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Remnants of Polyphemus

These are logic of language and Socratic ignorance thoughts. [The three principles or legs of philosophy. | The four lines of thought that are the source of my philosophy.]

... and because of these interferences we have so little time to give to philosophy. (Phaedo 66c-d)

High points of this page: Thales and the essence of the moon is green cheese. Venn diagram definition of 'the historical Socrates'.

Topics on this page ...


Is Aesthetics about Values (worth)?

Query: where is the origin of the word 'axiology'?

Looking in the dictionary, the word 'axiology' derives from Greek word axios meaning "worthy". The definition offered is: "The theory of values, moral or aesthetic". But Socratic ethics is not "the study of values"; the question "Which way of life is worthy of a human being?" is not a question about values in contrast to facts.

Query: ethics and aesthetics are two branches of philosophy that deal with value.

Aesthetics: about beauty and art. Questions: What does "value or worth" have to do with aesthetics? Should aesthetics be placed in the same classification category as ethics and politics? (For that matter, what has "value or worth" to do with ethics?)


Language and Logic

Query: language is to the human being what essence is to existence.

What is the specific excellence proper to man? It is reason (or logic) or rational understanding according to the Greeks; knowing good and evil (and therefore asking what the moral good is for man) is man's defining quality according to the Jews. Small children have language, but a small child is a far cry from the essence of man. By the Socratic standard for philosophy, there is no reason without its being discourse of reason (i.e. language, thoughts that are put into words to be cross-questioned) -- but there can be values without language, although not ethics, if by 'ethics' we mean reasoned reflection about how to live our life (Greek ethics is rational). Reason and language are interbound: the use of language to reason (logic) is the excellence unique and proper to man, i.e. his essence; that is the answer to the query. (But because by 'ethics' we mean 'the question of how to live', we could also say that man's excellence is rational moral virtue.)

Query: define Wittgenstein's logos.

The Greek word logos and the English word 'logic' have various historical meanings. Because my interest is not Wittgenstein but philosophy, the subject of Wittgenstein's Logic of Language is Wittgenstein's later "logic of language" (as it is called in my jargon) only. (I have nevertheless written something about "the logic of language" of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, about the meaning of the word 'logic' in that book.)

Query: logic and language are inseparable.

But mathematical logic is a "logic without language". But "a language without logic" -- i.e. a language without rules -- would not be (in almost all examples; the grammar of the word 'beautiful' is an exception) what we call 'language'. Language and logic are inseparable, but not vice versa.


Remnants of Polyphemus, the White King, and Protagoras

Most of the notes on this page were originally dross from an earlier page, titled "Polyphemus, the White King, and Protagoras" (q.v.)

Query: who defined philosophy as I know not what?

Socrates said, "I don't know". But to say "I don't know what philosophy is" seems a quite strange thing for someone who philosophizes to say, but we often use words without being able to define them. The Socratic standard for knowing: If a man knows anything, he can explain what he knows to others (Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 6, 1). My own attempt at a definition of 'philosophy' (or philosophy).

What is the essence of the world?

Query: Plato's first question, what is the world made of?

Maybe not Plato (at least not Plato in a simple way: is the world merely a reflection of the Forms (Archetypes)? is the world, not the world of appearances but the really real world, made of Forms? consist of Forms (are the Forms its very substance?), but can we say this about Thales: I say, what is the world made of? "The moon is made of green cheese."

And so why do we take Thales seriously? Because he is the first known to have asked this question and to have sought the answer by the light of natural reason alone (and also because he was a geometer and not a goose).

The ancient Greek view of reality

What is the world's essence (das Wesen der Welt)?

Query: discuss the uses of metaphysics as a philosophy in the ancient Greek culture.

The view is that what we perceive is mere appearances, that reality is essentially hidden from perception by the senses. That is the metaphysical rather than the natural science view of things. (The ancient Greek worldview.) The effect of this view: one seeks to know what one believes oneself not to know (Plato, Meno 84c).

"There's more to reality than meets the eye. Indeed, what meets the eye isn't reality."

Query: why do they call everything everything?

"Everything" as "the world", the all-inclusive category. As in the Sophist (233e-234a), the boy does not picture the world as other than parts rather than as a whole. Maybe he is right? for maybe the notion "the world" is metaphysical (It does suggest a "causal nexus", but the world can be uniform without all events or places being interconnected).

Who are the ancients?

Query: ancient Socrates' view on wisdom: I know that I don't know anything.

If, as historians say, it is we who are the "ancients", then why seem the children so much wiser than their elders? Because (1) only the best ancient thinkers are remembered, and (2) because philosophy does not advance (Philosophy is timeless: "with the idea, now is always"): at most between antiquity and now maybe some useful tools have been invented and some false paths have been marked off, but in philosophy signposts are mere suggestions, presumptions to be cross-questioned in thought and discussion ... by each individual.

For each of individual is born a child, and each of us must seek to understand for himself when he comes to manhood. The difference between us and the ancient Greeks is that we are not in the condition of Thales and the Milesians of having to create the philosophical project of seeking to understand by the light of natural reason alone.

Note that I do not call myself older than my father because my father was born many years earlier than I was: my father is the ancient, not me.

To define the name 'Socrates'

Venn's diagrams and Russell's theory of descriptions (Who was Socrates?)

Query: Venn diagram of Sicily compared to Homer's description.

This could be done with the different accounts of Socrates -- i.e. it would show what (Plato, Xenophon, Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, Cicero, etc.) these various accounts share and don't share. For example, "knows only his own ignorance" is found in Plato, Aristotle, Diogenes Laertius, but not in Xenophon; "can give an explanation of what you know to others" is found in both Plato in Xenophon. (Cf. Wittgenstein's family resemblances diagram with lines connecting resemblances among facial features. Rather than Wittgenstein's metaphor, you could use Venn's metaphor.) Russell's theory of descriptions.

Query: can one write about what one does not know?

Plato asks how we can seek to find when we don't even know what we are looking for -- for is it not impossible to do that (Meno 80d-e)? But he answers that this though will only make us lazy. Augustine: "We must seek as though we were about to find!" (And we are not clueless; we do have an idea of which category we are searching in, for example; we are not completely disoriented.)

In a different sense, my ignorance does not seem to stop me from presenting my often uninformed conjectures as if they were things I knew ("The fallacy of the artisans"). "If I know what I'm talking about, and I may not know what I'm talking about" ought to be printed at the top of each page.


Sense and its absence

Query: why does everything have to make sense?

With respect to language, it has to make sense because we don't want to talk nonsense. This is why Wittgenstein's work, his verifiable distinction between language with meaning and sound without sense is so important. Language has to make sense because that is logic's project in philosophy.

As to the world, it has to make sense because that is the project of natural science, to seek laws of nature.

As to our life, the project of philosophy is to seek understanding by the light of natural reason and experience alone. Whether any philosopher has ever claimed to be made sense of our life? Plato no (except in myth); Hegel, yes ("the world spirit").

As to our life, does everything have to make sense (cf. "Is an unexamined life worth living?")? It certainly doesn't have to make sense to man: if it did, he could not exist, could he? A religious answer is that there is no answer; God has reserved to himself sole knowledge of the sense of life: "My thoughts are as high above your thoughts as the heavens are above the earth." An non-religious, non-answer, is that a rational answer: "There is no plan": If man cannot discern a sense in things, then there is none.

Query: why don't people know the things that are worth knowing?

The answer to the query itself would be worth knowing -- and so why don't we know it?

Two replies (1) "Who can understand the ways of God?" or (2) The unanswerable question is nonsense (because no criterion is given for answering it)?

What would it be like to know? "Who sees God sees all things" (Pope St. Gregory the Great) -- that is the picture. Whether it is called religious or philosophical really doesn't matter.

The response of logic of language presumes we are speaking the language of everyday where indeed a question without a definable answer -- when we can't even say what an answer might look like -- is nonsense (i.e. undefined language); but when placed in a religious context, does the question gain a sense -- can its answer be: because man does not share the perspective of God (the absolute perspective -- i.e. "seeing all things")?

Is Plato's metaphysical theory of learning nonsense?

Query: when we learn we recollect. Comment.

But that is not how we normally use the words 'recollect' and 'learn' (Does pointing this out in any way dissolve the "problem" (BB p. 47)?) but -- then how strange that we seem to understand Plato.

"If we use the words as we normally use them" (PI §§ 246, 116) -- is Plato's picture of learning "a metaphysical use of language"? But not as if our language embodied a theory about learning (Z § 22) and Plato had offered an alternative theory. "Your questions refer to words, so we have to talk about words" (PI § 120). These reminders are none too helpful here -- for what do they make clearer?

Plato has a speculative theory (not empirically falsifiable, but only validly or invalidly deduced from experience of the world) about what learning really is, that learning is remembering what the soul experienced before it was embodied, namely the Absolutes or Archetypes, things as they are in themselves. That is Plato's picture: is it sense or nonsense? If it isn't nonsense, then all metaphysics isn't nonsense, and then what becomes of Wittgenstein's thesis that it is (ibid. § 118)?

If knowledge is verifiable -- and it is (I mean our Socratic concept 'knowledge') -- then Plato's theory does not advance our knowledge; it is speculative only; it presumes that what is in plain view is not explained (or accounted for) by what is in plain view.

What do we understand if we understand Plato? Does he make an analogy to verifiable experience: the child learns in the classroom and later applies what he remembers of what he learned in the classroom to the world outside the classroom?

Can Wittgenstein really say anything more about this particular example than "Speculation is not what I want"? Plato doesn't seem to be confused about language, in a conceptual muddle, here. Is Plato's analogy of the cave nonsense?

Are the words "My thoughts are as high above yours as the heavens are above the earth" (Isaiah 55.9) a metaphysical use of language? "Can a goat think a man's thoughts or man the thoughts of God?" Is that metaphysics? Statement-of-fact like statements are made but there is no question of verification (nor are their speakers unaware of that limit).

"What philosophy is?"

Query: what is philosophy, both etymological and working definitions?

A 'working definition' of philosophy? Grammatical propositions (i.e. rules) versus statements of fact; a definition may be either. To grammar -- i.e. "any description of the use of language, including explanations of meaning" -- belongs the aim and limits a philosopher sets for himself (his project in philosophy), which is an assigned meaning for word 'philosophy'. In contrast, the historical meaning of 'philosophy' is a question of the historical record, which is a question of fact. (The principal 'Concepts define phenomena' applies to the subject of philosophy too -- the thing to remember when some philosopher presumes to say what philosophy "really is", Wittgenstein e.g.)

A working definition is an hypothesis. A dictionary, which is a list of reported usage definitions, does not present itself as a collection of "working hypotheses" but as a collection of facts. By 'hypothesis' we mean a statement we are testing the meaning and the truth or falsity of; in contrast are, on one side facts ("proven facts"), and on the other, idle conjecture.

What applies to all applies to none, i.e. it is nonsense (or metaphysical worldview) to say that every statement of fact is an eternal hypothesis. The word 'hypothesis' needs an antithesis if it is not to be nonsense. But this is correct: an hypothesis is a statement that is being treated as an hypothesis, a statement we are testing: A "working hypothesis" is an hypothesis we are working on.

The etymology of the word 'philosophy' is 'love [ardent pursuit] of wisdom'. In earliest times, 'wisdom' covered all the branches of learning (Plato, Phaedrus 230d), but by the time of the Greek Stoics only metaphysics, logic and ethics. The meaning of words may evolve, their etymological meaning left behind.

Query: state the etymological conception of philosophy, and show how it provides a clue to identify philosophy.

According to etymology, philosophy is the "love of wisdom", although the meaning of the Greek sophia = the English 'wisdom' is none too clear.

Query: what is the true meaning of philosophy?

How will you know when you have found what are you looking for, unless you set a criterion for knowing? You have to act, i.e. make a decision, not wander about trying to draw down an insight from the clouds or passively waiting for an answer to descend.

Which is the "true meaning of philosophy" -- an "abstract thing" or a phenomenon? an analytic truth known by pondering the concept 'philosophy'? An empirical truth (Well, philosophy isn't the study of plant life; that subject is called 'botany')? Or the more or less arbitrary choice of some philosopher, a statement of the aims and limit of his project?

Query: what is the cause and origin of philosophy?

Logically: perplexity, ignorance ("Philosophy begins in wonder"). Metaphysically or ethically: because God made man to seek Him, to seek what is higher -- man is not essentially a worldling, an animal or an eternally small child: he can lift his head.

Query: what has divided philosophy into many parts?

What are you calling 'parts'? The birth and continuing birth of philosophers has divided philosophy into many parts (That other philosophers will be born should not be taken for granted; a philosopher is an extremely rare occurrence), because each philosopher creates his own way of looking at things; each way is rational if it is philosophy, but each is different; and not all philosophers have concerned themselves with the whole of philosophy (some wrote nothing about ethics, others nothing about logic or metaphysics), and if by "parts" is meant eras e.g. ancient, Medieval, modern, contemporary, or "communities" of ideas e.g. rationalism, empiricism, essentialism, existentialism, and so on, then this is why.

Query: definition of philosophy from different eras.

Maybe Descartes' "new way of ideas" is an era in the history of philosophy -- that is, if the philosophers of an age all build their thought on the same foundation? Someone takes a particular aspect and uses it to define an era. But why just that aspect?

Query: philosophy broken into three.

Who decides where the break lines are? It was the Greek Stoics who broke philosophy down into three parts.

Query: why does philosophy have three branches?

Maybe because human beings have found it natural (if our thought-world has anything natural about it; inherited concepts shape our thinking, and so what is or isn't a natural division here seems undeterminable) to divide their questions into three parts: Questions about thinking or reasoning, Questions about what reality is, and Questions about how man should live his life.

Query: verbal or analytic propositions examples.

But you can't just say that, can you, as if the two expressions were equivalent in meaning: a verbal proposition is a public definition of a combination of words, a rule or convention; whereas an analytic proposition is supposedly a truism knowable by conceptual introspection (so to speak) alone, a magical (because it is occult, hidden in the mind, like abstracted essences) analysis -- or some such thing. What are examples of analytic truths -- just as the query requests?

Query: who defined philosophy as the rational investigation of the fundamental?

The fundamental of what? Of nature (Newton's Three Laws)? But that is physics. "The rational investigation of the foundation of things" ... But of which things? Not just of any things (Plato, Republic 475c-d). And this is why I defined 'philosophy' as 'the rational investigation of logic, ethics, and metaphysics'.

What is the query's 'fundamental' to mean? Schweitzer or his translator uses the expression "elemental (or elementary) and final". But is a distinction being made with the words 'elementary' and 'final' (or this repetition for emphasis)?

Elementary things would be the laws of logic, or Aquinas's first principles, or Descartes' innate ideas, or Kant's categories, or Wittgenstein's "I must begin with ... Nothing is possible before that. I can't give it a foundation" (PG i § 81, p. 126-127). Something like this. These are most basic, elemental or elementary, as in "there is no place further to go" (ibid. § 217)

What might be meant by 'final'? I imagine e.g. "what death is -- is there an afterlife?" (as the word 'final' suggests). What else? The final outcome, the ultimate destiny, of all existence ("Being")? With both the elementary and the final "there is no place further to go", but maybe it is possible to know the elementary (at least as axioms).

Is Metaphysics really Impossible?

... its positive doctrines seem to me trivial and its negative doctrines unfounded. (Bertrand Russell, My Philosophical Development (1959), p. 216)

Why -- or rather, can't, for the only impossibility is logical -- i.e. sense and nonsense (logically impossible = nonsense) -- someone form a theory -- regardless of how we normally use the word 'mind' -- about the mind ("mental phenomena" from various points of view), namely that the mind is an imperceptible object (spirit, ghost: the Platonic soul) -- or rather perceptible only to consciousness; it is the location thought -- is that picture nonsense?

Granted it's a purely speculative picture -- but the only question is, is it nonsense? It does not advance knowledge; it has nothing to do with knowledge (although it does tempt us to think we know what we don't know).

Metaphysics is at best logical possibility, only at worst nonsense

Not only is metaphysics not knowledge, but it has nothing to do with knowledge: it is castles in the sky, "houses of cards" (PI § 118), imaginative pictures, fantasy, thought experiments, dreams. But it is not nonsense, or not always nonsense.

Metaphysics has nothing to do with any reality except with logical possibility. It isn't self-contradictory, but that is all. The danger is always: thinking you know what you don't know, and using a creation of your own mind as a premiss in your thinking about realty (as Plato does), as e.g. the requirement "A word is a name; its meaning is the essence of the thing it names' which stands in the way of distinguishing objectively between sense and nonsense. That requirement (presumption, preconception) is a metaphysical premiss substituting itself for reality.

If the picture is not nonsense -- if it is instead a metaphysical use of language (of the word 'mind'), then metaphysics is possible (because it is not nonsense) and Russell's criticism of Wittgenstein's project in philosophy seems correct: trivial, unfounded, and pointless. (All right, now convince me otherwise, for you used to think differently about Russell's words.)

Socrates, Kant, and Berkeley

Query: Socrates said, "Curing the soul, that is the first thing."

That is the aim of philosophy. Something like this was said by Epictetus (Discourses iii, 23); what man needs to be cured of is conceited ignorance (ibid. ii, 17). Plato calls disillusionment with philosophical argument an illness in Phaedo 90e. Caring first and foremost for the soul (or one's ethical self) is Socrates' exhortation to philosophy and moral virtue (Plato, Apology 30a-b, 36c).

For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for you persons or your properties, but first and chiefly to care for the greatest improvement of the soul.... This is my teaching ... (30a-b, tr. Jowett)

Kant's expression is "to heal the wounded understanding", to be cured by philosophy not only of conceptual confusion and falsehood but also of vice. Whether anyone is ever finally cured (pace the author of the TLP) seems doubtful.

Preconceptions are self-blinding

The student of philosophy seems not less -- but more confused than other people, not because of the obscurity of things or the natural weakness of his understanding, but because of the false principles he has insisted on that might have been avoided: he raises a dust and then complains he cannot see. (George Berkeley, Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710), Introduction 1-4)

Principles which are the requirement, not the result of investigation (PI § 107) are self-blinding preconceptions.


Paradoxes and Riddles

Query: the wise man knows he is not wise.

Paradoxical forms of expression. The query is another way of saying that the wise man knows that he does not know "anything of much importance" (Plato, Apology 21d).

But for the wise man, this is not "known" as mere mouth honor -- i.e. he doesn't say 'I know I'm not wise' while believing 'But I really am wise'.

Knowledge of his own ignorance is at the wise man's heart's core; it is not, as it is with most men (e.g. me), "hypocritical ignorance" rather than Socratic ignorance.

Query: the riddle of the god Apollo, that no man is wiser than Socrates. Why is the meaning of the oracle's words a secret? What is the secret meaning of Socrates's "I know that I know nothing" paradox?

If a paradox is a riddle, is not the solution to the riddle a secret? Were it not, it would not be a riddle to solve, i.e. it would not be a riddle. Why the oracle speaks in riddles is itself a riddle though.

Query: language is said to be Polyphemus, meaning.

More like "polyphonic", i.e. equivocal and fluid rather than fixed and unambiguous, in many cases. Polyphemus milking his sheep and goats versus Polyphemus drunk. (Obviously I don't understand the query's metaphor.)

Query: when does man say he has knowledge?

"What is the criterion?" But it is rather "criteria", because we call many different things 'knowledge', as Plato says, some very different even the opposite of one another (Philebus 13e-14a: How can knowledge be one thing, but at the same time there be many branches of knowledge, some of which are unalike or even opposite to one another). An example, but only one, is the standard for knowing Socrates set for philosophy: to be able to explain what you know to others. But there are limits to putting into words what you know, e.g. how a fog horn sounds, how to wink your eye, although it can be demonstrated that you know. (The thesis that knowledge is "justified true belief" is Plato's own conceptual muddle.)

Query: to be virtuous means mastering the will and intellect.

Neither Socrates nor Aristotle said that, but if "intellect" is changed to seeking knowledge of the good and "will" to self-watchfulnessla maybe Socrates said those are what must be "mastered".

Query: forgiveness, Socrates.

If we see this in the context of Socrates and the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the merciful" = "Blessed are those who forgive". Can the good man -- the just, pious, brave, and self-controlled man -- be merciless? Does refusal to forgive harm the unforgiven (The good man harms no one)? These questions are really rhetorical tautologies, but they don't hit their target here -- which is clarity.

Query: matching word definitions.

Well, I wish this were asking about definition by synonym, but I suspect it's a school exercise: Two columns: draw lines between the words and their definitions.

Query: first two questions asked in philosophy.

In Socratic philosophy, the question is "What do you know?" and the answer is questioned for its clarity and truth. In Plato's philosophy: "Now I have learned your meaning, but whether it is true or not I have to try to learn" (Republic 339a-b). The pre-Socratics asked what the world ultimately is and answered that it was either matter or that it was form (Pythagoras).

If vice is ignorance

Query: which branches of philosophy deal with the origin of evil?

Ethics ("no small matter, but how to live") deals with man's wrong-doing; and Metaphysics (or "questions without answers", "problems without solutions") deals with natural or divine cruelty (by anthropomorphic analogy: If man did these things ...)

Query: how does Charmides define temperance?

In the dialog named for him, Charmides identifies it (sophrosyne), or wants to identify it with wisdom (knowledge). This is Plato's idea that moral virtue (self-control rather than temperance, piety, courage, justice) is one thing, not instead several things, and that to be wise is know what that one thing, namely virtue itself, is.

But how wisdom can itself be a moral virtue, I don't see, although, like knowledge, it is certainly a non-moral virtue. It makes sense to say that pursuing wisdom is a moral virtue, but it is nonsense (language without sense) to say that wisdom itself is a moral virtue.

Query: Socrates courage is knowledge.

If virtue is one rather than many, then virtue is knowledge; but if virtue is many rather than one, then the virtues are knowledge.

Query: Socrates, human excellence (areté) in everyday life.

There are limits to know thyself, to knowing how to be morally virtuous in all circumstances of our life. In general, to live the life of rational moral virtue is the good for man, but in the particular case it may be difficult to know what to do to be virtuous.

Query: Socrates' belief that immoral behavior is ignorance.

If virtue is knowledge, then the corollary is that immoral behavior = vice (the antithesis of virtue) is ignorance.

Stop and Think

Query: according to Socrates, how can one be responsible for one's action?

By seeking the good by thinking things all the way through and keeping watch over oneself. But that is taking responsibility. But how can anyone be held responsible if vice is ignorance of the good, for it doesn't follow that from seeking the good one will necessarily find it?

Query: explain virtue is identical with knowledge

But the word 'is' doesn't mean 'identical' here. The words 'moral virtue' and 'knowledge' are not equivalent in meaning (interchangeable synonyms); nor are virtue and knowledge the same category: the concepts intercept, not overlap.

Query: where did Socrates say ignorance is the root of all evil?

Per se, I don't know, but Plato's Euthydemus 281e may appear close: "Wisdom is the only good, and ignorance the only evil". But for Socrates, it is not a question of the "root" -- 'root' in the sense of 'cause' or 'source' -- Evil (vice) is not caused by ignorance -- evil is ignorance (Moral virtue -- i.e. good -- is knowledge).

Are you saying that the words 'evil' and 'ignorance' are interchangeable, that 'To do harm is evil' = (with no loss of meaning) 'To do harm is ignorance'? It is not evil to be ignorant of carpentry (unless you are a carpenter).

Query: reasons why you should seek virtue and not vanity.

Vanity is a root of vice, but then is vanity ignorance? Vanity is an impulse (instinct) to vice. Ignorance is rational: it is a mistaken choice. Impulses, instincts are irrational.

Opinion contrasted with Fact

Query: how can the principles of logic be used to distinguish between facts and opinion?

Logic is about logical possibility and necessity; facts are actual, not merely possible. Logic [= reason] contrasts with experience; the words 'reason' and 'experience' are often antitheses in philosophy.

What are we calling "the principles of logic"? The only tool logic has is grammar (in Wittgenstein's jargon) = the distinction between sense and nonsense. This distinction is not a function of form (syntax). There are no "laws of thought" that are independent of language meaning.

One way to define and distinguish between 'fact' and 'opinion' is by form of expression. The form of fact is 'Robert is a fool', while the form of opinion is 'I think Robert is a fool'. But Robert may be a fool regardless of what I think. So whether a proposition states a fact is not simply a question of someone's attitude towards it, although someone may believe (opinion) or know (fact) that Robert is a fool based on the available grounds.

Philosophy is not for the half-hearted

Logic of language is barren without examples: nothing is made clearer without imagination. Philosophy is not for the lazy-minded. (Nor for the indifferent -- philosophy is love of wisdom -- as I am to this topic.)

There are various things we call 'opinions', just as there are various things we call 'facts'. Remarks about and examples of opinions:

  1. Statements of fact where the evidence (or one's knowledge of it) is not conclusive one way or the other.
  2. Statements of advocacy, e.g. "All men are created equal" is not an hypothesis falsifiable by experience (cf. 'All men are equal before the law'), and neither is "Prayer changes things".
  3. Apparent statements of judgment ("value"), e.g. 'Loss of self-control is wrong-doing' and 'Reason is the specific excellence proper to man'.

If, that is, those are statements of opinion rather than of fact. Are they philosophical hypotheses -- i.e. theses to be put to the test in Socratic dialectic (answer and question)? Are Plato's tautologies in ethics statements of fact, e.g. 'The good man harms no one' (Republic 335d)?

Must a statement of fact be, at least in principle, verifiable by experience? Plato's tautologies are not verified that way: They could all have the form 'By definition, the good man ...'

  1. Statements that are either plausible or implausible but not provable, as e.g. "The verbal expression of pain replaces crying" (PI § 244).
  2. Counter-factual conjectures (e.g. 'If Julius Caesar had not crossed the Rubicon ...')
  3. Statements of point of view (points or frames of reference), as e.g. "I compare the various uses of language to games played according to rules."

Is philosophy merely "a matter of opinion"?: the trouble with the form of expression 'philosophical opinion'.

  1. Measurable things (facts) versus immeasurable things (opinions). Opinion versus measurement.
  2. Religion does not rest (is not founded) on opinions, and where there are no opinions there can be no error. Concept-relation, grammatical remark: error concerns truth and falsity, validity and invalidity.
  3. Opinions are debatable: "I am not of the opinion that he has a soul" (PI II, iv, p. 178).
  4. An hypothesis may be an opinion to be tested.
  5. You can't stand out in the rain and say, "I am of the opinion that it is raining." An opinion cannot be known by the person stating it to be true.

I feel like I am walking round the problem without ever entering it, like an outsider to my native language.

We could talk of a "logic of kinds of forms of expression", as indeed Wittgenstein did as one thing he meant by 'language game'.

Query: logical necessity, Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

Would we say "the kind of necessity is the kind of use of language (or language game)"? Wittgenstein: 'The only necessity is logical necessity' [6.37] -- would a physicist ever say that an empirical reality A necessarily follows from an empirical reality B? "If you put your hand in the fire ..." -- would we speak of "physical necessity"?

No, or not in philosophy. I think we want and choose to use the word 'necessity' only in a particular way, as 'logical deduction/derivation', and so we say: 'When operating with rules, there is -- i.e. can be -- necessity: truth and falsity are unconditional; but not when operating with facts: with facts anything can happen.' -- Surely that is a rule of grammar.

How fluid is the concept 'necessity'?)


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