself, assembling reminders. I am "holding discourse with myself" (Antisthenes, Diog. L. vi, 7).

Query: religion is asking questions without answers.

I asked: "Are the eternal questions rhetorical?" But why is what amounts to no more than a new way to slice a pie -- i.e. to classify (to place in particular categories, which is to divide up grammar, not reality) -- regarded by anyone as an insight? Is it because it is a new way to look at things? (And why don't I know? Wittgenstein spoke of how useful a new drawer in one's filing cabinet may be (CV p. 39 [MS 124 25: 11.6.1941]; that is what a category is.)

Query: would there be a question if there are no answers?

Would there be? Now you must say like Chekhov's Three Sisters: "If we only knew." If, that is, this is an eternal or a religious question (and its form suggests that it is, although it needn't be).

In what sense is the concept 'God' a way of looking at things?

Query: shift the way you see the world.

"A philosopher says: See things this way!" These remarks are apropos of Tolstoy and death (but others might be made apropos of "The fact that life is problematic shows that the shape of your life does not fit into life's mold. So you must change the way you live and ... what is problematic will disappear" or seeing philosophy as Gestalt shifts). For nowhere is that more the case that in religious conversion: it is very easy to harden the heart, very difficult to soften it; very easy it is to be irritated, petulant, impatient with others, judgmental, very hard to forgive others their ignorance (just as you must hope they forgive you yours) and not let it infect you with anger turning into bitterness. The human condition is ignorance -- accept that fact and you will find your way to the kingdom of God which is ruled by "the King of hearts", for without accepting that fact you will not enter his kingdom and you will never be a peace either with yourself or with the world.

Atheism is not a belief ["system of belief"]; it is a way of looking at things, as is having a use in your life for the word 'God'. And yet about atheists, Böll's character in The Clown, tr. Vennewitz, says, "They bore me because all they ever talk about is God."

"For I come to call not the righteous but sinners to repent" (Luke 5.32; cf. Matthew 9.13). That would be the only reason for anyone to dare call himself a Christian, according to me. Which am I -- one who recognizes his wrong-doing or one who is -- no, not righteous, but self-righteous: I could hardly appreciate the whole of my wrong-doing [Every man must believe that he is basically good, otherwise he could not go one, could not bear to go one (Cf. Wittgenstein: "No one can honestly say of himself that he is filth")], only barely recognize parts of it. "The good man does not harm anyone nor wish anyone harmed; he makes other men better, not worse" is nothing more than the definition of 'good man' versus 'bad man' that Plato pointed out, answering the question: What does the good man do -- e.g. If the good man benefits his friends but harms his enemies, as most Greeks claimed, then what does the bad man do to his enemies (which shows that the good man harms no one; harming others is what the bad man does)? But then why is that important, a mere definition -- why is it important? Why are concepts, which are nothing more than definitions of words, important to us? Well, what are the tools we use to think with -- are they not mere definitions of words (concepts).

Query: God is a Gestalt.

If so, an invisible one: you may "see the world differently", but there is nothing visual about this (Otherwise it could be shown to others), if you believe or disbelieve in God -- i.e. have a use for the concept 'God' in your life or do not. This is not at all like the duck-rabbit Gestalt shift, at least I would say.

Another catch-all category: "a way of looking at things".

"Within the limits of family resemblance"

According to Wittgenstein the Socratic notion (which was extended beyond ethics to metaphysics by Plato) that there are common natures that define words is fool's gold (as are all other metaphysical pictures -- i.e. pictures that replace the facts in plain view with a theory of our own devising. Plato first invents a theory to account for the facts; then he replaces the facts with his theory; what had been "maybe" becomes "must"). But what, if anything, does Wittgenstein replace that ancient picture -- a picture he intends to refute -- with? For fool's gold is what Wittgenstein's wind egg [Theaetetus 151e] metaphor "family resemblances". (The present discussion continues Three Conceptions of Philosophy: Pro et Contra Wittgenstein.)

It is hardly surprising if Socrates did not, in the first, pioneer attempt at such classification, solve at one leap the "problem of universals" that has plagued philosophers from his day to our own, or arrive at the Wittgensteinian theory of "family resemblances" which may at last have provided the right answer. (Guthrie, Socrates, p. 120)

That is the first idea to dismiss, that Wittgenstein's rather useless metaphor -- There is no "theory of family resemblances" -- provides the "right answer" to anything. It in fact provides nothing more than what was clear to Plato's Socrates, that although we call various things by the same name, it is not apparent that those things have any one thing in common (a defining "common nature"), and therefore it is not apparent how that word is to be defined. Wittgenstein simply said that "apparent" is of no importance to him, because we use our language without too much difficulty without there being a defining common nature among the various things we call by the same name. And further? There is no further. Because Wittgenstein did not for one moment appreciate why Socrates was seeking common natures in the one place that concerned Socrates -- namely, in ethics. Plato explains why a defining common nature is wanted in ethics. And at the same time, I do not think that Wittgenstein appreciated the depth of Plato's perplexity: if the meaning of a common name is not the common nature it names, then what is the meaning of a common name? Wittgenstein's response is simply that there is none (no "meaning", that is) -- i.e. that the meaning of a common name is given differently from how Plato imagines it must be. For Wittgenstein what matters is simply to describe what we do, not what it seems to someone we must do if everything isn't to be nonsense (chaos).

Here giving examples is not an indirect means of explaining -- in default of a better. For any general definition can be misunderstood too. The point is that this is how we play the game. (I mean the language-game with the word 'game'.) (PI § 71)

"Within the limits of family resemblance", but there is no limits of family resemblance. If you could say that something must resemble the others in such and such way or such and such ways, then you would have, if not necessarily an essence, at least defining criteria for whether or not anything was a member of that class (Wittgenstein's example being the class of all games). So the combination of words 'within the limits of family likeness' is nonsense (i.e. without meaning, an undefined combination of words).

It is not necessary for there to be one thing in common. You could have a list of several things and chain them all together by "and"; there might be several things that together make up the criterion for membership in a particular class. Everything that belongs to this class must have characteristics A and B and C. That would be a definition. (But would it be a definition by common nature -- for A can be separated from B and C, but an essence cannot be divided/reduced. Well only if we mean "an atomic essence" or "atomic common nature".)

The list could not be connected by "either", however; it must be "and", because otherwise there is no Socratic definition (according to Aristotle's account). The word "either" does not designate an essence; just the opposite (It does not even designate family resemblances, because there is no fixed list of those). A class designated by A or B or C would not have a common nature. There is no such thing as a "variable essence" or an essence that is now one thing, now another. ("Definition by either/or." But that is not the type of case we have to deal with in philosophy? Indeed I cannot even think of an example of such a concept/class.)

If we speak of family resemblances in the case of word meaning, all you can say is that any new member must resemble prior members of that class -- but "to a greater rather than lesser extent" hardly amounts to a definition (defining criterion): it would never be clear just how far you could go, in which cases you would using a word metaphorically and those cases in which you were not. Think of all the things we call 'games' and then all the comparisons we make of other things to games, e.g. language when speaking of "language-games".

To "define a word by the method of family resemblances" would be to extend a concept by making analogies: e.g. tennis and commercial fishing/trawling both have/use nets. But both are not games -- i.e. that particular analogy is or may be (for tennis and volleyball are both games) misleading. Again, Wittgenstein does not make anything clearer by adding 'family' to 'resemblances'. "The class of all activities that use nets is not equivalent to the class of all games." That statement might belong to a definition of 'game'. (Why must a definition be simpler rather than more complicated -- i.e. why shouldn't there by many, many rules needed to define the word 'game'? But definitions, explanations of meaning, are normally given for some purpose, not apropos of nothing. There might be circumstances/contexts in which a rule about classes would help avert a conceptual misunderstanding.)

Query: why is there a strong family resemblance in adoptive families?

Drury's example of the Norway rat's tameness, but "tameness is an acquired characteristic" (DW p. 105-6). But in Wittgenstein's metaphor that question has no place -- because in his metaphor, there is no way to distinguish between blood relatives (common ancestry, "common nature" as it were) and adopted relatives -- indeed, 'blood relative' is an undefined combination of words -- and therefore all relatives must regarded as adopted relatives.

I think what this shows is that philosophy is ragged. Anything in philosophy that fits together too well should be suspect for just that reason.

Query: what does Wittgenstein mean by 'grammar'?

I could have titled my site: "Wittgenstein's Grammar of Language", for in the later Wittgenstein it is "the grammar of our language [which] is misunderstood".

Query: grammar is just everything but the definition.

But can you invent a grammar (classification rules) that does not characterize the meaning of the words it classifies? E.g. 'noun' ("the name of a person, place or thing" belongs to a definition of the word classified as a noun)?

My philosophical development (by age)

The worthwhile work I did in logic of language (It was not clear to me for a long time that that expression belongs to my jargon, that whether Wittgenstein would have accepted my account of his work is not something I am at all sure of), I mean, as far as conceiving the whole project (Logic is philosophical grammar), was done when I was much younger, and in this respect it was like the work some people do in mathematics.

Whereas the worthwhile thoughts, thinking, I have done in ethics and metaphysics (if I have ever done anything in metaphysics apart from logic of language) have come in my later years; indeed, not until I was fifty-four years old did ethics come or begin to come clear to me. But logic of language, although that needed ten years [to begin to come clear to me], it was still ten years of my youth, when I was able to remember from day to day what my thoughts were and to maintain a thought over days, weeks and months, not losing sight of it [and thus, as I do now, not regard what my writings show me to be an older thought, as if it were a fresh insight] the way I do now.

What I mean by the word 'God'

Philosophy of Religion, although I wrote much about that in my earlier years, only began to come clear to me in my fifty-fifth year, and religion itself only in my fifty-sixth year, although it's true that still I use the word 'God' for context, as a reminder that man does not live in the present only but, in a sense of course, in eternity, and as a reminder not to presume on our life, that all our plans for the future are "God willing", and that "There are more things in heaven and earth ...", that the perceptions and conceptions of man are just that -- of man. And that is what I mean by the word 'God' (cf. CV p. 50).

In the end, I've never been able to decide whether I know what I'm talking about in philosophy or whether I'm simply a crank, an old man advocating rather eccentric but unsound ideas (fool's gold).

There are times when I don't think I know anything at all about philosophy.

Atheist, agnostic, uninterested, (Three categories)

Query: why was Wittgenstein religious?
Query: Wittgenstein's view on God's existence.

Because one's life experience (the experience of living) "can educate one to belief in God". But 'belief in God' does ≠ 'belief that God exists' -- because the world is to all appearances the same whether God does or does not exist, and so we are not talking about the existence of something (cf. "the ether").

Nothing is easier here than to set up a straw man (man of straw) for oneself and then say that one does not believe in its existence and declare oneself an atheist, thus tilting at pinwheels rather than windmills. What is curious: "atheist" nowadays; people used to say "agnostic": at least the latter did not claim to know what they do not know, or, at least, they did not claim to comprehend the whole business, the question of God.

['Agnostic' -- not meaning 'one who does not know', because this is not a question of knowing or not knowing, but 'one who sees existence, or, in other words, the meaning of life or God, as puzzling but has reached no conclusion about it: the problem is there ["like our life" (OC § 559)], but its solution is not.' There is thus a difference/distinction between 'agnostic' and 'simply uninterested [or, 'indifferent'] in the question'. (Those propositions give a meaning to 'agnosticism' and 'agnostic'.)]

"... and play god to God" (Alexander Pope), denouncing "the sins of the Father". (Greene's monstrous gods)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Brief summary

Query: Bonhoeffer, rid of God.

Bonhoeffer wanted only to lay to rest the picture which he thought no longer serviceable to Christians: God as a stopgap where human knowledge reaches its temporary limits (Temporary because of advances in physics and the other sciences); he called that picture "God as a working-hypothesis". I believe this includes the picture of "the God who plays god", the god for whom the world is a stage populated by marionettes. There is no longer (if there ever was) any worthwhile application to be given to the picture "God is all-powerful" (or so I have argued), either to the picture of "theism" or "pantheism". To say that "God is love", to say that "God is all-good", is I think still serviceable, for that is the God non-dogmatic Christians adapt from Jesus, "the God who puts Himself on the cross", revealing Himself to us only in His weakness. That is the doctrine of the Incarnation in Bonhoeffer's view, if I understand his views, of course, which I may not.)

I do not believe that we can put into anyone ideas which are not in him already. As a rule there are in everyone all sorts of good ideas, ready like tinder. But much of this tinder catches fire, or catches it successfully, only when it meets some flame or spark from outside, i.e. from some other person. (Memoirs of Childhood and Youth, tr. C.T. Campion (1925), Chapter 5, p. 67-68)

In my own case I want to say, although this goes a bit too far, that that other person is certain books that I have read, that my thinking about those books more than anything else has brought out whatever good there is in me. (Although I have known much human kindness and known some good examples, even kindness is not always unmixed with selfishness and every man has his share of good and bad qualities, and thus much thought is needed to separate what is good from what is bad in human behavior.)

[The work of any philosopher is a flimsy thing, as is tinsel paper although shining like gold. It is a way of looking at things that for us is gold, nonetheless. ("Temples dedicated to Truth, which no man knows ...") If you want something substantial look to music. (Philosophers in general ... No, I have never met him, but we did study in the same school, he with much insight, I with only reflected light.)]

Magic circles in Philosophy

Why are you sticking so closely to this abominable Graz? Does it possess some magic circle for you which is keeping you from the rest of the world? (Letter to Anselm Hüttenbrenner, 21 January 1819, in Newman Flower's Franz Schubert, The Man and his Circle (1928), Chapter VIII; Graz is the Austrian city, a place Schubert in fact thought well of.)

What was the magic circle for Wittgenstein that kept him away from Ethics and seeing in Metaphysics anything more than nonsense? What was this magic circle for him? Was it Logic? Was it a religious view of life? "But if I am convinced that a mouse cannot come into being from these things, then this investigation will perhaps be superfluous" (PI § 52). He saw Ethics only one way, as ends [fundamental principles, standards] and means [to those ends]: And although means could be disputed [rationally argued], ends could not (OC § 611); an investigation of Socratic ethics (of the specifically Greek "Know thyself") was superfluous to Wittgenstein: no "mouse" could come into being from it. As to Metaphysics, well, but I must admit that despite my skepticism I did not think an investigation superfluous -- or did I? -- for my account of Metaphysics does not go beyond characterizing it as in some cases nonsense, in others illusion ("dreams and vain fictions of our own devising") either.

Query: Wittgenstein on virtue.

But Wittgenstein said nothing about virtue, about the excellence that is proper to man and its relationship to ethics, ("But the dog did nothing in the night"). Exactly. "But never mind, never mind, silence." Is it not madness for a philosopher -- is it philosophy at all -- to refuse to treat the matter of "We are talking about no small matter, but how we should live" rationally?

Query: Socrates, why be moral, what is the function?

In Xenophon, maybe in Plato as well, that is a "false dichotomy"; the good is the useful and/or excellent. There is no practical-moral distinction made; that wedge is driven in by others (Its source, to wildly speculate, may be religion: the god commands that it be done is "the moral" in contrast to "the practical"). And what is the usefulness of practicing the excellence that is proper to man, of man caring for his soul ... Now it is not clear what you are asking: if the good for man is to be good rather than to be bad (which is a tautology), then ... (another tautology). If you understand the language we speak, then ...

Logic of Language - Criticism, Questions, Remarks

Query: Wittgenstein, meaning as use critique.

The principal confusion here, as in the thesis "Why meaning cannot be use", comes from supposing that Wittgenstein put forth a "real definition of linguistic meaning", a theory about meaning (whatever that is when it's at home), rather than made use of a selected meaning of the word 'meaning' for his work in philosophy. That is my view, in any case (as I tried to state in the Preface to Wittgenstein's Logic of Language).

Query: Socrates, what we know we are able to state.

In contrast to my version: "must be able to state", because that is the criterion of 'knowing'; but the query's form of expression makes it look like this is a matter of fact: It is a matter of fact that what we know we are able to state. Verbal definition versus a real definition (but is there a real definition of knowledge?). ("If anyone knows anything, he can give an account of what he knows to others," Socrates held, but "can" as a requirement: If he cannot explain what he knows and have his explanation stand against refutation in dialectic, then in our philosophy (Socratic philosophy) we will not say that he 'knows'.)

Query: questions that have no answer yet.

Trying to answer a question that does not seek an answer but only awareness of itself: "Look!" it says. "Wonder!" it says. Why is there something rather than nothing? and so on. Is that what "the eternal questions without answers" are? ("The logic of the questions without answers", where 'logic' = "grammar".)

Query: how do you answer a question with no answer?

With the word "Quite". That is the only reply to a question without an answer, if indeed such questions are rhetorical (or, at least, if they are taken to be rhetorical).

Query: how can a question not have an answer?

Only if it is a rhetorical question? Now that I don't know.

Query: looking for answers to questions for which no answers exist.

Either because they are not questions at all, or because they are the type of question -- if there is such a type rather than only "a question in appearance only" due to its form (surface grammar) of expression -- that does not seek an answer but has a very different function/does very different work in our language/thinking.

You think: my thought is evolving. But maybe it is only changing, leaping from one mistake to another. Rather than advancing (i.e. becoming clearer, better or deeper in understanding), it is merely changing direction.

Query: philosophical questions are without answers.
Query: riddles without answers.

But there are answers in philosophy; it's just that not everyone accepts the same ones (Sometimes because of logical objections to an argument, but also very often because of different ways of looking at things, for the choice of a frame of reference is discretionary [Someone might say: "Well, no questions are answered from this perspective, but nonetheless this perspective is the right way to look at the questions" (Socratic ignorance in Plato's early dialogs)]). Is there a difference between a philosophical question and a riddle? Only sometimes? Rhetorical questions in philosophy -- are these riddles? Why would we want to classify some in that way?

"Philosophy doesn't/never answers any questions." Reply: but that is not because of /the nature of/ Philosophy but because of /the nature of/ the questions it asks. If there were indisputable answers, the questions would not belong to philosophy. (What are examples of questions to which there are indisputable answers -- i.e. answers for which there are no rational/objective grounds for doubt?) Now, is what I have just said about philosophy true?

Query: examples of philosophical questions and answers.

(This may refer to Socratic dialectic, which see.) Are Questions without Answers the most characteristic examples of philosophy? Why, which would you prefer as examples? Either philosophical questions are "unanswerable" (i.e. rhetoric) or they are rationally disputable -- but philosophy consists of both. Is "How is an objective distinction between sense and nonsense made?" more characteristic than "Is reality confined to what is in principle perceptible to the senses?"

But aren't many questions in philosophy, and aren't all metaphysical questions that are not mere conceptual confusion: "on a deeper level"? When we ask about "... confined to what is in principle perceptible" we are not asking about any practical question of our day to day life.

Query: who said, Why is there something rather than nothing?

Then 'said' is correct, not 'asked' ... if the above account is a correct/true account. (Leibniz)

"Unformulated definitions" and concept-invention

Query: questions that have no real answer.

No, that is a dodge; they have no answer: there is no seeming about it. (If we set no criterion for what we are willing to accept as an answer, then there is no answer. On the other hand, the notion of "an unformulated definition" (PI § 75) we would accept were we to see it, a notion there is only this to be said in its favor: "the limit of philosophy -- is concept formation" (i.e. human imagination).

But, I want to say -- (i.e. the question of whether or not what I want to say is correct goes unanswered) -- that, the eternal questions are rational questions. But that there are, on the other hand, questions about the irrational -- i.e. "feelings" (i.e. sensations, emotions, moods, dispositions) -- that have no definite answer: one replies, if one replies, with whatever seems right to one (Questions of a kind women ask).

Query: the chief danger to our philosophy.

Dogma. When "may be compared" to becomes "is". For example this query: "Wittgenstein said language is a game". When logic of language is turned into metaphysics.

It is important for us to see the dangers of the expression "inner move of the game". It is dangerous because it produces confusion. Z § 649)

But the query is an allusion to F.P. Ramsey's remark that "The chief danger to our philosophy ... is scholasticism, the essence of which is treating what is vague as if it were precise and trying to fit it into an exact logical category".

Query: synopsis of rules in logic.

The notion that logic is not a description of rules -- but a prescriber/dictator of rules: a right-thinking man must think this way (or else -- what? or else what are the consequences for him -- or won't he even be thinking if he breaks these laws?).

Query: laws of logic regarding fairy stories.

If those were natural laws, then fairy tales could not break them without becoming unintelligible -- i.e. sound without sense -- which they are not.

Query: incorrect grammar, round circle.

Should undefined combinations of words (nonsense) be called "incorrect grammar", e.g. 'square circle' and 'round square'? Cf. "logical grammar", where 'logic' = 'rules of meaning'. If it were somehow (I don't know how) logically impossible to create word combinations that as yet had no defined meaning, then would imagination as the limit of concept formation nonetheless be possible? For the possibility to invent meanings for combinations of words is a basic -- is it an essential? -- feature of our language. Essential to philosophy is -- concept formation (new thought-worlds); without that, could there by new ways of looking at things? Would poetry be possible (Shakespeare)? It's not easy to say how our language would be if the invention of meanings for undefined combinations of words were ruled out -- i.e. impossible. If all that could be said were what had already been defined (by whom, gods presumably, or the legislators of Plato's Cratylus). Is the following an example of trying to impose such a rule: Only pre-defined questions are possible in this account of language (And one cannot have it both ways: the riddle cannot be "the mystical" if the riddle is an example of what we normally call 'nonsense')?

Query: Wittgenstein Tractatus: if the answer cannot be put into words neither can the question. The riddle doesn't exist.

That the riddle of existence does not exist is a logical consequence of the theory of language meaning -- because that's what it is, a theory (speculation) -- of the TLP. And that is classic metaphysical Rationalism to say: despite all appearances to the contrary, the riddle doesn't really exist (Its existence is mere illusion).

Query: Socrates, life's meaning.
Query: there is no answer.
Query: I only know that I know nothing, but most men don't even know that.

If any man were 'wise' he would know the solution to the riddle ('to know the solution ...' =DEF. 'to be wise', for 'wisdom' =DEF. 'knowledge of ...' [Is that correct: does this particular knowledge belong to the general definition of 'wise'? If anyone excluded it, we wouldn't understand why, unless he said that the riddle doesn't exist, but knowing whether that is true or not is part of being wise. (It's not easy to see how we define (state general definitions for) such words as 'wise' and 'excellent'.)]). And not by means of metaphysics delude himself that the riddle of existence doesn't exist, for Wittgenstein later had to admit that it is a delusion.

For Socrates the good for man is to live in accord with the excellence that proper to man, neither over- nor under-reaching oneself (neither under- or over-estimating one's own abilities nor the nature of man) ("Know thyself"), but as to why tragedy occurs in the life of man, the Greeks had no universal answer: Creon is presumptuous (and punished by the gods for presuming to replace their laws with his own), but why must an innocent Antigone suffer for Creon's wrong-doing?

Query: explain Socrates' view of self-control.

Self-control is a virtue/excellence that is proper to man, and like all other virtues -- knowledge. By an examination of our life, you can reason your way to self-control, not through control of the notoriously weak human will (which left to itself is guided by habits, many or most of which were formed in times of ignorance, and like all such habits make wrong-doing seem sweet to us), but through knowledge, for all wrong-doing is ignorance of the good.

Query: do wise people think or know what to do?

This query, the surface grammar of which suggests it is a question about facts, asks instead for a definition of the word 'wise' (Z § 458; RPP i § 949) -- i.e. what are we calling 'wisdom'? (The limits of "Know thyself")

If anyone were wise, then he would have a standard of judgment (Euthyphro (6d-7c)), a universal standard -- i.e. a rule that would apply in all cases where we are faced with the question of what to do. For example, he would know of what courage required him to do regardless of the circumstances he was faced with; he would have a standard to appeal to that would tell him exactly what to do. Whereas as it is, knowing what the brave thing to do, as opposed to the foolhardy or cowardly thing, or in other words knowing what the wise thing to do is, is not always clear to man. And so, in this sense, no man is wise, because no man has, or, knows, that universal standard of judgment. (Plato's Laches - Selections and Comments.)

Further, even if it were clear in some particular circumstances which act would be brave, which foolhardy [reckless, foolish rather than wise], that would still be only a particular instance, an example, not a general/generalizable rule, not a standard of judgment to use in any and every particular case that may arise, not a universal criterion. A universal standard in ethics means: a compelling rule: To do otherwise than the rule commands is to do what is unethical.

Descartes was not Socrates

Query: Descartes' think for yourself clause.

Descartes was not Socrates, or so far as I know he did not suggest that it belonged to the excellence proper to man to question everything -- i.e. he did not say that "the unexamined life is not worth living", either because he was a Christian (and no Catholic Christian could say that, for the only life not worth living is the life that is not guided by faith; man is endowed with reason, but that is not the most important thing about him) or because he wished to escape a Church inquisition such as Galileo faced for straying into theology. "The divinely revealed truths are more certain than anything we can discover for/by ourselves", Descartes wrote.)

Descartes only described his own method in philosophy: he did not advocate that other people follow it: "... my design is not here to teach the Method which everyone should follow in order to promote the good conduct of his Reason, but only to show in what manner I have endeavored to conduct my own" (Discourse, Part 1, tr. Haldane, Ross).

We cannot remake Descartes in the image of Socrates; the former would have judged it foolishness to choose to drink hemlock rather than keep one's thoughts to oneself. Or so I think, but I may be wrong.

Query: Descartes on question authority.
Query: Descartes encouraged people to doubt everything except what?

As to questioning authority, only if the Scholastic philosophy (e.g. Thomism as seen by some Catholic theologians: the "perennial philosophy") as well as all other academic works of Descartes' time and before is regarded as authoritative -- i.e. as a knowledge (but Descartes' standard of 'knowledge' was absolute certainty). And only if we are speaking figuratively as e.g. "the authority of your five senses", asking questions about the trust-worthiness as a source of knowledge (authority) of sense perception (Why, what other kind of perception is there?). Everything should be doubted, according to Descartes, except the revealed truths of religion. (But where in his writing does Descartes "encourage people to doubt"?) As to what Descartes found it impossible to doubt was the foundation of his system, namely, that "If I am thinking, which I am, then I exist" (or, as Augustine had written centuries earlier in his arguments against absolute skepticism, "I can doubt everything except that: If I doubt, then my existence itself is not in doubt").

The continuity of I (Descartes)

Did Descartes not assume the continuity of the "I" that thinks (and therefore is)? For is the "I, Descartes" who is thinking now the same "I, Descartes" who will be thinking hours from now? Will Descartes' "clear and distinct ideas" be the same then and now? And so it seems Descartes could only say that "If there is thought, then a thinker (of some kind) of that thoughts exists", not that "I, Descartes" exists. But Descartes' solution to dilemmas such as this is to ask and answer the question: might I not be deluded by an Evil Deceiver?

God is set up as the guarantor of the verity of Descartes' "clear and distinct ideas", but that beginning is also the end of God's role in Descartes' system. This, I think, if I understand it aright, which I may not, is the point (or is related to the point) of Pascal's Pensées (ii, 77), that Descartes "would have been glad to do without God" in his philosophy (il aurait bien voulu, dans toute sa philosophie, pouvoir se passer de Dieu) -- had he not needed God for this.

Grant Descartes that his "clear and distinct ideas" are, or rather, must be true (i.e. a true reflection of reality and not delusions) and he will deduce all the rest. Thus God is the First Cause, the Prime Mover ("unmoved mover") in Descartes' system. But after this, God is no longer needed by Descartes (... après cela, il n'a plus que faire de Dieu). God has no further role to play.

Query: "I know that I know nothing" meaning.

If Socrates had not set a criterion for 'knowing', namely, to be able to give an account of what you know to others, then the statement 'I know only that I know nothing' (which Socrates does not say, unless that be equivalent to "I know only my own ignorance" [Plato, Phaedrus 235c]) would not only be a contradiction in form but also an undefined combination of words (a "contradiction in sense", as it were) -- i.e. nonsense.

Query: Cartesian knowledge, Socratic ignorance.

No, say rather: Cartesian certainty: Socratic ignorance, Cartesian certainty. Descartes believes he knows (but then so does the geometer whose theorems may or may not apply to the world outside geometry, (e.g.) Protagoras on the tangent, and the question of the empirical circle), but does he know -- or does he only think he knows what he does not know?

And of course this is the very question: does Descartes acquire knowledge by means of his method of deduction from the axioms of his system -- namely, the "clear and distinct ideas" he claims are present in the human mind quite independently of all sense experience of the world outside the mind -- i.e. innate ideas?

Or does he only create for himself the illusion of knowledge? What Descartes claims to demonstrate by his method is nothing more modest than the existence of God and of the soul -- all deduced simply from the axioms innate to the human mind. (As to innate ideas, according to Aristotle there is no personal immortality -- whereas in the Scholastic theology that preceded Descartes there is. Now which did Descartes' innate ideas come from?)

One of Descartes' axioms is that "there can be no extension which is extension of nothing" -- from which Descartes deduces the impossibility of there being void space (i.e. vacuums). But what kind of the proposition is 'There can be no extension which is extension of nothing' -- what kind of possibility does it express? Descartes' axiom is nothing more than a rule of grammar -- i.e. a verbal definition of the word 'extension', as that word is used by Descartes. And this exposes the fundamental problem with Rationalism, that it does not distinguish a linguistic rule from a non-linguistic statement of fact. Its method is modeled on the method of pure mathematics -- i.e. deductions made from verbal definitions, all in its own little world of logically interconnected, self-made rules.

In contrast there is Socrates' method of thoroughgoing reason applied to experience. In Socratic dialectic (i.e. of face to face question and cross-question) the theses which are discussed must stand up, not only to the test of logical self-consistency, but also to the test of consistency with our common experience of the world. If a suggested thesis fails either test, it is thereby refuted.

Those remarks are, of course, based on making a sharp distinction between Plato and Socrates. Plato was a Rationalist two thousand years before there was a Descartes. (As described by Aristotle, Socrates' method was inductive.)

Query: do skeptics question everything?

The question looks like a question about the facts, as do most questions: that is their form ("surface grammar"). Only in unusual cases do we ask what a word rather than a thing is or does or is used to do. Words are things and phenomena too and objects as well, but it is only their "grammatical" meaning that concerns us in logic of language studies.

With regard to the query itself, the question is this: Is it possible to doubt (or, call into question), not just everything -- but everything at the same time? Or is it that in every investigation there must be something that is not questioned? (cf. DW p. 72) E.g. if I am using my watch to measure how long it takes to walk from point A to point B, I cannot question the accuracy of the very standard of judgment I am relying on, namely, my watch. (Although, of course, the accuracy of my watch can be made the subject of a separate investigation -- i.e. an investigation where something other than my watch is used as the standard of judgment. In practice, there are many things, and not just one thing, that are not questioned in an investigation, of which the language we speak is normally one.)

Query: how Socrates approaches language.

It would be wrong to say that he approaches language naively, but it would nonetheless be an anachronism to say that Socrates seeks to define words (language); that is not his quest -- rather, he seeks to define "things" (e.g. "What is the common nature of all brave acts?"). That is a mistaken quest, in our view, but that is his quest; in that respect he belongs to his own time, not our own (The question of how man should live his life, of what the good is for man, is, however, timeless). And yet, Wittgenstein's quest in logic of language would never have been undertaken had Socrates not undertaken his quest, for the second quest was a criticism of the first ... Blah, blah, blah -- i.e. this needs to be thought through: it is important; I cannot express it clearly because it is not clear to me -- but it is important to make it clear.

About thunder it is possible (i.e. this language is defined) to make hypotheses about what it is and what causes it e.g. And about courage, is it not also possible to makes hypotheses about what it is? Earlier I asked "About what what is?" But why shouldn't one answer: we call various acts 'brave', now what do all these acts have in common that makes them all members of the class named 'brave acts' or in other words "What is the defining common nature of all the phenomena we call 'courage'?" Euthyphro in Plato's dialog -- does he not offer hypotheses in reply to Socrates' question of "what piety is"? Euthyphro says that 'piety' is doing things such as prosecuting wrong-doers, but that is only one example of a pious act and even if every example were given, would that answer the Socrates' question? So Euthyphro puts forth another hypothesis: piety is what is pleasing to the gods, or in other words, what all pious acts have in common is that they please the gods; that is their defining common nature. And again Socrates must either accept this hypothesis as proved or he must refute it. And so on. Is there any harm in talking this way? Why not say that we define things such as courage and piety? But words are also things. And what is the difference between what Euthyphro and Socrates as doing, namely, trying to define the thing piety and trying to define the word 'piety'? Is there any difference. Why is one form of expression to be preferred over the other? Why speak of defining words rather than defining things? In the examples I have given it makes no difference which form of expression we use: both are clear if they are stated as I have stated them. However, it is not always this way in philosophical investigations, and it is cases such as the one Blaise Pascal criticised that the form of expression we use makes the difference between our seeing or not seeing the problem aright.

Query: the meaning of a word is its use in a language.

... in many cases where we use the word 'meaning' -- but not in all (PI § 43), if only, but that is not the only reason, because there are so many different meanings of 'meaning'.

Query: Wittgenstein, the meaning of language is identical with its use.

And what else does 'is' mean here if not "identity"? Why doesn't that sound right? Isn't it right? Well, 'meaning' = 'use [in the language]' -- can you say that (in many cases where we use the word 'meaning', hardly all)? Sometimes? I don't know: "with no loss of meaning" -- you can't say that "with no loss of use" is identical to that, can you?

Query: Wittgenstein, meaning of language is what it is used to do.

But that is only one meaning of 'meaning', the one Wittgenstein selected for his work in philosophy (It is not a theory about what meaning "really" is). But there are countless meanings of 'meaning'.

Query: what is the root of philosophy?

The word versus the subject matter (the sign versus the "thing"): one has its root in wonder/perplexity, the other in the Greek words 'philos' ['philo'] and 'sophia'.

What does Tolstoy mean by 'God the Father'?

The Lord's Prayer according to Leo Tolstoy. "Which art in Heaven" according to Tolstoy means "God is the infinite spiritual source of life". And according to Tolstoy "Hallowed by Thy name" means "May the Source of Life be held holy". (The Gospel in Brief, tr. Hapgood)

From this it may follow that the ideas in his story Esarhaddon, King of Assyria are Tolstoy's own ideas about the oneness of all life, and that life being all of the same origin and end must not fight against itself.

[The king is reproached] "You thought life dwelt in you alone, but ... you see that by doing evil to others you have done it to yourself also. Life is one in them all, and yours is but a portion of this same common life. And only in that one part of life that is yours can you make life better or worse ... You can only improve life in yourself by destroying the barriers that divide your life from that of others, and by considering others as yourself and loving them.... You injure your life when you think of it as the only life, and try to add to its welfare at the expense of other lives.... life is the one thing that exists ... all life is one". (Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (1903), tr. Maude)

Was Tolstoy's God -- i.e. his concept 'God' or picture of God -- i.e. what Tolstoy means by the word 'God' -- also the Father of Jesus? I don't know whether Tolstoy's Father is the Father of Jesus or merely the Font of Life from which, according to Tolstoy, apparently all individual lives proceed and in some form return at death. (Given Tolstoy's obsession with death, it is not strange that he made life his God. Does Tolstoy's doctrine really have any need of Jesus or "Christ" [Why does Tolstoy call Jesus by the title 'Christ', for Tolstoy means neither the Messiah nor God Incarnate by that word]?)

The Preface that comes at the End

This is apropos of "Why philosophy cannot be easy".

If you are afraid of making a fool of yourself, you won't get very far in philosophy. For what is a fool according to Socrates except someone who thinks he knows what he does not know, and few of us never assume we knows what we don't know. Saying what you think allows you to discover your own ignorance, whereas silence hides it from you.

For there are both safety and boldness in speaking the truth with knowledge about our greatest and dearest concerns ... But to speak when one doubts himself and is seeking while he talks, as I am doing, is a fearful and slippery venture. The fear is not of being laughed at, for that is childish ... (Plato, Republic 450e-451a, tr. Shorey) but of being "mislead oneself and misleading others" (Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 6, 1).

If you don't try to say what you know, you won't feel foolish afterwards when it is shown that you don't know what you thought you knew -- but we study philosophy to learn. Don't be afraid to say what you yourself think. Remember what Plato wrote: I would rather be refuted than have my views accepted (Gorgias 457e-458b). I learn nothing when people agree with me (except that I myself should have doubts about the truth of what I have said and try the more assiduously to refute it).

If you are afraid of making a fool of yourself, philosophy is not the subject for you.

Philosophy and religion share at least this: that the way to both is blocked, not by pride -- I don't see what the word 'pride' would mean in this context unless 'pride' = 'hubris' -- but by conceited ignorance, that is, by thinking one knows what one doesn't know, by thinking oneself wise when one is not. "Confess thine ignorance." Here a remark by Wittgenstein about how your work (your writing in philosophy) cannot be any more honest than you yourself are (presumably with yourself) (CV p. 33 [MS 120 103 c: 12.12.1937]). But to recognize that (to accept that, to apply that "even" to yourself), I think you must have a soul. (English statesman: "We mustn't be complacent", although complacency characterizes his every move. "Conceit? Surely that has nothing to do with me." Wittgenstein to one of his students: "Take life seriously!")

Antisthenes: "Someone spoke well of me? Why, what wrong have I done?" St. Jerome: "it is not the judgments of men which open or shut the gates of heaven." Philosophy and religion also have that in common. The truth is not decided by taking a vote (i.e. that is not what we mean by the word 'truth').

Query: Socrates and foolishness.

The wise man -- the man who is as wise as mankind is able to be, Socrates concludes in Plato's Apology -- is the one who does not think he knows what he does not know. And nothing more? Why, isn't that enough?

Query: is there anyone wiser than Socrates?

How would someone be wiser than Socrates -- would he for e.g. have discovered the absolute reference point -- the way of looking at things of "the eye of God"? Now, has the combination of words 'absolute perspective' or 'eye of God' any meaning? Can you invent one for it?

Query: Socrates is wiser than anyone, meaning.

Does Plato's Apology state Socrates' own solution to the oracle's riddle ("Of all men Socrates most wise" which like "No man is wiser than Socrates" does not state that Socrates is wise, and indeed the former form of expression is more to our point: because Socrates' wisdom, such as it is, consists in not thinking he knows what he does not know, whereas men commonly do just the opposite) -- or is it only Plato's solution? It is after all Plato's Apology ("defense") of Socrates, not necessarily Socrates' own; -- i.e. there is no driving a wedge between the two here. An unanswerable question (given the documents that history has preserved) is: was Plato more concerned with fidelity to Socrates' own thinking in the Apology than he was in his later dialogs (when he clearly wasn't concerned with that at all)?

Query: Roberto Angelo, Wittgenstein

I'm not sure Wittgenstein would be pleased to see my name coupled with his! Another reason not to publish: your work is reviewed (and thereby revised) by people like me. (Warnings (about my work and about philosophy itself) | The written word cannot defend itself (Phaedrus 275c-e))

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