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The conclusion comes at the end, not at the beginning

"Holmes, you astonish me." -- "Elementary, my dear Watson," I'd imagine. And yet in philosophy reminders must be set, that the conclusion comes at the end of an argument, not at its beginning. "Sentence first -- verdict afterwards!" demands the Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland, vii). Like lynch mobs: "Verdict first, then trial!" For them the conclusion comes at the beginning of the investigation, not at its end; they don't do induction, only adduction. Akin to this is reverence for doctrine rather than reverence for truth.

The other topic is kidnapping words from their original homes in the language (PI § 116) -- i.e. from the way we learned and normally use those words -- to form metaphysical hypotheses.

Context: these are "logic of language" (which is Wittgenstein's expression, but in my jargon means 'ways to distinguish meaning from nonsense, especially in philosophical problems') remarks.

Topics on this page ...

Foregone Conclusion

Note: this discussion is apropos of Etienne Gilson's The Philosopher and Theology, tr. Cécile Gilson (1962).

In the following Gilson is writing about "Modernism" or the Modernist crisis in the Catholic Church, in which context he comments about Alfred Loisy, whom he apparently knew. In 1922 a Protestant minister said to Gilson:

"Those people are out on a limb and they are sawing it off." He was interested in the question. For if, by an impossibility, you could take Scripture away from a Catholic, he would still have the Church, but should the same thing happen to a Protestant, he would have nothing left. (p. 231)

"... if, by an impossibility" (Of what kind? Certainly neither logical nor real impossibility; then by "dogmatic necessity"?) Can you really say that? You can say that Catholic Christianity could have been founded and continue to exist without Scripture ... but, then, had it been, Protestantism, if Protestantism really is "Scripture is the only authority", would be a logical impossibility. So what if anything is Gilson saying except: if there were no Scripture ... Which is counter-factual. It does not follow from anything that Gilson says here that Scripture should not be cited to prove tradition wrong: Only dogma could demand that; it could not prove it.

Gilson was a dogmatic thinker, not a philosopher -- because philosophy is regulated by reason alone, and doctrine is simply irrelevant to it (That is the project of philosophy; it is what we mean by the word 'philosophy', a word Gilson tries to kidnap to make what he does respectable); whereas dogma determined Gilson's "philosophy": faith seeking understanding. Gilson's attitude toward philosophy was the attitude of a believer in dogma, which is not the attitude of a philosopher.

... the Church is always right. (p. 230)

By 'Church' Gilson means the "teaching Church" (which should really be called the "proclaiming Church", because the Amen comes before it speaks, and that is not what we call 'teaching') only, or, Magisterium. But the Magisterium is not the Church: the Magisterium is merely the bishops. Gilson uses the phrase "scientific exegesis so-called" (p. 231) to disparage biblical criticism by Historical or Critical Theology.

Can there be Catholic biblical scholars? No, because: the conclusion comes at the end, not the beginning, of an investigation. A scholar has only one standard: "reverence for the truth" -- i.e. following the evidence wherever it may lead him (Father Michael Prior, e.g. in his Jesus the Liberator, Luke 4.16-30 (1995), is an exception to this rule). But the Catholic (or any Protestant dogmatic) thinker knows that in his beginning is his end: that he must end up where he began -- i.e. that his "scholarship" must in its conclusions conform to Church dogma. Alfred Loisy, by choosing his reading of Scripture over Catholic tradition, may have been acting as a true scholar (I cannot judge his work), but the Magisterium would have excommunicated him regardless.

"Reverence for truth" (Albert Schweitzer)

Should it really turn out that Jesus' object world must be considered by the doctor as in some degree the world of a sick man, still, this conclusion, regardless of the consequences that follow from it and the shock to many that would result from it must not remain unuttered, since reverence for truth must be exalted above everything else. With this conviction I began the work ... (Preface, March 1913, The Psychiatric Study of Jesus: exposition and criticism, tr. Charles R. Joy (1948, reissued 1958), p. 28)

That is the essence of philosophy, and of scholarship: reverence for truth.

Philosophy cannot be "the handmaid of theology". Philosophical investigations are the opposite of foregone conclusions (doctrine [dogma]): theology works backwards from what it holds to be true (i.e. religion's "articles of faith"), whereas philosophy works forwards: the conclusion comes at its end, not its beginning (Even its axioms are cross-questioned: philosophy's axioms, e.g. the principle of contradiction, are not doctrine).

"There are not two truths"

The proposition that religion and science can't come, indeed could never come, into contradiction -- Father Copleston said he didn't know that proposition to be true. And it seems he was right to be skeptical, because if we look at the case of gender dysphoria: this is not a case of the Catholic Church coming into conflict with a competing ideology ("natural law" versus "gender ideology"), whether religious (sectarian) or profane ("secular humanism"), but with psychiatric science and the treatment it prescribes for that condition (gender reassignment: hormonal and surgical), treatment which the Church rejects. So it seems in this case that science and religion do contradict one another with respect to the truth about reality.

There are not two truths: either the religious doctrine is false and the science it contradicts true, or vice versa, but they cannot both be true. That rule itself is in fact a Catholic doctrine.

Rote learning

Query: why is analysis a necessary tool in philosophizing?

The word 'analysis' suggests 'breaking [a problem] down into parts'. I cannot think of examples of this; it does not seem to be the usual method in philosophy (which seems more akin to a boar rooting about in the soil). Rote learning has this form: always "Why is it true?", never "Is it true?", i.e. its conclusion always comes before its "investigation".

Historically 'analysis' is, I think, Aristotle's name for logic. And so identified, the only necessity here is logical -- i.e. definitional ("by definition") -- necessity: we do not call an activity by the name 'philosophizing' if it does not use logic (or, in other words, logic is the tool that must be used in thinking if that thinking is to be called 'philosophy' or 'philosophical'; the root of 'rational' is 'reason' and reasoning = logic, I think: 'philosophy' is 'the rational investigation of logic, metaphysics, ethics').

And so is it true? Since the query comes from a land of rote learning, I suppose it must be, just as a point must be an object of some mysterious kind. "The young student must not ask questions, so that he will learn his place" (Confucius).

Kidnapping Words from their Original Homes

If we are using the word as it is normally used (and how else are we to use it?) ... (cf. PI § 246)

What is a word? It is a spoken sound or some marks on paper (-- In Wittgenstein's jargon, the purely physical aspect of language is called a 'sign' --) but what gives the word or "sign" meaning is what human beings do with it. And what they do with a sign is to establish a practice or custom -- a usage; for if they had not done this, then the sign would be meaningless -- because then it might mean anything at all, like Humpty Dumpty's word 'glory' when he spoke to Alice. ("But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objects. -- "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean," Humpty Dumpty replies.)

To use a sign in a way that is different from its common use -- that is to say, contrary to its usage -- is to kidnap the sign. It's like speaking of "religious knowledge", which is to kidnap the sign 'knowledge', for it is to use the sign 'know' in a way that is contrary to the way it is normally used, for normally 'know' contrasts with 'believe-in'. That is to play with words, as if you could make something knowledge simply by calling it 'knowledge', even though what you are calling 'knowledge' is not what we normally call 'knowledge'. cf. Gilson calling theology 'philosophy', as if he might make it respectable or estimable or worthy of esteem that way. cf. Darwin's use of the word 'fittest', where the very people we normally call the un-fittest can be the "fittest". (Are these instances of persuasive definition; e.g. "Revelation is true knowledge"?)

Did not Wittgenstein, then, kidnap the word 'grammar'? To extend a concept in a natural way is indeed to create jargon; however, the point here is that his extension follows naturally from the established usage, as I have tried to show. Unlike Gilson with 'knowledge' and 'theology', Wittgenstein does not use the word 'grammar' in a way that is contrary to its normal use. And the point with Gilson and Darwin is that they do not intend their use to be jargon (They do not intend to give a new definition to a word, but instead to use the word as it is normally used -- which is exactly, however, what they do not do).

Does Wittgenstein only describe (for the sake of clarifying) one way we use the word 'meaning' -- or also select a 'meaning' of meaning (for a particular purpose)?

To begin with the first paragraph of this remark. What does Wittgenstein mean here by 'can' -- what type of possibility is he talking about?

For a large class of cases -- though not for all -- in which we employ the word 'meaning' it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language. (PI § 43)

You know I don't know. "Real possibility", then? A poor fellow using the following words to search and was directed to my backwater outpost [That is a pleonasm for emphasis], where there is a related topic from the point of view of "Wittgenstein's logic of language", that is (... if there is such a thing, as my site claims there to be).

Query: the meaning of a word is the mental image it stands for.

What "mental image" [-- Yes, I want you to draw it on paper --] does the word 'the' stand for: do you have a picture of some thing named 'the' [of the]? You might, or you might respond: "The meaning of some words is ..." And that is one meaning of the word 'meaning'. However, it is not what we mean by 'meaning' when we ask for explanations of how to use a word: we do not define words by pointing to "mental images": What does 'x' mean -- i.e. show me your mental image so that I may know the meaning of the word 'x'?

"... is one meaning of the word 'meaning'." But on the other hand, no, although we do call countless things "the meaning", but, no, because the query expresses a false hypothesis, a misconception. (Well, that is what I want to say; because I want a logic of language, i.e. to make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense; and if language is regarded as a private matter -- or, rather, if someone has the misconception that meaning is a private matter -- then there is no objectivity. Obviously the purpose of the word 'mental' in "mental image" is to point to something private.)

When Wittgenstein says "For a large class of cases ..." he is making an empirical remark: he is reporting how we use the word 'meaning' when we give explanations of meaning [e.g. when we teach a child or student how to use a word]: This is how we use the word: these are the rules of the game, or, we use this tool like this. "For a large class of cases ..." is a grammatical remark; it is a statement of fact, if it is true, about the English language: this is how -- in a large class of cases -- we use the word 'meaning'.

So therefore my "Wittgenstein chose one meaning of 'meaning' out of many" is incorrect? Middle period (Philosophical Grammar, The Blue Book): correct; final period (Philosophical Investigations): incorrect. Well I don't know about that.

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. (BB p. 65)

Let's only bother about what's called the explanation of meaning, and let's not bother about meaning in any other sense. (PG i § 32, p. 68-69)

That is an example of what I called "a project in philosophy". (Note that it is a selected meaning -- not a claim about what the essence of meaning is.) But, at the same time, don't those two statements describe one way that we do in fact use the word 'meaning' -- don't they give a true account (or report) of one way we use that word? And aren't they actually clearer than the statement in the Philosophical Investigations?

For a large class of cases -- though not for all -- in which we employ the word 'meaning' it can be defined thus ... (PI § 43)

I would say: yes, but that's not the half of it, because that statement does not make clear that it belongs to a project (It does not make what Wittgenstein is up to clear, nor, I would say, his intent). Wittgenstein's statement that "Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language" (PI § 109; cf. Z § 690) also belongs to his project in philosophy. (There is his exclusion of two of the three parts of historical philosophy.)

"For a large class of cases ..." Then that is not a general definition of the word 'meaning'; it does not state "the one thing" that all meanings have in common. There is no general definition of 'meaning' (Or if such a definition is formulated, it is so general that it is useless). But if that is only one meaning -- if that is only one class -- then what is the point of Wittgenstein's statement? Is it only that: that if we look at language this way, a great deal of what philosophers say and have said becomes meaningless?

But enough of that. I am not finding a way out of that cloud. Now then about the second paragraph.

And the meaning of a name is sometimes explained by pointing to its bearer. (PI § 43) [That is, the bearer itself is not the meaning.]

Note the 'sometimes' also of the second paragraph. That is a principal cause of our confusion -- that we call so many different things 'names'. For example, the word 'philosophy' is doubtless a name [namely, the name of the subjects classified as 'philosophy'] -- but we do not define that name ostensively (i.e. by pointing to its bearer); there is no object to point to. And thus we engender the vague picture of a spirit world to try to think our way out of.

If someone says that he doesn't want merely to be told how we use the word 'cow' -- i.e. which species of animal we call by that common name, but to be told what a cow is, he may want to be told about the digestive system of cows, things like this. But if someone says he doesn't want merely be told how we use the word 'meaning', but wants to be told what meaning is ... then I don't know what he asking for. And I don't believe he is asking for anything. (There is no "real definition" of meaning that does not have the form "True meaning is ...", as in persuasive definition.)

Is the word 'the' the name of the definite article? (No, the word 'the' is the definite article, and does not name itself.)

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