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Is Time not Real?

There is an air of unreality about time, the unreality of all abstract terms. [Critical introduction to nominalism.]

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Context: these are logic of language (What is the difference between sense and nonsense in the language of philosophical problems?) notes. Words that follow "Query" are Internet searches that directed, or as often misdirected, visitors to this site.


Rejecting the grammar that tries to force itself on us: "Time is not real"

Note: the following continues, or maybe is preliminary to, the discussions "Time is unreal" and the Philosophy of Time.

The word 'time' as the name of an abstract object, or maybe better, as the name of an abstract phenomenon. A phenomenon we cannot see or touch to point to -- it is not a phenomenon in addition to other phenomena (Hume, billiards and causality). The word 'phenomenon' suggests that something is happening, whereas the word 'object' suggests something static -- but is time static or moving or both?

Pictures of time ... pictures suggested by the imagination that do not describe how we actually use the word 'time', although such descriptions would remind us (PI § 89) that the nebulosity of time does not belong to grammar, or in other words, that the nebulosity of our pictures of time is not due to the nebulosity of our concept 'time'. If we are to begin at the beginning, then our investigation in philosophy is conceptual -- and that means about language -- not empirical, not about facts or phenomena other than those of our language.

Query: time isn't real.
Query: time isn't really real.

Well, if 'time' isn't the name of an object, then how can it be real? (The assumption: what is real is: objects in space.) Cf. 'Pain' isn't the name of an object either, but pain is real enough. There is an air of unreality about time ... The air of unreality about time is the air of unreality about all non names-of-objects when imagination demands an object and there is none. [Also consider the role of remembering: without memory, there is no time. And our memories also have an air of unreality about them.]

"Not real". If a name is neither the name of an object nor the name of a phenomenon, then can the thing it names be real -- i.e. can it exist? Then does it exist? And if it doesn't exist, then it isn't real. This is not a question that arises in the normal course of our life; in the normal course of our life we know only too well that time is real. But then what is the reality of time? Does time exist? What do we mean by the word 'exist' -- i.e. what use do we want to make of that word [how do we want to use that tool] in this particular case?

But it's nonsense to say either that 'Time is real' or that 'Time isn't real' [that 'Time exists' or that 'Time doesn't exist'] -- both those statements are nonsense. 'Nonsense' meaning 'undefined language', of course. Because we only apply the word 'exist' [the words 'exist' and 'real'] to objects or phenomena; and with 'time' not being the name of either of those, there is no application for 'exist' or 'real' in the case of time. To say that time exists would be no more than to say that 'time' is a concept -- i.e. a word with a use [uses] -- in our language. In this case the statement 'Time exists' would simply mean that the word 'time' is not an undefined sign, is not nonsense, is not meaningless.

"Time isn't real, and it isn't unreal either." -- I.e. we are rejecting the grammar that tries to force itself on us here, namely the grammar of name-of-object or name-of-phenomenon words. "Time isn't a something, and it isn't a nothing either."

It is not a something, but not a nothing either ... We have only rejected the grammar that tries to force itself on us here. (PI § 304)

In other words, the word 'time', although it is a noun, is not a name, because we do not use it to do the work of a name, but in very different ways (e.g. to ask for the time of day, how long the journey takes, ...). And that is all that Wittgenstein intended by this remark -- i.e. he was not inventing a new category of existence, namely that of "something-nothing". His statement is a grammatical, not an ontological, remark.

From the point of view of its "logical-grammar" (i.e. 'grammar' in Wittgenstein's sense), the word 'time' is similar to the word 'mind' in that neither names an object but both suggest the picture that they do. But if we look at the "language-games that are those words' original homes" (ibid. § 116), we do not find those words acting as the names of objects do.

If you want to know how we use the word 'time', look for what are called ways of measuring time. Because the meaning of the word 'time' is explained when the method by which time is measured in a particular context is described. ("The meaning of 'time' is the method of measurement")

Query: is time real or man-made?

The concept 'time' is man-made. "Concepts are the expression of our interest, and direct our interest" (cf. PI § 570). Concepts have some relationship to man's experience of life, but can we say that any particular concept must have a place in man's life? For example, the movement of the sun or of constellations in the sky may suggest to man the concept 'hours of the day', but must it suggest that concept? And must that concept have a place in man's life? Remember: There are many ways to cut a pie -- i.e. many possible categories, ways to divide up man's experience of life, not only those that are in use in our own community of ideas.

Query: philosophers who defined space and time.

If someone asks "What is space?" or "What is time really?" what are they asking -- i.e. by what method are such questions to be answered? Gazing into the nebulousness. (Rationalism)

Query: time isn't really real.

Do we have a universal criterion for saying when something is "really real" rather than only apparently real? That is the answer to this query: state a standard and test "time" against that.

Query: time is real.

That is just the contrary of what we expect a philosopher -- i.e. a speculative philosopher (metaphysician) who seeks "the reality behind merely apparent reality" or even "the reality behind reality" -- will claim. Indeed, it sounds like G.E. Moore's reaction of "common sense" against the strange things philosophers say.

The words 'Time is real' don't really suggest a picture of time as something we can grasp between our hands, like a large parcel from the post office -- but they do suggest the picture of an intangible gaseous-like substance that pervades the universe, only fluid, not static like "the ether".

But what have such pictures got to do with the grammar of the word 'time' -- i.e. with a description of how we use the word 'time' in our life? What would the word 'real' mean if applied to time: What, if any, use would the proposition 'Time is real' have if not as a statement of fact about the grammar of the English language -- i.e. 'Time is real' would mean that the word 'time' has a use (or uses) in our language; it is a tool in our way of life; the word 'time' is not mere sound without sense.

Question: if the word 'time' really is a name, then is it a common or a proper name? (It's a nice question. And, sure, it is a grammatical joke.)

What a strange creature it is that invents language and then uses it to mystify itself! "Is time real?" --

What makes you think that a grammatical joke is deep? And that is the depth of philosophy. (PI § 111)

But is every philosophical question a "grammatical joke"? I think we must avoid Wittgenstein's "SOME, therefore ALL" fallacy here. The riddles of existence -- "We are discussing no small matter, but how to live" (Plato, Republic 344e) and "Death is one of two things ..." (Plato, Apology 40c-41c) -- are, after all, not "grammatical jokes", are they?

The level of metaphysics

Query: is time really real?

The metaphysical question: not Is time real? but Is time really real? "Our experience of life and the world seems to show us that time is real, but is time really real?" That is not a question asking for a verifiable answer, but rather it seek to sow doubt at "a deeper level". How?

If we are giving an account of "time travel" as I did in discussing the Philosophy of Time, we might well ask: If time is naught but arrangements and rearrangements -- i.e. unarrangements -- of things in space (atoms in the void), then if everything can be unarranged, is time real -- or just a game? (a game played by gods, or demons, in which man is a character on stage, as much an illusion as the play itself; Hedwig does not really die in The Wild Duck, although she appears to). When the chess board is reset to start, play is logically independent of all prior games; the latest game is governed only by the rules of chess -- so much so that any prior games may as well as never have happened, and that they ever did be mere appearance, false memories, having no more reality than imaginings of the mind. (Chess games as thought experiments.)

Logic's answer -- which is not terribly metaphysically interesting -- to the question "How does it appear to be real?" is that, Well, the word is not meaningless: its use in the language (PI § 43) can be described, defined, e.g. its intersection with the concepts 'before' and 'after'. Everyday language makes no metaphysical claims (cf. Z § 223); even the language of physicists is metaphorical ("the fourth dimension", but 'dimension' is a spatial, not a temporal, concept) rather than theoretical.

Then there is memory -- because without memory there is no time. And what is memory? If as according to materialism (and Aristotle) there is no soul in Plato's sense, but only flesh which ultimately perishes as atoms into space -- and when the stars burn out and the universe fades into nothingness .... Metaphysics is a discipline of pictures, whether they are seen as profound or idle, pictures not hypotheses.

Time as an idle Gestalt shift

Query: philosophy, is time real?
Query: Gestalt shift.

Juxtaposing -- i.e. putting those two queries side by side -- suggests a picture to us of time as a Gestalt shift, as from (1) duck, to (2) rabbit, to (3) something-else, and so on. Nothing really changes except the way things appear to us -- i.e. only our perception of reality changes, not reality itself.

Now, that is an example of a metaphysical picture -- an eye of God picture. It is an idle picture -- i.e. it neither describes the way we actually use the word 'time' (the grammar of the word 'time') nor is it an hypothesis about reality (because there is no defined technique by which it can be compared to the reality it is said to be a picture of; it is like "a fantasy map without a corresponding territory") -- but it "appeals to the imagination" -- i.e. to one part of our human nature, and, in this case, I would not say it was the superstitious part.

Query: how did people tell that it is four o'clock if there was no time?

The query is, as I shall read it, an example of "the revolt of common sense" against a metaphysical proposition, such as McTaggart's assertion that "Time is unreal". But contradicting a metaphysical proposition with an empirical proposition accomplishes nothing (but shows that the philosophical problem is misunderstood): the metaphysician "is not a man out of his senses" (BB p. 59); McTaggart uses clocks just the way G.E. Moore and everyone else does. That the metaphysician's assertions are empirically unverifiable does not trouble him in the least; Fichte: "Idealism is a speculative position."


Types of Ostensive Definitions

Note: this continues the discussion Types of Definition.

Can a blind man be given an ostensive definition? I.e. how are we defining the expression 'ostensive definition'? If we mean 'pointing', an act which requires visual recognition, then obviously not. However, we do not only define words using the sense of sight. For example, 'the sound of a clarinet', 'the taste and smell of apples', 'the feel of velvet' -- none of these expressions is defined either verbally or visually, but they are not nonsense. It would therefore seem a useful extension of the concept 'ostensive definition' if we also applied that expression to definitions given aurally (by hearing sounds), by smell, by taste, tactilely (by touch).

There is no doubt that sighted people when they philosophize have a strong visual predisposition, meaning that they find it natural to think of visual examples (cf. Wittgenstein's "In general, there is nothing which explains the meaning of words as well as a picture." (LC p. 63) [Here we would abuse the grammar of 'picture' were we to call the sound of a clarinet a picture]), and to forget about the other senses and their importance in defining language. Obviously a blind man would not do this.

Is recognizing an acquaintance by the sound of his voice inferior [i.e. less reliable] knowledge to that given by recognizing him by sight? Is it correct to say: "This is something that your life experience must show, or by what other criteria shall we judge; it is a practical question, not a question of definition"? [The question of what we mean by the word 'reliable' is a question of definition.]

Is 'how a clarinet sounds' psychological language? No, no more than is 'how a clarinet looks'. Both are objectively defined expressions; both can by definition [i.e. this belongs to their grammars] be tested [The questions of whether or not someone knows can be can verified or falsified in both cases]; both are as public as is the act of understanding.

Again: just as there are criteria for the recognition of the appearance of a clarinet, so too there are criteria for the recognition of the sound of a clarinet. Both recognitions are objective -- grammatically objective. Neither is psychological ... what is heard is no more psychological than what is seen. [There are both visual and aural hallucinations; one may be deluded with respect to all of the senses -- sight no less than the others.] And one may be mistaken in either case and, -- which is why this is objective --, correct one's mistake [or have one's mistake corrected for one]: "No, what you were calling a clarinet [i.e. classifying, placing in that category, applying the common-name 'clarinet' to] is in fact an oboe."

The experience is not the (grammatical) meaning

Is 'how a clarinet sounds' psychological language? No, no more than is 'how a clarinet looks'. Both are objectively defined expressions ...

On the other hand, a machine might be invented that was able to recognize the sound of a clarinet. And in a sense you could say that such a machine knew what a clarinet sounds like. But we would not say therefore that the machine was able to appreciate the sound of a clarinet; we would want to say that, in a sense, the machine does not know what a clarinet sounds like.

But that is not unique to sounds. A machine might be invented that was able to recognize the color blue. And we could say that such a machine knew what blue looks like; but on the other hand, we would also say in this case that the machine did not know -- or, did not "really" know -- how blue looks.

What we could say is that the machine does not share our form of life. It does not experience sounds and colors. However, that does not make sound-words and color-words belong to our psychological vocabulary [It does not make them psychological-words]. Because "the experience of sounds and colors" is not the meaning [in the sense of the word 'meaning' that Wittgenstein chose for his logic of language] of sound-words or of color-words: that is not how those words are defined (learned and taught) [It does not belong to "the description of the use of those words" that we call their "grammar"].

To ask about your experience of sound or your experience of color is not the same thing as to ask for a definition -- i.e. for rules for using the expressions e.g. 'sound of a clarinet' or 'the color blue'. The former is a statement of fact [e.g. about your own peculiar psychology], but the latter is a statement of convention [i.e. of more or less arbitrary rules for using signs].

General definition of 'ostensive'

What do all ostensive definitions, then, have in common? As a verbal definition of 'ostensive definition', maybe we could say: drawing attention to (which is what one does when one points one's finger). Question: must this amended to: "drawing attention to something objective"? Here, as in most cases of trying to give strict rules for the use of a word, there is conceptual fluidity: what exactly are we calling 'objective'?

... if anyone said 'I do not know if what I have got is a pain or something else', we would think something like, he does not know what the English word 'pain' means; and we would explain it to him. -- How? Perhaps by means of gestures, or by pricking him with a pin, and saying: 'See, that's what pain is!' This explanation, like any other, he might understand right, wrong, or not at all. And he will show which he does by his use of the word, in this as in other cases. (PI § 288)

So we will have to say what we mean by 'objective'. -- In Wittgenstein's example, what we mean by 'objective' is that the meaning of this language [the meaning of the word 'pain'], as shown by its use, is objective --. Because the question of whether or not I have pain, if I ask myself that question, is of course not objective -- i.e. there are no criteria for my doubting whether I have pain, and therefore no criteria for the resolution of my doubt either. But how then do we know that we all mean the same thing by the word 'pain'? -- We know because of the language we use: we agree [coincide] in "form of life" [in the way we live, in our behavior] (ibid. § 241); -- or what else will the word 'to know' mean here? Knowledge is objective; now what do we mean by the word 'objective' here.

The Limits of Definition

Maybe you could say that: the limit of definition -- is "forms of life" (or even "life forms" if we wanted to consider -- i.e. look at for the purposes of our investigation -- the blind man and the deaf man as different life forms from the five-sensed man, which we might).

We, especially in our sciences, display the arrogance of the five-sensed man, rather than the humility of the six-senses-minus-one man [of the less than six-sensed man]. No ostensive definition of 'green' can be given to a blind man. No ostensive definition of 'the sound of a clarinet' can be given to a deaf man. And now, one wants to ask [as a consequence (therefore) of blind and deaf limitations], "Of what can no ostensive definition be given to a five-sensed man"?

Drury defined what he called the "the fallacy of Van Helmont's tree": the drawing of conclusions about causes from even the most carefully conducted experiments in the early stages of any science where there may be many unknown factors at work. Van Helmont [d. 1644], like all others at the time, not knowing of the existence of such things as carbon dioxide and photosynthesis, concluded from his experiment that all plant materials were "in some way composed of nothing but water" because water was the only thing he had given his potted tree and there had been no loss of soil from the pot. (The Danger of Words (1973) p. 10-11). A further example:

In the seventeenth century "being sick of a fever" was a respectable diagnosis for a physician to make. It was not known nor even guessed that the important factor was the micro-organism causing the fever. (ibid. p. 12)

The situation was similar during the 1918 Influenza Pneumonia Pandemic when, because at that time no instrument existed that would have allowed them to discover the existence of viruses, the cause of the pandemic was undiscoverable by medical researchers. From a metaphysical point of view, if not a scientific one (given Newton's rule that "the argument of induction ... not be evaded by hypotheses"), we with our five senses are always in Van Helmont's situation/condition. [Questions without Answers.]


Philosophy of Civilization

Using language belongs to the human "form of life", a fact which philosophers tend to forget: we do not "clothe our thought in language" naturally; instead we learn to how and what to think by learning how to "operate with signs" (BB p. 6) according to rules (conventions) that are public. (Contra Thomist first principles)

As we jealously insist on our individuality as free thinkers, how can we not underestimate the civilizing effects of civilization -- i.e. that in which we are all alike rather than all different? There isn't a lot that is intellectually natural about civilized people. And that is a problem for anyone who would philosophize: civilization teaches us not only how to think -- but also what to think. And very few of us are ever able to see a way out of the "grooves" (Z § 349; I believe the image is of the grooves of a gramophone disk) we have been taught (and therefore learned) to think in; those who are able to say a new word although by using our old words (i.e. those who are able to revise our concepts in a fundamental way) are called 'philosophers'.

We are born in to a "community of ideas" and of feelings. I have no idea how many of us are truly able to step outside it, of whether I ever have e.g.

Moreover, civilization -- of which the principle feature is language -- not only teaches us how and what to think but also how and what to feel. It de-natures us.

On the other hand, I do not know whether civilization can [at least, so far in its history] make a character ignoble by nature, noble [Grapes grow on grape vines, cantaloupes on cantaloup vines, however the gardener may train their vines to grow], but I don't know whether it can make a noble soul ignoble either; in both cases I would expect there to be rebellion against enculturation. Intellectual [philosophical] integrity is a passion: truth is certainly not everyone's highest value. On the other hand, perhaps civilization can stifle create [original] thought, although, again, I do not know how many of us are capable of that, and why shouldn't there be a rebellion also in this case.

Of course, what civilization certainly does is: to select what subject matter our thinking focuses on: it selects our concerns [preoccupations], e.g. in the West on the Philosophy of Science and on [at least formerly] the Christian religion. But in this respect primitive society is no different -- and indeed even worse in fact, because unlike civilized society, it provides no tools with which to break out of its "community of ideas", and because it silences [sets the limits to] all questions by employing gods as explanations.

The Harm done by Schooling

Some types of conformism are good: there are things that you just must accept and learn by rote, e.g. the alphabet, the numbering system, learning to read, write, and "add and take away". [It is also good e.g. that we voluntarily conform to traffic laws.] And from that point of view -- and also from the point of view of making you aware of the existence of things that are outside your own little circle (You would never learn anything if you spent your life among those who know no more than you do) --, school is good. So far, so good. Then where is the harm?

The first harm is ethical. The conformism demanded by exams-taking damages our intellectual integrity. Teachers and parents bully the young student into pretending that he knows what he knows only too well that he does not know. There are essay questions where children try to bluff their way through while knowing that they are writing rubbish. Then there is the strange practice of telling children to guess the answer when they are given multiple choices on an exam (even if they don't have time to read the questions). "If you guess the right answer, you will raise your test score" -- as if the score were what were important ["Schooling as competition": education as a means, not an end in itself].

In addition to exams are papers written on a schedule: you have two weeks to think about this subject and then you must hand in your essay, regardless of the state of your ideas ... Philosophy cannot he done in a rush -- nothing that requires thought can be. This writing-on-a-schedule practice encourages students to parrot other people's thoughts rather than to think things through for themselves. This damages the child's intellectual integrity, which requires him to think for himself; and if the student does not give credit to the source of his ideas, it does further moral harm.

Teaching children to pretend to know what they do not know is to teach children to be unethical as well as stupid. It is the opposite of the spirit of philosophy.

Being forced to "know" what you do not know not only damages our intellectual integrity, it also damages our understanding; this is the second harm. And it is damage that usually stays with us for the rest of our lives, leaving us with vagueness and perplexity (as e.g. in the Philosophy of Geometry - What is a geometric point? and the Foundations of Mathematics - What are numbers?; but also muddled ideas about the sciences and social sciences).

Becoming an educated human being requires that we review and in many, many cases revise everything that was forced on us at school, and not just studying the things that we are inclined to study. This revision is not something that most of us are inclined to thoroughgoingly undertake, and therefore the harm done to us at school can stay with us all their lives. Diogenes the Cynic: "Why do people give to the poor who beg but not to philosophers [like Diogenes] who beg? Because people can imagine one day becoming poor themselves, but becoming philosophers never" (Diog. L. vi, 56).

And so Socrates asked himself "whether I would rather be as I was -- neither wise with their wisdom nor foolish with their foolishness [-- i.e. their presumption that they know what they do not know ("the fallacy of the artisans")] -- or to possess both qualities as they did", and he answered that "it was best for me to be as I was". (Apology 22d-e)

I am not suggesting that our condition is worse than the condition of my benighted ancestors. But just as capitalism is not worthy of the best that is within us (It is not the face of God we recognize in our own hearts) -- In the view of Adam Smith capitalists "neither are, nor ought to be, the rulers of mankind"; they are characterized by their "mean rapacity" [The Worldly Philosophers iii] --, so too our mass educational system is not worthy of us either. I hope that both are transitional phases in human history, both to be replaced by the better things that each of us is born for (Ad majora natus sum). On the other hand, there are weeds in Voltaire's garden that apparently cannot be pulled out by the root. Technology seems to be the only thing that can be counted on to "progress" (Of course, many of its improvements worsen the conditions of our life, e.g. armaments, surveillance equipment).

I investigate not [the natural world] but myself, to know whether I am a monster more complicated and more furious than Typhon or a gentler and simpler creature. (Phaedrus 230a; quoted by Rhees [Recollections p. 175]).

What would Socrates have said "philosophy is" -- i.e. how would he have defined the word 'philosophy' ['defined' in the sense of setting limits to what is to be classified as philosophy, because many things are called by the name 'philosophy']? Philosophy is ... "love of learning" (Phaedrus 230d, 278d), but of learning what? "The correct conduct of human life" [What is the [ethically] good life for man?] -- i.e. what we call 'wisdom'.


Existence and Perception (Bishop Berkeley and Dr Johnson)

These are short notes, some without a common theme.

Sense data are blind percepts

A "sense-datum" is a blind percept. It may be induced by illness (or being knocked on the head e.g.) or it may be hallucinatory; it is not, however, normal. Here 'blind' = 'unintelligible'. I think that what those who talk about "sense data" really want is to talk about the "thing in itself" -- that thing being in this case: our perceptions in themselves, raw without conceptualization (which would include reference to a cause). This is related, although very different from, Descartes' "new way of ideas".

I wonder why I have so little interest in mental phenomena and such notions as "hidden motives". I am only interested in psychology in so far as it connects with the logic of language; otherwise, not at all. (This contrasts sharply with Wittgenstein.)

It seems that I am only interested in [the distinction between] sense and nonsense [and, perennially, the wisdom of Socrates] -- that this distinction is all I want from philosophy. I am not interested in phenomena ... but if there were such a thing as metaphysics [as other than idle picture-making], I think that might interest me (the "riddle of existence" etc.).

Sense data are blind percepts, and that is why there cannot be a language of sense data. Because a language is concepts, but as soon as you have a concept, you no longer have a sense datum.

The meaning of 'nonsense words' (not of 'nonsense')

Query: sample of guessing the meanings of nonsense words.

You do not guess (It's not like: guessing the time, or guessing whether you need to turn left or right; meaning that there is an answer [verification], but you don't yet know what it is); rather you invent/create a meaning by letting th words "speak to you", i.e. by "leaving it to whatever suggests itself". How can you guess the meaning of what doesn't have any meaning [nonsense]? Guessing the sense of nonsense; guessing the meaning of meaningless words. [There is no "senseless sense" (PI § 500).]

Of course maybe this query is about things like Lewis Carroll's "portmanteau words" (Through the Looking Glass vi), which is an example of where you might guess, if it is granted that Humpty Dumpty is an authority [the criterion of correctness] on the meaning of such words -- i.e. that there is an answer to the question "What does 'brillig' mean?" Otherwise, you do not guess; you invent.

The relation between existence and perception

"To be is to be perceived." -- What does it mean? In a Kantian sense, this [it] is certainly true: we do not perceive the thing-in-itself (whatever that is when it's at home) but instead our perceptions are conditioned by our nature ("form of life"): to be [to exist] in the way that [in the form that] we perceive a thing to exist is for that thing to exist in a way that is not independent of us [i.e. of our perception) (because it is conditioned by our nature). How things exist apart from our perception of them is something we cannot know, because [i.e. in the sense that] we cannot step outside the human-form-of-life's frame of reference.

But one cannot also say that: "And not to be [not to exist] = not to be perceived." One certainly cannot say: "And not to be [not to exist] is to be imperceptible." We can know nothing of the things in themselves -- i.e. of things apart from our human perception of them [Indeed, what would it mean to claim contrary-wise], even whether things have an existence apart from our perception of them (a life [an independent life] of their own, so to speak). "To be" can be defined, but "Not to be" cannot (The meaning of the latter cannot be deduced from the meaning of the former).

Now, how much of the above is [either] grammar or nonsense ["Nonsense is produced by trying to express by the use of language what ought to be embodied in the grammar" (PP p. 312)], I don't know. In this -- i.e. in that I don't know -- it resembles philosophy done in the old or naive way ["primeval chaos" (CV p. 65)], maybe mixing up verbal and "real" definitions [i.e. propositions, statements of fact] all over the place.

"What the idealist means is right" is what I want to say; but what the idealist means must be clarified: it is easily misunderstood. Is it grammar? Maybe idealism is grammar that follows from the grammar of 'frames of reference', if we are willing to regard the notion of "forms of life" as coherent and plausible (although that notion is no more than a collection of analogies: comparison to animals e.g., to men with 4 or 6 senses [The latter is a picture, not an hypothesis, although a man with 5 senses does in fact perceive things that a man with only 4 senses does not]).

Samuel Johnson's "refutation" is a misunderstanding [except in a G.E. Moore (in Malcolm's view) way: "To be is to be perceived" is contrary to our normal way of using [this -- i.e. the words 'exist', 'perceive'] language: so if it isn't grammar (redefinition) then what is it? But I don't want to say that Berkeley was muddled (The truth is: I don't know what he was, having never read him)], as if to say: if this stone did not exist independently of my perception of it -- i.e. if it weren't solid, but instead an illusion [of my mind's creation] --, then when I tried to kick it, my foot would pass through it. (But of course if the stone is not "really" there, then Johnson's foot is not "really" there either.)

Query: philosophy lecture notes on Realism and Idealism.

The burden of proof lies with the former more than the latter: perception is forms-of-life-laden [predetermined]. But realism claims to be able to know the thing in itself [i.e. the thing stripped of our perception of it] -- or if not, then what is the point of realism? What would it be saying -- that there are also solids, not only gases as it were?

"It may have been" - "It could have been"

"This may have been due to ..." -- And what evidence is there that it may have been due to that? Simple consistency is not evidence or proof of anything (except of the absence of inconsistency).

"Why did Frederick not come to the party?" -- "It may have been that he was not feeling well." In this case you can say that "not feeling well" is a reason that people sometimes have for not attending a party. -- But that is only to say that "not feeling well" is consistent with Frederick's behavior; but this consistency is in no way evidence that Frederick did not come because he was not feeling well. As we say, there may have been countless other reasons. But in this case we at least know how to verify whether our conjecture is correct or not. But that is not true in all cases of "It may have been" or "It may be".

The grammar [logic] of 'may have been' can also be like the logic of the counter-factual conditional in that in both cases what appears to be an hypothesis is not one. And it is not one because no method of verification is stipulated [nor has one been defined by common usage]: "It may have been" -- but how do you know [determine] whether or not it was? Without a definition [explanation of meaning], you do not. In Russell's logic, if A is not the case, then the value of B can be anything -- i.e. regardless of the value of B, "If A, then B" is said to be "true" if A is false (But 'true' here only means: consistent with the rules of the game; Russell's logic is a game which has no subject matter outside itself: It is a matter of form only, like chess).

The expression "may have been" is often abused in psychology, where a mere suggestion is often mistaken for evidence. "Hidden motives" or "hidden causes" are spoken of. "It may be because ..." -- In such cases the correct reply is: "Really? why not say that it may due to your great-grandmother's having played the zither, because, after all, who really knows?" [Of course, because no criteria for 'knowing' have been stipulated, no one can know], or why not attribute it to the moon or the planets; -- i.e. "may have been" here has the same logical status as astrology with respect to verification (Yes, the truth matters -- That is what verification is about). If you are drawn to wild speculation: most anything you like "may have been". And unless there is evidence, a compelling reason, "may have been", "could have been", is wild speculation.

The professional psychologist says, "Trust me; I have studied and practiced, and I have deeper insight than you ..." -- On the basis of what should anyone accept an unverifiable claim to "deeper insight" -- i.e. the ability to see what is hidden from ordinary people? Nonetheless, even courts -- legislators, judges and juries (Human beings are a very credulous species; e.g. "correct grammar", "correct spelling"; 'correct' by what criterion? -- That question is never asked) -- accept "expert testimony" from psychologists [and if a patient himself disagrees with the diagnosis, he is accused of being self-deluding, or of suffering from repression, etc., which is to say: here are more "hidden" (i.e. "really real", "the reality behind / beyond reality") causes or motives that only the expert can detect]. But what exactly makes someone an expert in the social sciences?

The fallacy in the notion of "social science" is that it is possible to extend the methods of the physical sciences (physics, chemistry) to such things as human emotions (love, music appreciation), to as it were measure the incommensurable; and so social science invents pseudo-measurements and pseudo-mechanisms -- or embraces statistics -- and calls those inventions 'science'. But is there any reason to believe that the whole of reality can be captured by the methods of the sciences?

Cf. "I find it plausible", "I am inclined to believe". But unless you have reasons for your "may have been", you are engaging in what Isaac Newton condemned as "making hypotheses". Newton said about his 4th Rule for Reasoning in natural Philosophy: "This rule we must follow, that the argument of induction may not be evaded by hypotheses."

Is a 'scientific theory' fact-proof?

Note: this supplements, or is preliminary to Must a Scientific Theory be Falsifiable? What kind of "must" is this; e.g. although particular propositions (hypotheses) are falsified by experiments, in practice are theories ever falsified? (What happens when a scientific revolution occurs? Is an old way of looking at things simply abandoned, as happened e.g. with the abandonment of the geocentric theory? or are new phenomena -- i.e. anomalies -- discovered, as was the case with Darwin, if that was the case with Darwin? If a scientific theory can simply be replaced by a new way of looking at things, then a scientific theory can be "fact-proof".)

The difference between a metaphysical and a scientific theory is that the latter can be inconsistent with the facts -- i.e. a scientific theory is susceptible of anomalies; if it is not consistent with newly discovered facts, then it must be abandoned or amended to accommodate the facts; the facts cannot as it were be accommodated to the theory.

A scientific theory allows to be made predictions about new discoveries -- namely, that they will be consistent with the theory (which is so far only based on old discoveries). But no prediction is as it were a substitute [stand in] for new discoveries [as if the new discoveries had already been made]: it cannot pre-judge what the facts will be; or, in other words, new facts are the result of investigations, not as it were the consequences of predictions. [A scientific hypothesis H may predict fact F, but it cannot require fact F].

Theories that makes requirements that new facts must to conform to are not science [what we call 'science'; all these remarks are grammatical rules]: "Experiments are the true masters in physics" (Isaac Newton).

The real achievement of a Copernicus or a Darwin [What a Copernicus or a Darwin really achieved (CV p. 18)] was not the discovery of a true theory but of a fertile new point of view. (CV (1998 rev. ed.) [MS 112 233: 22.11.1931])

The theory has become "fact proof"; it just can't be refuted. (DW p. 17)

Drury's expression 'fact proof' means the same as the expression 'anomaly-proof' (which was suggested to me by Drury's writing). The word 'proof' is meant in the sense of "water-proof" or "bomb-proof [shelter]" -- not in the sense of "an empirical proof" or "a mathematical proof".

Wittgenstein's remark with respect to Copernicus (and the heliocentric theory) is clear in meaning, if as I believe, Copernicus's model of the solar system is only a way of looking at things [because all movement is relative to a point of reference and no such point is absolute. That is a remark about the grammar of the word 'movement', not a "theory about movement" (whatever that is when it's at home). Archimedes magic fulcrum does not exist (It is a picture without an application); or, in other words, all frames of reference are relative; this is a remark about the grammar of the expressions 'frame of reference' and 'point of reference'. The expression "absolute movement" is like the expression "absolutely tall": nonsense because it presupposes that either no frame of reference is required or that there is a "true" or "correct" frame of reference (like Newton's absolute space and time).]

With respect to Darwin, I think it is obvious that the theory of evolution, whatever it originally may have been, is now anomaly-proof ["fact-proof" is Drury's expression for a theory that cannot be falsified] -- i.e. that it is no longer a scientific theory. Evolution now has the same status as Freud's theories -- i.e. it can only be further "verified", not falsified [It has become infinitely plastic]. Just as Freudian symbolism can be seen in all dreams, evolution can be seen in all biological facts -- i.e. in both cases, the theory is no more than a way of looking at things, a frame of reference, a pair of colored glasses through which one looks: the color belongs to the glass, not to independent-of-the-glass reality (cf. PI § 103).

Evolution is not a theory that has become a fact; it is a theory that has become an ideology. It is no longer a question of whether the theory fits [is consistent with] new facts, but of how new facts can be fitted into the theory.

Darwinism is anomaly-proof because nothing is ever allowed to count against it's "truth". Instead, all facts, all new discoveries, can be so looked at as to make them fit the theory; indeed, the scientific community of ideas requires them to be looked at that way: anyone who sought an alternative explanation would be regarded as a heretic and outcast. The theory of evolution has become a "powerful ideology" (Wittgenstein to Rhees about Freud) like Freudianism: it has become Evolutionism. To say this is not to denigrate Darwin's idea, but only to point out the limits of its usefulness as a tool for investigating the natural world.

Wittgenstein used the expression "true theory" (wahren Theorie); -- what did he mean by it? I don't know. Neither the theory of Copernicus nor the theory of Darwin is true [i.e. a statement of fact (or to what else do we apply the word 'true'?)]. The earth does not "really" revolve around the sun. And all life forms [even undiscovered species in the rain forest -- i.e. all life forms, regardless of whether we even know anything about them] did not "really" evolve from earlier life forms through natural selection, survival of the fittest and genetic mutation: a scientific theory requires that we look and see, but the "theory of evolution" no longer does that.

Darwinism is a picture that "holds us captive" (cf. CV p. 79), because we cannot -- i.e. do not -- imagine alternatives to it.


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