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Reverence for Truth

Words are only spoken sounds or ink marks on paper or in sand, or mere gestures of the hands -- what gives them meaning? This question we must ask again and again.

The background of these remarks is Socrates' thoroughgoing use of reason, and what I have called in my jargon, although the expression is Wittgenstein's, "logic of language", the interest of which is the distinction between sense and nonsense in the language of philosophical problems.

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Reverence for Truth

Albert Schweitzer: the meaning of life is not found up there in the stars but here within me. It is in myself that I must discover life's meaning. Which is found in my ethical self, in my "reverence for truth", and in my will to love. Schweitzer's expression "the problem of a world-view" is another way of saying "the problem of life's meaning", only it is better focused, clearer in meaning.

... it must not remain unuttered, since reverence for truth must be exalted above everything else. With this conviction I began the work ... (Preface, March 1913, The Psychiatric Study of Jesus, tr. Joy)

Better always is the ugliest truth than the most beautiful lie. That is the spirit of philosophy, of the thoroughgoing application of reason to our life: there is no place in our life where we wish to say: "Here I do not use reason!" (And there is no place where we need say that.)


Note: words that follow "Query" are Internet searches that were misdirected to my site, and to which I have replied here.


Wittgenstein and Logic, Concepts and Rules

Query: there are no rules, only concepts.

That would be contra Wittgenstein's account of language (his "logic of language"), and if so we are drowning in a sea of vagueness and like Cratylus ought simply to remain silent, neither speaking nor thinking ("talking to oneself"). That is a radical view. And of course it hastily concludes from some to all; because although it seems true that we do not use very many words of our language the way a chess piece is used, i.e. according to rigid rules, but it does not follow from this that we do not use words according to any rules at all, some less strict ("well-defined") than others.

We need to know, of course, how the query is defining the word 'concept' [Do we, as it were, only have a concept, but not a definition (for a 'definition' is a 'rule for the use of a word'), of the meaning of the word 'concept'?], but as we normally use that word it appears to mean something vague like "notion" or "idea", which is obviously not my definition (my jargon) where 'concept' = 'rules for using a sign'. [How do we normally use the word 'concept'? ("And do I know anything more about it myself?") | Are "words about whose meaning we are at variance" (Plato, Phaedrus 263a-b) the names of things whose nature is not clear to us? Those words would be the "names" of so-called abstractions, presumably the query's "concepts".]

Of course if there is no grammar, there is no logic either:

Query: according to Ludwig Wittgenstein, what is logic?

See query above: Precisely. This is the Master question. If there are no rules, is there any such thing as logic? And if there is no such thing as logic, then what, if anything, gives meaning to linguistic signs? If there are no rules, is there any point to defining 'logic' as "a description of our concepts" ["everything descriptive of a language-game" (OC § 56c), where what characterizes a game is its rules], if there are no rules for using the words of our language? Is language a sea of vagueness? On the other hand, cf. the concept 'strict causality' in physics -- if an expression loses its application/connection to reality, then all that remains is an idle picture. Is 'logic', in Wittgenstein's sense of 'the study of everything subject to rules', such an expression?

Query: the ways words mean.

That is the wrong way in. Because it regards words as our masters, having a life independent of our own, rather than as tools we use. In sum, words don't mean something, the users of a language mean something by words. It is related to the query above "there are no rules only concepts". (Plato indeed pictured his Forms as having a life of their own; they mean something, whereas the human beings who use their names -- or try to use them properly -- can only hope that they have somehow (I don't know how) "grasped" their essential meaning and therefore know what they are talking about.)

Query: 'point of view', grammar.

I receive many (misdirected) queries of this form, which suggest that Wittgenstein's use [usage for, definition] of the word 'grammar' may not be jargon in some places ("communities of speakers" like "communities of ideas"). What are the rules for using the English expression 'point of view' -- or, in other words, What is that expression's meaning? That question belongs to grammar, as the query uses the word 'grammar'.

Query: how do you define 'what do you mean', Cambridge 1930?

"What is the meaning of a word?" (Wittgenstein's Blue Book, which begins with that very question, is dated: 1933-34.) It seems that was the question at that time, at least for some philosophers. If nothing else, G.E. Moore's method of philosophizing and his criticism of Bertrand Russell show that it was. And the influence of Moore himself is described by John Maynard Keynes in his "My Early Beliefs".


The "phenomenon of thought" versus the concept 'thought'

We are not analyzing a phenomenon (e.g. thought) but a concept (e.g. that of thinking), and therefore the use of a word. (PI § 383)

What is difficult to know: in each particular case, whether "meaning is shown by use" or "explained by pointing to the bearer of the name" (ibid. § 43). Because cows and other blunt objects are not the only things that bear names.

Suppose someone said, "We have all learned to use the word 'thought'; we are all familiar with the phenomenon of thought. But, now then, what is thought?" Is it clear what this person is asking for? Is he asking a question of the biologist (in which case this may be a factual rather than a conceptual investigation and as such of no concern to logic of language studies) -- or, as happens so often in philosophical thinking, is he asking for "the essence of thought" (Plato) or for an "analysis of the concept pain" (Kant via "linguistic analysis")? In either philosophical case, the request amounts to the same thing, because what is not being requested in either case is a rule for using a sign (or, "word" or "sentence", but in the sense of: spoken sounds, ink marks on paper, gestures, the physical part only of language).

It would indeed be odd if anyone supposed that the word 'thought' were the name of an object (such as are 'cow' and 'book' are). However, it would be quite common to say that the word 'thought' is "name of a phenomenon"? But the, if so ..., how do we define a word if that word is "the name of a phenomenon"? Is there is a part of speech or category of language use 'name-of-phenomenon'? If we wanted to maintain the strict distinction between names of objects and all other types of uses of language, we might say that name-of-phenomenon is a sub-class of 'non-name-words'; there might be some point to this, because e.g. no one would say that the definite article 'the' was the name of anything (or might one claim that there is a phenomenon named 'the definite article'; after all it exists in our world, unlike fairies for example)? Actually, is there anything that cannot be called a "phenomenon"? The phenomenon of contradiction, e.g. (But still, the grammars of 'the' and 'thought' are very different.)

Where am I going with these remarks? I as yet have no idea. Was I mistaken when I wanted to divide language up into two grammatical categories, namely, names-of-object words and non-name-words? Does logic of language require more categories than that? But what can be done with the category 'name-of-phenomenon'? (Will it not be a class of all classes -- i.e. a class of which all things are members?) Perhaps I wanted to avoid any suggestion of mind-matter dualism -- i.e. of that picture of ghostly happenings (Thought as a gaseous something or cloud of who knows what). But not as if I held an alternative metaphysical theory -- "Aren't you really materialist, then?" Because "matter versus spirit" is not a theory -- there is no question of verification; it is simply an idle picture that philosophers have conjured up out of oriental bombast. (Materialism was an attempt to replace on picture with another, but neither picture is an hypothesis; both are idle ... that is, to someone who wants to know the truth, and does not want in its place wild speculation.)

The phenomenon of thought versus the use ("meaning") of the word 'thought'. The one belongs to logic, the other to I don't know which, if any, science? In philosophy what concerns us is ... is it not conceptual investigations? Well, yes; however, we are also concerned with ethics and world-view. -- But from which point of view? Is it not always within the framework of grammar and sense and nonsense? Yes, that and general facts of nature. Question: is it possible to "define thought"? -- if that means "say what thought is", I don't know; the demand is extremely vague. However, if what is demanded is a "definition of a phenomenon" (or "real definition"), then that is no concern of philosophy's (or how could it be?).

In philosophy our tool is logic (in Wittgenstein's sense of the word 'logic'), and in logic we define words [i.e. linguistic signs] -- i.e. that is the only sense of the word 'definition' that concerns us. -- Logic does not "define things", whether those "things" be phenomena of this world or "abstract objects" of some other (I don't know which other) world. (The combination of words 'define an abstract object' is nonsense -- i.e. undefined.) In logic of language studies we don't obliterate the distinction between conceptual and factual investigations (Z § 458) ..... But saying the same thing over and over again does not make it clearer (or truer), as Wittgenstein said about Moore's Principia Ethica.

"Defining a phenomenon"

Query: construct your own definition of logic, and briefly explain your definition.

Does that query not treat the word 'logic' as if it were the name of a phenomenon, and that here "your own definition of logic" = you own theory about what the nature of that phenomenon is?

But isn't that a possible task -- i.e. because isn't there a subject named 'Logic', and can't one ask what the subject of that subject is? Indeed, isn't that the very thing I do at the beginning of my page about Statements of Fact, namely try to describe the historical usage of the word 'logic'? Indeed it is.

But note that what I wrote there was not theoretical -- I did not try to say what "logic in itself" is or what logic "really" is (despite any appearances to the contrary). And my account may be correct or incorrect, true or false -- as determined by the historical evidence (i.e. the written record). And if it is false, that will simply be because I am ignorant of history -- not because my crystal ball is cloudy (for what other tool has speculative metaphysics).

What I wrote does not want to be, in the query's words, "my own definition of logic", but an objective ("publically verifiable"), faithful to the historical facts, report (as are the oldest definitions found in dictionaries). And what I am reporting are conventions (rules of "grammar") for using a word (namely, the word 'logic'). What would "my own definition of logic" be other than a "theory" about its (mysteriously "abstracted") essence -- or an eccentric definition of the word 'logic' (cf. the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus's "definition of nonsense" according to which a proposition may be "nonsense" without being meaningless or foolishness, or in other words, not nonsense)?

Which type of definition, then, does Wittgenstein state in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 6.3, in my version from memory: "Logic is the study of everything subject to rules" or "Logic is the study of everything governed by rules". But 'governed' = 'subjected to' = 'ruled by', and so: "Logic is the study of everything ruled by rules" (But can something be "ruled by caprice" rather than by rules? Yes, it is called 'tyranny'). In that book's translations:

Logical research means the investigation of all regularity. (TLP 6.3, tr. Ogden)

The exploration of logic means the exploration of everything that is subject to law. (ibid. tr. Pears, McGuinness)

And outside logic everything is accidental. (ibid.)

And outside logic all is accident. (ibid. tr. Ogden)

Wittgenstein next says (6.31) that there is no Law of Induction, because the proposition that states it might be true or false. A rule cannot be "significantly negated" (but only disobeyed), but a statement of fact can. Induction belongs to (the facts learned by) experience.

But that by way of an aside. Wittgenstein, it seems clear, was not trying to report the historical usage of the word 'logic'. He was instead saying that the rules logic of language are natural laws. That is a metaphysical theory. (Is it the kind of thing the query is asking for?)

Phenomena, Concepts, Definition, and Limit

To define is to set limits, but to set limits is to make a selection, and any selection (and therefore also deselection) is more or less arbitrary. "Concepts are the expression of our interests" (PI § 570). Our categories are not determined by phenomena in themselves (about which we know nothing: "percepts without concepts are blind" (Kant), and 'percepts' = 'raw phenomena'); our categories are not absolute: they are not "the truth"; they are only more or less useful tools of our own invention.

Concepts lead us to make investigations ... direct our interest (ibid.)

These remarks answer the question "Why investigate words rather than the phenomena they name?" And it is why philosophers revise concepts -- because they have landed on a new way of looking at things (Philosophical thinkers are rare).


Aristotle and the Principle of Contradiction

The highest and most incontestable of all thoughts he [Aristotle] calls the proposition of contradiction. This he formulates in several different ways, both in its logical and metaphysical application. (Eduard Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy, 13e (1931), tr. Palmer, repr. 1980, p. 171)

The locus classicus is [Metaphysics] 1005b 19 ... [Aristotle formulated "the proposition of the excluded middle" (Either A or NOT-A, and not some third possibility between A and NOT-A) in the same place (ibid).] The proposition of contradiction [NOT-(A and NOT-A)] is found in conjunction with its counterpart, the proposition of identity [A is A, or, A is NOT-(NOT-A)], in Metaph. 1012a 26. (ibid. p. 171n1)

Now in Aristotle:

Some people have acquired ... paradoxical opinions ... because they demand a reason for everything. ["The reference may be to Antisthenes" (tr. note)] And the starting-point in dealing with all such people is definition. (Metaph. 1012a 18-24, tr. W.D. Ross)

"True by definition"

Question: but how do you rid someone of the "paradoxical opinion" that the principle of contradiction [-- Remember the distinction between "contradiction in sense" and "contradiction in form": the first, in the case of propositions, may disprove an argument (as e.g. when an anomaly falsifies an hypothesis), or, in the case of combinations of words, may simply be nonsense (undefined language); whereas the second type are neither necessarily false nor nonsensical (Such cases we could refer to examples of "the principle of the non-excluded middle" -- i.e. cases where there is no contradiction despite the insistence of "the fallacy of the excluded middle" that there must be). Here we are concerned with "contradiction in sense" (not the happiest name, admittedly, but its point is that we must know how a linguistic-sign is used, not merely its form, before we can say whether we have a case of "A and NOT-A") --] is not valid or not universally valid? For example,

the doctrine of Heraclitus, that all things are and are not, seems to make everything true, that of Anaxagoras [Plato, Gorgias 465d], that there is an intermediate between the terms of contradiction, seems to make everything false [as if there were something that is neither A nor NOT-A; but if everything is a "mixture" of A and NOT-A, that is, if everything is (NOT-(A or NOT-A)), then nothing true can be asserted (i.e. neither A nor NOT-A can be true). While the doctrine of Heraclitus appears to be that both A and NOT-A are simultaneously true, or, "The [complex] proposition (P AND NOT-P) is true")] ... (Metaph. 1012a 24-27)

But how can we show by means of definition, of e.g. the word 'contradiction', that the principle of contradiction must be true and the doctrines of Heraclitus and Anaxagoras false? I think that all you might show is -- although this is not Aristotle's way of thinking but instead Logic-of-Language's way -- is that both doctrines are nonsense, that is, undefined combinations of words (PI § 500). But I think Aristotle, when he speaks of "the starting-point" being definition, is saying that a definition will somehow (I don't know how) be proof of the truth of the principle of contradiction. But he does not want to say that (cf. "they demand a reason for everything", and no reason -- i.e. no justification -- can be given for the "most incontestable of all thoughts"; instead, that thought must be used to justify all others), yet it seems to me that he must say that.

Note that Zeller speaks of the "metaphysical application" of the "proposition of contradiction", where a proposition is true or false. But a rule -- i.e. a "conventional principle", not an "Archimedean principle" (which is a proposition) -- is not true or false, and therefore the 'must' in "must be true" above is not a logical must, because logic ("grammar", in Wittgenstein's jargon) consists of nothing more than more or less arbitrary rules.

If someone rejected the principle of contradiction, that is to say in my jargon "contradiction in sense" rather than in form, we would simply shake our heads at them. There seems to be nothing else to do here ("Forms of life"). cf. the discussion of Aquinas' notion of first principles (or "held-in-common conceptions").

What you cannot say is that the principle of contradiction is "true by definition" (but maybe you can say that the principle's negation is nonsense, undefined language, "sound without sense"). However, the principle of contradiction does play a part in the definitions of the words 'true' and 'false'.

Further, no proposition is "true by definition", nor "false by definition". To suppose otherwise is to make a category mistake: a definition defines sense and nonsense, not truth and falsity. The so-called real definitions of Aristotle are empirical propositions (They can be "significantly negated". They are not rules of grammar -- i.e. more or less arbitrary conventions -- but must answer to the facts), and as such they may be true or false.

No, I am not happy with the discussion above. I have not made anything clearer with it. I have simply retold shopworn tales. (I think, "If only I could sleep soundly", but maybe I am just stupid, and lazy-minded, or maybe just brute stupid.)

Why study philosophy's past?

Wittgenstein asked a student at Cambridge why the student wanted to study Greek philosophy rather than think about things for himself. But the answer is: to avoid repeating the errors of the past. Plato had already committed the errors of the TLP e.g.

Wittgenstein wrote in On Certainty (bracketed remark between §§ 470 and 471): "Here there is still a big gap in my thinking. And I doubt whether it will be filled now." Lost time is never found, and Wittgenstein wasted time, through ignorance of the past, that he might have used to fill that gap. (Cf. how Schweitzer very carefully reviewed the work of past and contemporary writers in his Quest and Paul before stating his own opinions; he "blamed" this on the impression Aristotle's procedure in his Metaphysics [980a21-993a] had made on him. It is, on the other hand, quite impossible to imagine Wittgenstein ever undertaking a "review of the literature". Wittgenstein was not a scholar. He even boasted to Drury that he, despite having been "a one-time professor of philosophy [had] never read a word of Aristotle!" (Recollections p. 158 [from Autumn 1948]).)

... from ignorance, solutions will be tried over again which have already been advanced and have proved untenable. (Paul and His Interpreters, tr. W. Montgomery (1912), p. xi)


The Christianity Schweitzer taught in Africa

Schweitzer told his African assistant Gustave that no one had the right to tell him to give up his way of life, but described instead what Jesus might mean to him:

""The importance of Jesus Christ to mankind," Dr. Schweitzer explained [to Gustave], "does not lie in the rituals people have made out of his teaching, but in the example of his life. His love and compassion and his willingness to die for the conviction that his death would redeem all men from suffering and sin, these are the deeds that have been remembered throughout time.

"If you are able to understand this message and conduct your life accordingly, you do not need to worry about the missionaries," Dr. Schweitzer told me. ..... To make me feel better, he added that the Europeans of today who claim to be Christians neither follow the tradition of Jesus nor do they understand the language he spoke." (Louise Jilek-Aall, Working with Dr. Schweitzer (1990), p. 142)

This is why the churches of northern Europe are now only museums. They are dead, because the Ancient and Medieval world-picture of Christianity is dead. Could preachers who think like Schweitzer revive those churches? I don't know. I don't think so. If God is not "up there" so to speak, as the explanation of our life and of its final disposition, then what is faith in? What is religion without mysticism ("knowledge of what is beyond man's ability to know, the solution of the riddle")?

Belief in the Kingdom of God ... no longer looks for its coming ... as an eschatological cosmic event [i.e. as an act of God alone], but regards it [as something] to be realised with the co-operation of men. [Modern Protestantism understands] the Gospels to say that Jesus came into this world to found the Kingdom, and to call men into it as fellow-workers. [Schweitzer says that this is historically wrong -- i.e. it is not the Jesus of history --, but religiously it is the right view.]

Only as it comes to be understood as something ethical and spiritual, rather than supernatural, as something to be realized rather than expected, can the Kingdom of God regain, in our faith, the force that it had for Jesus and the early Church. Christianity must have a firm hold of this, if it is to remain true to itself, as it was in the beginning, -- religion dominated by the idea of the Kingdom of God.... The precise conception [whether that of the historical Jesus or the modern Protestant one] which is held of [the Kingdom of God's] coming is a matter of secondary consideration. In spite of many fundamental differences from the past, modern Protestant Christianity remains true to the Gospel since it is still the religion of a living faith in the Kingdom of God. ("The Conception of the Kingdom of God in the Transformation of Eschatology, an Epilogue by Albert Schweitzer" (tr. J.R. Coates) in E.N. Mozley's The Theology of Albert Schweitzer for Christian Inquirers (1950), p. 101-102)

The Lambaréné sermon for the second Sunday of Advent, 7 December 1930 shows the picture of Jesus and the Kingdom of God which Schweitzer wanted to share with men and women like his African assistant Gustave.

Query: children's fable. Where are the people?

The dead churches of northern Europe: "Here is the church, and here is the steeple; open the doors, but where are the people?" The churches are dead because no one worships there. (But this child's hand-play is more akin to a riddle than a fable.)

"Jetzt ist es nur ein Denkmal, now it is only a monument," Hannelore said as we wandered through the tawny jungle of the deserted Marienkirche. "People in Lübeck no longer go to church." (Marshall, A Girl from Lübeck (1962), i, 3, p. 35)

Religious imagery. -- Only when it ceases to have religious "meaning" (i.e. a place in the life of a religious person) does it become art. Dead churches: objects of curiosity, not religious objects but cultural artifacts, curiosities.

Religion in the eyes of Anthropology versus Historiography ("Historical Theology")

Note: the following is related to my earliest thoughts about the Philosophy of Religion.

Wittgenstein to Drury (in 1930) about Schweitzer's Quest[ion] of the Historical Jesus, a book there is no evidence that Wittgenstein actually read:

The only value of that book is that it shows how many, many different ways people can interpret the Gospel story. (Recollections p. 106)

Is Wittgenstein's statement anti-rational? It is not in itself a rejection of a scholarly approach to "sacred text" as being the path to the truth about its historical meaning (The academic subject "Historical Theology"). But Wittgenstein says here that the historical meaning -- i.e. what actually happened, and the actual thought-world [world-picture] of the authors -- is of no consequence: what matters is how someone responds to the myths (and myths are the sum and substance of religion), the role these pictures may have in his life. It is not even important whether Jesus ever existed: "It would make no difference if there had never been an historical person as Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels ..." (ibid. p. 101). (Stories are told for purposes other than historiography, as is the story of the shepherds who visit the manger at Christmas. One might look at all the Gospel stories that way.) Belief versus belief-in. (Of course, Wittgenstein's account would not be acceptable to most Christians, to whom the doctrines of their church are truths revealed by God about hidden reality: they believe without seeing, but what they do not see, they believe is nevertheless more real than what they do see.)

Would I say that about religion, as a student of anthropology, i.e. an objective description of what human beings actually do? I don't know. But as a student of philosophy, no, because there is the Socratic standard of knowledge of the truth. And religion -- like every other thought-form -- has to stand or fall to the tests of reason and experience. Schweitzer at his confirmation: "Reason, I said to myself, is given us that we may bring everything within the range of its action ... " (Contrast Wittgenstein's inclination towards what I would call superstition, the charm of the irrational for him, the anti-rational, anti-philosophical.)

The principal value, although not the only one, of Schweitzer's book is that it shows you the path men took from received dogma (silencing reason, in the name of faith, in the face of doubt) to criticism, and what this cost them when they "dared to doubt", both personally (in "loss of faith") and socially (in rejection by their colleagues), which was a path Wittgenstein himself never took in religion: he simply accepted Catholic Christianity's world-picture that "God became man", of Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity.

When speaking to Drury Wittgenstein spoke of the "heroic effort" it would cost some men to give up thinking metaphysically (ibid. p. 105) ... but he does not say why anyone should give up thinking metaphysically. The only reason after the TLP seems to be that: Wittgenstein does not want metaphysics (because its impossibility, i.e. that all metaphysical propositions are "nonsense", does not follow from the few examples Wittgenstein gives in the Philosophical Investigations).

There is no Christian religion, but there are countless Christian religions. That is, there are many ways of looking at things. "In my father's house are many rooms." That is how I want to use the Gospel's words.

It should be noted somewhere that there is a certain sympathy in the views of Schweitzer and Wittgenstein. As shown e.g. by Schweitzer's reaction to Tolstoy, which was positive: "There was a real danger of [modern theologians] thrusting ourselves between men and the Gospels, and refusing to leave the individual man alone with the sayings of Jesus." Tolstoy, he says, "let loose the force of the ethical thinking of Jesus [allowing] the lava of primitive Christianity [to pour] itself into the Christianity of modern times".

"Would he take his coat? I would not ask that."

Note: there are later remarks about this question at: "For a blunder, that's too big", about the use of language in religious belief-in.

The question is: why wouldn't Wittgenstein. ask that? [LC ii, p. 62: "I would not say: "If a man said he dreamt it [the Last Judgment] would happen tomorrow," would he take his coat?, etc."] And the answer is because that would be to treat the statement as if it were a normal statement of belief. It would be like saying that, basing something on a dream was basing it on poor evidence, whereas in fact [What does "in fact" mean here? if anything ...] it would be [i.e. according to the rules of the game of evidence, what we count as evidence, what a reasonable person places in {the class of all types of evidence}] basing it on no evidence at all [ibid. p. 61]. That is to say, when you are talking about the man and his coat [it is not like saying, If he believed it was going to rain, would take his umbrella?], the world coming to an end, you are not talking about normal belief [but about belief-in instead].

"Either they play the game wrong, or they are not playing it at all" (cf. OC § 446). Or they play a different game? But it is not the normal game [-- You cannot call a dream a case of "family resemblance": a dream does not too little resemble evidence; it does not resemble evidence at all, any more than you could draw an event on paper and claim that your drawing was a picture of an actual rather than a merely imagined future event. --], and it is only in the normal games that our language has clear meaning, I think [That is the point of Wittgenstein's method of bringing "words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use" (PI § 116) [Is there a metaphysical use of language?]].

"You play the game wrong, or not at all", but not the normal one. And it is only in the normal game that language has clear meaning. Someone throws a ball at you: are you supposed to catch it, bat it away, avoid it, let it hit you, do something else? If you know the game, you know what to do, how to respond correctly. But in this case this isn't an ordinary use of language, any more than referring to a dream as evidence is; you do not know the game, even though it looks as if you did; there seems to be a normal extension of the normal game here. (cf. 'ghost' is part of our educated vocabulary; "superstition-words"). Someone tells you: I dreamed that such-and-such, and based on this I have gotten out my cold weather gear, because it will snow tomorrow. In the normal game, a dream is not "slight evidence" -- it is no evidence at all. So how should you respond to that person? You don't know, because they are not playing the game, or they are playing it wrong. "Tomorrow the world is coming to an end." We could say that this is "crazy talk" from the point of logic of language -- or no talk at all (i.e. nonsense: an undefined combination of words). But we don't. We call it "religious belief", and we treat it more or less respectfully (Sometimes we call it "superstition"). (This is a consequence of our history of intolerance, and of our present indifference. But it is something further than that -- that is, "the riddle of existence" also belongs to our educated vocabulary.)

Marian devotion

Note: the following remarks continue the discussion of "forms of life" (Wittgenstein's ambiguous expression).

Our cousin in Geneva thinks that no more than 10% of people are capable of religion. I think that number is optimistic. I myself am not capable. I have never understood devotion to Mary. And yet I know that men far more intelligent and far deeper than I am do understand. As close as I can come is these words of a Franciscan brother's.

Pray to Mary. She is Jesus' Mother and yours. She will understand and help.

Brother Zeno Zebrowski (born 27 December 1891) came to Nagasaki with Father Maximilian Kolbe (ii, 14) in 1930 (iv, 32). In Poland Kolbe had sent Zeno out begging for the monastery "like the Franciscans of old", with the words, "If people give, that's for Our Lady. If they rebuff you, that's for Zeno. It won't do him any harm!" (ii, 14)

Prayer card of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus, 27 KB

[Kolbe's] "message was both Marian and simple: Mary was Christ's best disciple. He gave her to us from the Cross [John 19.26-27] to help us live his Gospels. True devotion to her leads us to the heart of the Scripture and to a deep prayer life. (ii, 14) ... Zeno had imbibed Kolbe's extraordinary trust in the intercessory power of the Mother of Christ" (ii, 15).

Zeno "spoke very broken Japanese" -- he had never been to school (ii, 16) and was almost illiterate (iv, 32) -- but was kind to everyone" (ii, 14). One December day in 1950 he came across a group of ex-soldiers singing old Japanese songs on a street corner in Tokyo, and among these was one who was missing both legs; "Zeno had no money, but, responding with a deep bow, lowered his big frame to the man's ear and muttered above the music: "You pray Maria-sama. She Mother of Jesus and you. She understand and help."" (ii, 15)

(Text Source: Paul Glynn, The Smile of a Ragpicker: the life of Satoko Kitahara (1992))

Understanding and Help

How help? She would not give him back his legs, of course. And so it seems it must be something inner, as peace and confidence in the Lord, the "peace that surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4.7).

As one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you. (Isaiah 66.13)

My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. (John 14.27)

Émile Zola had wanted to see a wooden leg hung up behind the grotto at Lourdes (Marshall, Marx the First (1975), xvi), which would have been what Dostoyevsky mocked as "a material proof of the immaterial", something for which there can be no proof, including the reappearance of a lost limb.

For which is easier, to say "Your sins are forgiven" or to say "Rise and walk"? (Matthew 9.5)

And which is the greater understanding, which the greater help?

What is Prayer? (The concept 'prayer' says "what prayer is", not contrariwise)

I was never able to pray, nor really even to try to pray, the Rosary, nor understand people who do. I have never really been able to pray. I don't understand prayer. I can recite the Hail Mary (Ora pro nobis) when I have unkind thoughts towards another human being, and that does soften my heart -- but is that recitation praying? "My words fly up; my thoughts remain below", as if I were play-acting.

Because I would feel as if I were play-acting, it would be blasphemous for me to receive Communion, despite my belief in the Real Presence, a belief I don't understand any more than I understand my reverence for the Mass; I only know that I believe in those things. (Feeling is irrational, and I don't do well with the irrational.) To form a living relationship with something of one's own imagination, whether specific or vaguely defined, like the professor and the undine in the story ... Why are undines any more fanciful? And so we said this about the Lord. How a fantasy may seem more real than reality. That is how it has always seemed to me, and draws me away from spoken prayer.


Brother Zeno

Pray to Mary. She is the Mother of Jesus and of you. She will understand and help.

Brother Zeno with Father Kolbe, 30 KB
Brother Zeno (left) with Father Kolbe

Brother Zeno Zebrowski was in the earliest group of Father Kolbe's companions at the monastery at Grodno (iii, p. 25). For a time at Grodno, Father Kolbe and Brother Zeno "kept down expenses by sharing not only a coat but a pair of shoes. The one going out wore them, the one at home did without". (Treece, A Man for Others: Maximilian Kolbe (1982), iii, 22)

"Brother Zeno, one of [Father Kolbe's] best helpers, raised in [Russian Empire's] portion of Poland, went only to secret "patriotic" school, and this only in the winter. Zeno had only the most elementary knowledge of reading and writing." (ibid. vi, p. 61n)

Brother Zeno remembers Father Kolbe inviting him to come to the East, "saying they might be martyred. [Father Kolbe and the four Brothers who went with him] ended eventually in Japan ... China had been their first choice -- they had even grown beards reverenced there ... but the Bishop would not have them" (ibid. v, p. 44) [Even the Japanese Bishop, or his name was Hayasaka, at first thought that Kolbe's Franciscans "had taken their idea of trusting in Divine Providence to point of abuse". (ibid. v, p. 48)]. In Japan Brother Zeno was their first cook. One of the four said, "To eat anything made by Brother Zeno, you had to be really hungry." Zeno's reply was "we only eat to keep alive, so what does it matter?" (ibid. v, p. 45)

"Although the Polish Franciscans had been treated very badly by the Japanese government during the war, [the Brothers responded with prayer,] as Kolbe taught them [ibid. v, p. 49]. They eventually made permanent quarters for one thousand [war-orphaned] children, the soul of this drive being simple Brother Zeno, already long venerated by the Japanese as a holy man." (ibid. v, p. 51)

Brother Zeno died 24 April 1982 at 91 (Epilogue [xvii], p. 183-184). He came from Japan in October 1971 to Saint Peter's in Rome for the Beatification of Father Kolbe, but he had died before Father Kolbe was proclaimed a saint on 10 October 1982. (ibid. [xvii], p. 182-183)

(Source of photograph: Treece, A Man for Others, photograph (abridged) between pages 86 and 87)

Father Maximilian Kolbe (saint)

Father Kolbe, O.F.M., belonged to the Conventual Franciscan Order (Friars Minor [*] Conventual), which wears the black habit (as distinguished from the Friars Minor Capuchin and the Friars Minor, both of which wear the brown habit.) (ibid. iii, p. 24n-25n)

Father Kolbe began the Militia Immaculatae ("Knights of Mary Immaculate") at college in Rome. (ibid. ii, 16) His first publication in Poland, a magazine, was titled "The Knight of the Immaculata". (ibid. iii, p. 21)

[Father Kolbe used to tell stories from his time at Rome, jokes, that is. One was this.] "... he told us about the absent-minded professor who was reading when the servant brought him a fish for lunch. The professor became hungry after a while and closed the book, marking his place with the fish. Then he called to the servant, "Where's my lunch?" "I'm afraid it's reading your book" was the reply." (ibid. iii, p. 27-28)

While in Japan one night Father Kolbe thought that his tuberculosis of many years (ibid. ii, p. 15) might kill him, but by midnight he said, "Our Lady has not called me yet", but he later wrote in a letter to Poland, "I am scared of suffering and the thought of calamities ... but even Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane was afraid. This comforts me...." (ibid. v, p. 47) Kolbe wrote that what he found "very consoling and brings peace to the soul" is to remember that the work is for God. If God wills failure -- so be it. It is enough to have offered himself via Mary to Him." (ibid. v, p. 50)

[Comment: What is the life of Christian faith? God does not need us to do his work, not me, not you, no matter how needed we may think we are, that in our absence there would be tragedy. And there might well be tragedy, but whatever there is, is God's will, and we must accept even tragedy as coming from the hands of the Father who, Jesus taught us, loves us as his children. Accept that "As my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways." And silence reason when it asks, If wars are the will of God, then what is the will of the devil -- peace? (The logic of ethical tautology would destroy faith, if faith were subject, or subjected, to reason.) To accept everything as the will of God even when, despite our best efforts, evil "appears" to overcome good -- that is the way of thought and life of theistic faith, the faith of Father Kolbe or Peter Canisius (who thanks God even when the wall of his monastery falls down). I wonder what Wittgenstein's reply would have been to Schweitzer's view of religious faith. I have no idea what he would have said, but I don't think just "Either the game is being played wrong, or not at all" (OC § 446).]

"All his adversaries, Brother Zeno says, Kolbe answered with prayers." (ibid. v, p. 49)

"Brother Zeno, who said he felt from the time he first knew him at Grodno that Kolbe was "different from the others, as a special person: He talked about the Passion of Jesus Christ.... He considered himself unimportant and used to persuade us to consider ourselves very small before God." [The Franciscans' abject poverty and modesty drew Japanese and foreigners to them.] (ibid. v, p. 53)

When Father Kolbe spoke in Poland in 1933, a Brother remembered:

He spoke as always, in the most simple words, as a father speaking to his children. He encouraged fraternal love: "Love one another, be humble of heart, do not be discouraged even by sins committed in your weakness." [Father Kolbe blessed a printing press by saying] "... you will be a good religious ... if you do exactly what the Holy Virgin demands of you, whether it be to retire tomorrow or work one hundred years." (ibid. v, p. 48)

[About Kolbe the author writes] "He was always concerned to deepen [the Brothers'] spiritual life, without which work and sacrifices become, he believed, meaningless." (ibid. v, p. 53)

[Father Kolbe said] "In this life, we can only work for God with one hand, because we need to hold on with the other lest we fall ourselves; how wonderful it will be after death, when we can work with both hands!" (ibid. [xvii], p. 181)

"Take Christ's hand in one of yours and Mary's in the other. Now even if you are in darkness you can go forward with the confidence of a child guided by its parents." (ibid. xiii, p. 142)

Do I understand that sense of trust? No, of course I do not. Wittgenstein wrote that --

Religious faith and superstition are quite different. One of them results from fear and is a sort of false science. The other is a trusting. (CV p. 72)

I don't have faith, because if I had I would not be guilty of the sin Saint Brigid names, of a false trust, in something that will not be there at the hour of my death, worthless, and maybe in this life not even there tomorrow.

The first part of the Hail Mary is directed towards Mary of Nazareth, but the second to "Holy Mary, Mother of God", who we ask to "pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death".

[*] Friars Minor

Saint Francis of Assisi himself chose the title 'friars minor' as a profession of humility. Franciscans were always to be lesser rather than greater (Luke 22.27): "... my friars have been called minors that they not presume to become majors." (Bonaventure, The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, ed. Manning (1867), vi)


"Follow me"

If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16.24) Whoever does not take up his cross, and follow me, is not worthy of me. (ibid. 10.38)

Can I accept Mary's words, "I am the handmaid of the Lord" (Luke 1.38)? No, I can't. I draw back; I don't believe. I don't want to take up the cross and enter the kingdom of God. I stand outside. I can be kind and conscientious, and I am kind and conscientious, but the life of self sacrificed, no. I can be merciful; I can make peace, but I cannot sell -- i.e. leave behind -- all that I have and follow the Lord (Matthew 19.21). I don't believe or I don't want to believe. Which?

At my age one needs very little. (Greene, "The Last Word" (1988), i)

Trusting in something other than the Lord

There is nothing so offensive to God as an arrogant trust in the power of money. (Saint Brigid of Ireland)

And that is what I have always been afraid to be without. As with the absence of air, I've always thought one can do nothing without money. I've never had the courage to be without it. Even an old man needs bread and shelter, and I've never thought that anyone would give me those were I to wander about. This has held me back all my life. Is it prudence or cowardice or lack of faith or simply not wanting something enough? Answer what you like, because we are in the realm of the irrational: "whatever seems right is going to be right", etc. (PI § 258)

Religious belief

I could not possibly bring myself to believe all the things that [Roman Catholics] believe. (Malcolm, Memoir 2e, p. 60)

I would say, the truth is, I don't know what it would mean to believe those things as a religious believer believes them. Because further, even if someone did believe every article of the Creed, that in itself would not make that person religious (Someone might be brought up with that world-picture, educated [taught] to believe that things are as the Creed says there are. According to the belief of some, the earth is only about 6,000 years old. But what does it mean 'to believe that religiously'?) What do we mean by calling someone religious? Someone can't just recite the prayers; he has to actually pray; and so religious pictures cannot be points of reference merely.

Is this like the difference between being in pain and merely shamming? And need that difference show up in the language? (Well, but if it cannot be put into words, then has that difference any language meaning? And if it has no language meaning, then how can we understand it otherwise?)

What I am looking for is the grammatical difference. (PI II, viii, p. 185)

That is, the difference in rules or conventions for the use of words. Not hypotheses or what someone is inclined to say.

Which cross shall the Christian take up?

In 1932 Father Kolbe wrote, in the biographer's paraphrase, "Don't set out to do your own works for God ... but give yourself humbly into his hands to do his works" (A Man for Others vi, p. 73). A man of faith, a religious believer, I think believes that God will show him the work he is to do for the kingdom, that he shouldn't try to take the kingdom of God by storm ("set out to do your own works").

... for they are afraid lest God's will for them might not coincide with their own will, and they consequently refuse to leave to Him the disposition of their lives. (Letter from Francis Xavier, 14 January 1544, in Brodrick, Saint Francis Xavier (1957), viii, p. 101)

But how are you to know whether it is the Lord who speaks to you or the Deceiver? Well, there is no way: "whatever seems correct is going to be correct" (PI § 258). The word 'discernment' makes nothing whatever clearer: a guess is still a guess by any other name. (Further, in this case you cannot even guess the correct answer, because there is no correct answer: where there is no criterion of verification, the word 'correct' and its antithesis are without meaning.)

When Albert Schweitzer responded to a notice by the Paris Mission Society that "the mission did not have enough people to carry on its work in the Gabon ... "Men and women who can reply simply to the Master's call, "Lord, I am coming" [Matthew 9.9, 4.19]" (Out of my Life and Thought, tr. Lemke (1990), ix, p. 85-86), a religious person would, I think, say that is how God assigned Schweitzer the work he was to do for the kingdom of God.

"He told me, [Satoko Kitahara wrote,] in his quaint Japanese, of all his troubles before he decided to enter the monastery. From Father Kolbe he had learned to place great trust in Mary, the Mother Christ gave to John and all Christians, as his last gift before dying on the Cross [John 19.26-27]. When he learned to do that, Brother Zeno averred, he discovered true inner peace in the midst of turmoil." (The Smile of a Ragpicker iii, 26)

To place great trust because Mary's will was at one with God's, and it was with the God's will one must align oneself. That was a lesson Satoko herself had to learn, but not from Brother Zeno alone, but in resignation, prayer and waiting (ibid. iii, 27).

The work assigned to me, namely home care (365 days a year, till death do us part, because there is only me), isn't heroic virtue, but maybe it is the work I am capable of. In any case, it is work that needs to be done if one is to love one's neighbor as oneself. But do I believe that religiously or only as it were philosophically (Plato, Republic 335b-e) and humanly (compassion).

"Christian handicap"

The abbé often wished that the Lord had made Christianity a little easier or at least allowed a handicap to bad players. (Marshall, To Every Man a Penny (1949), li)

Well, maybe he has, as he has given to the workers who came to the vineyard only at the eleventh hour (Matthew 20.9). There is no way to know, of course: Omnia exeunt in mysterium, not in verification; that is the way of miracles (and religious faith is nothing if not belief the miracle, namely God, the poetry of existence).

But finally, what are we calling 'prayer'?

On the other hand, maybe I have misunderstood [misconceived] prayer. Maybe it's not necessary to use words to pray. Our Lord said, "Come away to a quiet place and rest awhile" (Mark 6.31). If we sit quietly -- is it necessary to use words to pray? "The silence of God", but God is not silent. God speaks [to us] in every impulse we have to love, in every impulse we have toward what is true and what is good, in every impulse toward what is noble rather than base.

... and perhaps the only reason why [he] did not also love God, was because he was so perplexed by God's silence in the face of human and animal suffering that he failed to realize that his perplexity was a proof of the existence which he doubted. (Marshall, Peter the Second xxx, p. 165)

In other words, God isn't silent but speaks to us in our hearts, in our response to "this world and all it loves".

It's not necessary to use words to pray, maybe. ("Jesus said you can speak to God as you speak to your own father," Schweitzer said. But I was never able to speak to my father, and so I don't have that to use as a model [of understanding] of comparison. I myself haven't.)

Where are the boundaries of the concept 'prayer'?


Evil does not disprove the existence of God, but on the contrary proves that God exists

The idea of Greene's The Potting Shed (1958) that seeing the absence of God is proof of the existence of God. (Places aren't god-forsaken, but human ways of life and thought may be utterly godless. In Liao Yiwu's For a Song and a Hundred Songs (2013) there are so many descriptions of depravity and inhumanity -- (The description [i, 5, p. 39-40] of the cruel abuse of a beggar woman caught stealing a peach, of the marketplace crowd who watch and laugh, of no one coming to the poor woman's defense, of no one crying out, "This is wrong!") -- of a hell very distant from Dante's first circle. Solzhenitsyn quotes the motto of the common criminal, "If they're not f-ing you, don't lie down and ask for it." (What is some "orphan" woman to you?)

Contrasting that with the lives of the Christians in Liao Yiwu's God is Red (2011), is to contrast the nobility of faith with the absence of God (and to want to cling to that, to everything that is good and true, and noble, which is what we mean by 'God').

What is man, that thou art mindful of him?... Thou madest him a little lower than the angels ... (Hebrews 2.6-7)

A little lower than angels -- and a little higher than monkeys. Man may choose between looking up to what is higher to looking down to what is lower -- because he has all the base instincts and impulses of monkeys.

Of course that experience of The Potting Shed is a religious proof. Nevertheless, it is a proof.

If we had memories that we were unable to account for, memories of things that we could not have experienced in this life, that would not prove empirically that we had been reincarnated, but it might serve as a religious proof. Whereas we have no such memories. And therefore it seems absurd to me to say that evil exists because we are being punished for wrongs that we have done in past lives (lives about which we know nothing, not even that we have lived them), that evil is the creation -- that is to say, that evil exists because -- of man's nature, and that after he has been punished for all his past-lives' wrong-doing he will no longer suffer and therefore he will no longer exist but enter a blessed state of nothingness. Not that Buddhism's belief is more absurd than the Christian belief in original sin as the explanation of the existence of evil.

I wonder if the attraction of religion isn't the attraction of goodness, of a morally virtuous life dedicated to what is higher. Liao Yiwu's interviews titled "The [Buddhist] Abbot" [8] and "The Falun Gong Practitioner" [20] in The Corpse Walker (2002) suggest this to me, that with respect to "metaphysics" (doctrine or world-picture) man is quite flexible with respect to what he is willing to believe. ('Reynard the fox' of the fable is not the name of a particular fox (RFM vii, § 36, p. 403), as the anthropologist's 'man' is not the name of a particular man.)


The meaning of 'definition' in Geometry

Note: this belongs to the discussion of the Philosophy of Geometry.

Query: what does 'definition' mean in geometry?

For the clarity needed to understand -- rather than begin by asking for a definition of the word 'point' in geometry -- that query is the place to begin. And thence a 'definition' in geometry is a rule [that can be] used to justify a step in a geometric proof. And so there are words such as 'point', 'line' and 'plane', for which there are (or may be) no geometric definitions. That is, geometry selects one meaning of the word 'definition'; there are of course many others, but they do not interest geometers.

Thus 'undefined term' in geometry simply means any term that is used in geometry that does not have a geometric definition, although such terms have other types of definitions (explanations of their meaning) of course, for otherwise they would be meaningless spoken sounds or marks on paper (noise and scribble).

[Cf. Geometry's contact-with-experience words. But there is no need to limit this class of words to the "three undefined terms", because we also define e.g. the word 'triangle' with drawings on blackboards. Those drawings are not used to justify a step in a proof, but only, it is said, "to give you the right idea" about what we are talking about. But does it give you the correct idea, or only block the way to your understanding what we are talking about, namely rules that are independent of anything visual (cf. Must a circle be round? Why is a circle round?)

[It seems to me these troubles have their origin in equivocation in deeds: on the one hand, Euclid has drawings in the sand, and on the other hand Euclid has verbal definitions of things that are drawn in the sand; and it is those verbal definitions that have created a muddle. The Greeks wanted -- and did not want -- "to measure the earth": they wanted something both practical (i.e. for use with compass and straightedge) and abstract (i.e. rules for the mind only, i.e. independent of any experience) at the same time. And that may not always be possible (although note that it is possible to define the word 'point' in geometry independent of our experience of the world ... to the extent that any word can be so defined).]

If we begin with the expression 'undefined term', we get no further -- because, in our normal way of speaking, the expression 'undefined term' is nonsense -- i.e. an undefined combination of words. But in geometry, it is a jargon expression. (And that really is the end of this matter. More or less.)

Expecting [to find] a pattern of meaning

A philosophical problem has the form: "I don't know my way about". (PI § 123)

If we enter a woods from the wrong place, we may wander about lost, even forever.

Query: trace the origin of philosophy and apply it to usefulness within the field of philosophy.

[Thales and the birth of philosophy.] "If you know where you have been, it orients you to where you are now. If you know where you have come from, this tells you where you now are." Although there are contrary examples, with respect to entering the ancient city of language (with its unplanned and unpredictable streets) from the well-laid out (by "town planning") suburbs (PI § 18) -- even if all you see is that things have changed (i.e. the nature of the rules of the game), this is already useful to you: "I will need to find a new way [a new method] for finding my way about." This is what Wittgenstein saw, that the game of chess has the grammar of the suburbs whereas a word like 'game' has the grammar of an ancient city.

Query: give examples of essence.

The likely place, because they exist by planning, to find essential- or common-nature definitions is in "the suburbs" of language, not in the ancient city, e.g. in "the suburbs" of the natural sciences, botany, chemistry, for example. [As to the search engine as a mis-directory: No, the query does not ask for the tasks of examples in logic of language: "artificial intelligence", so artificial as to be unintelligence.]


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