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Philosophical questions most varied

As Socrates uses the Greek word logos, logic is both method and wisdom. And other remarks, but without a red thread.

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Socrates and logic and wisdom

Query: philosophy: the pursuit of wisdom, or logic: the art of reasoning?

Do you think there must be an "or" here? Johann Georg Hamann (in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967) article by W.M. Alexander) used the word 'philologian', I'm not quite sure how; it contrasts with the word 'philosopher' (Pythagoras). But I think we can give that title to Socrates: "lover of logos", which is both reason and wisdom (Guthrie called the word 'logos' a maid-of-all-work). The root of 'philology' is given as 'love of words', but I think 'word' limits too much the meaning of the Greek word 'logos: for Socrates that word means both a method and a definition (A definition of the Socratic kind would be knowledge of the essence of a moral virtue, and that knowledge is wisdom). But I'd want to say that philosophy and logic are not two [different] things, but rather that logic or "the art of reasoning" is an essential part of philosophy, because philosophy is discourse of reason.

Wittgenstein, 'grammar' and 'ungrammatical'

Query: philosophical investigations, ungrammatical.

I have tried to define the word 'grammar' as used by Wittgenstein. But, then, how is the word 'ungrammatical' to be defined? For example, 'Where is the mind?' -- should this be called "ungrammatical" language? because what is 'ungrammatical' to mean in logic except 'nonsense'? The question shows that in Wittgenstein's later work, the word 'grammar' is Wittgenstein's jargon. It is a revision of our concept 'grammar', not our normal concept.

Note then that uneducated English -- 'I don't have none' for example -- isn't ungrammatical in Logic-philosophy, for which Wittgenstein chose the meaning of 'meaning' by which if a form of expression has a use in the language, then it has meaning = is grammatical. (Related remarks: Syntax is meaning-blind. But is it also broken-English blind?)


Metaphysical Kinds

According to Wittgenstein, there is only one kind of metaphysics, the metaphysics that is mere conceptual confusion, the result of misunderstanding the logic of our language by not recognizing the difference between a factual and a conceptual investigation. And examples of that kind in philosophy are discussed below.

But there are other kinds of metaphysics, i.e. studies of "no small matter, but what is real". For there is metaphysics as looking at the limits set not by language, but by points of reference, which is an example of the relationship between concepts and reality. There are the eternal questions without answers of philosophy, which I would call metaphysical because they cast doubt on man's knowledge of "anything worth knowing" (Apology 21d). There is as well metaphysics as a study of concept-formation (not from a psychological point of view), particularly of common names. And there may be many others: "it is possible to be interested in a phenomenon in a variety of ways" (PI § 108).

Reality is not what is seen with the eyes, but with the mind alone

That is the thought of Parmenides of Elea (in Greek southern Italy circa 500 B.C.). It is the birth of Rationalism -- i.e. of the standard of reason alone, setting aside the second test of Socratic dialectic, namely the evidence of experience, the view that sense perception is untrustworthy even when it is not mistaken (as e.g. in the case of auditory and optical illusions it is). Metaphysics is speculative reason overruling sense perception. It says again and again that what we see is not reality but only the appearance of reality. The answers are not in plain view, but are hidden where only reason can find them.

The question Wittgenstein asks (and answers) is whether the mind sees the truth or is simply blinded ("bewitched") by language (PI § 109).

The "opinion of Heraclitus"

... that all things flow and nothing stands ... Heraclitus is supposed to say that all things are in motion and nothing at rest; he compares them to the stream of a river, and says that you cannot go into the same water twice. (Plato, Cratylus, tr. Jowett, 401d, 402a)

If someone sets a spinning top beside one that is not spinning, then the first is said to be in motion and the second is said to be at rest. -- That is precisely the point: "it is said to be". Anyone who has learned English knows [(and) must admit (Z § 211)] that [demonstrative pointing] this condition is called 'at rest' and that this condition is called 'in motion'. If someone said that the top that is at rest was in motion, we would say that this person had not learned English (PI § 381). And, therefore, what the philosopher wants to say is that it [the top that is at rest] is not really at rest. -- And that "really" is a sure indicator of metaphysics. Again, if he has learned English, he also cannot claim that it only appears to be a rest -- but must say that it only really appears to be at rest (whatever that may mean).

Besides 'really', other common indicators (hallmarks) of this kind of metaphysics are the words 'must' and 'cannot'.

The shadow of your table hath destroyed your table (Richard II)

Query: Eddington. We think there is a solid table.

The table isn't really solid, despite what we think. -- Nothing is. And now what is the word 'solid' to mean, because the table was invoked to define that word (BB p. 45-46: 'solid' must contrast with something; it cannot contrast with nothing if it is to have a meaning). What Eddington says is that the table we perceive isn't "really" there -- that "unscientific table" is instead what he calls "mind spinning", purely a creation of the human mind. All that is really there is atomic particles separated by vast open spaces, the very antinomy of solid. [Arthur Eddington's Two Tables.]

Query: appearance and reality. Eddington's two tables.

This links Eddington to the pre-Socratics: the table we see is appearance; the theoretical construct of physics is the reality. M. O'C. Drury's fact-theory distinction: "Reality which lies before us at every moment is replaced by the abstract picture we have ourselves created." And, indeed, is there a "scientific table"? A arrangement of atomic particles separated by vast open spaces is not what anyone calls by the common name 'table'.

Treating all words as if they were names, whether of objects, phenomena, or "abstractions", is another hallmark (and source) of some, but not necessarily of all, metaphysics. The picture of language meaning that presumes is: "Words are names and the meaning of a name is the thing the name stands for." (PI § 1)


"Grammar Stripping"

Query: Moore, Principia Ethica.

The words 'goodness' and 'beauty' are not names of properties. Because if I call A beautiful and explain this by pointing to A's lines and proportions, I am not saying that A possesses another property (one in addition to its lines and proportions) named 'beauty'. Because if 'beauty' were the name of some property, I could point to that property.

That is no more than a reminder about the grammar (in Wittgenstein's jargon) of the word 'property' -- that "a property that cannot be pointed to" is not a property, i.e. is not what we mean by the word 'property'. To say that a face has a nose is different from saying that the face is beautiful (The use in the language of the words 'nose' and 'beauty' follow different rules of grammar).

[Compare the discussion of "what love is": a mother caresses her child; that is love (what we call 'love'). But the word 'love' is not the name of a fourth thing, something in addition to the mother, the child, and the caress.]

G.E. Moore's expression "non-natural property" is an example of grammar stripping -- i.e. of removing [essential] rules -- as is done in geometry when saying "A point is an object without dimensions". As if the grammars of 'object' and 'dimension' could be disconnected without nonsense resulting. As if this were not a question of logic -- i.e. of a verbal definition of the word 'object', but instead of disputable facts. As if an essence could be "reduced" -- i.e. as if A were still A even though we had removed some feature that is essential to A.

[Neither when I say 'A is beautiful' am I saying -- i.e. do I mean by that -- that 'I like A' or that 'A pleases me', nor am I making a prediction about the effect A will have on anyone else. -- If I wanted to say those other things, I would say those things. But they are not what I want to say -- nor are they what I "really" mean when I say 'A is beautiful'. Theories of aesthetics that have the form 'A really means B' are metaphysics, as is Bertrand Russell's 'A is good' really means 'I like A'. They are false accounts of the grammar of our language.]

Russell's explanation of the meaning of his proposition 'There is an hippopotamus in the room' is an example of step-by-step of grammar stripping, as each rule which gives the proposition meaning is taken away: 'But you cannot see, or hear, or touch, or perceive it in any other way'. What is left is not even a metaphysical hippopotamus, i.e. the propositions 'There is an imperceptible hippopotamus in the room' and 'There is no hippopotamus in the room' have the same meaning (A shadow does not cast a shadow).


Inconvenient first principles (Francis Bacon)

Is the grammar of the 'God of the philosophers and scholars' (Pascal) an example of grammar stripping?

The doctrine of a first, uncaused Cause, Bacon considers unphilosophical for the reason that the conception first assumes the principle of cause and effect, and then -- when it becomes philosophically inconvenient -- deserts it. (Anderson, "Introduction" to Francis Bacon, The New Organon and related writings (1960), p. xxi)

The absolute (or, universal) rules are (1) that every effect has a cause, and (2) that the existence of anything is an effect. From which rules it should follow that if God exists -- i.e. is an effect -- then that is because God has been caused to exist -- i.e. the combination of words 'uncaused effect' means nothing.

"... but there must be a first cause to set the whole thing in motion." That does not seem to be the case, as e.g. two magnets will move either towards or away from one another, depending on their charges, without a third object causing them to do so.

"... but something must have caused the magnets to exist." Now we are asking "Why is there anything, not nothing?" And, according to the rules of this game (as in "language game"), the answer is -- i.e. must be according to the rules -- "because God caused there to be something rather than nothing".

The universal (absolute) rule is that everything that exists is an effect of being caused to exist, and therefore a proposition that contradicts that rule is false (or nonsense). Yet the rule for using the word 'God' says that God is an "uncaused cause" and "unmoved mover". Now, Bacon asks, what is the worth of a philosophy that contradicts itself in such a fundamental way?

If rules of grammar are compared to the rules of a game and breaking them is either not playing the game correctly, or not playing it at all, then which does the concept 'God', as described by the Aristotelians, do?

Question. But is this a question of grammatical rules, i.e. rules for using language? What else would it be about, then -- the laws of nature? If that were the case then 'Every effect has a cause' would be an hypothesis, and if it were then not only God but various other things as well might be "uncaused causers".

[Not that 'Every event has a cause' is quite that, because that proposition is not treated as an hypothesis but as a method: Always look for a cause, it says. It is not a proposition of metaphysics.]

The "evil deceiver" of Descartes is another example of the setting aside a rule when it becomes "inconvenient". As if to say: At this point my own method (its rule being that "only clear and distinct ideas are true") stands in the way of my going where I want to go, and therefore I will set it aside for the moment (I just won't use it here).


Grammatical Analogies (When grammar dysfunctions and nonsense results)

Notes. This continues the discussion of "questions without answers", or the eternal riddle of existence ... which once upon a time Wittgenstein said does not exist [TLP 6.5]. Yet his saying that there cannot be a riddle (because the riddle would be nonsense), has not made the riddle go away. The enchantment (PI § 109) of metaphysics remains like the feelings of a phantom limb man can't rid himself of. And this is because, Wittgenstein says, the phantom is embedded in our language (The Big Typescript, "Philosophy" § 90), and our language is embedded in our thinking. It is unknown to animals (PG i § 138, p. 191). On the other hand, Wittgenstein may be mistaken: the riddle may be more than language-induced illusions. But now, which is it?

Query: why is there something rather than nothing? why am I myself here? why is anything here at all?

Why am I here -- 'here' as opposed to 'there'? No, as opposed to 'nowhere'. If in biology we can ask why a thing exists ("Children have parents, and you are here because you are your parents' child. And people have lived in various places at various times for millennia on earth, and you were born in this time and place"), then, so it seems, by analogy (grammatical?), we can also ask in metaphysics why it exists. And when we say, as Thomas Aquinas says, "But this can't go on forever", following the principle that any series must have a first member (an uncaused cause, an unmoved mover), we are hit with Francis Bacon's criticism of inconvenient first principles.

Query: why in general is there something and not nothing?

Well, this is it -- this is the analogy: If you can ask a question about things in particular, then you can also ask that question about "things in general". That is the grammatical analogy. "Why does this thing exist?" becomes "Why does anything exist?" (where 'anything' also means 'everything' or 'the whole', as in Plato Sophist 233e).

Syntactic analogy (grammatical form) is often dysfunctional. In this dysfunction Wittgenstein saw the birth of metaphysics (maybe of all philosophy). If it can suggest new meanings to us, grammar can also suggest nonsense to us.

"Everything Functional is also Dysfunctional"

Note: there is elsewhere further discussion of this topic: "The Argument from Design" (Strange clock, strange Clockmaker).

In nature, everything functional is also dysfunctional. This applies not only to the human body (Had we no appetite we would starve to death, but without appetite we would not harm ourselves by eating unwisely) -- but also to the human mind, that is to say, to human reason. Everything functional is also dysfunctional -- that is very general fact of nature (PI II, xii p. 230a).

Fact it may be -- but of nature (in which case, it might be otherwise, that 'Everything functional is also dysfunctional' were false), of grammar ('grammar' = 'concept' = 'rules for using language'), of first principles ("categories") of organization (as are for example 'cause and effect', 'body and mind', 'alike and unalike', 'whole and part'), or of metaphysics ("reality as it is in itself")? And the categories, what is their relation to nature (or "reality itself")? Is that the philosophical question?

Does function and dysfunction belong to nature in itself, or only to man's perception-conception of nature?

The expression 'unnatural'. Why is it logically possible (and not nonsense) for us to call some things "unnatural"? Very often (but I don't know if always) by 'unnatural' we mean 'dysfunctional'. If we judge (and that means that we might judge contrariwise) something to be dysfunctional, we sometimes also say that the thing is "unnatural".

Thus Voltaire could regard religion as something "unnatural" -- i.e. as an instance of the human mind (reason) dysfunctioning. So it seems that in this particular case 'dysfunctional' = 'unnatural' and 'unnatural' = 'dysfunctional'. And so, someone could regard cancer as unnatural -- because it life fighting against life: the cell that sustains life, the cell that destroys life, both within a single body.

"But what is nature's intention? Is dysfunction a misfiring of that intention? Or is dysfunction part of nature's intention?" But is that not a personification of nature? Of a human being we ask what its intention is (and sometimes, by analogy, of animals as well). But as we normally speak, do things only seem to have functions? Greek thought is based on things' having functions, and not only man-made things, because a bird's nest has a function. But do unmade things have functions unless man assigns them? Man did not assign the function of the eye or the heart.

If we say that incest is "unnatural" or "an unnatural relationship", do we mean that it is a dysfunction of nature? Is dysfunction a "perversion of nature" -- that is, nature going off or being set off course? Is that a claim to know nature's intention? "Everyone or nearly everyone finds incest repugnant" -- but is that how these questions are decided: by taking a vote? (Is the vox populi the voice of God, that is, of nature, as if "the mind of man" were a mirror of nature.) By 'nature's intention' is 'nature's design' meant? That again is a personification of nature? Question: is personification contraband in philosophy?

Does nature misfire? does not malfunction? Is dysfunction in nature merely man's way of looking at things? The two-headed calf, etc. Can you say that everything that happens nature "intends" to have happen?

Another word for 'dysfunction' is 'malfunction'? But if dysfunction is built into nature, indeed as natural law, then isn't it a misperception to see dysfunction as unnatural, indeed as dysfunction = malfunction?

Human designs may malfunction, but can nature's designs malfunction? Only if there is such a thing as "unconscious purpose"? as if nature were a sleepwalker. This is a question about the grammar of 'design', about whether there is a rule for that word's use here.

[We also contrast 'natural' with 'man-made', if we have some reason to do this, because categories, like concepts, "are the expression of our interest and direct our interest" (PI § 570). But if we say therefore that we could discard the concepts that are our common mental currency, we are maybe not thinking of concepts like 'object' and 'space'.]

The illusion that man is endowed with reason

When Wittgenstein writes that "the philosopher has to cure himself of many illnesses of the understanding before he can arrive at sound notions" (RFM v, § 53, p. 302) -- which is Kant's view of the task of philosophy, namely "to heal the wounded understanding" -- is he pointing to what he judges to be a dysfunction of the intellect, a misfiring of nature, for doesn't natural language belong to human nature (regardless of whether its original source is the intellect or instinct, if in the beginning there was such distinction to be made)?

Hasn't there to be some other standard than dysfunction -- unless man is deluded in his belief that he is endowed with "discourse of reason", because if Wittgenstein is correct, if language does indeed take the intellect off-course, then how can anyone be sure that Wittgenstein's correction is the right one (especially because he made two corrections, one early, one later), or that anyone else's will be?

On the other hand, if everything dysfunctional is also functional, then so is language -- i.e. it doesn't always misfire. But how can we know when it does and does not, above all in the questions and answers of philosophers, which aren't much comparable to primitive language games, which "are ways of using signs simpler than those in which we use the signs of our highly complicated everyday language. Language games are the forms of language with which a child begins to make use of words" (BB p. 17)? If we cannot distinguish between what stands to reason and what is refuted by that test, then that man is endowed with reason is an illusion, which is a notion somewhat like Descartes' picture of an "evil deceiver", who sees what we cannot see, and therefore knows what we cannot know.

Should we see it as a dysfunction of the intellect when a line of thought fails the test of reason (i.e. shows itself to be unclear or contradicts itself or experience), which is what usually happens with my lines of thought? Or does the line's being refuted show that reason itself is not dysfunctional, that testing theses is its proper function? If no thesis could be refuted, that would be like an inability to distinguish between sense and nonsense in the language we use.

Those are not metaphysical remarks, i.e. a thesis about nature's "true intentions". They are logical tautologies that say something important: they point out the interconnection of grammatical rules. To say that man is always talking nonsense is nonsense. But that is a grammatical remark (Only for the metaphysical imagination, the god who sees what man cannot see, can reason be an illusion). It doesn't say how to distinguish between when man is or is not talking nonsense. And that is the importance of philosophy's first question, which I named "logic of language".

[There is elsewhere further discussion of the topic of dysfunction in the context of "the Argument from Design": Strange clock, stranger Clockmaker.]

Questions. Crows have a vocabulary of twenty-four caws. If those caws can be combined in a sentence, can a crow squawk nonsense, e.g. rather than 'farmer with gun', 'gun with farmer'? And if birdsong communicates meaning for birds, can a bird sing nonsense?


The "Three Laws of Logic" (Criticism)

Criticism often amounts to presenting counter-examples. Hence the importance of imagination to philosophy (CV p. 72). But thoroughgoing criticism is also the willingness to say that the account of things accepted as a matter of course by one's "community of ideas" may be wrong, or even nonsense.

The "Law of Identity" (A is A)

This so-called principle of logic ('logic' = 'method of reasoning') has no application. Even as a rule of grammar it is never appealed to. We could see it as an implicit rule of grammar, but is a rule that is never applied -- or even worse: always applied -- a rule at all or only nonsense?

The "Law of the Excluded Middle" (Everything must be either A or not-A)

One cannot say of a statement that it must be either true or not-true [false], because the statement may be nonsense (and nonsense is neither true nor false). Or the statement may be purely logical -- i.e. grammatical analogies may allow its construction -- e.g. 'It snowed in Manhattan on 1 January 1 A.D.', which is neither true nor false (nor can it be either, because no method of verification is defined). A tautology (e.g. 'Either it is raining, or it is not raining') cannot be false [not-true], and therefore it means nothing [it is nonsense] to say that it must be either true or false.

One cannot say of the statement 'The building is tall' that it must be true or not-true [false]; because 'height' is a relative [relational, not absolute] concept, and the building may be tall relative to buildings in its own town, but not tall relative to buildings in the city.

The "Law of Contradiction" (Not both A and not-A)

This principle of logic or logical reasoning is based on the mistaken view that meaning is determined by form rather than by use. 'This is beautiful, and this is not beautiful', said while pointing at different objects, is a contradiction in form, but it has a use in the language (RPP i § 37); it is not nonsense and it is not necessarily false (It may be true or false). And also "Moore's paradox": a statement may not have the form of a contradiction -- and yet nonetheless be false due to a contradiction in meaning, e.g. 'There is a fire is this room, but I don't believe there is a fire in this room'.

We might contrast a contradiction in form with a contradiction in sense. But if we must know whether or not a statement has a use in the language before rejecting that statement as false or nonsense, then the formula "Not both A and not-A" fails to be a sure guide to sound reasoning.

"What any sane man admits"

Bacon is extremely critical of the Peripatetics' claims for their logic. They stress the unassailability of a "knowledge" derived from their "first notions", the principles of identity, contradiction, and excluded middle, and the certainty of the syllogistic demonstration which is said to follow from the acceptance of these three.

Bacon, of course, as a sane man admits that what is, is -- the principle of identity; that the same thing cannot both be and not be what it is -- the principle of contradiction; that a thing must either be this or not this, for there is no middle alternative -- the principle of excluded middle. (Fulton H. Anderson, "Introduction" to Francis Bacon, The New Organon and related writings (1960), p. xxiv)

What a "sane man admits" does not determine what is true, but a "community of ideas" determines what a sane man is -- and in that way the sane man does determine what is true ... but only in that community.

Some is not All

Query: death is one of two things, either it is annihilation, logic.

In this particular case (Apology 40c-41c), maybe we can say that the "law of the excluded middle" is applicable. Either death is the end of life (It is the death of both body and soul) or it is not (It is only the death of the body). Is there anywhere in between? (Cf. "Either death is to be feared or it is not to be feared" (Plato, Apology 29a).)

On the other hand, the either one or the other here depends on a non-hypothetical picture -- i.e. a picture which cannot come into confrontation with experience, to be confirmed or disconfirmed by it, to be proved real or illusion by it -- of "the soul". And therefore the either/or possibility is purely logical (what can be described) possibility: "life after death" is not an real (testable hypothesis) possibility. Hence the danger of imagination to philosophy.

There is no application for the excluded-middle rule in cases where a statement cannot possibly be either true or false. But saying that a principle is not universally applicable is not the same thing as saying that it has no applications, but only that it is not a sure [certain] guide to sound [valid] reasoning.

"Laws of Thought"

Query: metaphysical aspects of logic.

If someone says that the three principles -- i.e. guides, guidelines -- of logic are "laws", he may be saying something metaphysical: "the laws of thought" or "the true rules of reasoning." Aristotle's followers seem to have held that view of their "first notions".


Questions and Answers with no Red Thread

Query: Wittgenstein and family resemblance and rope.

The fine red thread running through? Then it is "versus". (Ropes issued to the British navy had a red thread woven into their length to discourage theft.) It is the existence of that thread (if it is imagined to exist in all cases) which is a myth, to which is connected both to the presumption that the meaning of a common name must be a common nature and to the myth of abstraction, a myth because it is an essentially "incomparable picture". Wittgenstein's metaphor of "family" likenesses is his response to that myth.

Compare Wittgenstein's The Brown Book p. 87, about the fibers in a rope, that they make up a rope, and yet there is not a single fiber running the full length of the rope.

Query: Wittgenstein. Unanswerable questions cannot be posed.

If such questions can be "put into words" at all, they cannot be put into words "clearly" -- i.e. the questions are nonsense because (1) they are not questions about the facts of the world, and (2) only questions about the facts of the world can be answered and therefore posed ... although the questions are "nonsense with meaning". So Wittgenstein says, based on the TLP's eccentric definition of the word 'nonsense'.

But the question is -- what does 'cannot' mean here: if it is not logical impossibility, then is it moral prohibition? Has philosophy no eternal questions without answers -- or is there simply nothing "problematical about life" ("The riddle doesn't exist" [6.5]), which we call its "meaning", in the context of "Know thyself"?

A Word is like a Tool, an Example

Note: this continues the discussion of Wittgenstein's similes, his method of comparison. "What I invent are new similes" (CV p. 19).

Query: scientific explanation of how the sun rises.

Do you think there is a scientific, in contrast to a conceptual, explanation? Motion is a relational concept: an arbitrarily chosen point of reference decides whether the sun rises or the earth turns towards the sun each morning.

"That the sun will rise tomorrow, is an hypothesis; and that means that we do not know whether it will rise" (TLP 6.36311, tr. Ogden). This is entirely a question of what you want to do with the word 'know', of what work you want that word -- i.e. that tool of our language -- to do. The concept 'know' is fluid: we can set its limits where we choose for our particular purposes.

[Just as Socrates selected a particular sense of 'know', so too Wittgenstein selected a particular sense of 'meaning'.]

Query: various methods of getting the meaning of a word.

At first blush, that sounds good; but it is wrong/mistaken. What there are instead are various meanings of the word 'meaning'. There is no essence of meaning, as the query seems to imply.

We ask: "What does the poet mean by this word?" There is context; there is etymology (in cases where a root word is a reliable clue); there are dictionaries; there is comparison with other texts by the same author; there are commentaries by critics (scholars, historians, translators); there is asking a friend or teacher; there are (in some cases) prefixes and suffixes, parts of speech. But now this is not a philosophical question.

Query: making sense of nonsense in philosophy.

Well, that is what I think we do: we invent -- we do not discover -- a meaning for a metaphysical text. (In Wittgenstein's logic of language, the sense of 'nonsense' is 'undefined combination of words'.)

Query: what do people born blind see?

Is this supposed to be an empirical question? How do we apply the word 'blind'? We observe behavior? (Using language too is behavior: "Do you see the tree over there?" -- "No, I cannot see at all; I am blind.") But on the other hand, our instinct says to us "They must see something" (cf. "Objects have color even in the dark").

Query: if there could be nothing, why is there anything?
Query: why should there be something rather than nothing?

This turns Schopenhauer's "There should be nothing" around; cf. 'answers without questions' rather than 'questions without answers'. Question: can one be nonsense without the other also being so, and then why does it not seem that way to us? Pictures are suggested to us by one form of expression, but not by the other. ("Picture serves to explain the meaning of this language" (PI II, iv, p. 178g), but they are like the pictures in fairy tales.)

Query: is there logic in fairy tales?

This is not necessarily the same question as: is there meaning ('logic' = 'meaning'); but if a story, however imaginative, is not self-consistent, we may find it unsatisfying. Obviously 'logical' here does not mean 'consistent with empirical fact' (or why call it 'fairy tale'), but 'logic' here might also mean: Is there a moral to this story? (And many other things. "Logic is the only thing a madman has left.")

Query: why is there anything?

Is this as Diogenes said, "Again I am beaten in simplicity", or does "rather than nothing" make the question's meaning clear?

Query: philosophy is the bewitchment of intellect by grammar.

Himself wrote: "Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language" (PI § 109). It is a battle against language dysfunctioning. Or is that only a subset: it is not only by following misleading grammatical analogies that we are confounded, or is it? Wittgenstein saw the roots of the "pictures that hold us captive" (ibid. § 115) in our language, but is it always or necessarily there? If one does not imagine that the word 'soul' is a name, will one nonetheless ask if the soul is immortal? "The logic of our word 'soul' is misunderstood." About the grammar of 'mind' I would say this, but about the word 'soul' -- about that picture, I am not sure. When Stanley asks the horse, "Is that you, Ollie?" [The Flying Deuces], does this show that he has been bewitched by grammar? When is nonsense not nonsense? (ibid. § 282)

Query: theory of abstraction.

If it cannot be falsified -- i.e. be found to contradict experience -- then I do not call it a 'theory', but I call it instead an 'incomparable picture' (or 'non-comparable picture'). That is the distinction I want to make, just as in philosophy of science I distinguish between a 'theory' and an 'hypothesis' (In my jargon, an 'hypothesis' must be verifiable, not simply falsifiable).

Query: how many generations can family likeness go back?

If human beings did not ask -- if language did not allow us to ask -- vague (ill-defined) questions like this, a common route to our learning new things would be closed to us. It is by trying to give the "child's scribbling" sense; it is often by seeking without being clear about what we are seeking; that we learn new things. If we follow Waismann's rule "What you must not do with a philosophical question is try to answer it", then to this query I will reply: "What do you mean by 'can' here? What method are you using to answer this question?" In this way, I get rid of the question -- but I also learn nothing new. "I don't know exactly what I'm asking. I have a notion ..." -- We should not discourage this institution-of-language use; it can only lead to sterility.

Query: philosophy, man's original state.

How can this be responded to -- not answered -- except with a lot of imagination: Here we are asking about: the birth of language, for is that not what differentiates man from beast -- not for biologists perhaps, not for anthropologists perhaps -- but for philosophers? With the Greeks -- re: Prometheus -- is it not: the birth of reason (which cannot be divorced from language)? [With the Old Testament it is: the birth of morality ("You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil").]

Query: is time itself a philosophy?

If we ask an unclear question, then we you are forced to define -- i.e. give meaning to -- the question. This is a good method in philosophy, actually.

Don't be afraid of talking nonsense ... (CV p. 56 [MS 134 20: 5.3.1947])

But one checks oneself nonetheless from doing so, as if there were a taboo against expressing even to oneself various thoughts in philosophy, whereas it is precisely the unacceptable thoughts that must be expressed and "must be paid attention to" (ibid.) ... I cannot think of an example, but it is a sense that one is going in the wrong-direction (maybe even of saying something that some particular philosopher, under whose spell you are at the time, might not approve of; maybe the question What is the essence of man? is an example).

And, further, this is a danger of Wittgenstein's philosophy (and maybe of any other philosopher's philosophy) -- that one may stop seeing (or indeed looking for) anything new, repeating instead the old formulas of rejection, such as "grammatical joke", "meaningless pseudo-metaphor", "misleading picture", which even if they are applicable to the problems may not be the deepest answers to the problems.

Wittgenstein's philosophy: where does it lead? Into seeking insights into the logic of language?

Where it does not lead is to the production of new "theories about what reality really is" (such, I think, as Plato's speculation about the essence of man, as well as Aristotle's "definition of man"), and if we are not seeking to know the truth about first and last questions, if we are not seeking what Drury called "the absolute", then shall we not come to where Wittgenstein apparently wanted us to come -- i.e. shall we not stop philosophizing (i.e. be cured of philosophy -- as if Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations were the antidote to an illness of the intellect, namely the intellect's bewitchment by language (PI § 109) -- rather than be cured by philosophy: "I tell you that no greater good can happen to a man than to discuss human excellence every day ... and that an unexamined life is not worth living" (Apology 37e-38a))? But philosophy can no more go away than life can go away: even if every question in logic-of-language were somehow solved, philosophical questions would still await us at every turn in life, and it seems that man would not be man without the eternal questions. And recognizing this, the ancient, philosophical Greek view of things is that the intellect must be cured by philosophizing, not of it.

Sceptical habits ... had checked the spontaneous flow of the imagination. Literary criticism was a more characteristic feature of the age than literary creation. (Part of C.E. Robinson's characterization of Hellenistic culture, (Zito Hellas (1946) xii [Hellas, Beacon Press, p. 169])

Max Planck thought that metaphysics -- far from being an enemy of science -- was essential to science, that Positivism is sterile; it does not produce theories of the ground-breaking type that the search/desire for "absolute truth" does.

Wittgenstein's philosophy: great insight, great harm (impoverishment).

[Why should one seek to find what cannot be found -- the absolute perspective, the magic fulcrum? But 'cannot' here can only mean logical possibility (nonsense, undefined language). Remember: the only limit of knowledge (if there is such a thing as philosophical knowledge) -- is concept formation.]

Query: was Socrates a wise man?

If to be wise is to know that you are without wisdom -- (According to Socrates' standard or definition of 'to know' in philosophy, one knows that one is without wisdom if one cannot "give an account of what one knows to others", to put into words what one knows and defend it against all criticism (refutation in discussion)) -- then Socrates was a wise man, but only in the sense that the oracle at Delphi called him 'wise' (Apology 20e-21a, 28e).

However, if to be 'wise' means to 'know' -- (in the sense of 'be able to define the essence of a thing', that is, able to state what Aristotle calls a Socratic definition) -- the type of thing that Socrates asks Euthyphro about in Plato's dialog -- namely, about "right and wrong, the noble and the base, the good and bad" (Euthyphro 7d), then, according to Socrates, only the gods are wise (Phaedrus 278d).

Query: Socrates' solution to the riddle.

The riddle posed by the oracle at Delphi (Apology 20e-21a): what can the oracle have meant when she said that "no man is wiser" than Socrates, Socrates asks himself, for Socrates knows that he is without wisdom? Socrates' solution to the riddle is precisely that -- that while other men think they know what they do not know, Socrates does not think he knows what he does not know. That may mean that Socrates is as wise as any man can be, or simply that, because no man is wise, no man is wiser than Socrates.

In his book The Greeks H.D.F. Kitto writes that:

[Socrates abandoned his study of physics for the question] How are we to live? The answer to this question he did not know, but he set himself to find out, by the rigorous examination of other men's ideas [Apology 21d ff.]. This examination showed Socrates, and the eager young men who followed him about, that the traditional morality [i.e. the cardinal virtues [or, human excellences] of Greece: "Justice, Courage, Self-restraint, and Wisdom" (p. 165), to which it seems should be added: Piety and perhaps Modesty] had no foundation in logic.

What could Kitto possibly mean by that? If 'to have a foundation in logic' means 'to name a common nature (or, essence)', then it may be that ethical terms have "no foundation in logic" (Plato's Socratic dialogs fail to define those terms). However, Kitto seems here instead to be contrasting convention with nature, and saying that what Socrates' questioning apparently showed was that traditional morality had no foundation in nature, which is not obviously the same thing as having "no foundation in logic".

No one in Athens could give a definition [Comment: But would this be a "real" (i.e. a proposition stating facts [hypotheses] about the nature of something -- although not facts about language usage, because usage is convention) or a verbal (logical-grammatical) definition]?] of any moral or intellectual virtue which would survive [Socrates' cross-questioning]. The effect, on some young men, was disastrous; their belief in tradition was destroyed, and they put nothing in its place. (The Greeks (Penguin 1951) ix, p. 166)

But was Socrates' dialectic the cause of an effect? For may it not be instead that the result of Socrates' cross-questioning was treated by some young men as a confirmation of what they had thought they already knew (-- although indeed they still did not know it)? In Plato's Theaetetus [210a-c] he says that the result of discovering one's own ignorance by being refuted in argument is modesty and gentleness, not reckless arrogance. But if "some young men" did not find the propositions they wished to be true (e.g. 'Morality is mere convention') refuted by Socrates' dialectic, then that might possibly result in reckless arrogance. Xenophon thought it was not a matter of Socrates' companionship at all but simply of some young men having a vicious character:

... it was thus with Critias and Alcibiades. So long as they were with Socrates, they found in him an ally who gave them strength to conquer their evil passions. But when they parted from him ... (Xenophon, Memorabilia i, 2, 24)

If that was the case, then Socrates could not be accused of "corrupting the young", but only with failing to make all his companions or listeners remain virtuous even when they parted company with him.

Query: meaning is put to use, Wittgenstein.

"Meaning something" -- i.e. intending some bit of language to mean something -- is to put that bit of language to use. Wittgenstein: look at a word as if it were a tool and the use of that tool its meaning (PI § 421).


Reasons to "Why question everything?" (Socrates and Delphi)

Query: 'question everything'.

A better query might be 'Think for yourself'. That Socrates must question everything is what Socrates learned (indirectly) from the oracle's pronouncement that "no man is wiser than Socrates" and from the words inscribed in the temple at Delphi: "Know thyself", both of which were riddles for him to solve.

Query: why question everything?

To discover whether or not it is true, because it may be (1) false, or (2) logically possible but not actual, or (3) it may be nonsense (a mere undefined combination of words). "Why should I want to know whether a proposition is sense or nonsense, true or false, possible but not real?" -- Is this not like asking, "Why should I want to be happy?" or "Why should I want not to be in unbearable pain"? (If those are indeed questions, their grammar is indeed queer.)

Ought one to reply: "Because it is good to do what is useful to you, and knowing whether something that concerns you is true or not is useful to you"? But what kind of reply is that -- is it a statement of fact?

The command "Question everything" [-- "Know thyself" is likewise a command --] imposes a general skepticism: do not accept anything as true that you have not put to the test. Why? How does one justify philosophical integrity? Socrates could say: without this you will never know [discover the truth about] how you should live your life. (Plato, Apology 38a; Gorgias 472c, 487e, 492d, 500b-d)

Query: without questions there can be no answers?

The philosophical-logical question is: Without answers, can there be questions? Only the latter 'can' belongs to logic [although obviously it is nonsense to speak of 'answers without questions']. The first 'can' is meant to be empirical: we do in fact learn by asking questions. After all, it might not have been that way. The query is appropriate to school children as an answer to "Why question everything?"

Query: Socrates' method: ask, do not tell.

Socrates seeks the agreement of his companion for each step of the argument: he requires his opponent to "question everything" Socrates asserts. If at any point in the argument his companion does not agree with Socrates, then he must demand a clarification, or object and cross-question to refute Socrates -- i.e. show Socrates that he does not know what he thinks he knows (the uncovering of a contradiction "Socratic elenchus").

Contra the query maybe is that Socrates in Plato's dialogs often guides the discussion by asking what the law calls "leading questions", which are only permitted on cross-examination, not direct examination. (This needs more thought.)

Query: a basic undefined term of geometry; it has no size.

This again is grammar stripping: 'a body without size'. ["The essence of body reduced to ..."] There seems nothing so absurd that it cannot be forced down the gullets of young students. If you do not "question everything", you will believe in the ghosts your teacher's language conjures up (PI § 36). Rather than "Question everything!" we could say "Don't be credulous!" George Orwell's "slogan swallowers" question nothing. (An 'object that has no size' is certainly an "undefined term" -- i.e. nonsense.)

Query: why is a geometric point invisible?

Well, isn't the word 'geometric point' a noun, and aren't all nouns names of things; and if a name is not to be nonsense, then, if it doesn't stand for something visible, mustn't it stand for something invisible ... Here is that mistaken picture of the way language works: "Where a word suggests a body and there is none: there, we would like to say, is a spirit" (PI § 36).

Actually, the grammar of the word 'point' in geometry is more like that of a verb than of a noun, as in: 'pointing out a location'. [Philosophy of Geometry.]


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