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Idea-matching versus Word-matching

On this page words that follow "Query" are Internet searches that misdirected visitors, sending them to the wrong pages of this site. Now why is that? (Language is to search engines "mere sound without sense". The Stoic lekton.)


Outline of this page ...


Language-meaning blindness (Misdirected questions about the logic of language)

Query: it was modesty that invented the word 'philosopher' in Greece.
Query: why did Pythagoras reject 'wise man' (sophist) and prefer the word 'lover of wisdom' (philosopher)?

A present, and maybe forever, search engines are meaning-blind. These queries should have been sent to "Origins of the word 'philosophy'" which quotes Plato, Phaedrus 278d, or to the map of Magna Graecia which quotes Pythagoras, but I believe that because the word 'modesty' does not appear in those pages, they were not sent there. (As to modesty, see also: "Socrates, the master of those who don't [think they know what they don't] know" in contrast to "Aristotle, the master of those who know" [di color che sanno].)

Query: Plato's Apology; limits of reason.

If no man is wise, then this is the limit of reason: knowing anything that it is important to know, as in e.g. The limits of "Know thyself". Which the search engine doesn't see the connection between, because it is ideas-blind.

Query: it is possible to separate philosophical subject matter from other areas of learning?

In the beginning, for the Greeks 'philosophy' = 'higher learning'; shipbuilding was never called philosophy, although it was classified as wisdom, where 'wisdom' = 'knowledge' = 'learning'. But that is not what is sought. Again the connection between ideas is lost: Query: why everything is not philosophy? Everything can be looked at from a philosophical point of view (cf. from a religious point of view), but that does not make everything philosophy.

What the Internet of ideas needs: search engines with the mind of a reference librarian, where 'mind' = 'the ability to understand language'.

Query: the meaning of a word and its combinations.

But one cannot enumerate the indefinite; what would be the limit of possible meanings and combinations? Philosophy tries to invent new meanings and to revise old ones; this is continuous, never-ending.

Will there ever be a computer program that can handle ideas as a human being does, that can, so to speak, understand natural language? I don't know (Of course, if one ever is, the present search engines will be "cast into the outer darkness"). It is a difficult need. Because, again, if we use Wittgenstein's comparison of using language to playing a game, where what characterizes a game is it rules, what we find is that: "We often compare language to a game played according to strict rules" (PI § 81), and Wittgenstein's primitive language-games are examples of such games. But that is no more than a comparison (It is not a metaphysical theory about the "reality behind the appearances"), an analogy that can seldom be applied to our everyday language. Concepts simply don't have strict limits: their boundaries are easily extended or contracted (Nothing characterizes natural language more than this). Exceptions to that general statement are rare (The concept 'simile' is one such exception).

The limit of concept-formation -- is not imposed by language. (Need limiting language (George Orwell) necessarily limit thought?)

And so an Internet site about ideas will very often find that queries are directed to the wrong pages of the site, because keyword-matching is not ideas-matching. (The site must also accept that it will be hurt by search engine incompetence. That is the way of search engines: to have all the rights, while you have all the responsibilities ... although you're never fully told what your responsibilities are. Judge and executioner, and you are just a bystander to a fate decided by a computer algorithm. And this applies both to Internet sites -- and to oneself as an Internet searcher.)

Far from regarding it as a commonplace phenomenon, that human beings are able to use natural language as well as we do (because we very often use it to mystify ourselves) really ought to astonish us. But, well, "Shades of the prison house begin to close about the young boy", and the phenomenon of our native language has lost for us "the freshness and the glory of a dream".

Do you think that an algorithm can be written to understand irony (A human being understands the intention of this page and its title, www.roangelo.net/logwitt/geometric-point-gif-404.html, but to the search engine that page merely has a "non-informative title tag")? An algorithm is a bit more than a bit humorless: if a man could speak, it would not understand him (cf. If a lion could speak ...). How much of our use of language is this way: we obey a step-by-step protocol when we speak, just as when we play chess? What is the nature of language use in the humanities ... metaphor, allusion, creation.

The level of understanding of ideas: "gu gu gu". Maybe here you really can speak of the long childhood. Or maybe, but of course I don't know, it will be an eternal childhood. (There is nothing in the past eleven years of my site's referrer logs, however, to suggest that this is a question of a long rather than of an eternal childhood -- i.e. that the human mind is reducible to an algorithm.)

And then there is also this, that those who write search engine protocols do not know that a question such as "What is the size of a geometric point?" and "What are the three undefined terms?" are not questions belonging to geometry but instead to the philosophy of geometry.

Ipse dixit (Pythagoras)

Query: what is the Greek phrase that was used by ancient Pythagoreans as a way to emphasize that their argument was valid since it originated from Pythagoras himself?

Find a page with the words 'Greek', 'ancient', 'Pythagorean', 'argument', 'valid' -- and that is all that a search engine can do. The response to the query is found elsewhere: Ipse dixit. But that phrase, meaning "Himself said it", is Latin; the Greek for "He himself has said it", I don't know (although if I look in a dictionary for ipse dixit, I may find that the Greek original is: autos epha).

Query: Wittgenstein about when we stop asking why, that is the answer.

The query does not seem to concern the "eternal questions without answers", despite its being misdirected there, but (maybe) TLP 6.521: "The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of this problem" (tr. Ogden), for, according to Wittgenstein at that time (although possibly not later), there is not even a question to ask (6.5, 6.52).

Query: philosophy of meaning of words.

For Wittgenstein's logic of language, the subject that studies "meaning of words" is logic -- but not logic in the search engine sense of 'logic'. (The word 'logic' is Wittgenstein's jargon or maybe his revision of that concept -- or maybe simply his selection of a particular sense of that word. -- I would say the last of the three, but given that there are quite different senses of the word 'logic' to select among, whichever is selected results in 'logic' as if it were a jargon-word, even if there is an historical justification for a particular selection.)

"No philosophy, only grammar"

Query: who said there is no philosophy; there is only grammar?

Well, did not himself say that: "In philosophy all that is not gas is grammar" (Fundamental Criticism of Wittgenstein)? However, to understand Wittgenstein's assertion to mean "There is no philosophy, but instead only grammar" requires understanding [the agility of an alert human mind], and [therefore] the query was misdirected.

So in philosophy all that is not gas is grammar. (Wittgenstein's Lectures, Cambridge, 1930-1932, ed. Desmond Lee (1980), p. 112)

You must always keep in mind -- because this is essential [a sine qua non for understanding W.] -- that 'grammar' is a jargon-word in Wittgenstein. (The word 'gas' = 'idle talk' ['vain' or 'boastful chatter'].) The later identification of logic with grammar is an evolution of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus assertion, with "grammar" replacing the original "logic is a mirror of reality" picture.

But the word 'gas' in Wittgenstein's remark is reminiscent of words from the TLP's Motto: "rumbling and roaring". But there is a difference, as shown by the remark Moore recorded: that nonsense is produced by trying to express by the use of language what can only belong to a language's grammar. This much, nonetheless, is constant [in the early and later W.]: metaphysics is nonsense -- because it tries to do what cannot be done, either because of "the nature of reality" (TLP) or because of the way our language works (the later [i.e. the post-Tractatus] Wittgenstein's "logic of language" in my jargon).

The limit of sense and nonsense is concept-formation -- but that does not answer the question of what sets the limits to concept-formation. In both the TLP and Philosophical Investigations the answer is of course "reality" -- but where and how exactly reality sets those limits is not easy to discover.

Socrates, Wittgenstein, Ethics

How does the notion of "rumbling and roaring" differ from Socrates' "with respect to wisdom he is truly worthless"? Wittgenstein was also fundamentally interested in ethics ("no small matter, but how to live"), but about ethics he believed that philosophy could say basically nothing -- i.e. that philosophy cannot give ethics a foundation (PI § 124). (Wittgenstein and "absolute value", an anti-rational morality. Reasons versus imperatives (commands).)

Socrates believed that philosophical reason can give man a general guide how to live (The good for man is life in accord with the excellence (areté) that is proper to man) but apparently not a universal guide to particulars (if that is indeed what is needed). Wittgenstein from the very beginning rejected Socrates' way of looking at human life; he wanted to cure man of philosophy rather than by it.

However, with respect to Wittgenstein: I wonder if anyone is not uttering nonsense if he says 'I prefer to live irrationally'. But on the other hand, isn't that what the "life of faith" is -- and don't people indeed live that way, "the unexamined life".

The State of search: "mere sounds without sense"

We are in the condition of an anthropologist in the early stages of trying to understand the language of a new tribe: he recognizes individual sounds ("words"), but he does not yet know their meaning ("what the tribe does with those sounds"). He is compiling a dictionary without definitions (a syntax without semantics).

Query: rules in language; philosophy.

This query should be sent to Wittgenstein's use of the word 'grammar'. The search engine simply matches words; it does not identify 'grammar' with 'rules in language'.

There is a lot to learn about philosophy (in Wittgenstein's sense of the word 'philosophy', which characterizes that activity with the words 'confused' and 'unclear') from artless ["naive"] queries, that students are inclined to ask when they are not trying to be intelligent. For example:

Query: pictures of time dimension.

This is correctly sent to Philosophy of Time, although this query does seem to want to actually see [as an act of the five senses] time as a spatial dimension, as if we might take a photograph -- a 4-D photograph, as it were, showing: height, length, depth, and time (in Cartesian display: x,y,z,t). That is, if this query does not intend 'pictures' in Wittgenstein's sense, it is quite revealing of the "philosophical, i.e. grammatical, confusions in which human beings are deeply mired [entangled]". We follow an grammatical analogy: "Height, width and depth can be shown in a photograph -- and therefore time can be as well, because we call all of them by the name 'dimension'."

Query: memory as a means of time travel.

Isn't the whole thing metaphorical -- i.e. is "using memory" any more so? What is the metaphor: "Travel in time as if traveling in space." -- Someone says: "But memory travel isn't really ..." As if anything were really time travel. There are many pictures of time travel -- Don't they all stand on the same level? "The same level" -- i.e. none are statements of fact; all are fantasy, pictures that float free of facts.

Query: ethics of time travel.

Does ethics govern fantasy [daydreaming]? Here we cannot even speak of a "thought experiment", because there is no connection to experience here.

Pictures that don't misrepresent yet do mislead

Query: pictures concerning mind.

Here we see billowing clouds and other "representations" [If it cannot be presented, can it be represented? This is a question about logical possibility -- i.e. it asks for a definition (rule of grammar, grammatical explanation of meaning)] of "spirits". But what would be a not-misleading, not-mis-representing picture of how we use the word 'mind'? Or should we say that any picture of "the mind" misleads and misrepresents; -- i.e. that the word 'mind' is not the name of anything, and so that we should break with the notion of "pictures of the mind"?

[There are philosophical, in contrast to impressionistic, "pictures of the mind" in the discussion of Drury's Concerning Mind and Body.]

"... does not misrepresent, but it does mislead"

... a drawing of the earth as a ball with the people at the antipodes upside down and ourselves rightside up. The drawing, [Wittgenstein] said, does not misrepresent; yet it tempts us to think that the inhabitants of the antipodes are beneath us, and that they really hang head downwards. (Norman Malcolm's Ludwig Wittgenstein: a Memoir, 2nd ed. (1984), p. 46; cf. PI § 351))

Metaphysics, when it is not nonsense or jargon, consists of pictures that do misrepresent the way we use the words of our language. Anyone who philosophizes finds it difficult to break with the picture of Australia as "the land down under", of time as a river, and of "the mind" as churning clouds. [How is it that there is a form of expression 'the mind'? Because the rules of syntax allow it, as they allow the construction of many other misleading forms of expression. (Correct syntax is not a guarantee of meaning; sense and nonsense is not a matter of form but of use.)] Here is another example:

Query: how come we don't get dizzy when the earth spins?

The picture of the earth spinning on its axis also "does not misrepresent, but it does mislead". But when Odysseus goes over the earth's edge, the picture of the flat earth does not mislead -- but the picture of a spherical earth would not mislead either: it would instead be nonsense, i.e. a picture with no application in Homer's story:

"Is the Earth round like a plate or round like a ball?" The ancient Greek world map depicts the Earth as round like a plate. In the Odyssey [Book 11] when Odysseus visits the dead in the underworld he travels across the ocean that encircles the Earth to the very edge of the world (Hamilton, Mythology (1942), i, 1, p. 42).

That is not a stupid question. Only members of a community of thought, who are certain that what they think is "what all right thinking people think", do not share the child's perplexity.

Query: language categories. Wittgenstein.

This should have gone to Parts of speech, that is, if 'categories' = 'parts of speech' in Wittgenstein's sense.

Query: philosophy, religion, compare.

In so many instances the search engine does more harm than good in the sense that: "There is something pertinent to your query at this site, but it is not on the page you have been sent to. And so both our efforts have been wasted." The query should have been directed to e.g. Religion and Reason according to Gilson, but the engine does not understand the query as 'comparison between philosophy and religion', nor of course does it understand any other idea: it looks for words or combinations of words [signs], but it knows nothing about the meaning of those words (although it can also direct you to a dictionary).

A reference librarian for the Internet

The search engine is like the foreigner of whom the Greeks said: "The meaning is what the Greek hears, but the barbarian does not, when Greek is spoken."

I did not appreciate just how poorly search engines work, when a search is made for ideas rather than for facts, until I had access to my site's server/visitor logs and was able to see the engines' misdirections. The engines are like sign posts that are very often not in order (PI § 87). I often want to exclaim that a child could give better directions, although that would not always be true. The introduction of the rel="nofollow" addition to the anchor tag was nothing if not a confession that the search engines have no understanding of language (They cannot in the least distinguish the apropos from the irrelevant).

What amazes is not what the search engine, which is a beast wanting discourse of reason, returns as query results, but that human beings, who are not wanting discourse of reason, will accept even the most absurd of those results as possible responses to their queries.

"... the search engines have no understanding of language"; they have no understanding of ideas. -- Ought one to say "Of course they haven't!" -- but one is superstitious about what one does not fully understand, does not know the limits of. "Artificial intelligence", for example. Suppose one said: all a machine [computer program] can do is to follow rules, a protocol, an "algorithm" [It doesn't do magic]. -- But isn't following rules what human beings do? Then maybe what is needed is a fuller set of rules? But natural language is seldom like chess or arithmetic: for the most part the concepts of natural language are fluid: our words do not have general [or, essential] definitions: we "play games" [That is a simile] of family resemblances [That is another] -- where noting new resemblances is often essential to the game: we extend the limits of our concepts (If we go "too far" we create jargon [-- but even in the case of Wittgenstein's concept 'grammar' there is still family resemblance to the acceptation of the word 'grammar', and indeed if there had not been, why would Wittgenstein have used the same word ("syntax" became "logical grammar": grammar and logic are the study of rules)? --]): we are not playing a game according to fixed rules, and the game we are playing much more resembles Wittgenstein's example of human faces, where family resemblances are subtle, rather than his example of games, where the resemblances are not subtle.

Blaise Pascal distinguished between the "spirit of geometry" and the "spirit of finesse". A computer program has the former [It is completely at home with rules], but can it be "taught" the spirit of finesse -- given that we cannot teach that even to a human being who does not have it? "Social grace" at unstructured gatherings: someone with the spirit of geometry (but without finesse) asks: "What are the rules at this party?" -- Socialize, enjoy yourself. -- "How does one do that?" Can a system of rules [protocol] be written for the spirit of finesse? But is that spirit necessary for an understanding of natural language?

What rules can be set to exclude nonsense? -- Because no sign (combination of words) is necessarily nonsense: we can invent a sense for any sign and make its sense explicit [as in jargon, or as in the Greek sense of "limiting"] -- but in poetry the sense is shown [suggested] by context. And the nuances of poetry are not without meaning, although philosophy is not concerned with what is personal about language [but only about, to be blunt, what is crudely public -- and after the fact [Philosophy is an autopsy] -- about it]. Can a set of rules be followed to correctly "parse" poetry -- i.e. to recognize where lines break even if a break occurs within an unpunctuated line? Is semantics entirely a matter of rules? Are rules alone enough to understand language? And now we need examples, because the possibility we are talking about here is logical possibility. But what is logically possible is whatever is describable. What one can say is that: if it has not been described, it is not logically possibly; what one cannot say is that: if it has not been described, it is not describable.

One says: the human mind is flexible, not rigid, like a computer program; but that makes nothing clearer if we do not, or cannot [in which case we are talking nonsense], describe that flexibility. I wonder: is it possible to create an engine with the understanding of language of the reference librarians at the public library? Or is the only machine that can understand ideas the human body (ibid. § 359)?]

The Web Under the AI

Seeing so many misdirected queries wherever ideas are involved, I rather think the 'i' in AI stands for 'ignorance' rather than 'intelligence': artificial ignorance of philosophical ideas. (Could a program be written to use Plato's method of tautologies in ethics? if they really are logical tautologies.)

Query: do goats have eyebrows?

The AI, set to soon rule over mankind, made this connection: (1) page title: "Can a goat understand man's thoughts, or a man the ways of God?", and (2) page alludes to "Are eyebrows going to be talked of, in connection with the Eye of God?" (LC p. 71). And that is how this entry got into "This report lists which queries people used in search engines to find the site".

Query: Socrates' discourse on religion.

The AI that will soon rule the world, but how will it play thought-policeman if it does not understand thoughts; keyword matching ('Socrates', 'discourse', 'religion') ≠ thinking. I wonder if the query seeks Socrates' statements in Plato's Apology about the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Or it could be the discussion in Plato's Euthyphro of "what the essence of piety or holiness is", or e.g. the myth in Plato's Gorgias 522e-524b of the soul's coming to judgment in an afterlife ... The page titled "Why question everything?" which the Artificial Intelligence chose does not seem the query's target.

Query: difference between wisdom of god and the philosophy of men.

Mysteries of the AI; whyever wasn't this query sent to "Can a goat understand man's thoughts, or a man the ways of God?". Or Hamlet's "... than are dreamt of in your philosophy", as well as: "... and it is not necessarily the case that they will ever be dreamt of" in mankind's philosophy. (Can the thoughts of God be put into the words of man?)

The blind AI (Polyphemus)

Query: to know something is the same as doing it. Socrates.

Although Socrates does set a criterion for distinguishing what one knows from what only falsely thinks oneself to know, that is not the topic of the query. The AI appears not to understand the Socrates of Xenophon's "if one knows what the good is, then one does what is good" or, in other words, that "Virtue is knowledge".

Query: using philosophical terms, what is a good life for man?

In the strange world of search algorithms. What has this query to do with the origin of philosophy, eh? In Socratic -- indeed, broadly in common Greek thinking -- terms: The good life for man is the life that is in accord with the specific excellence that is proper to man (Know thyself). But this is Socrates' extension of the concept 'excellence' (areté) to ethics. That might be called the origin of ethics as a branch of philosophy, a connection which a human mind may see ...

Query: who discovered that two objects cannot occupy?

... the same space at the same time? This was sent to a Philosophy of Science page, which is a correct response to "discovered" in this case. But I don't think that was what the query was about, namely Heisenberg's "uncertainty principle". But what was discovered? Here we can ask Kant's question: is the limitation in the nature of the world or in the nature of man? (You could add dye to the water and perhaps many other things too.)

Query: family resemblance theory, criticised by Socrates.

But this is not about Wittgenstein's notion "family likeness" as such, but about its application in Socrates' logic of language. [We can call this notion a "theory" in the sense that it organizes the facts in plain view (and does not go further to speculate about any "reality behind (or underlying) them"); it seems to give us a way to look at the facts, although Wittgenstein's metaphor does not define 'family'.] [Issues in understanding the language of ideas.]

Query: Wittgenstein's philosophy of pictures.

Now this is a very important, a central element in Wittgenstein's philosophy: the roles of pictures in our life and thought: the role of pictures in religion, and how pictures mislead us about the grammar of words, and about metaphysics as pictures. [Unfortunately I think this query refers to the Tractatus, to what some are pleased to called its "picture theory of meaning", and about which I have very little to say.]

Query: what's that when it's at home?

This query should have been directed to Kann er was? (Schubert), or What are numbers? (Philosophy of Mathematics) where it appears in the context of "... the language-game that is its original home" (PI § 116).

Query: a grammatical remark.

This query was misdirected [sent to the wrong page]. To counter that I made a link from that page to the Chapter Grammatical Remarks in the Synopsis of Wittgenstein's Logic of Language. (This is the most important reason to read server logs.)

[Is this what my Synopsis is: An Introduction to, or, Overview of Wittgenstein's Jargon, or, A Glossary of Wittgenstein's Jargon?]

Query: Wittgenstein, Russell, compare.

To recognize that there are two different conceptions of philosophy here [Philosophy as a collection of theories (Russell) as opposed to Philosophy as an activity of clarification (Wittgenstein)] is very important. But the word "compare" suggests to me that this query concerns the time of the Tractatus, when Russell was still thinking about logical form. It is an assignment from school. I could be wrong of course.

Query: what is meant when Socrates said that no evil can happen to a good man either in life or after death?

I have written my own thoughts about the Apology: "The only evil that can befall a good man is for he himself to do evil", and I have also recorded the thoughts of Eduard Zeller in his Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy (which are the same). But I do not think that anyone else should want them. I want to say: Think about this for yourself! What good does it do you to read someone else's ideas? Well, someone else may lead you to have thoughts of your own. But someone else may also stop you from having thoughts of your own. But if I say that what is important in philosophy is to think for yourself, doesn't this sound like a formula for remaining in ignorance? If you pass all your time among those who know no more than you do, you learn nothing; and of course no one knows more than himself.

Socrates: a good man fears nothing except himself doing evil (but if he is good he does not do evil, and therefore he has nothing to fear). To have evil done to oneself is a misfortune, but it is not a moral fault. The good man is the man who seeks always to do only what is good, both in this world and in any other.

Query: how to understand Wittgenstein.

As if there were only one way to understand -- i.e. to look at, see -- rather than many ways to understand a philosopher's work. As to my own way, the query was sent to the correct page -- namely, the Logic of Language homepage, but where it says (or used to say?) "Introduction (Please begin here)", because this is "how to understand Wittgenstein": Begin by understanding the nature of his principles. But I think maybe it is impossible to get anyone to begin there.

Query: the third is the argument from affinity Socrates draws a distinction between those things that are immaterial invisible and immortal and those things which are material visible and perishable the body is of the second kind whereas the soul is of the first kind this would suggest that the soul ought to be immortal and survive death.

"Any proposition can be derived from other propositions" (OC § 1) -- and this is why I cannot -- or do I simply refuse to (PI § 52: "But if I am convinced that a mouse cannot come into being from gray rags and dust ...")? -- take Plato's arguments about the immortality of the soul seriously. If Aristotle proves just the opposite using the same technique [method] -- what does that show about this method (Pascal's criticism of Rationalism)?

The AI's page choice, Socrates, The Master of Those Who don't Know, doesn't make sense to me, but then the AI doesn't have sense (and nonsense), and besides, maybe it hasn't read the Phaedo.


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