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Logic-Grammar Investigations

These are old and rough thoughts about the logic of language: What is the difference between language with-meaning and language without-meaning in the definition and discussion of philosophical problems? (Because if there is no difference, then what is philosophy?)


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Is there an objective distinction between sense and nonsense?

Note: the grammar (in Wittgenstein's jargon) of the word 'game', whether that word or any other word can be defined by examples, is the topic of the following discussion.

Query: why does Socrates seek a general definition of game instead of a specific one?

There is a slight of hand here, because the opposite of 'general definition' is no definition at all, not 'specific definition'. What does the query mean by 'specific definition' -- such examples as Euthyphro offers Socrates of piety in the dialog named after him? Then is the query saying that each [individual] example is in itself a definition? Is that the way we normally use the word 'definition'?

(Wittgenstein: "a family of cases".) Is every explanation of meaning a definition -- or are all or some only a contribution to a definition ("a contribution to the grammar of a word" [PI § 353])?

Does an 'explanation of meaning' = 'definition' if that explanation makes it possible for you to say, "Now I can go on" (as when someone is given street directions)? But if an electric shock resulted in someone's "knowing his way about", we would not call that shock an explanation of meaning. So if our account is to be adequate, we must give examples of what we are called 'explanations of meaning' (PI § 560).

By 'general definition' in Plato is meant 'essential definition' or 'common-nature definition' -- and that picture of how language works is this: that if we cannot give a general definition, then either we don't know the meaning of the word, or the word has no meaning (It is a "sound without sense"). In other words, I think the query should be: why does Socrates seek a general definition of 'game' rather than specific examples of what are called 'games'?

Query: what does it mean to know what a game is?

According to whom? To Socrates: if you "know what a game is", then you can give an account of what you know to others; and according to Plato's Socrates, the account of your knowing "what a game is" must be a general definition of 'game'. On the other hand, according to Wittgenstein: but if we look, we find that there is no general definition of the word 'game': "every explanation [of the meaning of the word 'game'] I can give myself, I can give you too." But my explanation does not take you very far: I can give some examples and hope that my explaining the meaning of the word 'game' by giving examples to you teaches you to apply that word to the various things that we call 'games' and not to things we don't call 'games'.

For Plato's Socrates: if you cannot state a general definition, then you cannot give an account, and therefore you do not know "what a game is" = what the meaning of the word 'game' is. Judge for yourself if that meaning of the word 'meaning' is useful to logic-philosophy; it does make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense -- but is it a distinction very helpful to logic of language -- i.e. to say that we do not know the meaning -- and further, that we don't even know the method to discover the meaning (for our Socratic dialectic fails again and again) -- of a vast number (maybe most) of the words we use daily?

[In The Blue Book (p. 19-20) Wittgenstein criticizes Socratic and Platonic logic for that reason.]

On the other hand, how does Wittgenstein's account -- i.e. "If you do not know the meaning of the word 'game', then I shall teach you to use that word by means of examples ... And when I do this I do not communicate less to you than I know myself" (PI § 208) -- make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense in the case of 'game'? Well it doesn't.

Wittgenstein's remarks may make the meaning -- i.e. the way we actually use the word -- 'game' clearer. But does it make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense? If it does, it is not obvious how it does.

So that with Plato's Socrates we have an objective distinction that most often useless, and with Wittgenstein we have a distinction that is not objective. For objectivity requires a standard, and what standard does Wittgenstein offer in his discussion of the word 'game'? He says: well, this is what we do -- but who exactly is this we. "It would be an answer to say: I have learnt English." Is that a standard?

[Note that the "theory of abstraction", which seems derived from Plato's notion of Forms, is not a standard: there is nothing objective about it, for it excludes nothing.]

So you are saying that there is no objective distinction between sense and nonsense? What I am saying is that, in many cases, but not in all, there is no objective distinction unless we step in and make one -- i.e. ourselves choose criteria of correctness -- in each case whenever and wherever doubt arises -- because the language we normally speak (natural language) does not always make that distinction for us. To ask this question must be our method: Words are tools, and so what work do we want to do with the particular tool we are talking about?

The operative word in "make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense" is 'make'.

The Platonic Socrates treats language as a natural phenomenon, quite independent of us, about which philosophy can only make factual investigations (and form hypotheses). But that is not how Wittgenstein treats language, although he does very often also use the method of treating language as being part of our natural history, a phenomenon to be looked at anthropologically, in his conceptual investigations, as he does in the case of 'game'. But that is not the only method he uses, and with regard to making an objective distinction between sense and nonsense, the most important difference between Wittgenstein's distinction and Platonic Socrates' distinction -- is that Wittgenstein's way is active, Plato's Socrates' passive. (The difference is a foundational Gestalt-shift.)

Remember that Wittgenstein's concept 'grammar' is itself a tool, a way of looking at language, and not the only way. But it is a way of taking control over language, as opposed to letting language take control over you.

Query: why is meaning not the same as use?

... the conclusion comes at the end, not at the beginning of an investigation. Philosophy does not ask "leading questions". Plus will you listen: there are many meanings of the word 'meaning', not just one. But there is no such thing in philosophy as a "theory of meaning", as if linguistic meaning -- the distinction between sense and nonsense -- were a phenomenon the reality of which were hidden to everyone but the metaphysician.

An example of a language where agreement is contractual

Query: difference and similarities in theories of sign of language philosophers.

The topic of that query is, I think, "Sign, Symbol, and Grammar", although that is only one philosopher's "theory". But apropos of the "sign language" used by the deaf: the letters of their finger-position-indicated alphabet did not arise as natural language arises: they were invented and were a matter of agreed-upon-convention from their very birth/origin (as was writing in natural languages presumably). In the case of deaf sign-language you can say that the agreement is contractual rather than merely a matter of enculturation. (The agreement that PI § 241 refers to is only coincidental, not contractual, agreement.)


Were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle "slum landlords"?

Query: what are the relevant [connections] of philosophy to my course of study, i.e. languages?

"... if philosophy has anything to do with living life ..." -- i.e. if it is not e.g. mere logic-puzzles. "We are discussing no small matter ..." -- But in his Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology Wittgenstein (for the most part) was.

In a paper "Appeal to Philosophers" delivered to the Aristotelian Society in Cambridge on 23 January 1940 (printed in the Proceedings of the Society, vol. 40 (1939-40)) C.E.M. Joad argued that an age such as ours of political unsettlement and religious and moral decline demanded a serious and constructive philosophy such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle offered in their time. "Preoccupation with correct analysis of the meaning of sentences seems to me a form of intellectual fiddling while Rome burns." Wittgenstein attended the meeting with Sraffa. He is related to have commented there that naturally a slum landlord would object to slum clearance. The Chairman tried to ease the tension by saying that of course Wittgenstein did not want to suggest any analogy between Joad and a slum landlord. Wittgenstein said, however, "That is exactly what I am suggesting" (Record (from memory) in R. Thouless's diary, shown to the present editor). (McGuinness' footnote to Document 267 v.i. in Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents 1911-1951 (2008), p. 314)

The question is not whether Joad was a "slum-lord", but whether "Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle" were. But Wittgenstein wrote to John Wisdom merely:

If you say that it's an exaggeration to call Joad's paper a "rotten attack" it certainly is not an exaggeration in the sense that I overstated my feelings or that I worked myself up into violent indignation. The words "rotten attack" were a very short but rather a mild expression of my opinion of Joad's paper, which I believe to be FOUL, from beginning to end -- I will not say more about this because it would be useless ... (ibid. Document 267, p. 314)

Why does Wittgenstein not respond to the philosophical question here (which decidedly is not his reaction to Joad's paper) -- i.e. state the reasons, if there are reasons, for why philosophers should not write about the question of how we should live our life (Is there a more important question for philosophy than this?) -- Why did he never put his objections into words that were subject to the possibility of refutation? Wittgenstein wrote to Sraffa on 1 August 1941:

... you are unable now to stand decently strong contradiction, the contradiction of someone, I mean, who mistrusts your reasoning -- which reasoning seems to me to be very often muddled and superficial. So, of course, everybody's thinking tends to be: but you used to take contradiction as a medicine; and by contradiction I don't mean the expression of polite disagreement but a challenge! (ibid. Document 289, p. 338)

And so why did Wittgenstein not respond to the challenge -- I don't mean Joad's attack on logic-philosophy, but Joad's challenge about the topic that philosophers should think and write about?

Wittgenstein, given his religious view of life, his view that he was not merely solving idle logic puzzles but doing God's will for him [To Drury in 1949: "Now that is all I want: if it should be God's will" (Recollections p. 168)] by the manner in which he did his work in philosophy, would have taken Joad's paper as a personal attack against himself as an ethical human being.

Is what I am doing in any way worth the effort? Well only, if it receives a light from above.... If the light from above is lacking, then I can in any case be no more than clever. (CV p. 57-58, remark from 1947)

The light of faith guides and completes the natural light of reason, since grace perfects nature. (Thomas Aquinas, De Trinitate 2.3c)

Albert Schweitzer asked a similar question to Joad's: what has philosophy to say to us about how we life our life? (but he did not attack logic-philosophy in doing so) -- would Wittgenstein have called Schweitzer a "slum landlord", a "dreg of the intellectuals"? Why not. [Note: I have not had an opportunity to read Joad's paper, but even if I agreed after reading it that it is thoroughly "rotten", that would not count against the basic point Joad raised.]

I have already written about what Wittgenstein's work has meant in my life, but at the end of the day logic of language studies will not tell man how to live his life. Now, what could be more important than that.

When I went for a continuing education language course, a psychologist (who was also taking classes there) asked me what course I had taken at school and when I replied further asked me, "And are you using it?", I only smiled shyly (because that's what I always do; I presumed he meant in my occupation), but I wanted to reply: "If a man learns how to think, does he use that." Query: "What are the relevant ...?"!

Wittgenstein never wanted Ethics to be part of Philosophy, and therefore it was not, not in the beginning and not in the end. (I earlier suggested a possible alternate explanation for Wittgenstein's stance, but it is not of logical necessity correct, and as an historiographical hypothesis it does not account for all the data, and indeed I think it is refuted by Wittgenstein's view that Ethics = the question of "absolute value", a question which cannot be discussed.) On the other hand, Wittgenstein did say about C.D. Broad's Five Types of Ethical Theory, "I thought he wrote that very well" (Recollections p. 142, to Drury in 1938). Nonetheless, Wittgenstein's statements about philosophy in the Philosophical Investigations are categorical: Philosophy is a struggle against language, and nothing more.

Wittgenstein's rude response does not respond to Joad's view of the task of the philosopher

At the very end of his book Philosophy (EUP [English Universities Press] Teach Yourself Books), published in 1944, but written in early 1943, in the "Epilogue", C.E.M. Joad quotes Plato's Republic: "[the wise man knows that] he is not strong enough to hold out alone where all are savages.... he holds his peace and does his own work, like a man in a storm sheltering under a wall from the driving wind of dust and hail" [Republic 6.496c-d, apparently Joad's own translation]. But, Joad says, both Socrates [cf. my account of the philosopher in the Sophistic storm]

and Plato believed so strongly in the practical value of philosophy that they devoted a large part of their lives to the endeavor to implant its principles in the daily life of men and cities. Socrates brought philosophy down from the clouds [This may be an allusion to Aristophanes' play] into the market-place ... Plato's insistence upon the philosopher's duty of taking part in practical life led him on two occasions into serious danger of his life [This is apropos of Plato's "philosopher king" and Syracuse].

In a time not very different from that of Plato [Joad was writing during WW2, amidst the competition among many views and ideologies for men's minds], philosophers ought, in my view, to accept a similar obligation. Philosophy in the modern world has become a specialized study, divorced from life and devoted to the discussion of purely technical problems. I do not wish to suggest that this is not the business of philosophers; I say merely that it is not their whole business and that to proceed as if it were is to betray a trust.

If modern philosophers have no wisdom of their own to offer to a distracted generation, they can at least seek to interpret for it, in language that it can understand [Cf. Norman Malcolm's expression "readable sentences")], the wisdom of the great philosophies of the past. For ... if they do not make it plain, nobody else will.

That certainly seems what Guthrie tries to do in his History of Greek Philosophy. I don't know whether that is quite what Joad has done in this book, but I wouldn't like to offer judgment on the quality of his work, because, again, my question isn't whether Joad was a "slum landlord".

"... I say merely that it is not their whole business." But is it still possible to do that work? Whyever not? Ipse dixit -- because "Himself said it" [But what's he when he's at home]? In his later work Wittgenstein does not justify his view that original work in Ethics ("no small matter, but how to live") is no longer possible (The TLP's account of language, which Wittgenstein thought showed that it is not possible --namely, because there are no propositions of ethics that are also statements of fact -- is not the logic of language of his later work), if that was his view (Note that Wittgenstein never abandoned the view that ethics concerns "absolute value", a topic about which there could be no rational discussion). It was not Russell's view of philosophy, and Russell condemned Wittgenstein's later work for not having as its aim "to understand the world as well as may be", which of course includes understanding "as well as may be" how man should live his life. (That I haven't found anything philosophically worthwhile in what Russell wrote about anything other than logic, is not what is important here, no more than Joad is.)

I myself certainly don't know what original thinking may or may not still be done in ethics (How would I? I am not an original thinker, although I have a few thoughts that are original to me, if not new to the world). But I do think that what Joad says in the passage quoted above is correct -- although I would never say that making an objective distinction between sense and nonsense is a "purely technical" problem. Not at all. Logic is philosophy's tool -- all philosophy must make use of it, or in other words, no philosophy is possible without some way or other of understanding it. Logic, as I use the word 'logic' and as Socrates used it, does not, cannot, consist of "purely technical problems" -- if by that expression is meant problems remote from our life.

[My copy of Joad's book came from the local library's book sale of 16 March 2012. The original price of the U.S. paperback, which is from 1966, was 60 cents, which is 40 cents less than I had to give the Friends of Library for it.]


What is conceptual confusion? Forms of expression: some unique, some unsuitable.

Query: another word for grammar.
Query: why is 'philosophy' a Greek word?

Is there one? must there be another word for 'grammar' in English or in any other language? Must all words have synonyms (equivalent-in-meaning-words)? The expression 'rule book' or the word 'regulations' points in the right direction, as do the words 'norms', 'standards', but none of those is an exact equivalent. Cf. another Greek word: 'philosophy' -- what is another word for that? Well there is none. There is no equivalent-word for 'philosophy' in any language. The Greeks invented philosophy; it is unique to them and to those who have learned from them to think in their philosophical way.

Query: conceptual confusion definition.

Normally we define that expression by examples, for even a general definition (such as e.g. 'mistaking a question about rules for a question about facts') would have to be explained by examples. For example, the difference between the statement of fact 'The saturation point of air at 32 degrees F. is 4.85 grams of water vapor per cubic meter' and the rule of grammar 'The saturation point of air is the maximum amount of water air can hold at a given temperature'. The second statement is a definition of the words 'saturation point'; a clearer form of expression would be more clearly in the rule of grammar 'By the words 'saturation point' meteorologists mean 'the maximum amount of water air can hold at a given temperature'.'

An example of confusing a conceptual with a factual investigation (Z § 458; RPP i § 949) would be to ask "Is the saturation point of air really the maximum amount of water air can hold at a given temperature or it is really something else?" Now, the truth or falsity of the proposition 'The saturation point of air at 32 degrees [etc.]' can be questioned (e.g. "Is 4.85 grams correct?") -- because there are methods of verifying whether or not it is true. On the other hand, the proposition 'The saturation point of air is the maximum amount of water [etc.]' is neither true nor false; it is merely a rule for using the combination of words 'saturation point'; it is a convention, not a statement of fact (or, if it is a fact, it is a fact about how meteorologists use the words 'saturation point' not as it were a fact about saturation point).

Even the query's form of expression shows this fundamental conceptual confusion when it appears to ask for a "definition of the thing conceptual confusion" rather than for a definition of the combination of words 'conceptual confusion'. Being confused about that fundamental distinction is "the essence of metaphysics", according to Wittgenstein. (Of course many more examples are needed to make that meaning of 'conceptual confusion' clear.)

I earlier wrote that in philosophy we define words not "things" [see Plato's Phaedrus]. But that's just a slogan [motto or project in philosophy, and not the only one possible either].

Query: explain in science why light and darkness cannot live in and occupy the same space at the same time.

Are 'light' and 'darkness' the names of objects? The trouble is that every word is "the name of an object (whether physical or abstract)" or "the name of a phenomenon" in some sense of the vaguely bordered categories 'object' and 'phenomenon', and therefore those categories are useless for making the meaning of words -- i.e. their use in the language, or, logic-grammar -- clear. And are the concepts 'light' and 'darkness' mutually exclusive (e.g. "in the half-light" which is also "in the half-darkness")? In other words, I don't understand what the question is asking -- and so my reply is "not an answer but a rejection of the question" (PI § 47).

Query: to truly know something you must teach it, Socrates.

If 'teach what you know' = 'give an account of what you know' as in the context of the remarks above, then Yes. But if 'teach' = 'train to behave in a virtuous way', then, according to Plato, No. For Plato says that even if a virtuous man is unable to train his own child to also live a virtuous life, then it must because that man does not "know what virtue is".

But does 'And that which we know we must surely be able to tell' (Laches 190c, tr. Jowett) = 'And that which we ourselves know-how-to-do we must surely be able to train others also to do'?

On the other hand, if lack of virtue is ignorance -- i.e. lack of knowledge -- then choosing to do what is unvirtuous is ignorance; and therefore, the father who does not train his child to be virtuous must himself be ignorant of what virtue is, for otherwise he would not have kept his own child in ignorance of what virtue is.

According to Xenophon, if you do not know what the good is, then you cannot be virtuous even if you try. For Plato all the moral virtues (each moral excellence proper to man) -- courage, piety, justice, self-control, and wisdom are really a single Form; and therefore if a man is not wise -- i.e. if he does not know what the Form Virtue is -- then he is not "morally virtuous" = "wise" in reality itself but only in appearance. Which leads to the strange paradox that the most virtuous of men, namely Socrates, was not really virtuous.

Query: Socratic paradox, "No man errs of his own free will".

Is that a "paradox" (a seeming contradiction)? Is the proposition factual or grammatical? a description of nature [experience] or a definition [or definitions]? I mean: a mistake is a mistake, after all, an error an error. Can one intentionally make a mistake? If I write "7 + 18 = 26" on the blackboard to test my students, I have not made a mistake or error. If I intentionally make a mistake, that is no mistake [not what we call a 'mistake']. Cf. "If anyone knows what the good is, then he will not fail to do what is good." Again, is that a proposition of fact or of grammar? [The expression 'free will' is a pleonasm.]

Query: beauty as a family resemblance concept.

But it is not one ... But can resemblances -- i.e. similarities -- be used to grammatically justify anything? Because remember: if A is similar to B (in some way or another), A is also dissimilar to B (in some way or another); otherwise A would be identical to B). And need anyone highlight the similarity rather than the dissimilarity? [When a vague metaphor is turned into a philosophical doctrine (dogma).]

Query: are all tautological possibilities logical possibilities?

Are any of them? For example, 'Either it's raining or it's not raining' is not a logical possibility (not as 'logical possibility' is defined in my pages) because it is not a proposition that can be true or false; all tautologies are, by definition of 'tautology' [i.e. we don't call (or, classify) anything as an tautology if it does not meet this criterion], "true", and therefore they do not [and cannot, again by definition of 'logical possibility' I have used] state logical possibilities.

Query: 70 years ago was it logically possible to travel to moon?

It has always been logically possible to travel to the moon (if, that is, in your world-picture, the moon is not part of the vault of heaven that no one can travel to). And it is still logically possible to travel to the moon. All that has changed is that traveling to the moon is now also a real possibility. (Related question: is the roundness of the earth an example of a theory that has become a fact?)

Query: 'love' is a four letter word, real or nominal?

Nominal (see the distinction between a sign and the use or meaning of a sign). But is there a real definition of 'love'? That is, is there an essence of the phenomena we call 'love', a one thing in common, a defining characteristic, that both defines "what love is" and that differentiates love from all other phenomena?

Query: statements using the word 'look through'.

You can look through a window, but you can also look through a book. Are those similar activities? It certainly isn't obvious that they have anything but the words 'look' and 'though' in common. (cf. 'make a bed', 'make a misstatement'). So then what is the essence, general definition, Platonic Form (or, Pattern), of 'look through'?

Query: symbolic meaning of jumping over the moon.

But is that linguistic meaning -- i.e. do words have symbolic meaning. In the Republic of Turkey speaking in the Kurdish language in Parliament may have symbolic meaning, but that meaning of 'meaning' is not the meaning of the words that are spoken in the Kurdish language (Those words might even be nonsense in logic of language's sense of 'nonsense'), but that the Kurdish language is spoken in Parliament at all.

Query: maths is not a subject but a game.
Query: mathematics is just a game invented by mathematicians.

You can say that about chess -- that it has no subject-matter external to itself, and maybe (I don't know) to what is called "pure" (I imagine that means: axiomatic) maths; but you cannot say that about applied maths: we do not want bridges to fall down: there we do not want mere deductions from or consistency with axioms, but only what works when applied to what is external to maths.

Inappropriate forms of expression

Query: nonsense words for geometry.

Why not call them 'nonsense words' rather than 'undefined terms'? Geometry's nonsense terms: 'point', 'line', 'plane'. For does not 'undefined' = 'nonsensical'? As we normally talk, it does. But mathematicians, or bad philosophers of maths, use the expression 'undefined' in an eccentric way -- that is to say: in geometry the word 'undefined' is jargon (a jargon-word).

Query: why undefined terms in geometry are not defined precisely.

Well, which are they -- undefined or not-defined-precisely? and what are you calling a 'precise definition'? Or do you mean that they "are not defined, precisely", meaning that they're sort of defined but not really defined -- or do you mean that they are both defined and not-defined? Sometimes forms of expression do matter; inappropriate (unsuitable) forms of expression matter especially (PI § 339).

Query: a word meaning 'that cannot be put into words'.

One such word is 'ineffable'. But 'cannot be put into words' does NOT = 'forbidden from being put into words' (Note the 'cannot be' rather than 'may not be' or 'must not be'). But why 'cannot'? Because someone's imagination (imaginative powers) is not up to the task in this particular case? 'I cannot' -- i.e. 'It is impossible for me' does NOT = 'It is impossible for anyone to'. But Wittgenstein's TLP does mean 'It is impossible for anyone' by 'what cannot be put into words' (although this has nothing to do with anyone's powers of imagination), it means 'cannot' = 'impossible' in the sense of -- somehow in the sense of, I don't know how in the sense of, if we speak as we normally speak -- 'logically impossible'. However, Wittgenstein in the TLP does not talk the way we normally do, but defines the word 'nonsense' as if its definition were a matter of metaphysical fact (one which has the absurd consequence of making every proposition of the TLP "nonsense"). But as we normally use the word 'nonsense', it is not logically impossible to put anything into words.

Memory, if time doesn't exist

Query: there is no time; so what is memory?

If as philosophers say there is no time, then ...? I wrote on my page: "We remember. Without memory, there is no time" -- i.e. there is no concept 'time' -- i.e. this is not an existential proposition, but grammar. However, if we reverse that rule and ask: if "there is no time" -- or, to ask a defined question: if we had no concept 'time', then how would we regard the phenomena we now [-- i.e. using our present concepts, normally] call 'memory'? ("Imagine certain very general facts of nature to be other than they [in fact] are, and the formation of concepts contrary [different] to our own may appear natural to you" (PI II, xii, p. 230b).)

How did the Africans Schweitzer met in the Gabon treat memory? If you have no concept 'time' whatever (i.e. do not measure time in some way, for the word 'time' has no meaning without a method or scale of measurement) -- not even to the extent of having the concepts 'before' and 'after' and 'yesterday' and 'long ago', then you live in an eternal present; the Africans, however, did not. Would it be possible to regard all memories as memories of dreams, as if, within your frame of reference, your life began when you awoke -- as we would say, in the morning (although for such a tribe there is only one morning; morning = birth) -- and ended when you fell asleep (as there is only one night; night = death)?

Again, there is merely a curiosity to me; my whole life is not at stake with it: it is a logic puzzle, not philosophy. Or, in truth, I want to say about this particular puzzle: so what? The Fable of the Born-Blind Tribe ends with "Look at the word 'know' as a tool that has a role [a particular use] in this people's life", and that is very important [essential to the understanding] to see -- But the present riddle (time and memory -- i.e. the logic-grammar of the concepts 'time' and 'memory'): what is the point of it? I am not seeking mere logical curiosities; I would say that if that were all philosophy were, then it would not be worth bothering about.

What professional hack gives children an assignment like this -- and what kind of mirror image of that hack takes up philosophy because of assignments like this! If anyone clings to philosophy, it is despite being subjected to such "professional philosophers". There was a professor at Porrigetown who taught a theology course about Nietzsche and Kierkegaard; at his first lecture he told his students: "And I hope you will not be put off" taking a further interest -- i.e. after this course is done -- in these two thinkers "because of me". That was rare wisdom in my opinion, as rare as the professional philosopher who ever says 'I don't know' (I heard those words spoken only once by a professor of philosophy at Porrigetown, and he got the sack) or 'No, wait, what I just said was mistaken; I am confused about this topic I wanted to explain to you" (Wittgenstein did in fact say things like that in WLFM).

Query: why Descartes is not wise.

What on earth or in the heavens does the Greek concept 'wisdom' have to do with Descartes who was not concerned with Ethics, but (so far as I can remember) explicitly (see his Discourse on Method, Part 3) set that topic aside. That is my reaction, but the query, another query from a university server, has a sense in some context (although I would not want to imagine a context which would give it one). Cf. the assignment: "Compare Socrates and Jesus". ... o mores! Exactly.

Time and grammar (measurement)

Query: word for people with no concept of time.

The form of expression "concept of time" suggests that there is some independently existing thing (named in our language by the abstract term 'time') that one can somehow have a conception of, as one may have a conception -- i.e. a picture -- of what the sun in the sky is (e.g. a rounded disc [bowl] holding fire). What you can say is that the at that time primitive equatorial Africans Schweitzer encountered had a very limited concept 'time', time measured only as wet and dry seasons, if even that. (Does a cat have "a concept of time"?) To have a concept 'time' is to mark or measure time -- but not as if there were something independent of that concept [i.e. rule for using a word] that one were measuring -- namely, some mysterious entity named 'time'. The way you measure time says what you mean by the word 'time' -- not what you take "the nature of time" to be.

[Wittgenstein also spoke of "concept blindness" (RPP i § 213).]

Query: no concept of time.

There is an English word 'timelessness', but we use it as a synonym for 'classic' or 'perennial', meaning: something that never loses its importance or value. It is only in metaphysics where 'timelessness' means 'a time without time' or 'a timeless time' (such as "If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration, but timelessness ..." [TLP 6.4311, tr. Ogden]) -- if that can be meant: for if there is no change, there is no time, none whatever.

If nothing whatever ever changes ... what is that? It is not even outside our experience -- i.e. it is nonsense, an undefined combination of words: you cannot simply put a negation sign in front of the word 'time' [i.e. 'timeless'] and say that you mean something by that, for what do you mean by that. To say that 'after death, a timeless state of existence begins' amounts to accepting Socrates' first possibility, that death is like a sleep without dreams (Plato, Apology 40c-41c) -- i.e. that it is non-existence, for what else is an existence in which the concept 'before' and 'after' -- as well as the concept 'conscious' -- has no application? It is oblivion by any other name. [The philosophical question of an afterlife.]

Query: without change there is no history; without regularity there is no time.

As if that were a profound statement of fact rather than mere grammar (RPP i § 949) -- i.e. rules (conventions) for using words. (And that is "what there is to learn from Wittgenstein", from what I have called his "logic of language", even if nothing else.)


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