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Remarks and Questions

... both about logic of language, about how to distinguish language with meaning (sense) from mere undefined combinations of words (nonsense). To make that distinction Wittgenstein chose a particular meaning of 'meaning'. There are of course many meanings of 'meaning', but if the definition philosophy uses does not make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense, then, in Plato's words, "what are you going to do about philosophy?" (Parmenides 135c), because then philosophy would be a mere babble of words, of "whatever seems correct, but can never be correct (or incorrect)" (cf. PI § 258).

In logic-philosophy Wittgenstein's method was to replace speculation (Z § 447) with "saying no more than we know" (BB p. 45; Z § 211), or in other words, to replace metaphysical theories with public and therefore objective statements of fact about our language (PI § 125). A metaphysical theory needn't be nonsense; it may instead be an unverifiable picture (ibid. II, vii, p. 184). But such a picture may not describe but on the contrary only stand in the way of our seeing the use of language as it is (ibid. § 305), which is all Wittgenstein sought to know: the rules (because 'logic' is 'the study of rules') in plain view.

Wittgenstein did not ask philosophy to answer such questions as Plato and Aristotle ask about death and the essence of man, about mankind's eternal questions, or Socrates' question of how we should live our life, which are questions of historical philosophy and ethics. And so, I think, there are profound limitations to Wittgenstein as a philosopher, although as a logician of language he is unsurpassed I think.

I don't know why Wittgenstein thought that because some metaphysical problems arise from such things as false grammatical analogies and false notions about introspection and the meaning of language that therefore all philosophy is nothing more than conceptual muddles.

That existence is problematical (the riddle [TLP 6.5] does exist), Wittgenstein acknowledged, in the early years, as in the later: For that is the meaning (implication) of "It [the human "language game"] is there -- like our life" (OC § 559 [554]) is "there": That there-ness is what is problematical. (The only way in which "the riddle" does not exist is in the way that a problem with no logically possible solution doesn't exist, and that is the only sense in which we can say that our life is "just there" or de trop -- i.e. it is a grammatical (i.e. about sense and nonsense; or definitions of words, not things), not an ontological (i.e. about the nature of reality), remark.)

Wittgenstein's method is to replace speculation with "saying no more than we know" (BB p. 45), and this method he applies to this riddle. The doubt I have is that man is well-served by being silent "because those who say most are as the dumb" (Augustine, quoted by Wittgenstein (Recollections p. 89)) about the riddle of life.

Part of what follows is about logic of language, but other parts are about philosophy as it has been from the beginning, from Thales use of natural reason alone to Socrates and the explicit standard Socrates set for knowing anything in philosophy.


Outline of this page ...


"To reason out the How and Why"

Man is not "a beast wanting discourse of reason", but a rational beast. That is what we mean by 'rational', namely 'having discourse of reason: being able to question myself, whether in solitary discourse or in discourse with companions, about whether I know what I think I know or if I think myself wise when I am not'.

And, further, it is because man is endowed with reason that man is free not to act from mere habit or instinct: he has a choice, a rational choice: he can "reason out the how and why" (Aristophanes, The Frogs, tr. Rogers, c. line 971), weighing reasons for, reasons against, to decide which course to choose.

Why do you keep asking the same questions? To keep hearing the same answers, but each time chipping away a bit more of the stone to reveal the bound slave Proteus beneath.

Had Abraham been Greek ...

In contrast to as our father in an eternal childhood = our father in obedience to a will not one's own, not reasoning out the how and why for oneself, but had Abraham thought as a Greek --

And it came to pass that the Lord God decided to put his creation Abraham to the test, and commanded that he kill a child. But Abraham refused to kill the child, and in this way Abraham found favor in the eyes of the Lord God.

Because the gods are fully rational, they cannot but be rationally virtuous (in all things, for the gods are without the impediments to virtue that man the rational beast suffers), the gods do not command that evil (the contrary of good) be done. ("If God would command that a child be killed, what would the devil command!" That is Plato's use of reason, his method of tautologies in ethics; Euripides' words "If gods do evil, they are not gods" was an axiom for the Greeks). "God has commanded that I kill a child, but God would not want me to do what is evil, and therefore God must want me to disobey this command. He must be putting the reason he has endowed me with to the test, to see if it is wanting." And so Abraham might reason something like that from this, as Socrates does: God has spoken, but what do his words mean?

... as Socrates was

Query: how was Socrates logical?

But the prior philosophical question is: "Was Socrates logical?" And now we owe ourselves (1) a statement of the facts, and (2) a definition of the word 'logical'.

The query may be asking about Socrates' response to Apollo's oracle at Delphi (Plato, Apology 21a-d). For when in reply to Chaerephon's question "Is anyone wiser than Socrates?" the oracle answered "No one", Socrates was perplexed and asked himself what the meaning of that answer could be. To Socrates it seemed a paradox.

The oracle had said, "Of all men living, Socrates most wise." That statement must be true, Socrates thought, because Gods do not tell falsehoods. And yet it seemed the God's statement must be false, because Socrates thought himself to be without any wisdom at all. How could the wisest man be a man without wisdom? (What do we mean by 'wisdom' -- 'knowing the answers to the eternal questions', 'knowing the meaning of man's life'? What does a 'wise' man know? Surely whatever is most important for man to know, and the wise man would know what that is.)

Thus either Socrates really is wise or ...? As it happens, Socrates reasoned that maybe he really was "wise" -- but only in a negative way, namely that Socrates did not think himself to be wise when he was not: he did not think he knew what he did not know. And apparently the meaning of Apollo's answer is that Socrates' wisdom is the only "wisdom" that man can have.

Socrates was "logical" because when he was confronted with what seemed to be "a contradiction that was true", he reasoned "out the How and Why" rather than accept the oracle's words in their obvious sense. Oracles most often spoke in riddles, Socrates knew and so he reasoned that the God's words posed a riddle, because in their obvious sense it seemed that a True statement, namely 'Socrates is not in any way wise', implies a False statement, namely 'Socrates is most wise': If Socrates is not wise, then Socrates is wise.

To be not logical would have been to say, "God says I am wisest, and therefore I am wise (as we defined 'wisdom' above) although I can't see that I am wise." That would be to treat the oracle's words as if they expressed a mystery of faith (as e.g. "God is the father who loves all his children" does for Christianity), something incomprehensible but nonetheless true. Religion isn't logical (or illogical), but philosophy is, and it is because Socrates was "logical" that he is often called "the father of philosophy" even though others (notably Thales) had much earlier tried to understand things by the natural light of reason alone.

Mysteries as oracles

As with Apollo's words to Socrates, Jesus' words that "God is the father" must be true, despite their being false plainly read. And so we may, and some theologians do, treat those words as an oracle, a riddle to which we seek an answer (Maybe we ask questions like "What does a loving father want for his child?" and reply "Surely not an eternal nonage. A father wants his child to attain full manhood, free to trust his own reason and judgment") -- an answer, just as the answer Socrates found is an answer, one answer, not the answer, not the only possible answer. (Solutions to mysteries of faith are conjecture.)

Living Contradictions ("Both the pope and the dictates of conscience are supreme")

"The children asked for bread [Luke 11.11, Matthew 7.9], and the Council gave them conundrums." (Marshall, The Bishop (1970), xxxv, p. 169. The context of the story is the Second Vatican Council and Humanae Vitae)

"Our Lord was never Delphic ... remember that when you're a bishop." (ibid. viii, p. 64)

Quite the contrary, the Lord was seldom otherwise. What does "Let him who hath ears to hear, hear!" mean if not: Think about what I am saying to you, reason out its meaning, its how and why? What else are the parables, the metaphors for what the kingdom of God is like, the commands to be perfect in ethics ("And if anyone steal thy cloak ..."), in Jesus' ethics of love ("Who is my neighbor?")? All these are oracles. The Lord does not silence reason. The only dogma -- [or world-view? or does world-view = dogma? not if 'world-view' means 'relative frame of reference', because dogma is treated as absolute, not as more or less arbitrary] -- he preaches is that man must have faith that God is the father who loves us, and that we must likewise love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourself; and all the rest of Jesus' preaching is the picturing of how we must love if we are to belong to the kingdom of God. (In the times when John the baptizer replied to the multitude [Luke 3.11], if the world they lived in really was that simple, he was not Delphic.)

"From the age of fifteen, dogma has been the fundamental principle of my religion: I know no other religion; I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion; religion, as in mere sentiment, is to me a dream and a mockery." (Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, quoted in Marshall, op. cit. xvii, p. 102)

As if that were the only possibility. And although it's true that there can be acts of love unaccompanied by sentiment (emotion), if acts of love were always without sentiment, that would not be what we mean by the word 'love'; that would be a different concept. There is nothing "mere" about the Christian sentiment of love. (Schweitzer thought that compassion is the source of ethics; I don't know: that is a proposition of biology, not logic.) Nonetheless, sentiment is not of course the whole of it.

Church Creed (religion as imposed dogma) and the Freedom of the Lord

In contrast, on the other hand, my religion such as it is ("Every man his own doctor of divinity") does not have Church creed as its foundation; indeed it was creed (Catholic and Reformed Christianity) that took the Christian religion away from me. The foundation is instead the simple yet profound world-picture that existence has a meaning and that it is a good meaning although incomprehensible (to man, and that it is absurdly pretentious of man to presume otherwise), that (by definition) God is everything good, true, and beautiful (when what is beautiful is also good and true), and that Jesus' picture of a kingdom of God ruled by love (rather than by worldly-like power) is the highest religious picture of the meaning of our life.

"The oracle of whoever" (Overhearing, but overhearing wrongly)

Query: the oracle of Sophocles and Socrates.

The discussion of metaphors for philosophy cites the Sphinx and that is the "oracle" = riddle of Sophocles' relation to Socrates. And I am guessing, because I don't know, that although Sophocles was a poet the query means "Socrates and Apollo's oracle".


Can God's thoughts be put into the words of man?

That is a metaphysical, not a grammatical question, and it seems without an answer.

Man wants to drag God down to earth, to understand His thoughts and ways in a way that is both comprehensible to man and that can judge God good. That is in his self-confident presumption the thinker within the limits of five senses over-reaches himself, trying to "play god to God", to assume the role of Satan, the accuser of God. (Theodicy: it takes no insight to see that if God were a man ...)

What do the concepts of the cat or the squirrel look like -- what are we calling, how are we defining 'concept' in their case ("thoughts without words", "pictures without words", "all without words")? And if man were asked to express his philosophical ideas, his philosophical questions, while being limited to using the concepts of a cat or a squirrel -- And if God were asked to explain His thoughts using the concepts of man. ("Can a goat think a man's thoughts?")

"Playing god to God"

Man wants to drag God down to earth, that is to say, he wants to drag God down to man's own level, to have Him speak in man's language rather than His own, to exist ["forms of life", "life forms"] within man's limits rather than His Own, to be like man rather than Himself.

Man wants to make accusations, to draw God down to himself, to man's own level of understanding, to attack Him with self-righteous accusations of cruelty, of unfitness for office, to impeach God -- to "play god to God", to put God on trial -- and replace Him with Nothing -- or to replace Him with Man ... even to hold God to blame for man's own evil-doing. And "man" is us in the time of ignorance, in the time of strawmen.

In other words, "playing god to God" amounts to -- playing god to god.

["The Idols of the Strawman", Francis Bacon might have added to his life, for all his criticism knocks down is monstrous strawmen, and "God as a working-hypothesis" (Bonhoeffer), as well as monstrous priestcraft.]

"God is love"

But yet "there is enough light for those who desire only to see" (Pascal, Pensées vii, 430). Christians believe that God has shown man what man is able to understand about God. This is why John, as I shall read these texts, has said that "no one has ever seen God" but that Jesus has shown man (John 1.18) that "God is love" (1 John 4.8); and shown what kind of love God is (John 15.12-13); and has said that God is a father who loves his child (Luke 11.11) -- none of which is at all easy to believe -- or to disbelieve.

According to Christianity all we can know about God's nature -- (Of course this is not knowledge, but faith) -- is the love that Jesus showed and spoke to us of. That God is truth [or, wisdom] and goodness is definitional [i.e. belongs to the definition of the word 'God'], not religious insight. It's contrary would not be what we mean by the word 'God': God is not evil and ignorance, an unserviceable scarecrow of a concept. But God might not be love (as the deist God is not).

"The Church is a lantern held up over the whole world," he said. (Bruce Marshall, The Fair Bride (London: Constable, 1943), xiii, p. 342)

Christ is a lantern, but there are so many places where "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness knows it not" (John 1.5), where mankind prefers other gods or no god at all to the Lord of the Cross. "The darkness has not extinguished the light" (ibid.) -- There are indeed Christians "over the whole world", even in the "catacombs" of China. Yet despite the inspiring stories of its 250 years of "hidden Christians" and Nagasaki's Catholic population's near destruction by the atomic bomb, Christians remain no more than one percent of Japan's population.

[Did the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) say it doesn't matter to salvation whether the Gospel of Our Lord is accepted or not? Even Pope Francis says no more than that "God's mercy is infinite; what is important is for each of us to obey his own conscience". And so I think Vatican II was a tremendous shock for many Catholics, especially for converts like Marshall, which he reflects in the confused Catholic characters of his post Council novels, in whose Church Jesus no longer seems "the truth, the way and the life" (John 14.16). Where once the Holy Ghost spoke clearly, there is now only the individual conscience (which might say most anything).]

"The only endowment of CHRIST'S Church comes from the Father and the Son, and is the Holy Ghost, which no man can give and no man can take away." (George W.E. Russell, Arthur Stanton: a memoir (1917), Letter of 26 May 1912, vii, p. 296; this "endowment" is in contrast to money endowments given by earthly patrons to individual churches in the Church of England)

I think the Holy Ghost is nothing less than reason itself. Can reason soften a heart? Can reason bring one to love God and others as oneself? Why not, because thought can harden the heart, and if thought can make one unloving, then why not? The Holy Ghost is wise counsel, and that counsel comes from, or at least must be affirmed by reason.

There is no "deeper significance"

"The stronger the light the more readily will fools rush into the darkness." (The Fair Bride v, p. 92)

The more obvious it is that there is no God the more man insists that there is.

There is neither a God of Nature nor a God of Ethics: neither "God as a working-hypothesis", which has become superfluous physics-wise; nor "the God the philosophers" (deist metaphysics which "no longer carries conviction"); nor the God of religious belief, all powerful and all-good, who is superfluous ethics-wise, empirical evil refuting "the Father who loves his child". Nevertheless, rather than lose God, man willingly revises the concept 'God' to make a God believable-in, even if that revision leaves nothing behind but a vague, quiet optimism, like the Cheshire cat's unvanishing smile.

"... and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition"

We say that the stance that there is no deeper significance is the rational one -- but is it (cf. materialism versus spirit-ism)? or are both stances metaphysical?

Down in the street the municipal hearse flashed by on one of its many daily journeys to the cemetery .... There were no mourners and no priest. There was no hope, no despair, no mystery. Everything was simple and clear: life meant something only because it meant nothing ... and the street stretched away into a cold, chemical, Christless world." (ibid. p. 92-93; vii, p. 137)

There is no "deeper significance" -- that is the meaning of life, that there is no mystery ("The riddle doesn't exist", not because of logic (Wittgenstein, TLP) but because of metaphysics (Marxism-Leninism, dialectical materialism in the context of the story, but to which could be added Positivism, Comte's metaphysics)), that life is "meaningless" in that sense. Everything is "simple and clear": man is born, lives, dies, is buried, and his death is no more to be mourned than last year's fallen leaves. The meaning of life is that it has no deeper meaning: everything lies on the surface and is what it seems. (Maybe that is what the story's character means by those thoughts.)

"If there is no hereafter, it's all the better for us who believe there is. The affirmative is Heaven, the negative is Hell. To be buried with the burial of an ass!!" (Arthur Stanton (1917), Letter of 1905, vii)

Or like the little donkey Pinocchio thrown into the sea. Our faith gives dignity and meaning to our life, and if it were only an illusion it would still be a priceless gift. I think that is the meaning of Father Stanton's words.

Now, words out of context. "Life means something only because it means nothing." No, I think. Life has meaning because suffering is real, because pain is real, and therefore there is compassion, empathy. Compassion gives life meaning: this love is life's "deeper significance", the love which, according to the John, Jesus' words and life identify with God ("The light shines in the darkness": it shone in Jesus and it shines still in our image of him).

"It is not by our intelligence but by our conduct that we apprehend God." (The Fair Bride vii, p. 130)

That is what compassion is -- conduct which apprehends. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4.8). And if one doesn't love, then one doesn't know that God is love. And so if one does not have compassion, one does not know life's meaning, which is what we mean by 'God'. (Cf. "In the beginning was the deed.")

[What I named 'grammar stripping' is conceptual revision, when that stripping isn't nonsense, although the concept 'God' may be so fluid as not to require revision rather than a selection.]

Ignorance of the fundamental "how and why" of existence

Query: Socratic dictum. Man, know thyself.
Query: Socrates. The greatest knowledge is of one's own ignorance. | The best is that I don't know. Plato.

There is a relationship between these queries, for the outcome of "Know thyself", Socrates found, is the discovery that man knows nothing beyond his own ignorance (Apology 23a-b). Our life is "there" (OC § 559) -- That is all we know about it.

Query: one is wise if he believes he is not.

No, only if he knows that he is not. And how will he know? Only if like Socrates he sets a criterion for knowing (selects a definition for the word 'know') and puts his wisdom to the test (according to that criterion) to see whether he knows what he thinks he knows or does not. Socratic philosophy isn't about what man believes (opinion) but about what man knows, however limited man's knowledge may prove itself to be.

Believing without seeing

In which sense are my beliefs religious rather than philosophical? In the sense that I do not call the eternal conundrums nonsense -- or in the sense that reason does not tell me whether our life has a meaning, much less that it is a good meaning, and yet I believe in both? ["Religious faith ... is a trusting" (CV p. 72, a remark from 1948)] If a way of thinking puts all religious ideas to the tests of natural reason and experience -- (These must be consonant, as for example, both reason and experience tell me that seeking the true and the good belongs to the specific excellence this is proper to man, who is not "a beast wanting discourse of reason" but a rational and therefore ethical animal (Man is not amoral, as are the beasts whose behavior is directed by mere instinct, upbringing and habit). Whether reason or only experience tells me that the good for man is love = forgiveness (for does Plato's Republic 335e imply so far?), I don't know, because I have not as yet reasoned this out) -- i.e. if a way of thinking is thoroughgoingly rational, nowhere "silencing thought" in order to submit to dogma (the common formula for which is "to give internal assent" or "to will oneself to believe", whatever that is when it's at home -- if it has a home ...), which it seems that Catholic and Reformed Christianity must do -- then is it what we normally call by the name 'religion'?

"Was hope no more than a wish that love and not the geometric gases might be the answer?" (Marshall, The Fair Bride viii, p. 143)

The "geometric gases" certainly isn't. That "answer" means there is no question to answer, and that love is the "deeper significance" that life simply does not have.

"... which reason knows not"

Of course the heart has no reasons (for either reason to know or not to know). The heart has impulses which reason has not, the profoundest of which is to love.

"I don't believe in praying to a sidereal emptiness, if that's what you mean."

"Faith is not as foolish as you seem to think, Neil. "It is the heart which sees God, not reason," Pascal said. And that's why the stupid Church is right, Neil, and you clever buggers are wrong. Try to remember that, the next time your head gets to big for your glengarry." ... For Douglas Pitcairn, Neil saw, Christ looked down every street in Edinburgh and stood knocking on the door of every tenement. (Marshall, The Black Oxen (1972) iii, 4)

How can reason comprehend existence as such? Faith does not answer the question of why there is anything rather than nothing. Man asks but cannot answer, but can only deny that the question has any meaning, saying it's merely undefined language built on misleading grammatical analogies. The Christian religion's only answer is Christ on the Cross: man is made to love, and it is only through love that God is known.

The "benefit of the doubt"

Doubt was an implicate, he had read in a wise book. The doubt about the doubt was the beginning of wisdom. An empty mechanical world could not be believed in; it could only be doubted. Faith was giving God the benefit of the doubt about the doubt. (The Fair Bride xii, p. 238-239)

Some, however, do believe in it: the atheist may be ardent in his faith in (belief-in) "an empty mechanical world". (Is atheism necessarily equivalent to belief in materialism? A Socratic agnosticism, a humble recognition of one's own ignorance ['humility' = 'knowing thyself'], is not equivalent to atheism.) An atheist may be without doubt; a materialist may be without doubt; and in need of skepticism. The man of faith in God, if he has doubt, gives the benefit of the doubt to his hope, because a "mechanical world" is "meaningless in a deeper sense" and he longs for it not to be ("But you know that's only words." -- "All my life I wanted it to be not "only words"," Kirillov replied).

Is that a very different world-picture -- i.e. frame of reference (a "community of ideas" in which questions and solutions are posed) -- from Socratic agnosticism? That will depend, I think, on what is hoped for; the Christian hopes for much -- much more than I with my remotely, very remotely Catholic Catholicism, do. For Socrates the good for man -- (living the life that is in accord with the specific excellence proper to man and to oneself as an individual man) -- is what makes life worth living ("The good is life's meaning"?) -- (even in the midst of mystery: "I know that I don't know anything of much importance" (Euthydemus 293b), Plato has Socrates say), (although the disaccordant life of ignorance and wrong-doing is not worth living), regardless of the things man doesn't and does know.

Seeing the thoughts of God

"... faith that our life has a meaning". But I don't expect I'll ever know that meaning. And why should I? For all I know that meaning is writ large as the sky, that I see it everyday but am unable to understand it. Some believe that after death that they will see God and then everything will be clear to them. But why should I imagine that I would ever be able to know or understand what God knows. I might as well imagine that I were able to swallow the sky. "For God all things are possible", but for man not all things are imaginable (logically possible). [Anthropomorphism as the limit of understanding.]

The log (plank, or beam) in man's eye

"My ways are not your ways," Isaiah has God say [55.8]. "And when Your ways are evil-doing, what then?" man replies. Playing god to God. The log in your eye (Matthew 7.3-5) and the Eye of God ... You think to remove the speck from God's eye -- do you think the log in your own eye allows you to see to remove the speck from God's eye?

Man is an extremely limited, ignorant being, yet full of pretensions to wisdom. The judgment that an event or deed is evil is very often easily made, but the relationship between those evils and God -- who will claim to know what this is? But that doesn't stop man from flinging mud at him on the cross.

[What I'd really say is that God has many spoiled brats for children, thinking themselves all grown up with their powerful intellects. Like small children, "Mommy, I can." Only we can't. We can do no more than set riddles for ourselves.]


Consciousless Consciences

On the other hand, there is the Council's "conundrum", that nothing can come between man's conscience and God, not even the pope, although at the same time Catholics are obligated to obey the pope in questions of "faith and morals" -- (although not of metaphysical or theological speculation). Can conscience silence thought or, if conscience is rational as Socrates held it to be, mustn't it question and examine all things? "Reverence for truth" (Schweitzer) is reverence for God.

"The Primacy of Conscience"

The Ten Commandments are categorical -- they leave no place for conscience. "If your conscience tells you that adultery is all right, then ..." But when Pope Paul VI said that birth control was immoral, although he spoke categorically, the bishops acted as if he had not. But if conscience can over-rule Church teaching and the pope's loosening and binding in one thing, then why not in all others? What becomes of absolute knowledge in faith and morals, the foundation of Catholicism?

To love God with thy whole heart ...

It would be hard, it would be impossible, to entirely not love this world, for in this world there is much that is true and is good, and it is by/through these that we know of God, for in this world there is much that good and true and beautiful (And that is what God is, what I mean by the word 'God'). And so we cannot call this world "the kingdom of man", in contrast to the kingdom of God, because the darkness of the rulers of power has not entirely overcome the light (John 1.5): truth and goodness remain.

But man's trouble is in distinguishing what-is-beautiful-but-also-true-and-good from what-is-beautiful-but-not-also-true-and-good. For the latter is the part of "this world and all it loves" that man must turn away from if he is to love God with his whole heart. (And so there are Dostoyevsky's "Two kinds of beauty, two kinds of love", and one of those loves is the mistaken love of this world, the one that turns away from God.)

Romanticism ("Dostoyevsky and the beautiful") as a way of thinking and life, may not be madness (Xenophon, Memorabilia iii, 9, 6), but yet it is akin to moral illness (Plato, Phaedo 90e), because it is a mistaken identification of what is good; it is ignorance-of-the-good = ignorance-in-ethics. It identifies the good with the beautiful that is not also good and true. It identifies the good with the second kind of beauty and the second kind of love.

"As if there were no God"

For God to be dead means for man to live as if there were no God. As a cat lives, for there is no sense-perceptual difference between God's existing and His not existing. And in that sense God died, in the case of man as cat, when man discarded the idea of "God as a working-hypothesis" to account for the natural phenomena that man does not, at least as yet, see a natural explanation for (Bonhoeffer). And "God is dead" when men live as if He did not exist, e.g. by calling themselves Christian while loving what is not true and good in this world instead of the kingdom of God Jesus described: God is dead because man is insincere (according to Nietzsche, or at least according to Schweitzer's view of Nietzsche).

There are countless pictures of God, as, for example, Nietzsche's own picture of the Christian God as an imposer of slave morality, a false god who man must recognize is dead in order to become the above-man he can be -- rather than the human all-too-human below-man that he is under the Christian yoke (According to Nietzsche's picture, Nietzsche would be akin to the Serpent in the Garden). But Nietzsche's picture is only one of many possible pictures of the God Jesus taught us to call "our father".

The Fallacy of the Strawmen

Pictures of God -- the concept 'God' -- exist to serve man, not man to serve a particular concept 'God', a concept man needn't have at all. Monstrous concepts, monstrous grammars, pictures of monstrous Gods, can be assembled like scarecrows in a cornfield (and I would count Nietzsche's own picture of God among these (Callicles and Plato)), but they are not serviceable: man may try to breathe life into them but they do not live. (Mouth-honor isn't the breath of life, but only a unity of life -- of thought and deed -- is.)

Collars that can strangle

No pope has ever claimed to speak infallibly with respect to a particular proclamation -- (The doctrine of infallibility, I think, simply reaffirms the Church's belief that the pope as bishop of Rome is the Apostolic descendant of Jesus' disciple Peter, to whom Jesus gave authority "to loose and to bind" (Matthew 16.18-19), and thus that there is an absolute standard of Christian truth (contra free-thinking's "every man his own divine"). And anything more said about it is theology (and all theology is speculative; an example is the theological doctrine of "Limbo"). It is the same with the dogma that the existence of God can be known by the natural light of reason, which simply reaffirms passages in the Bible's Book of Wisdom and Paul's Letter to the Romans, and anything more said (e.g. that Thomas Aquinas' "Five ways of knowing" are valid and incontestable proofs) is theology) -- nor claimed to speak for the Holy Spirit. Nor ever will. Because if "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown", no sovereign feels the weight of office more than the pope (What target could be more the aim of the devil). In any event, the claim that any particular papal pronouncement had been spoken ex cathedra would be theology, even if the pope himself made that claim.

Nonetheless, a priest is required to believe ("internal assent") that when the pope makes a pronouncement, the pope is speaking that way (ex cathedra) (cf. Marshall, The Bishop xxxxiv, p. 204); he must silence his conscience, for unlike a soldier, a priest does not even "have a moral choice" (Nuremberg Tribunal). Contrast that with Schweitzer's quotation from Paul the Apostle, "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3.17). Wittgenstein to Drury (in 1929) about becoming an Anglican priest: "I would be afraid that one day that collar would choke you" (Recollections p. 101).

The third vow, the "vow of obedience"

I cannot imagine that I would ever have taken a vow of intellectual obedience (Ethics -- 'conscience' in the Socratic, not Kantian, sense -- being reasoned reflection, is intellectual, as logic of language also certainly is) regardless of however attached I may have been to Catholic Christianity -- unless perhaps at one time I had believed that "There is a core of beliefs about the Lord that is more important than papal encyclicals and that one needn't worry oneself too much about those encyclicals anyway" -- despite that view presuming not having to preach the doctrines of those encyclicals and to hear confessions, which is a difference between the priesthood and the laity .... Actually I can't imagine that I would ever have taken that vow. I imagine Pope Pius IX (in his "Syllabus against modernism" of 1864) could have said that I have a "philosophic tendency" (as well as freedom of conscience and freedom of religion tendencies), but although Vatican II in 1962-1965 declared this formerly erring tendency to be actually the individual human conscience, overrulable by nothing, not even by St. Peter's successor, nonetheless priests are obligated to obey the pope's rulings -- or leave the church.

The atmosphere of Marshall's The Bishop seems to me claustrophobic, oppressive, like not having enough air to breathe, like never being alone and free to think your own thoughts -- thoughts which you are not even permitted to have -- more oppressive even than the military, where if not freedom of action, a man has at least freedom of thought. In The Red Danube (Vespers in Vienna) xxv, when the general says he's glad there are "no hard feelings" about a decision he has had to make against the colonel, the colonel only replies, "We're not civilians".

But I am. Philosophy has always had first place in my heart, religion second, and philosophy will always overrule authority: I must be convinced by reasons and by nothing else. Maybe my religion amounts to no more than reverence (piety), but nonetheless there is an irrational root in me, as the following note shows.

On the other hand (the "real presence")

The mysteries of faith. Some are Delphic (e.g. that God is the father), others incomprehensible (I believe -- I don't know why -- that the Last Supper was more than a last supper, more than a prefigurement Jesus gave his disciples of his crucifixion, when indeed his body and blood was to be given up on the Cross for them, but that the Lord comes even to us in some special way in the sacrament, although I haven't any idea in what way. This belief isn't belief in a creed; I can't account for it: it's just there, like my reverence for the Catholic Mass, although which I only attend at funerals. The Consecration of the Host in the Latin Rite (Hoc est Corpus Meum: "Behold the Body of Christ") isn't "hocus pocus" in my eyes. I don't know why).

[The doctrine of "transubstantiation" seems to me a strange theology (account, explanation). It is not, I think, part of my own religion. What good might come to anyone from receiving the body and blood of our Lord, I'm sure I can't imagine. But rather it is the spirit of Christ that is present in a special way (I don't know what way) in the Eucharist. I don't mean by this to deny the Real Presence, which I believe in, only to say that it seems to me that "body and blood" cannot be the right way of understanding it. On the other hand, those were the Lord's own words, and so I don't doubt that I am failing to see something here.]

But yet, despite believing that, it would be blasphemous for me to receive the Eucharist. Why is this? Because I am not a serious human being. There is something fundamentally not serious about me. For me everything is play-acting; nothing is real. There is death and only death, and it seems to make everything else unreal. I feel that I have no roots in this earth, and that nothing could give them to me.

The deafening Voice

... the Painter of the picture, the God to Whom a world had cried for two thousand years and got no answer ... It was all so huge and muddling. (Marshall, The Little Friend (1928), xvii, 5, p. 167)

I think 'painter' is more apt than 'author', for writing suggests something too definite. God is not silent. Man is deaf. The Lord speaks to us everyday of the love of God. Man "daily hears the words of Christ, but he prefers his own".

A "chosen" tautology

"It's a frightening thought, isn't it, Monsignor, that Almighty God already knows whether you or I are damned or saved?" (Marshall, The Bishop op. cit. xxxi, p. 153)

The notion of an "elect" is tautological: those who hear and obey Jesus' rule of love thereby show that they belong to the kingdom of God: there is no other way to know who they are. There is no sense in preaching to "the elect" (to those chosen for salvation) to amend their lives, to love God with their whole heart and their neighbor as themself, if God had already chosen who is to be saved.

Very much of "the Word of God" seems to me anything but that: it must all be put to the tests of natural reason and experience. A god who creates men in order to damn them is a "monstrous god", a concept 'God' that is not serviceable to man. God, Jesus told us, is our father who loves us, not a monstrous "father".

Philosophy is not a Romantic art

... and the sea seemed to have been there since the world slipped from God's Hands. (Marshall, Girl in May (1956), Epilogue)

There is no poetry in my religion. Not because I wouldn't like there to be, but because I am not at heart poetical (if that's the word I want). I know very little poetry, and none idyllic (if that's the word I want).


God, Other Minds, Time, the Logical Constants, and Geometric Points

Respectability itself she never attempted to define; it was an axiom more certain than "A point has position but no magnitude". (Marshall, This Sorry Scheme (1925), ii)

So then two axioms that she never attempted to define! And so it is with school children. "A point has position but no magnitude." The reification of a rule of grammar (PI § 36). If that rule -- (is seen as a rule of grammar, it may be comparatively harmless, although it is nonetheless a misunderstanding, if it is a rule applied to other than drawings on paper and blackboards and in the sand) -- is treated as a picture of reality (Geometry as metaphysics), it is far from harmless, the beginning of a lifetime of befuddlement -- both about the logic of our language and about "the other side of the sky", "abstract objects", the ghosts of und so weiter. And why shouldn't deification follow on reification?

If someone can believe in God with complete certainty, why not in Other Minds? (CV p. 73)

If someone can believe in geometric points, why not in God? And yet those who say they do not believe in God, do believe in geometric points.

It was profane to examine too closely the Mysteries of God. They were unintelligible, it is true ... "It's there, and that's an end of it." (Marshall, op. cit.)

Geometry as religion, a religion with its own Mysteries of Faith ("the Mysteries of Geometry"), and so why not the worship of the geometric objects ("Geometric Objects") with geometers as priests? Was Pythagoras so far from this?

The power of language to make everything look the same, which is most glaringly evident in the dictionary & which makes it possible to personify time: something no less remarkable than would have been making divinities of the logical constants. (CV p. 22)

Not to "personify" but to reify: 'time' becomes the name of an object and thus can flow like a river ... Geometric points can have position without having dimension. ("Jokes of grammar".)

[It has been many years now since I showed the way out of this grammatical muddle, but no one seems moved by it. Least of all the rote-learners: "There is nothing to think about; the answer is already known; just tell me what it is." (Tradition: teaching as imparting the received view, and education as receiving it. Static as Catholic theology had become before the Aggiornamento.)]

The Church of God was a ship on the ocean and a lamp held up in the darkness and a lake in a desert and a blazing fire on a winter's night ... The Church of God was all these things ... the universality of the Church ... the strong cords which the Lord had let down. The Church of God was holy with the holiness of trees ... which shaded men in all lands. (Marshall, To Every Man a Penny (1949), lxix, lxxi)

"Static." Yet I can't help thinking, Just how much, the many centuries of faith, the Church "threw away" at the Second Vatican Council with the doctrine of ecumenism and with the setting aside of the universal Latin Mass! It gave up its place as Christ's ark in a passing away world. [I myself have little recollection of Vatican II, except I was sorry to see the end of the Latin Mass (It was wonderful when you could enter any church in the world and hear the same Mass as at home, in contrast to today's babble of tongues -- "cacophonies of the illiturgy in the common tongue", in Marshall's view (Marx the First (1975), xx)), although I think that turning the altar around to have the priest face the congregation, making the celebration of the Eucharist like the Last Supper, is better than the old way of the high priest lifting the slaughtered lamb up to the heavens (although Marshall was opposed to this change as well). In my view the new way corresponds to the New Testament, to Jesus' gospel of the father who loves his children, demanding mercy rather than sacrifice of us. Of course all the Council's changes can be seen in various ways.]

The second fall of Rome

"Rome may be stupid and perverse; but at least she says what she means and she says it in one language to the whole world, and she acts as though the Christian economy were true. A man once told me that there were only two curses common to all nations -- sex and the Church of Rome.... Catholicism [is] like sin and mother love, something that fits in which human nature. And, like sin and mother love, it will go on.... Five hundred, a thousand years from now a priest will be standing at that altar there and going through the same ceremonies and uttering the same words that we saw and heard this morning." (Marshall, The Stooping Venus [c. 1926], viii, 2)

The effect on converts like Marshall (I imagine) was like the fall of ancient Rome, about which I wrote based on what I read, "On 24 August 410, Rome, the thousand-year-old city which until now has been thought to be eternal, falls. The fall of Rome, "the city and the world", shatters the people of this world ... It will not be long before sheep are grazing among its ruins." Nevertheless, the Church still has its flock, as something of ancient Roman civilization was preserved in the monasteries of Europe, although many, many of its churches in northern Europe and North America are now dead, museums of uncomprehended symbolism.


"... to pass from disguised nonsense to patent nonsense" (PI § 464)

Query: why knowledge is equivalent to virtue and wisdom? Platonic philosophy.

But the Socratic statement's form would be: 'Virtue [-- 'moral virtue', not simply 'virtue' = 'excellence' --] is equivalent to knowledge', not as the query has 'Knowledge is equivalent to virtue'. Knowledge of ethics, of good and evil, is virtue, but not knowledge as such: All moral virtue is knowledge, and Some knowledge is moral virtue, but Not-All knowledge is moral virtue. (Similar remarks apply to the relationship between the English words 'knowledge' and 'wisdom'.) Because some kinds of knowledge are not moral virtue, as e.g. Plato's Apology makes clear: the knowledge of an artisan of his craft is not moral virtue -- and therefore it is not necessary for Socrates to have that knowledge; it is only necessary for Socrates to have knowledge of the good for man [In this respect Socrates is everyman]: first man must seek to "care for his soul" (Apology 30a-b, 36c), meaning: first he must see to his ethical self, before concerning himself with knowing other things whilst maybe having mistaken beliefs about what the good is for man (cf. Plato, Phaedrus 229e-230a). (Knowledge of the man as such is the first half of the Socratic meaning of "Know thyself".)

What is puzzling, however, is the query's addition of the word 'equivalent' to 'Virtue is knowledge' -- what does that word add ('Virtue is equivalent to knowledge'); what is its meaning in this particular context (particular case)? Is there a difference between 'virtue' DEF.= 'knowledge', and 'virtue' is equivalent to 'knowledge'? None that I can see (Although maybe some distinction or other might be invented, it would not be our normal usages of 'DEF.=' and 'equivalent'). But both those forms of expression are verbal definitions of words -- and that is not what Socrates means by the statement 'Virtue is knowledge'; he is not defining either the word 'virtue' or the word 'knowledge'; he is making a statement about the essence of virtue as a phenomenon ("thing"). (His statement is a tautology, as the explanation of why it is true shows, but tautologies in ethics are not idle, as Plato inadvertently shows.)

Again, 'Virtue is equivalent to knowledge' vs. 'Virtue is knowledge' -- what is the difference in meaning, if there is a difference? (Cf. the proposition 'Moral virtue is ethical wisdom'.) Again, 'equivalent' vs. 'equal'? What is the difference between '3 + 4 = 7' and '7 = 7', an equation versus "The law of identity"? In maths as such we say 'Three plus four equals seven'; we don't say 'Three plus four is equivalent to seven', although we also don't say 'Three plus four is identical to seven'. (In a warehouse, we might say that a box of 7 would be equivalent to a box of 3 plus a box of 4 ... but we would also say that it would be equal, although not identical. In geometry would 'equivalent' = 'congruent'? In empirical geometry a distinction could be made by contrasting 'equivalent' with 'equal'.)

Again, 'Virtue is knowledge' ≠ 'Knowledge is virtue': those propositions are neither equal nor identical -- but are they "equivalent"? In this context (particular case) is 'equal' versus 'equivalent' a distinction without a difference? The complex proposition 'a = b but b ≠ a' is nonsense, as [maybe "as"] '3 + 4 = 7 but 7 ≠ 3 + 4' is nonsense (i.e. an undefined combination of signs: indeed that form of language is excluded from maths).

Socrates (in Xenophon) makes a statement about the relationship between knowledge and moral virtue (and vice versa), but here the word 'is' ≠ 'DEF.=' -- Socrates means only that without knowledge of what is good it is impossible to aim for the good, and that therefore in order to be ('be' ≠ 'DEF.=') morally virtuous it is necessary to have knowledge of the good. Socrates says no more than that. In other words, the query's form of expression 'Knowledge is equivalent to virtue and wisdom', even if corrected to 'Virtue is equivalent to knowledge', is either nonsense (if that proposition is merely an undefined combination of words) -- or false, i.e. a false description of the grammar of our language).

A plurality of "essences" (Points of view)

"... a curious use of the word 'define': to choose one quality of a thing as its essence, despite that not being the only choice that might be made."

And that quality's not being the things's essence, if Socratically defined, but rather a quality of some thing selected from a point of view for its usefulness to that view and designated as defining that thing.

Query: philosophy in general sense, nominal and real definitions.

The "General Store", but the goods have no one thing in common except that they are sold in that store -- and so is that their essence? Their essence from what/which point of view? Do you think things have an essence -- as defined Socratically -- in their own right (as such, in themselves), independent of man? Well, this is the question. (Plato, Aristotle and the essence of man.)

Query: how can philosophy develop knowledge and classify reasonings as correct and incorrect?

Not "How?", but "Can?", and is that philosophy's aim, to develop knowledge? or, rather, instead does philosophy aim to develop the philosopher's own understanding -- his way of looking at things, e.g. the point of view from which he sees ways to get things, not the only things (pace Wittgenstein, save PI § 108 marginal note) that might be done, and not the only way those things might be done?

In the early Plato, would "to develop knowledge" = to discover the nature of Socratic essences (Forms)?


The Second Vatican Council

"... the Established Church of Scotland may be bores, but at least they admit their ignorance and bafflement before the Mystery. They face the world bravely with their lack of knowledge. They're not a lot of bloody [Catholic] traitors holding an Ecumenical Council in a bar.

"The reason I became a Catholic wasn't that I liked incense and vestments. The reason I became a Catholic was that I believed that what the Church said was true because it had been founded by Christ. If the Pope has been wrong about birth control as half those Humpty Dumpty bishops pretend he has, then the Catholic Church has been wrong about birth control. And if the Church has been wrong about birth control what is there to prevent it having been wrong about heaven, hell and purgatory and the whole bag of tricks? In that case there is no such thing on earth as that Absolute Truth I once thought I should get a few marks for believing in." (Marshall, The Black Oxen (London: Constable, 1972) ix, 2, p. 377-378)

The character who speaks in the story has lived the life of a poor man because his wife has had many children, following the Church's teaching.

But I think the question the bishops asked was whether the papal encyclical was Catholic dogma or only theology. Was Pope Paul VI "loosing and binding" or only expressing a learned opinion. (Cf. the doctrine of limbo, which was never more than learned opinion (theology); popes may and have been wrong in their opinions.) But how to decide which it was? Marshall judged that when asked for a clear answer the bishops spoke "delphically" instead.

On the other hand, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) seems to have taken a position of religious indifferentism (Nostra Aetate: Declaration of Religious Freedom), or rather a variation of that position, that all religions are a way to God and salvation, although the Catholic faith, of course, is the best way (although that's all it is). And so the pope has common prayer gatherings not only with Protestant Christians, but with Moslems, Sikhs, Jews and Buddhists. And about atheists, Pope Francis has said that "God's mercy is infinite; what is important is for each of us to obey his own conscience"; even an atheist obeying his own conscience is not excluded from salvation it seems.

"... there's such a thing as the right to disbelieve in good conscience, expressly defined by the Second Vatican Council." (Marshall, Peter the Second (London: Constable, 1976) i, p. 14)

"... not the vacillating and befuddled Church of the bishops ... They're not the Church I was nearly flung out of my family for joining in 1923 ... Ecumenism's another name for putting water in burgundy." (The Black Oxen, ix, 1, p. 374)

"I also forgot that Newman had said that it was our duty to obey the Church's commands even when we knew that the Church's commands were wrong because Our Lord had promised that the Church's commands would soon come right again." (Marshall, One Foot in the Grave (London: Robert Hale, 1987) xviii, p. 169)

The situation of the Catholic convert, bound as Catholicism is to dogmatic belief ('faith' in the Catholic sense means 'knowledge because revealed by God'), seems to have been acute distress and disillusionment after the Second Vatican Council for those whose faith was in a Church they believed Our Lord founded, a Church which is an absolute authority (a "community of ideas" can be an authority) ... as if the Church Council were now saying that Catholicism's Jesus Christ was no longer the only "Truth", the only "Life", the only "Way".

This contrasts with a faith that is solely in the religious authority of Our Lord (as Schweitzer's letter), for on what but his authority could we accept the difficult teaching that God is a Father who loves His child (an idea Plato has not tried to demonstrate and Xenophon simply assumes to be true, as Plato has demonstrated that the good man loves his neighbor as himself). But that authority is itself founded in the compelling wisdom that the good for man is to love God with one's whole heart and one's neighbor as oneself (in the way the story of the merciful Samaritan shows us), that the kingdom of God, a kingdom ruled by love rather than by worldly power, must be man's aim.

Kinds of faith (as Forms of life)

"... is fighting for the spiritual heritage of the West."

"Spooky things, do you mean ...? I don't think I've ever understood about spooky things ..." (The Black Oxen, v, 1, p. 217)

When Wittgenstein says "I could not possibly bring myself to believe all the things that [Roman Catholics] believe" (Malcolm, Memoir, p. 60), he is not talking about a choice he could or could not make. Someone like Schweitzer (or indeed myself) can have a reasoning faith in the religious wisdom of the Lord without being "possibly able" to believe in a Church (Catholic Christianity) or in a book (Reformation Christianity).

"Spooky things" -- is this an example of concept blindness?


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