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Grammatical Investigations

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Context: In Wittgenstein's jargon, 'logic' often means 'semantic grammar', i.e. language's rules of sense and nonsense; logic is the study of language meaning, not of language form (syntax). That is the background of all these pages, namely "logic of language". (Philosophy asks questions, but it does not answer them once and for all; nonetheless these are early drafts.) Words that follow "Query" are search strings (found in my site's Internet logs) to which I have responded.

Time as a possible Form of life

Note: this supplements the discussions "forms of life" and Philosophy of Time.

Query: what is the philosophy behind the word 'time'?

But according to himself, the way we use the word 'time' shows you a concept [i.e. rules for using a word] 'time', not a theory of time (Z § 223). There is no "philosophy behind the word time".

But is that always correct? For example, the form of expression estar muerto originally did show you a "theory" -- i.e. a religious picture. It belongs to Medieval Spain, "when they thought they were all going to resurrect", and therefore that death was a temporary state, like life (estar vivo; if these states were permanent states the infinitive ser would be used). But the present speakers of the Spanish language need know nothing of that; to the unbeliever, just as to the believer, the correct form of expression, namely, estar muerto, is required by a textbook rule of grammar, which, like all such grammatical rules, is simply a custom to be followed. A word's etymology may or may not be reflected in its current usage.

Noticing the Absence of a Concept

Query: does primitive man feel the need of counting?

Do I feel the need of any concepts [that are] not already within my horizon [i.e. which I do not now possess]? None that I can think of. Are there many useful concepts yet to be invented? It would certainly be surprising if there were not! Will those who come to take those new concepts for granted judge them to be as indispensable as we judge the concept 'counting' to be. Cf. the concept 'division of time' in the next query.

Acquiring a new concept - Learning to keep track of time

Query: how does time make man more human in philosophy?

Note: this continues the discussion Sense of Time in primitive society.

"Time means nothing to us," Gustave suddenly said one evening.... "One of the new things Dr. Schweitzer taught us had to do with time," Gustave explained. "In our daily life in the village, before he came, time did not play an important role. Sure, we rose with the sun and we knew it was time to sleep when darkness came. We knew the time for a girl to marry and how many moons would pass until the baby was born; we knew how far we could paddle in one day and how long a hippo could stay at the bottom of the river before it had to come up for air, but time as such did not enter our mind. To us, days came and went in an endless line and before we knew how, years had gone by. But still we did not think of the passing of time.

"Dr. Schweitzer gave us a strange treasure, the ability to keep track of time. From him we learned that each day is divided into hours and that work fits into these time slots. He told us that if you are able to finish a task within a set time limit, you have achieved something. It was like a revelation to us, this new knowing about time. It was as if our lives stretched out and we became aware of the past, the present, and the future. Something about life and death and eternity dawned upon us.... As long as I live, I will be thankful to Dr. Schweitzer for the learning about time." (Louise Jilek-Aall, Working with Dr. Schweitzer [in 1961] (1990), p. 134-135)

Dr. Jilek-Aall says that she wrote in her dairy what Gustave told her. "To recapture his moving story as close to its originality as he told it in his halting French, I rewrote it freely in the English language, but kept the first person narrative." (ibid. p. 136) Maybe her point in doing this was that English was not her first language either, but she herself does not explain why she did.

"My material is far away from me"

Note: this supplements Wittgenstein's Religion - What "manner of man" was he? The following quotations are from Rush Rhees' "Postscript" in Recollections of Wittgenstein (1984). They are all from World War One (1914), apparently in Rhees' own translation.

Now I should have the chance to be a decent human being, for I'm standing eye to eye with death. (p. 194)

Perhaps the nearness of death will bring light into my life. God enlighten me. (ibid.)

I've had time and quiet enough for working. But nothing stirs me. My material is far away from me. It is only death the gives life its meaning. (p. 195)

It is especially easy to lose oneself if one wants to make oneself available [schenken will] to other people. (p. 196)

Being "redeemed from sin" (CV p. 33) -- i.e. from continuing in wrong-doing -- was what Wittgenstein wanted: "to be a decent human being". However, what does Wittgenstein mean by "make oneself available to other people"? For is that not what Christians do? Can a Christian put ambitions -- e.g. to write a book ("my material"), to be "decent", "enlightened" -- before love of neighbor -- even or especially if one's neighbor is a "swine" (in the well-deserved judgment of this world)? But the Gospel has "to love thy neighbor as oneself", not more than oneself: if relations with one's neighbor only lead one into wrong-doing, then one must withdraw from one's neighbor. Was that what Wittgenstein did?

How can you know what their problems were, or what they had to do about them?

To that might be added: "in order to remain on their feet". The last comes from Hermine Wittgenstein's "My Brother Ludwig" (in Recollections, tr. Michael Clark, p. 4).

He said, "You remind me of somebody who is looking out through a closed window and cannot explain to himself the strange movements of a passer-by. He cannot tell what sort of storm is raging out there or that this person might only be managing with difficulty to stay on his feet."

Rhees gives the date of composition as "spring of 1945" (p. ix, Preface). L.W. said this to his sister when he returned to Vienna after World War One, about his choosing to become "an elementary schoolteacher out in the country" (p. 4).

The other parts of the quotation also come from Wittgenstein. The first he said to Drury and the second he wrote in one of his notebooks (the miscellaneous remarks now collected under the unhappy title Culture and Value).

How can you know what their problems were [cf. Recollections p. 116 -- The text is not as I thought I remembered it however -- "Now that is the sort of question that teaches people to be stupid. How could a Cambridge undergraduate ... possibly know ..."] or what they had to do about them, in order to go on living. [Cf. CV p. 49, from 1946: "In former times people went into monasteries. Were they stupid or insensitive people? -- Well, if people like that found they needed to take such measures in order to be able to go on living, the problem cannot be an easy one!"]

In the form I remembered them, these quotations concern Wittgenstein's "internal and external reasons" for taking a course of action [Aus inneren und äusseren Gründen (McGuinness, Young Ludwig, Chapter 7)] -- that is, that the [external] circumstances of someone's life may prevent him from achieving the internal [state of mind] he needs [or desires], and then he may feel that he needs to radically change those [external] circumstances (as indeed Wittgenstein often did).]

So I can now combine those three quotes into: "How can you know what their problems were, or what they had to do about them in order to remain on their feet?" That is, of course, a question to ask ourselves if we are tempted to judge another human being. (Using an inappropriate yardstick) Someone says --

"No one has the right to judge anyone else. No one. No one knows what anyone else suffers or what that person needs to do about it. No one but God alone."

Now, what is the logical status of that remark -- i.e. what is its grammar? It does not appear to be a proposition of fact, although it has that form. Is it an ethical injunction (precept, command) then -- is its "logical form-philosophical grammar": 'Don't judge others!'?

"No one knows ..." What would it be like to know? What this proposition says is that we would not accept anything as "knowing want anyone else suffers". That is, it is a way of looking at things rather than a question of true or false. It is also an example of what is called a "deeply held conviction".

What do we mean by 'conviction'? Is any opinion/belief unshakeable? (The assumptions of dialectic.) It would be strange if none were, if A were not absolutely ethically wrong (I want to compare this to "Nothing is possible prior to that ..." For example, let A = cruelty). "This is the very model of an unshakeable view. If this can be shaken, then nothing whatever stands firm." -- But does that "can" express logical necessity? A is used to define B; therefore A must -- i.e. cannot but logically -- stand firm?

Suicide is the rejection of God, the ultimate rejection of pain, of suffering. "We move within the midst of a great mystery: the mystery of pain." And of pain, there are many, many kinds, despair, for example.

The Gospel in Brief (1883)

What I remembered as "the man with the book" (in Wittgenstein's Religion) comes from Recollections p. 3: "The soldiers always referred to him as "the one with the Gospel", because he always carried with him Tolstoy's edition of the Gospels."

Soon after the completion of [Anna Karenina (1877)] Tolstoy began to develop his characteristic views of religion and its application to individual and social life. He believes that the Sermon on the Mount literally interpreted is the supreme law of the Christian life and he lays special stress on the precept, "Resist not evil".... In 1901 he was formally excommunicated by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and in a reply to the edict of excommunication he clearly enunciated his religious and theological views. These include the denial of the Trinity, of the deity of Jesus and his vicarious atonement, of orthodox conceptions of the future world, of every kind of sacramentalism and similar dogmas and are substantially identical with those of modern spiritual Unitarianism. (Encyclopedia Americana 1954 vol. 26, p. 676, "Tolstoy" [1828-1910])

There is a later discussion of Tolstoy and death, not a discussion apropos of Wittgenstein's notion of standing face to face with death as a means to becoming a decent human being, but of Tolstoy's view that "All men are mortal" should make the meaning of life clear to man.

Character and Truth

Note: there is a later discussion of the topic of character and philosophy. The background of Wittgenstein's ideas is "the groundlessness of belief", although I would say that the Socratic response is that philosophy must test even the foundations: it must distinguish between and between ("superstition" -- e.g. the refusal to test statements of fact that can be tested for truth or falsity -- "as a way of life" will not pass). We can't just say: reasons must (logically) come to an end (PI § 485), and therefore anything goes.

When Wittgenstein talks to Drury, it seems that all that concerns Wittgenstein is the [ethical] character of a thinker, that is, the character of the man rather than the truth of the man's thoughts [except it seems in the case of Socrates (Recollections p. 115-116)]. Because Wittgenstein does not seem in the least to believe in Truth, and consequently all that matters to him is character. Maybe the search for the truth, the way a man undertakes it, the way he lives his life, the seriousness with which he lives, says something important about the man's character. But there is no Truth to be searched for, according to Wittgenstein, according to Wittgenstein's view of things. So it seems to me [as well] that his own character was more important to him than his work in philosophy [except in so far as his work in philosophy was an expression of his [ethical] character]. So it seems to me.

"Truth -- what is truth?"

For Wittgenstein, there is no Truth, but only "forms of life". And therefore all that is important, truly important, is a human being's ethical serious, and that was all he wanted to know about the man: was he an ethically serious human being? His philosophy itself was secondary. What matters is to philosophize "with courage" (CV p. 35, 52, etc. [but I do not know what Wittgenstein means by the word 'courage']). But philosophy as such, or any other form of thought, is unimportant, because it is merely the expression of one form of life or another. [Philosophy, however, actually is a mistaken form of life, according to Wittgenstein, nothing more than conceptual mess, an illness of the understanding that man needs to be cured of. An intellectually healthy man does not think philosophically, or about philosophy, it follows from that.]

... but I, for my part, wouldn't dare to criticize a man such as Calvin must have been.... What else could Calvin, believing as he did, have done ... (Recollections p. 166-167, from 1949)

As to whether what Calvin believed was true or rational or just, as to whether he tyrannized over the people of Geneva, imposing his own absurd doctrines on them -- that was not important.

Russell paraphrased Wittgenstein as saying about the young Norbert Wiener: "Wiener good at mathematics? Then mathematics must be no good!" (Clark, Life of Bertrand Russell (1976), p. 216)

What is truth in philosophy?

As if to say that in my ignorance I am imagining that in philosophy we are seeking the truth -- trying to respond to the Delphic command "Know thyself" (Plato: "we are discussing no small matter, but how to live"), whereas what I should be seeking is my "redemption", something which has nothing to do with philosophy (but which is essentially irrational, as is anything that depends on "the gift of God's grace"). As if to say: Philosophy is merely more or less compelling ways of looking at things; which particular philosophy (or ideology) a man holds to is simply a matter of chance. "Every way of thinking is all right as long as it isn't stupid," Wittgenstein wrote to Sraffa in 1935. Well but, many ways of thinking are philosophically stupid! precisely at their thoughtless foundations.

Wittgenstein was indeed, as Russell said of him, "a very singular man", a friend of logic and an enemy of philosophy.

The concept -- i.e. rules for using a word of our language -- 'truth', just as the concept 'knowledge', belongs to the community, not to the individual. But what is truth in philosophy? Conscientiousness. It is Socratic cross-questioning taken as far as we can on the day of our discussion, and turned to again the next day. Truth in philosophy is "the unexamined life" (Plato, Apology 37e-38), both speculative and ethical.

... I think I see quite clearly what Schopenhauer got out of his philosophy ... I seem to see to the bottom very easily. (Recollections p. 158, from Autumn 1948)

That is a judgment about Schopenhauer's thought (It is not "deep" [as are Kant, Berkeley, and Parmenides in Plato, according to Wittgenstein]), but it is also a judgment of Schopenhauer's character ("... he never searches his conscience" (CV p. 36).

Wittgenstein deprecates Rhees' translation of the Philosophical Investigations from the German to English, but quickly adds that Rhees himself is an excellent man [He also tells Malcolm that Rhees "is an excellent man & has a real talent for philosophy" (Memoir 2e, Letter no. 8)], and he makes Rhees one of his literary executors despite that limitation.

S____ is the most religious man I have ever met. I would see nothing wrong in it if he became a Roman Catholic priest ... (Recollections p. 164)

Being a good or a bad philosopher did not matter, only whether you were a good man or not (unless your bad philosophizing was a reflection of your bad character).

Herillus of Carthage

In the OCD 2e (1970), in the entry for Herillus of Carthage (Diog. L. calls him a "heterodox Stoic" (vii, 167)) is found:

He seems to have treated knowledge as the supreme end, the life of moral virtue as a subordinate end ..., and to have added that the subordinate end differs in detail for different men according to their circumstances ...

Wittgenstein's view seems to have been just the opposite. What we call 'knowledge' is always knowledge of the truth (That is of course a grammatical remark). But if truth is always relative to some frame of reference -- i.e. if the words 'know' and 'true' are tools whose use varies from form-of-life to form-of-life (as is illustrated in the Fable of The Born-Blind-People), then the search for absolute knowledge, and consequently the very notion "Truth", is idle. But if that is so, then isn't Herillus' view of the worth of knowledge a delusion?

But well, as Plato says in his Gorgias (460a, 490b), "Stop one moment!", "Hold there a moment!" Surely it is knowledge -- and absolute knowledge at that -- that all truth is only truth relative to some frame of reference or other (Goethe)! Or is that not a statement of fact? Actually it belongs instead to the definition of the word 'truth', and thus like all grammatical propositions is not falsifiable. The expression 'absolute truth' is simply an undefined combination of words. But saying that all knowledge is relative to a frame of reference is very different from saying that there is no knowledge at all. Of course, it is possible to doubt everything -- however, it is not logically possible to doubt everything at the same time: because rational doubt requires grounds for doubt. The investigation of anything in doubt must proceed from something that is not in doubt. (But these are all grammatical remarks, all reminders of sense and nonsense.) And you cannot say that just any old frame of reference is just as useful as any other. For a frame of reference is a standard of measurement, and so, if e.g. a frame's smallest unit of measurement is a meter stick, then anything smaller than a meter is invisible -- and therefore does not exist, if to be is to be perceptible -- within that frame of reference [or, system of measurement].

Concepts like fisherman's nets

Query: Wittgenstein, net of language.
Query: language is a net, meaning.

I think, but I don't know, that query alludes to the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus [6.341 ff., tr. Ogden] picture of a net, as in fish net, that different sized (possibly, shaped) meshes will catch different fishes; the fishes are "facts" that are caught in the net of our senses or in the nets of our various frames of reference. That is a metaphor-simile-comparison, i.e. not is but is like: language can be compared to a net in such-and-such specific way. (The the logic of comparison, and this is important: that in just what way A is like B is shown, for a comparison may be true or false in its aptness.)

But what is the intent of Wittgenstein's comparison? I think to take notice of the fact that there is more than one frame of reference, and that apparently every fact is relative to some frame or other (Goethe), and that not every frame catches every fact.

But this I don't know -- Is our language itself such a frame of reference? For instance, if there is no word for something, are we blind to it? And, conversely, do words sometimes make us see things that are not there? (Most assuredly they sometimes do the latter: "Give us those words, however, and we seem able to grab hold of ghosts".)

[There is another short response to the query "Wittgenstein, net over language".]

The most important point is: we can discuss all these questions in philosophy; we can examine the particular case, and give reasons for our choices. [Can philosophy disagree with Herillus? Not if, as Socrates thought, virtue is knowledge. But that is a separate argument.] Again, to say that truth [knowledge] is relative to a point of view is not to say that there is no truth [knowledge], nor that all points of view are philosophically sound. And thus I question the following statement of Wittgenstein's.

If anyone should think he has solved the problem of life ... there was a time when this "solution" had not been discovered; but it must have been possible to live then too ... And it is the same for us in logic too. If there were a "solution to the problems of logic (philosophy)" we should only have to caution ourselves that there was a time when they had not been solved (and then too it must have been possible to live and think) -- (CV (1998 rev. ed.) [MS 108 207: 29.6.1930]; CV (1980) p. 4)

What does Wittgenstein mean -- "must have"? There is no "must have" about it. The primitive Africans that Albert Schweitzer found in those days lived in the grip of terrible superstitions; they did not "know how to live and think" [I would not for anything be willing to go back to my condition of mind as it was before my fifty-third birthday]. They were slaves to their ignorance, not merely people with a different [human beings who participate in a different] "form of life" from our own, which is what they "must" have been according to Wittgenstein's view. Or, in other words, obviously burning witches is also a form of life -- but is that all philosophy has to say about it? ["... a picture which is at the root of all our thinking is to be respected and not treated as a superstition." (CV p. 83)]

Or would you be willing to go back to the old way of thinking, to the pre-logic of language chaos [mental hell, really] (vagueness and confusion)? Doubtless (although there is no "matter of course" about this; nothing need happen) someday, someone will invent a better logic than Wittgenstein's, one that will be of more use to philosophy (i.e. that will not make "the riddle of existence" nonsense or nonsense by any other name); but unless or until then, I will be always grateful for Wittgenstein's resolving so many fundamentally perplexing problems in logic of language.

A "strange man"

It is remarkable how hard we find it to believe something that we do not see the truth of for ourselves. When, for instance, I hear the expression of admiration for Shakespeare ... It takes the authority of a Milton really to convince me. I take it for granted that he was incorruptible. (CV p. 48 [MS 131 46: 15.8.1946])

Wittgenstein's thought amounts to this: "The accused is obviously guilty, for Mr. N.N., who is, I believe, incorruptible, has said so. Therefore, even though I cannot see the truth of his testimony for myself, as a member of the jury I must vote to condemn the accused." Whatever the criterion for literature being worthy of admiration, it certainly isn't the judgment of an authority, whether of incorruptible character or not. You might as well say "I dreamed last night that Aristotle approved of my work in philosophy, and therefore I shall continue with it." -- We don't call a philosopher's work good on the basis of the pronouncement of some authority or other ("Russell says it's correct, so it must be; Russell says it's incorrect, so it must be." Although I do not doubt that Russell was in some ways incorruptible -- in his judgment of a work of mathematical logic, for example). It doesn't work that way: there is no place for authority in philosophy -- nor in literary criticism. One just must rely on one's own reason (and conscientiousness) -- the alternative is "an eternal nonage". Wittgenstein was in many things irrational; cf. his remark to Drury about John Calvin (Recollections p. 166). I think again and again of Mrs. Piozzi referring to Samuel Johnson's biographer Boswell as "that strange man".

Quests, questions, and "Questioning everything"

Query: meaning of the word 'mission'.

I did not think of this before, did I -- Socrates' mission (or, quest [cf. question]), and Schweitzer's mission-hospital ("For years I had been giving myself out in words .... this new form of activity I could not represent to myself as talking about the religion of love, but only as an actual putting it into practice. (My Life and Thought, tr. Campion))? I treated 'mission' in the later case as if it were a name-of-object rather than a word with a meaning that had been expanded to apply to a place as well as the deed or purpose behind it.

Query: what does to question everything mean?

Exactly. What does it mean? (Are the words 'question everything!' a slogan to be thoughtlessly uttered, rather like declaring oneself to be an independent, free-thinker, although one is not.) I think: To always look for grounds for doubting the truth of an assertion; to try to be skeptical about everything one reads or hears -- especially, about every received belief (everything taken-for-granted, everything "sacred"). To always ask: Is it true, is it justified? This is not an easy habit to develop. That is what you must remember.

And the even greater difficulty is to put your questioning everything all the way down at the foundations of the belief -- and not to take those foundations themselves for granted, which is what most human beings do (cf. "communities of shared ideas"). For instance, was Osama bin Ladin an evil man? -- Why, don't you think he was sincere? Was General Curtis LeMay, who directed the fire-bombing of Japan in which 900,000 civilians were killed as well as later the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and who told Robert S. McNamara that if the U.S. did not win the war, the two of them would be tried as war criminals -- was General LeMay an evil man, or was he a good man? I.e. how does one decide who is and who is not an evil man -- which criterion/a does the philosopher use? If a man is truly sincere in his beliefs and if his life shows a unity of word and deed, then what will you fault him with? With being mistaken in his fundamental beliefs? Before you call anyone else a monster, look in your mirror first, for you too have foundational beliefs that guide your life. (If you can only see things (look at things) one way, from one point of view, then you cannot question everything.) (Cf. Everyman is a prisoner of his own thought-world.)

Geometry - why can't we draw a point?

Query: does geometry need new axioms?

Perhaps, if we wanted it to do different work than the work that we now do with it (measuring the height of pyramids e.g.). That picture: geometry as a tool, useful for some purposes, but perhaps not for others; that is as opposed to the picture of geometry as being "without the need for verification by experience" truth. (Hilbert's "betweenness axioms" were intended to make explicit what was implicit in geometric proofs, not to invent new axioms to replace old ones. The only case of "new axioms" I know of was the choice to discard Euclid's parallel axiom. (But all this is: As if I knew what I were talking about!))

One heap of sand plus one heap of sand equals one heap of sand. Indeed any number of heaps of sand equals one heap of sand. The size of the heap changes, but the number does not [change]. 1 + 1 = 2 , but not when we are talking about adding heaps of sand together. This is partly a matter of physics, partly a matter of convention (i.e. of how we define the word 'heap of sand'; as to physics: is the way we measure sand entirely arbitrary? Why don't we count grain by grain -- what role would that play in our life?). Mathematics, however, is entirely a matter of convention, as this example shows; it cannot (We do not permit it) to come into conflict with experience (physics).

Query: geometry points have no ...?

An inappropriate question is like an inappropriate [or, unsuitable] form of expression (PI § 339)): it bars the way to the solution of the problem. There is, we might say, a prior question to the query's only-apparent question (to which the answer required at school is "... have no dimension"). An only-apparent answer might, however, be (although it is simply a grammatical remark): "... have no substance" ['no' as in 'none whatever of any kind whatever, visible or invisible, tangible or intangible' -- what part of 'no' don't you understand!] -- i.e. 'point' in geometry does not have the grammar name-of-object (That is not its part of speech). You might even go so far as to say that the word 'point' in geometry is not a noun; it is instead a demonstrative pronoun (like the pointing-out word 'this').

The only reason to bring these pictures forward is to loosen the grip of the received, traditional picture: namely, "all words are names, and the meaning of a name is the thing the name stands for". But from the point of view of grammar (as the word 'grammar' is defined by Wittgenstein for his logic of language), not even all nouns are names. (That is the "prior question" alluded to above: is 'geometric point' a name?)

Query: geometry, why can't we draw a point?

Why can't you draw a gryphon? You can draw a geometric point, e.g. an X on a treasure map. But that 'X' only indicates a location. Why can't you draw a the (i.e. the definite article 'the') or a this (i.e. the demonstrative pronoun 'this')? That is also why you cannot draw a geometric point; because 'geometric point' is not the name of an object (It is neither a proper nor a common name), not the name of an object of any kind whatsoever. You can draw imaginary objects (gryphons, unicorns e.g.), but a geometric point is not an imaginary -- or "ideal" (Frege) -- object [i.e. that is not the grammar of the word 'point' in geometry; for its grammar, see the query directly above].

Query: Socrates' wisdom, I do not think I know what I do not know.
Query: Know thyself, the unexamined life is not worth living.

The two commands are the same command. And the summary is exactly correct. However, as to the following two queries ...

Query: contradictions, Socrates says I know that I do not know.
Query: Socrates I know that I know nothing.
Query: why is Socrates' claim puzzling, not know and know?
Query: how can Socrates both know and not know things?

"Behold the sower went forth to sow. And whilst he soweth some fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate them up." (Matthew 13.3-4)

Young minds should not be distracted with straw-man conundrums. For this is a straw-man, a conundrum that is not there (See Socratic ignorance). "We are discussing no small matter, but how to live our life", and none of us has time to waste self-mystifying ourselves, wondering through ignorance, "Now what does this mean?" as if we might draw the answer out of thin air. This is an advanced [although elementary] topic in logic of language; it is not a topic for young adults, who, because life now calls them to become ethical human beings, have no time for the eristic of professors for whom philosophy amounts to no more than sophistic games.

Query: psychology, I can't name my feelings.

Sensation-words (That part of speech). The trouble is that, they cannot only be your feelings: the grammar of sensation-words must be held in common. And that is, I think, why (But does this "because" relate to a cause?) we have so few: e.g. shooting pain, dull ache, numb, itching, etc. An account according to Wittgenstein, I think. (But the language of feeling includes also emotion-words and disposition-words.)

What Socratic ignorance is Not

Query: Socrates, the Republic, I know that I do not know.

For an explanation of Socrates' meaning, see Plato's Apology 21a-d. However, after the earliest dialogs, Socrates becomes entirely a literary figure -- i.e. entirely Plato's own invention. The words "As you know, I myself know nothing" (cf. Republic 337e) become disingenuous in his -- i.e. Plato's -- mouth, because Plato thinks that he himself has gone far beyond the historical Socrates, that he has answered many questions and now knows many things. Or so it has seemed to me. ["Socratic irony" and the historical Socrates.]

Query: according to Socrates - as reported by Plato - in what feeling does philosophy begin?

But Plato does not report the views of Socrates; he is not writing history [doing historiography]. Plato's Socrates is a literary invention [Plato's creation]. Many of the ideas in the dialogs are Plato's own, "although he puts everything into the mouth of Socrates" (Diog. L. ii, 45). But this is important, that on Plato's account philosophy begins in wonder = perplexity, not in the wonder = awe (Theaetetus 155c-d). And it would be difficult to hold that "in being puzzled" is not where it also begins for Plato's Socrates (with the riddle of Delphi of the Apology), although need it begin there for everyone? (I don't know why the query classifies 'perplexity' as a feeling- or psychological-word.)

Query: does Socrates know himself?

In a sense yes; in which sense? As I have defined "Know Thyself!" But in another sense: of course not; no man knows himself -- how could he? In Albert Schweiter's words: "All we know is that there is one thing -- to be alive. And another state: not being alive." "Whatever way we look at it, existence [life, the world] will remain to us a riddle." Why do you think so many human beings are religious (No, I'm not talking about superstition) -- because they are gooses? Existence is profoundly, fundamentally, and irremediably puzzling.

Query: life is a riddle without answer.

That is one way of looking at life, although not the only way, apparently. But if 'riddle without a solution' is a nonsense combination of words, then it cannot convey a meaning. So does it? What meaning? And remember, the conclusion comes at the end of an investigation, not at its beginning: Is the riddle without an answer?

Query: Socrates attempts to explain how this cannot be true because the foundation of philosophy is that he knows nothing and is aware he knows nothing.

That is not Socratic ignorance; that is the pose of Platonic ignorance. And how can the query be correct: how can that be the "foundation of philosophy"? The conclusion of an argument comes at its end, not at its beginning; and the ignorance of Socrates has to be demonstrated. And Socrates does demonstrate it, because Socrates has a criterion of 'knowing': "Can I give an account of what I know to others?" If I cannot explain [put clearly and compellingly into words] what I know, then I do not know it, but only delude myself that I do. That criterion is the foundation of his philosophy -- the "I must begin with .... Nothing is possible prior to that. I can't give it a foundation." (PG i § 81, p. 126-7). If Socrates cannot even say what he means by 'know' (i.e. distinguish between knowledge and ignorance), then what is he seeking from those he questions? 'What do you know?' is a meaningless combination of words if 'know' is undefined.

As to the query, I would say that if that is what some professional philosophers mean by 'Socratic ignorance', then they are talking about something worthless, a literary device Plato devised for his dialogs, something of no philosophical interest.

So I am as it were defending the honor of my own picture of Socrates, but because my picture [image, figure] is in many ways consistent with W.K.C. Guthrie's portrait of Socrates, it is not my picture alone; we cannot deduce, however, from this agreement that our held-in-common picture is "only the historical Socrates (rescued from the post-Socratic Plato)".

Query: is Socrates correct to assume that all pious acts have a common element that makes them instances of piety?

In the Euthyphro, does he assume that? He does not say what [which] standard he is looking for, only that he is looking for a standard; a "common element" or common nature or essence is only one type of standard.

Because I misremember many things, I recalled Socrates asking Euthyphro not for "the form of holiness" but for "the ideal of holiness" (6d-e). And hence, I reflected thus: A standard is itself an ideal. There is no to reason to take 'ideal' to mean 'pattern' (as in Guthrie's translation). Indeed, an ideal is not a pattern; an ideal is a paradigm (model). And that is what a standard is. (Indeed, in the Euthyphro it is a frame of reference.) But maybe I am now "quibbling over words".

Is the word 'theory' an important word?

Note: Earlier I wrote that the importance we attach to the word 'fact' is the importance we attach to the words 'truth' and 'to know', but should we also attach importance to the word 'theory'? (There are later remarks about the words 'theory' and 'concept'.)

Query: criticism against Wittgenstein's game theory.

A theory of reality, of how things really are (i.e. metaphysics) vs. a model of comparison (Wittgenstein's principles, of what kind are they?). The naive expectation, fostered by our customs (i.e. way of life and thought), is an answer to the question "What is x?" rather than "How is the word 'x' used in the language?" If Wittgenstein has a "theory of language games", the question is: in which sense of 'theory' or which kind of theory?

Query: what is Euthyphro's first theory about what all cases of piety have in common?

Again, is that this dialog's question? The word 'theory' ... Drury says that what distinguishes a scientific theory from metaphysics is that a scientific theory is falsifiable (by anomalies). However, e.g. neither the geocentric nor the heliocentric theory is falsifiable, yet we call them [classify them as] science not metaphysics.

Suppose we ask, is there a general (or, essential) definition of the word 'theory' -- i.e. do [all] theories have a common nature? What would that be? Generally, a 'theory' is an attempt to account for ["explain"] all the data in a self-consistent way.

But do we not call everything that meets that criteron a 'theory', an 'hypothesis' (Drury uses those words interchangeably)? E.g. Schweitzer speaks of "scientific" or "critical" or "historical" theology, by which he means historiography, as opposed to dogmatic (or, divine) theology. Historians look for a rationalist account, and they test that account by rational-empirical standards: So-and-so offers an hypothesis: does that hypothesis best account for all the data? But don't divine theologians also offer hypotheses to account for all the data of sacred texts -- i.e. does the subject matter determine whether an account is a theory or not?

Is Schweitzer wrong to use the word 'theory' or 'hypothesis' -- i.e. do historians invent theories? But, on the other hand, one might say that their theories come closer to meeting Drury's criterion for being scientific than the theories of the natural scientists -- because historians are forever refuting each others' explanations, falsifying them by showing their inadequacy to account for ("explain") the historical data.

However, it is not so clear what the word 'objective' is to mean when applied to the work of anthropological historians. "The earliest gods must have been weather gods; they were thought of as living on the mountains (as did the Olympians e.g.) because thunder and lightening seemed to come from there." [But did not people pasture their cattle in the mountains during the summer? They met no weather-making gods there.] Are we going to make no distinction between a scientific theory and "mythologizing" (wild speculation)? Drury calls Hegel's accoutring for the fossil record a theory, although I would call it a metaphysical picture. (But, well, is a metaphysical picture, then, not a theory?)

Are there exceptions to this general rule (or, definition)? What we can ask is if the meaning of a word can be so general as to be a not very useful tool (which is what our concepts are -- tools). How much does classifying something a theory make clearer? {The class of all theories} cf. {The class of all words} From the point of view of parts of speech, the second category is not very useful. (I wonder if there is really any good reason to be concerned about how widely the word 'theory' is applied?)

Query: Wittgenstein, theory of beauty.

But a query like that makes me think: Yes, the word (the sign, or, physical aspect of language) 'theory' really does matter. Because Wittgenstein did not have a "theory of beauty" if -- as is usually meant in philosophical discussions -- by 'theory' is meant a metaphysical non-hypothesis (a myth, an unverifiable "picture") about "what beauty is" or "what beauty really is". (On the other hand, someone might say that Wittgenstein did have a "theory of beauty" because he did give an account of how we use the word 'beauty' [cf. his account of how we use the word 'game'] ... although he gave no such account; according to him, the word 'beauty' is of little interest to the philosophy of aesthetics.) So I will continue to avoid using the word 'theory' in philosophy at all (and react whenever it appears there).

Query: Plato's theory of language.
Query: do we need to know a definition of a word in order to understand its meaning?

What are you calling 'definition'? if you mean a Socratic definition, then clearly [apparently?] not; if you mean no type of definition at all, then what do you mean by the word 'understand'? what are you calling undefined language's 'meaning'? [Plato's Cratylus or "On Correctness of Names", if that is the "theory of language" the query seeks.]

Query: Plato's theory of absolute equality.

No concept seems more fluid than 'theory' -- what would it mean in this query? Because in Plato's Phaedo (or "On the Soul") it appears to be a premiss that there are such things as absolute bigness which no one has ever seen, something taken as granted (as indeed it is granted by Socrates' companions in the discussion), if I recall aright.

Query: Jastrow's duck-rabbit, what does it mean if you see a duck? Ludwig Wittgenstein, duck or rabbit theory.

"Is the duck-rabbit image really a duck or really a rabbit?" "What does it mean if you see the rabbit first?" (cf. "What does it mean when someone questions everything?"). Of course, 'theory' needn't mean Wittgenstein as the psychological magician who persuades you to accept the "meaning" his "community of ideas" sees but cannot tell you how to verify; sometimes 'meaning' = 'implication': "If you see the duck, it means that you resent your younger sister" (Of course, the "meaning" it might have for an eye doctor is a different question: it might tell the doctor something about the lens of your eye, for example). For sometimes by 'theory' people simply mean: 'study [of]'. This query might mean either. (As always, remember: there are many meanings of 'meaning'; there is no defining common-nature, so far as I can see.)

Query: is time real or psychological?

What are examples of things we call psychological rather than real? We do speak of delusions in abnormal psychology. However, are there cases that we don't classify as illness which we nonetheless call psychological, meaning "only in your head"? I think there is when we speak of the "sense of time", as in e.g. "Time passes quickly when you're having fun!" That is an example of time "measured subjectively". So we might say that we have two concepts here, 'subjective time' and 'objective time', and, if it pleased us, we might call the first "psychological" and the second "real", and say that time is neither exclusively the one nor the other -- because the meaning of the word 'time' is given when the method by which time is measured is given.

Throwing big, ill-defined words up into the air -- makes nothing clearer. The word 'psychological', for example. There was, in Classical times, a game with dice for composing music. It's as if there were also such a game for composing philosophy (played with "thought dice" of course). The product of the second game is not even bad language (as the first game produced bad music), but mere nonsense. The suffixes '-ism' and '-ology' often, all too often, contribute more obscurity than clarity to thought.

Query: different words for the number three.

Although it is correct that "One plus two equals three" -- or in other words [language, symbolism, notation] that 1 + 2 = 3 or that 5 - 2 = 3, you cannot say '1 + 2' = '3' as if '1 + 2' were another word [a different word] for '3', as if those symbols were synonyms -- i.e. could be used interchangeably ... could you? Natural language versus mathematics/Mathematical Language.

... the objection that if 2 x 2 were really the same as 4, then this proposition would say no more than a = a.

So Wittgenstein wrote on 6 September 1914 (Notebooks 1914-1916). We may explain that this way: we learn to use the expression '2 x 2' differently from the expression '3 + 1' -- i.e. we explain their meanings differently (cf. PI § 560). And their meaning is not that they equal 4, despite its sometimes being possible to substitute one for the others.

Query: God set ethics versus human set ethics.

As if human beings had not invented God, the concept 'God', and God's commandments. What God commands is not Ethics; Ethics is rational -- i.e. a matter of reason, not of obedience to any authority, including the authority of man-made laws held to be beyond the test of reason. The religious view of life, on the other hand, is expressed by Sophocles' Antigone: ".... Thy writ, O King, hath not such potence as will overweigh the laws of God .... What though man rage, I must obey that law ...." (tr. Robinson). But again, it is not as if human beings had not invented the gods -- i.e. the concept 'gods' (rules for using a word, a word which they had likewise invented, as a tool for making reality clearer to themselves, but which they have often used as a tool as it were to self-mystify themselves instead) -- or that religious convictions were or had to be the result of reasoning (as a conclusion must come at the end of an investigation, mot be a "foregone conclusion").

Socrates and Apollo's riddle

Note: There is another and a bit different discussion of this topic at Socrates' response to Apollo's riddle, but there are also many other remarks about this topic scattered throughout these pages of logic of language studies.

Query: how does Socrates discover the true meaning of the Delphic oracle?

He puts Apollo's words to the test, as Plato explains in his Apology. This is related to Socrates definition of 'to know something', which is: 'to be able to give an account of what you know to others'. So if a man claimed to know something (i.e. to be wise in some way), then he could -- according to the meaning of 'know' Socrates chose [selected] to use -- explain [describe] what he knew and defend his claim to know against Socrates' questioning. In a word, 'to know' is 'to be able to tell' (If you cannot tell, then you do not know). But when Socrates questioned the men who were said to be wise, he found that they could not tell [give him an account of what they claimed to know], and therefore he concluded that they do not know. (Note: that it is part of what Socrates means by 'know' that what you know be actually put to the test.) In sum, what Socrates did was to discover the god's meaning by seeking to verify the proposition 'Socrates, the most wise among men'.

Note, however, that Socrates does not discover "the true meaning" -- i.e. he does not find the "true" solution to the riddle posed by the god. What he does is to set [select, decide upon] a criterion for what will count as a solution to the riddle -- a criterion, not the only possible criterion. As it happens, this criterion allows him to determine a solution, to give a meaning for 'Of all men, Socrates most wise' that makes that proposition true (because, of course, Apollo would not tell a falsehood). The solution is this: that Socrates is only the most wise in a negative way: he knows that he does not know; whereas other men are not aware of their own ignorance, but think they know what they do not know. Socrates decides that what the god "must" have meant was that Socrates is wisest because, unlike other men, he recognizes when [where] he is ignorant. Was that what the god meant? There is no way to know. Because even if someone visited Delphi and asked him, his oracle would only answer with another riddle. Therefore there is no "true meaning" to discover. And Socrates' solution is by no means either the obvious or the only possible one. But it is a solution of genius.

Here would be an actually philosophical assignment for students-- i.e. one that could not be plagiarized [copied] from some scholar or other, but would have to be thought about for oneself -- namely: What would an alternative solution to the oracle's riddle be, that is, one different from Socrates' own? (In other words, what other meanings might be given to the combination of words 'Of all men, Socrates is the most wise'?)

Note also that, because Socrates set a criterion, a test, for whether someone knows something or not, one cannot say to him, "You say that you know that you don't know such-and-such things, Socrates, but maybe you just don't know that you know them."

We do of course sometimes use the word 'know' that way: "See, you knew the way to my house. You did remember -- you just thought you had forgotten." But that is not the way Socrates used that word -- at least not the Socrates of Xenophon and of Plato's Apology. However, the later Plato decides that "what knowledge is" is unclear or unknown, and offers various "theories" about "what knowledge is" -- i.e. he does not simply try to describe how we actually use the word 'knowledge', but instead he puts forth theses about what knowledge "really" is -- as he does e.g. in his Meno. Plato rejects Socrates' criterion of 'knowing' as "being able to give an account of it to others" in his Theaetetus (201c ff.), where he muddles up the concepts 'belief' and 'knowledge' and wanders into a Platonic maze without exit.

In Apollo's Temple at Delphi

Query: what two words did Socrates say to his students?

We can I think find justification for this query in Xenophon's Memorabiliaiv, 2, 24-25, where Socrates, in effect, tells Euthydemus: Know thyself. And also in Phaedrus 230a, although there Socrates applies the words "know thyself" to himself rather than to his companion. (Socrates and know thyself, further meaning.)

The grammars of 'soul' and 'God'

Note: this supplements the short grammatical investigation What is "spirit"?

Suppose it were suggested that we compare the grammar of the word 'soul' (or 'spirit' or 'ghost') to the grammar of the word 'pain' in this respect: that the soul is "not a something, but not a nothing either" (PI § 304). Or suppose it were suggested that when we say "God is not a body" what we mean is that "We have only rejected the grammar that tries to force itself on us here" (ibid.).

Would such comparisons -- if they are at all applicable -- contribute more clarity or more obscurity? Do they not still present a false picture -- that is, is not the picture of an object "of some kind" (who knows what kind) still hovering about here with the word 'something' in the comparison? But, instead, the soul and God are "nothings" -- and that of course is a grammatical remark, and it is a true account. The word 'soul', like the word 'mind', is not the name of anything -- no, not even of a phenomenon. (And much less (i.e. "less than nothing") is 'God' the name of a phenomenon, nor, maybe, likely to be mistaken for one.)

"... not a something, but not a nothing either". The problem with this form of expression is that it suggests you are creating something in between "something" and "nothing", a sort of shadow-world in which there would be things that were neither somethings nor nothings either. cf. Aristotle's criticism of Anaxagoras when the latter says that things were neither A nor NOT-A, as if there was somewhere in between (Metaphysics" 1012a 25-27).

But to understand Wittgenstein correctly, to see what he is saying aright, is to see that he is only making a grammatical remark -- and absolutely nothing more. He is not making an, as it were, ontological assertion.

On the other hand, although it is true that the grammar of the word 'soul' (as of the word 'God') is not that of the part of speech name-of-object, there is the topic here, not of the grammar of that word -- but of the "picture of the soul" which religion (and Plato, maybe by way of religion -- i.e. religious pictures) has conjured up. (When Greek artists wished to depict that, they drew a miniature man with wings hovering around a tomb.)

Not that we should so readily grant that "the picture is there" (PI § 424), however, because is it there -- is there any such picture? Because by the word 'soul' in our picture do we mean "something" separable from the body -- or rather from a body [cf. Stanley and the horse he asks, "Is that you, Ollie?"]? In creating a picture of the soul, we divorce the word 'soul' (as we also do the word 'mind'), from its original home in our language, in order to construct a picture of a ghost-like something inhabiting a body or perhaps, so it is said, not even needing a body to exist. (Of course what we are never told is what relation this picture is supposed to have to reality. The picture is not of course an hypothesis, a verifiable proposition.)

The word 'God' is not the name of a phenomenon, of any type. In the case of God, you cannot say "What difference could be greater?" as you can say with pain: that no difference could be greater than the difference between pain and its absence (PI § 304). In the case of the word 'soul', you might want to point to a living body versus a corpse and say that there could be no greater difference. And indeed, but it does not follow from this that the word 'soul' is the name of a foreign "something" which animates a body.

Wittgenstein: "The human body is the best picture of the human soul." The question is: what would an alternative picture be? What would it look like? Wittgenstein derives this picture from our usage of the word 'soul'; however, that picture is not an account of how we use that word (i.e. of its grammar).

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