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Philosophical Doom

And so what is logic of language -- or rather, what am I calling 'logic of language' -- and why is it important to philosophy? Philosophy is discourse of reason, i.e. a thoroughgoingly rational use of language by the natural light of reason alone, in logic, ethics, or metaphysics, and by 'logic of language' I mean 'an objective distinction between language with meaning and mere noise (nonsense)'. Because if philosophical discourse can only seem to have meaning, it can have no meaning (PI § 258).


[Note: words that follow "Query:" are Internet searches that were directed or misdirected this site's way. And they stretch out.]

"Will the line stretch out until the crack of doom?"

Logical form = Logical meaning

Query: "is nothing something?" Which branch of philosophy is this?

It could be either logic (of language) -- or metaphysics, if one presumes that the word 'nothing' is a name (i.e. that its part of speech is name-of-object, regardless of just what kind of object). "Nothing as a Platonic Form." But Plato says in the Sophist (257b) that by 'that which is not' we mean only 'something that is different from what exists' not 'that which does not exist' or "nothing".

Thus despite TLP 4.0031, Plato not Russell invented "logical form". Although "logical meaning" would be the more apt name: the form of expression that makes the meaning clear. Russell's (Theory of Descriptions) 'There is no x such that x is both y and z' isn't really about syntax but about meaning: 'The yz doesn't exist' means ...

Or, rather, "really" means, because the notion that the sentence 'x doesn't exist' implies that x has a shadow existence -- because if x had no existence at all, then how could we say that it doesn't exist? (The picture of language meaning behind that notion: Words are names and the meaning of a name is the thing the name stands for, and thus the meaning of the word 'x' must be something named 'x', and so x must somehow exist or it would be meaningless to say that it did not.) And so there must be shadowy "square circles" because otherwise we could not deny that square circles exist.

"So that even for elves not to exist, they must in some sense exist." And they do in some sense exist -- they exist in language, i.e. there is a concept 'elf' (Here 'concept' = 'rules for using a word'). That is the existence of elves: language; and it belongs to the grammar of the word 'elf' that elves do not exist. (Wittgenstein: "... he can omit to teach them the word 'fairy'" (Z § 413). For fairies only exist or not exist if language exists? Well, Cats cannot wonder whether there are fairies in the forest. Fairies only exist or not exist if a concept 'fairy' exists. In contrast, whether or not a cat is conceptualized, neither a dog nor a man can avoid tripping over one if a cat crosses their path.)

Regardless that there is nothing so absurd but some philosopher hasn't said it (Cicero in Pascal, Pensées vi, 363), and absurd it indeed is, all that 'There are no square circles' means is that the combination of words 'square circle' is a combination of words that is not normally used in our language (That is what 'undefined', 'nonsense', and 'meaningless' mean), despite the words 'square' and 'circle' having normal uses in our language -- what else would it mean? Imagining contrariwise is metaphysics (in Wittgenstein's sense of 'metaphysics is conceptual confusion (in philosophy)') as is to imagine that the words 'nothing' and 'nonexistent' must name a kind of existence.

A philosopher says: "Look at things this way!" (CV p. 61)

Wittgenstein's way was to describe the connection between grammar and sense and nonsense (BB p. 65), where by 'grammar' he means much more than syntax (which is not a sound guide to meaning, but allows the formation of all sorts of nonsense; indeed look at the query itself: 'Is nothing something?'), but use in the language ("meaning").

But what a philosopher has learned is difficult to learn, and learning is built step by step on its foundation. There is no royal road to understanding philosophy.

Eternal nonsense

Our Antaean stupidity in philosophy -- every time we touch language our confusion regains its strength ... its strangle-hold on us. (Wittgenstein says to just be silent about the deepest philosophical problems -- i.e. the eternal questions ("the riddle") -- (because they are not problems at all [cf. TLP 4.003]) -- as if not talking about this "nonsense" were the solution (Death would be an equivalent solution). That is the difference between Wittgenstein and Heracles: the latter solves the problem; the former does not.)

Conceptions, ideas, views

Query: philosophy according to different views.

Well, didn't Waismann call his essay "How I see philosophy"? and isn't seeing a view? And so when I wrote about "Three Conceptions of Philosophy" by 'conception' I meant 'views about'. And so by 'concept' it seems that I do not mean solely 'rules for using a word' but also '[a] conception [of something]' = '[a] view [of something]'. And this is important because, as Wittgenstein wrote, "the word 'concept' is too vague by far" (RFM vii § 45, p. 412): as we normally use ["utter"] the word 'concept' it is unclear just what we mean by it, because its meanings are as varied as the meanings of the word 'theory', and therefore we have to specify which meaning we mean when we use that word.

Query: method of inquiry in philosophy that supports questioning everything.

By setting a standard for knowing anything in philosophy, Socrates makes testing all claims to know ("questioning everything") the fundamental principle of philosophy; that standard is the "why" of the Socratic method: question in order to accept true propositions (theses, hypotheses) or refute false ones. (In contrast: Wittgenstein and Socrates: logic and metaphysics; logic and ethics.)

A Cartesian inconvenience and a Circle that is not

Descartes' method follows a different standard for knowing from Socrates' method ("clear and distinct ideas"), but it also demands questioning everything and rejecting anything that can be doubted -- until that becomes "inconvenient" (Bacon), and then a benevolent God, who permits Descartes to know the truth, is postulated rather than a malevolent God, an evil deceiver who does not.

Akin to Parmenides' One is the word-picture, which is also an example of grammar stripping: "God is a circle the circumference (i.e. limit) of which is nowhere and the center of which is everywhere". But that is not what we mean by the word 'circle'. And that proposition is not metaphorical (because it cannot be rewritten non-metaphorically) (LE/Notes p. 14).

Aristotle's "unmoved Mover": Begin with the rule 'Everything that is moved is moved by something else', but then one thing is not -- i.e. Francis Bacon's criticism: when the rule becomes inconvenient it is dropped. But if you do that, don't you create nonsense language, "mere sound without meaning"?

The everyday concept 'infinity'

By 'the infinite' -- 'the infinite' does not name a place, but a progression rule (n+1 ... indefinitely [without limit]). How far to the last house in the village? "There is no last house" -- i.e. the combination of word's 'last house' is undefined in the context of this village; cf. "finite but unlimited"


Stupidity and Philosophy

Query: when people write they become dumb. Socrates thought a few scrolls would make people stupid.

Writing as if one were wise when one is not, so that what one writes says no more than a dumb man does, namely nothing. Writing oneself and reading what others have written produces "men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom" (Phaedrus 274c-275b). (Socratic ignorance in contrast to "conceited" or presumptuous ignorance.)

Query: man is only wise when he doesn't know what he is saying.

I take "doesn't know what he is saying" to mean: when he isn't thinking about what he says (and so what he is saying appears wise to him), for if he questioned himself he would doubt whether he knows whether the proposition he is discussing is sense or nonsense, true or false or unknown or unknowable.

Query: wisefull argument spoken by philosophy.

Man is only wise when he doesn't think he knows what he doesn't know (Plato, Apology 23a-b). That is his only wisdom, according to Plato's Socrates.

Query: Greek philosopher. Knowing how stupid you are.

Or discovering it. Which is why I wrote that "Throughout these pages there are old stupid remarks that need to be replaced with newer, possibly just as stupid remarks, that at present I don't think are stupid". By nature philosophy seems to be an unending cross-questioning, but nonetheless there is such a thing as philosophical stupidity, and most of what I initially write is just that.

But that's not what Socrates was talking about, unless 'stupid' = 'thinking you know what you don't know'. Maybe it was what Plato was talking about: the "agreed to assumptions" of his Protagoras, because what are those assumptions if not our thinking we know what we don't know.

There are differences between what Wittgenstein meant by 'stupid' when he wrote to Sraffa, what Socrates could have meant, and the "stupidity" Plato alludes to, namely that philosophy is dialectic (dialog: discourse of reason with one's companions or with oneself alone) and that the limit of dialectic is what we don't see to ask or say today but may tomorrow -- overthrowing or discarding everything of today.

Query: what stupid thing did Socrates do?

In his days before philosophy he presumed that there were men who were wiser than he was (Apology 21c) -- i.e. he thought he knew what he did not know (which is Socratic stupidity in contrast to Socratic ignorance = wisdom) -- as he discovered when he actually questioned men who were said to be wise and found that they were not (ibid. 21c-d).

The stupid thing was to assume that all men were as philosophically modest (meek = self-knowing) as Socrates himself was in their claims to knowing things most worth knowing -- rather than presumptuous, arrogant, over-reaching (themselves), as most of us are.

In Plato's story, Socrates assumed that all men hold themselves to the standard he set for himself, not thinking themselves wise when they are not. "All men seek the good" (Aristotle says) -- but only if they don't assume that they already possess it. And with respect to having a wise view of life, most men do assume that.

Query: stupid things Socrates said.

Everything he said was stupid according to Voltaire, which was (1) because of Socrates' religion, and (2) because Socrates was spoken well of by those Voltaire despised. As if for the latter reason Socrates ought to be despised. Contrast the professors with philosophy itself (Plato, Euthydemus 307a-c").

I wouldn't like to think that anything I have written will have turned anyone away from Socrates, that anyone would hold my sad self against Socrates, or against Wittgenstein or Kant.

I used to have statements about this on my site.

... although Wittgenstein should not be blamed for these pages, I don't think they will be understood without first understanding his "logic of language" (Wittgenstein's expression as my jargon).

I am not, much less would like to be, a "professional philosopher" (professor, sophist), but nonetheless neither Socrates nor Wittgenstein should be in any way blamed for what I am in any way.

Query: Socrates, stupidity.

Ignorance is not stupidity, but not knowing that you are ignorant, i.e. thinking you know what you don't know, is. And that condition is akin to madness, and most certainly is not following the Delphic inscription "Know thyself".

Learned and Unlearned stupidity

Query: there are no stupid questions.

I don't know, but there are many stupid answers, of which I have written double-reams. But also, we are most often done in by the questions we don't think to ask.

Query: fear studying philosophy.

When one doesn't question (or is not allowed to question) what one doesn't understand, or when one accepts an answer before one is given an answer that one understands, that is what makes one stupid. Kant wanted in philosophy "to heal the wounded understanding" and these wounds begin at school ... although only partly if as Wittgenstein says our language itself makes us all stupid leading us up its false garden path.

Fear comes from not knowing that nonsense -- is nonsense, because one believes there is something deep and "hard to understand" as the meaning of its unreadable or even readable sentences. School teaches us to be stupid by telling us to accept all manner of foolishness on authority, as for example this: "We don't define the undefined terms, but a geometric point is a location in space of zero dimensions" (a real definition of an abstract object). Like Heracles I cleansed the stable of Philosophy of Geometry (not with water of course but with logic of language), but only to have the servants of tradition and rote learning cart all the manure back inside.

[Aside: can words be defined by taking away some or all of the rules of grammar that direct their normal use in the language ("grammar stripping"), as e.g. with 'God' and the circle metaphor or 'geometric line' or even 'imperceptible hippopotamus'? Is this question important only for the philosophical understanding of things as e.g. for the Philosophy of Maths? I ask you.]

The query may also allude to Callicles in Plato's Gorgias 486b-c: fear that studying philosophy will make one socially stupid, impractical and defenseless in the conduct of one's public life: "What wisdom is there in an art like that!" Callicles says.


Logic, Syntax, and Meaning

In Wittgenstein's two philosophies, first logic = syntax, but later logic = meaning.

In Wittgenstein's later work

Nonsense -- i.e. meaningless sounds or marks on paper -- isn't deep. Syntax isn't a standard of sense and nonsense: What looks in order on the surface may be nonsense, as syntax allows both 'How many sheep in a flock?' and 'How many flock in a sheep?' (Plato discovered not so much logical form as logical meaning. The distinction Wittgenstein makes between surface and depth grammar is the distinction between syntax and "the semantic".)

In Wittgenstein later work, logic = grammar -- (Note: That is the conclusion of Wittgenstein's investigation, not its assumption, and not an arbitrarily assigned meaning (definition) 'logic' = 'grammar') -- principally the grammar of meaning, not of syntax. (Wittgenstein's inclusion of "rules of meaning" belongs to a revised concept 'grammar' and is Wittgenstein's jargon.)

Related discussions:

In Wittgenstein's earlier work

Maybe but not surely in Wittgenstein's TLP ("Logical-philosophical Treatise"), logic = correct syntax. A proposition (according to that book, the essence of language) has the form "This is how things stand". The words of the proposition are names that one-to-one correspond to objects in the world ("The meaning of a name is the thing the name stands in for"). And the names must be in the same relationship to each other as the corresponding objects in the world are to each other: a proposition is a picture-diagram of a fact (A proposition is a statement of fact).

Thus if there is a book on the table, the corresponding proposition is 'There is a book on the table', not 'There is a table on the book'. And because 'There is a book on the table' is the correct form (syntax) of the proposition (i.e. the correct order of the words = names of which the proposition is composed), it is the proposition 's meaning.

When words are called meaningless, it is not their meaning that is meaningless. (PI § 500)

Query: grammar correct, but meaning nonsensical.

The rules of syntax allow nonsense to be created -- to ask both 'How many days in a week?' and 'How many weeks in a day?' -- often disguised nonsense (e.g. 'What is the location of the mind?' and 'Geometric points are one dimensional') which logic-philosophy has to show to be outright nonsense (PI § 464).

Someone might use an expression like 'a nonsensical meaning' to mean 'an undefined combination of words -- i.e. one that does not have a use in our language -- although the individual words [signs] that are combined do', as with the example 'There is a round square'.

But as we normally use the word 'nonsensical' it is equivalent in meaning to the word 'meaningless', and 'meaningless meaning' is itself a form of expression "whose grammar (syntax: adjective + noun) is correct but whose meaning is nonsensical" -- i.e. the combination of words 'meaningless meaning' is meaningless -- because it has no 'meaning' = 'use in the language'.

On the other hand (maybe). As noted, "There are many meanings of 'meaning', not just the meaning Wittgenstein selected in order to make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense in the context of philosophy." For example there is the TLP's meaning of 'meaning' where nonsense can have meaning, and therefore where the form of expression 'but that meaning is nonsensical' has a use in the language. And that book's distinction between "what can be stated in factual propositions" and "what cannot be stated in factual propositions but can express itself in other language" is objective. Or partly so, because the trouble is that if "what cannot be stated in factual propositions" is sometimes nonsense with meaning -- how nonsense with meaning is distinguished from nonsense without meaning (i.e. absolute nonsense) is not explained by the TLP's author. How do you know whether a ladder has rungs to climb on or not (TLP 6.54)?

If I move my chair to have a better view through the window, I will certainly have thought but I needn't have thought in words; and what did I think in then? Nothing (cf. PI § 101), i.e. syntax allows that question but it does not give it a meaning. ("Language meaning in the absence of meaning")

Our natural language's syntax is semantically dysfunctional. It is meaning-blind (or semantics-blind).

Query: could value be the essence of reality?

And syntax allows for the formation of that question-sign, too -- but is that all this is, namely misleading analogy? As if Kant had said "the moral law within and without", i.e. the starry night sky as "value". -- What might someone mean by that?

Would value be an alternative to water (Thales), atoms and the void (Leucippus and Democritus), the four elements (Empedocles), number (Pythagoras), and the other theories of the Pre-Socratic philosophers? But the question of ethics versus values is: have the values of nature any value for man? (Maybe the Stoic pantheists would assign a meaning to 'Value is the essence of reality' if they somehow identified God with value.)


"Thus it ever is that an evil deed invests itself ..."

Query: puzzling questions about Kant on good and evil.

Are 'good' and 'evil' like 'space' and 'time', mere categories of the mind? Then good and evil are no more or less real than space and time are real -- but how real are the categories of the mind? They are real if Kant has identified them correctly, but because, ex hypothesi, it is impossible to perceive anything independently of those categories ["percepts without innate concepts are blind"], their relationship to reality "outside" the mind is unknowable [So little so that Fichte said there is no "outside"] ... If space and time, good and evil, belong to the frame of reference, they cannot at the same time be things in the picture that is framed. If a grid or net is laid over an image, the grid lines aren't elements of the image.

There is this to be said for them in any case, that the words 'space' and 'time' aren't common names. Unhappily, the word 'object', which might be added to them, is.

The original sin, the common name

"As long as no one asks me ..." (Augustine) As long as philosophy does not question, there is no problem. But when philosophy asks, the problem appears and refuses to go away. "You invite him to sit down, and he puts his feet on the table."

Query: why you ought to be a philosopher and study virtue.

The allusion is to Plato's Euthydemus, first to 275a, then to Plato's own exhortation to philosophy and virtue, where he asks the question: "Since we all of us desire happiness, how can we be happy?" (278e, tr. Jowett)

Moral virtue is knowledge -- of the good. And vice is ignorance -- of the good. That is, virtue and vice are particular kinds of knowledge and ignorance; virtue is not knowledge as such, and vice is not ignorance as such.

Vanity is a vice, but is vanity ignorance? Yes, it is ignorance of the good. And if we picture vice as a cube the faces of which are the individual vices, vanity is one of those faces.

If we compare the many faces of moral virtue (or the many faces of vice) with the sides of a regular rectilinear solid figure (e.g. pyramid, cube), suggesting that the moral virtues are not an unrelated multiplicity but are conceptually interconnected (i.e. interconnected by the rules of the game or "grammar") -- is that conflation, i.e. is calling piety, justice, self-control and courage all by the name 'virtue' -- wisdom or an impoverishment? But we don't discard those concepts: we don't efface the sides of a cube by recognizing their interrelationship.

["We feel that they aren't in the same category by accident" is, I guess, a question of upbringing: we learn categories when we learn language -- and a child does not question why we use these categories to think with rather than some others. Philosophers do ask that ... but by then it's too late: the basic categories ('time', 'space', 'object') are already held fast.]

If the individual virtues are compared to the faces of a single cube, then the question arises: what is the cube itself? And I think the answer is: a name. Compare "What do all games have in common?" A name, namely 'game'. And that is what the cube is. "And do I know any more about this myself? Is it only other people I cannot tell?" (PI § 69) "If a man knows anything, he can explain what he knows to others" (Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 6, 1).


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