Geometry's "undefined terms", namely 'point', 'line', 'plane', might be called geometry's "contact with experience words". But that contact is not contact with reality if a circle -- 'the set of all points equidistant from a given point' -- measured on a relief map may not be visually round. ("The meaning is the method of measurement" -- but that is not how plane geometry works, which is in fact divorced from "measuring the earth"; cf. the parallel postulate.)
Philosophy and Lies
Their perceived good is what all living things seek. (To adapt the Christian metaphor of the Letter of James 3.2-9: Man's thoughts are his rudder, and those thoughts direct the man to "this world and all it loves" or to the kingdom of God.) But if a thing misperceives the good for it (Xenophon, Memorabilia iii, 9, 5) ... and misperception for man is this: to think he knows what he doesn't know (ibid. iv, 6, 1). (But is recognizing one's ignorance a remedy for ignorance?)
There is the saying "A leopard doesn't change its spots" -- but a man isn't a leopard, which is "a beast wanting discourse of reason"; he is not an irrational animal -- but instead a rational animal (Aristotle says), and therefore if man can change his thinking, he can change who he is, and thereby the direction of his life.
But before that change can happen man must stop thinking himself wise when he is not (Plato, Apology 23a-b). 'Twas modesty invented the word 'philosopher'; modesty = self-knowledge.
The Right to Change
There is no right more fundamental and human than the right to change, to amend one's life, even if that change comes only at the eleventh hour (Matthew 20.9).
[From a letter Francis Xavier wrote to the Jesuit, age sixty-three, named Alfonso Cyprian] For the love of our Lord I beg you to control yourself and to let the future amend the past. You would not be so irascible if you paid more attention to God, your conscience, and the love of your neighbor. Take it from me that at the hour of death you will see the truth of what I say. (Quoted by James Brodrick in Saint Francis Xavier, abridged by the author (1957), xvi, p. 293)
Topics on this page ...
- Geometry's Contact-with-Experience Words
- Concepts without Percepts (Protagoras)
- Logic as "The Art of Reasoning" (Logic and madness)
- What are we calling 'reason'?
- The foundation stone of Descartes' synthetic a priori project in philosophy
- To distinguish facts from opinion -- Using form to indicate the relationship between the concepts 'fact' and 'opinion'
- What are we calling 'reason'?
- Degeneration of the human spirit
- Two Kinds of Resignation
- Ignorance as the Devil (The Devil as ignorance: "Satan" = "the Deceiver" = ignorance)
- Logic queries "in a disordered string" (Words and objects)
Background: the form of expression 'logic of language' is Wittgenstein's, but here it is used as my jargon. Its question is whether we can make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense in philosophy, as I believe the methods of Wittgenstein's late writings allow us to do. (2nd revised edition)
Geometry's Contact-with-Experience Words
Rather than "undefined terms" we could call 'point', 'line' and 'plane' geometry's "contact with reality" -- or, better yet, "contact with sense experience" words.
It's possible to do geometry without visually (or tactilely) defining the words 'point', 'line', and 'plane' -- most clearly if we do not use those words at all, but instead other signs (i.e. spoken sounds, ink marks) that in no way suggest any "contact with sense experience". For example:
Through any two popos in the gopo there is one and only one topo.
That rule belongs to the definition of 'gopo', just as Three popos define a topo is a rule belonging to the definition of 'topo'. And how is the word 'popo' to be defined? A popo is a unique address in the topo standing in relation to all other unique addresses in the topo.
And now we need address conventions such as: individual popos in the topo are designated by capital letters, such that popo A is distinct from popo B and popo C, and thus Popos A, B, and C define the topo, and Through popos A and B there is only one and only one gopo, and so on. (But here we should object that the word 'through' is usually defined visually in this context -- and therefore some other form of expression has to be used rather than 'through'.)
From which it should be clear that if geometry's "undefined terms" really were undefined -- if 'popo', 'gopo', and 'topo' in the example were not given definitions -- then geometry would be impossible, because it would consist of nothing more than "sounds without sense" -- i.e. language that is utterly without meaning. It is an abuse of language to say, "These words are undefined, but nonetheless they are not meaningless" -- or do you think the sign 'pieped' must have a meaning despite its being undefined?
Wouldn't geometry be too confusing to learn if rather than 'point', 'line' and 'plane', we used signs such as 'popo', 'gopo' and 'topo'? But compare algebra: e.g. the equation « 7x = 5y » has no visual meaning, but following the rules of algebra (which are what give the equation meaning), we can determine the mathematical values that x and y can have.
"But what would be the point of geometry if it floated free of experience?" But need the point (or purpose) of geometry be its application to the world? Because that is not the point of chess. Now, although we might say that chess creates a world of its own by means of its board and chess pieces that does not "float free" of the senses, that is figurative language, metaphor, a comparison between the chess board and the "playing field" of life in this world. (We might also compare the drawings we make on the paper plane in geometry to a world of its own. But that "world of its own" -- i.e. that world with its own rules, or as it were natural laws -- is not the actual world we live in, but a fantasy world.)
What is essential to both chess and geometry -- is it not their respective rules (cf. "rules of the game")? Because it is not the specific visual aids -- i.e. notations -- we use for them. For note that the specific notation that is the board and chess pieces can be replaced entirely with a list-like notation of moves (as e.g. White: B-K3, Black: Q-R7). And likewise the gopo, topo notation -- which, ex hypothesi, cannot be illustrated with drawings -- can entirely replace the paper plane and pencil drawing notation of geometry.
Regardless of how many people would ever master either chess or geometry without the visual aids that we normally use, we can describe what it would be like if only non-visual notations had ever existed. Now, an objective notation of some kind or other is clearly necessary -- because otherwise it would be impossible to say whether anyone was playing chess or doing geometry according to the rules -- but no one particular notation from among others is necessary.
Therefore, if we want geometry to make contact (or, connect) with experience, then we will have to define 'line' and 'plane' with reference to objects in experience, e.g. to straightedges and flat surfaces. Those definitions are comparisons to aspects of three-dimensional phenomena, thus: in the closed world of Euclid's proofs, the width and depth of any line we might draw in the world of our experience is of no interest, but only the line's length (i.e. its one-dimensional extension).
These remarks show that pure geometry is very different from applied (to our sense experience) geometry. Need a circle be round, that is to say, visually round? That question is without meaning in pure geometry (where the concepts 'figure' and 'shape' do not intersect), but if we lay out a figure by walking across the land to measure it [Something that is not done in pure geometry: measurement], it may well be that if we draw a circumference [boundary line] around a given point, with each point of the circumference equidistant from that given point (which is the center of our circle), then visually the figure we lay out might have the shape of an amoeba or something similar to that. It might look elliptical. Many things like this might happen in experience. [A circle in pure geometry, on the other hand, has no shape, because 'shape' is defined visually or tactilely, and the figures of pure geometry are not defined that way.]
Of course with respect to equidistance in surveying the land, the question is: equidistant from the point of view of a man walking who must go up and down hills or equidistant as the bird flies, depending on the contour [as in contour maps which show elevation above and below sea level]. These would give us different visual figures. And so the circle drawn by compasses on a blackboard is not the only circle that is tied to experience, if we define the word 'circle' as all points equidistant from a given point [a chosen center].
The word 'line' is certainly a contact-with-experience word. And the word 'plane' also -- but what of the word 'point'? Wittgenstein: "Say what you like, so long as it doesn't prevent you from seeing the facts [of language use, I think]. And when you do see them, there's a lot that you won't say" (PI § 79; cf. § 48).
The difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than you know (BB p. 45): to portray no more than you see, the facts in plain view, for that is the subject matter of logic of language, which is concerned only with the objective -- and that means public -- distinction between sense and nonsense in language in the context of philosophy. (Even the fictitious "language-games" we invent are concerned only with what would be public if its premises were true.)
Concepts without Percepts
"Concepts without percepts are empty." But what does Kant mean by the word 'empty'? You cannot say that the concepts of pure mathematics are empty, if 'empty' means 'without meaning' ["sound without sense"], but that is not what 'empty' means here. What does it mean, then? Perhaps that concepts without percepts do not make contact with the [sense-able] world.
You might think that because a line has one dimension and a plane has two dimensions that you could say that a point ha zero dimensions and think that you are saying something by that. But what you have done is to follow a grammatical analogy (PI § 351) which has no application here; following it only results in nonsense. It means nothing to say of an object or a "thing" [as in "name of a person, place, or ..."] that it has no dimensions [although maybe in the thought-world of the metaphysicians "abstractions" ("abstract ideas") have no dimensions! A ghost, after all, has no dimensions].
As to Protagoras' objection (cf. tangent and circle), it's not clear what it would mean visually to say that a line [tangent] intersects a circle at one point only. On the other hand, this depends on how we are going to [visually] measure "points", that is to say, how our grid is laid on the "plane", and how large or how small the squares of our grid are going to be. [If we object, "No matter how small they are, it won't be possible for a line to interest an arc at one point only!", that shows that we are either being held captive by a particular picture because we see no alternative to it, or that we are rejecting any alternative for some unstated reason or none.]
For it is impossible [This is logical, not real, possibility: it is not a question of the power of anyone's imagination, but of whether a combination of words is defined or not] to visualize [unless we were to misdefine the word 'point' as the name of an object (and that means: an object of sense experience) as e.g. an ink dot (which is not the way 'point' is used in geometry)] what it would be like -- because in order to visualize that it would be necessary to imagine a point as being something with a specific extension in space, whereas a point has no extension of any kind, because the word 'point' is not the name of anything [of any kind of object] in geometry, but means only 'a unique address in the plane'. So what the addressing system of the plane is, rather than a visual representation, would be the only meaning of a statement that 'A tangent intersects a circle at one only point'. (It is clear that Protagoras' objection shows that Protagoras did believe the word 'point' to be the name of an object. I think.)
Question: Was geometry (Euclid's "to measure the earth") visually "demonstrated" (that word is ambiguous) with straightedge and compasses? It wasn't entirely divorced from "sense experience" -- if that is what is shown by "quod erat faciendum (Q.E.F.) = "which was to be done", i.e. accomplished by drawing in the sand with straightedge and compasses. (Q.E.F. contrasts with Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstrandum) = "which was to be demonstrated", i.e. proved by deduction from definitions, postulates and previously proved theorems.) But in what way "not divorced"? The word 'demonstrate' (or, 'show') may mean 'to illustrate with drawings' -- or it may mean 'to prove by means of drawings'.
Einstein: "There is space in Descartes' geometry" -- but that only means that there are intersecting planes in Descartes, not only the single plane of Euclid. (Or, again, there are three-dimensions in Descartes' geometry, but only two-dimensions in Euclid's geometry.) Einstein ["The Problems of Space, Ether and the Field in Physics" (1943), tr. not named] basically says that "concepts without percepts are empty" (He speaks of a priori propositions in "the Kantian sense", saying that he has never understood the quest for them, stating dogmatically that it is impossible that the answer to ontological questions can be found anywhere except in sense experience), but are the concepts 'point', 'line', and 'plane' undefined = meaningless, if they are not connected to objects in our experience ["sense experiences"]? No, because they have a role in "games": their use is determined by rules. It depends on what we mean by the word 'empty' here. Why shouldn't a triangle, if you have never seen a triangle e.g. drawn on a blackboard -- why shouldn't that be said to be an "empty" concept for you? And if all you are saying is that it would, in that case, be an empty concept, then that doesn't differentiate 'point', 'line', and 'plane' from any other geometric "objects".
What you might say here is that the word 'empty' is undefined here.
Logic as "The Art of Reasoning" - The word 'logic' defined as 'the art of reasoning'
Note: this supplements the discussion What are we calling 'logic'?, its origin as the Greek 'logos' and later uses.
"Logic is the last thing a madman has left" -- that is, logic is all that is left to a madman because his thinking has otherwise become disconnected from "reality", but logic continues to operate within his "mad" world-picture. I don't know if that is always true (because I don't think that a madman need think logically), but I can describe a case where it is true.
"Logic is the only thing a madman has left." Just as there is a distinction between 'logical possibility' and 'real possibility', so too there is a distinction between a real possibility and the facts, or, "what is actually the case". If 'logic' is defined to concern itself only with what is logically possible, and not with what is actual, then a madman can, within his delusions, make logical deductions, i.e. reason logically. But he is confined to his imaginary (i.e. possible, not actual) world. His reasoning floats free of reality (the facts), as reality is perceived/conceived by the "community of ideas" in which he lives and which defines who is and who is not a madman, what is reasonable and what is not reasonable (or, unreasonable).
Possibly any proposition can be deduced from other propositions. That is what 'logic' as defined above is: rules for deriving one proposition from another or others. But a deduction does not in itself make the deduced proposition true, for an argument's premises may not be true. Logic only says: if these premises are true, then the conclusion deduced from them is true. But logic does not know whether or not the premises are true. Logic knows nothing about the facts ... That is, if the word 'logic' is defined only as 'the art of reasoning' in that limited sense.
In contrast, "logic of language" does try to describe the actual way, and not only possible ways, that language is used, that is, to give an account of the facts of our language. (The "rules of the game" are of several types in logic of language, including not only possible but also actual and assigned (or, prescribed).)
The madman doesn't need evidence -- he has his ideology/world-picture to tell him what the truth is. What is "beyond doubt" is also beyond evidence to the contrary, often beyond any evidence at all. (World-picture/ideology as idée fixe = madness)
What are we calling 'reason'?
Descartes (Discourse, Part 1): "the power of judging aright and of distinguishing truth from error ... is properly what is called Good Sense or Reason". And what do I mean by 'reason', then? The word 'reason' contrasts with 'instinct', 'belief in', 'unquestioning acceptance of the vox populi of one's community' ('uncritical conformism'), 'conviction'.
Try defining reason (i.e. the word 'reason') as what it is, rather than as what it is not. (Although, remember, there are words that require an antithesis if they are to have any meaning, as 'reasoning' must contrast with 'unreasoning', and 'rational' with 'irrational'. And some of those may be best defined by pointing to their antitheses.)
What do I mean by 'thoroughgoing reason' if not "the examined life" (Apology 37e-38a) of "Question everything!" [Yes, everything, as in Solzhenitsyn's story], "Dare to doubt!" (Kant) -- and setting clear criteria for answering the questions one asks (as Socrates did with his definition of the word 'know': to be able to give an account of what one knows that can stand up against cross-questioning in Socratic dialectic).
Descartes: "the Method which each ought to follow for the right conduct of his reason" -- i.e. in order to judge aright and distinguish truth from error. Here 'method' = 'criterion'.
The objective of our investigations is to find certainty. And what one finds no grounds to doubt -- e.g. what one is sees no way to refute in dialectic -- is (by definition) certain ... but what can stand today may fall -- i.e. be refuted or dissolved -- tomorrow. And thus only a tautology is finally safe from all doubt.
"... only a tautology is finally safe from all doubt." But if it is logically impossible for a "proposition" to be false (i.e. if the proposition is "safe from all doubt"), then it is it logically possible for that same proposition to be true? Well, what do we mean by the word 'true' here?
The foundation stone of Descartes' synthetic a priori project in philosophy
But is a tautology certain? (Not as if it could be uncertain either. This is a grammatical remark.)
Is "I think therefore I am" a tautology? "If x thinks, then x exists". And what would the opposite be? (Describe how things would look if "x thinks" were true but "x exists" were false.) If we cannot describe how things would stand if p were not true, does that make p a tautology (neither true nor false; a proposition cannot be true if there is no logically possibility ("what can be described") of its being false)?
Is "I think, therefore I am" a statement of fact? Descartes wants to state a fact about himself, because it is his own "clear and distinct ideas" he is examining (He as yet knows nothing of mankind; he is examining only the ideas in his own mind [as the madman above does]). Descartes bases his entire system of knowing on himself as an individual. Does Descartes prove that he exists? Is "I think therefore I am" an example of a synthetic a priori proposition -- i.e. a proposition about experience that does not require confirmation by experience to be known to be true?
"If we know only that either it is raining or it is not raining, then we know nothing about the weather" (TLP 4.461) -- and likewise we don't know if Descartes does or does not exist? or does Descartes go in and out of existence (depending on whether he is thinking or not, if he ever does actually think or not-think), like the rain in Wittgenstein's tautology?
Normally 'proposition of logic' contrasts with 'proposition of experience'. But, does Descartes want to say that there is no difference between those two kinds of propositions: that he can use a tautology to define himself into actual existence. "If either it is raining or it is not raining, and it is raining, then rain exists"? But that is circular, isn't it: "It is raining, therefore rain exists." Because clearly, I think, in Descartes' context: thinking = existing. "I think (= exist), therefore I exist", or, in other words, "I exist, therefore I exist'.
'If x thinks, then x exists, and I think, therefore I exist.' Deriving propositions from other propositions (cf. OC § 1, although in this case the question is logical-grammatical rather than of certainty). But what is the combination of words 'If x thinks, then it exists' -- is it a "tautology" -- i.e. a rule of grammar, as is 'All cats are animals'? or is it a statement of fact/hypothesis, as e.g. 'All cats are mortal'?
Are we calling the intersection of rules of grammar tautologies? Even if we aren't that poor in categories -- there may be important similarities to point out between tautologies and the interconnections of grammatical rules, e.g. that neither type of statement is certain or uncertain, that neither is true or false or of indeterminate truth or falsity.
Well, this is it: If 'If x thinks, then x exists' is a statement of fact (and not merely a statement of grammatical fact -- i.e. a statement that we do indeed follow this rule in our language), then Descartes can deduce his own existence (i.e. define himself into existence), but if it is merely a rule of grammar, then can he still use it to deduce his own existence?
Yes, it is puzzling. (Is a headache a Cartesian idea in the mind?)
To distinguish facts from opinion -- Using form to indicate the relationship between the concepts 'fact' and 'opinion'
These are conceptual remarks. The distinction between facts and opinions might be made this way:
All opinions can be cast in the form: It may be the case the case that [...]
All facts can be cast in the form: It is the case that [...]
That is one way we might distinguish between 'statements of fact' and 'statements of opinion' -- by distinguishing their "logical form" or "philosophical grammar" (in Russell's jargon) from their "surface grammar" (in Wittgenstein's later sense of the words 'grammar' and 'logic' -- i.e. the meaning he selected for those words, because both 'grammar' and 'logic' have had various historical meanings).
Although we might use those two forms of expression (-- i.e. assign a meaning to a selected "surface grammar" --) as a tool to mark the distinction between facts and opinions -- i.e. between the concepts 'fact' and 'opinion' -- the forms themselves do not necessarily mark it (Wittgenstein's later investigations show that the "meaning" of language is not a matter of form but of use; the tools of language -- i.e. signs: spoken sounds, ink marks on paper, gestures, and so on -- are not bound by their form: their meaning is determined by what we do with them). But this particular tool might help to make one aspect of the distinction clearer: objective certainty versus uncertainty.
(There is a lot of jargon in those two paragraphs -- because jargon allows us to make a simple allusion to a complicated background. And there is a lot of background to those two paragraphs, and without understanding that background maybe the remarks on this page won't be understood.)
In courts of common law, there is a distinction made between witnesses and "expert witnesses". If I understand that distinction aright ... (1) 'witness' or 'witness to the facts' = 'someone who testifies as to the facts -- i.e. what the facts are and/or are not'; by 'statement of fact' the law courts mean, I think, 'statements of what the witness himself saw or heard'. Direct examination of witnesses is allowed to ask for statements of fact only. That contrasts with (2) 'expert witness' = 'someone the court allows to express his opinions about the accepted facts of the case -- i.e. to speculate about what may or may not, or will or will not, be the case (i.e. plausibilities, possibilities)'. Direct examination of "expert witnesses" asks for statements of opinion.
But as an explanation of meaning, that paragraph does not go beyond general orientation: how these general definitions are to be applied to particular cases is not explained. (There seems to me no place where language is more abused than in courts of law which reply on more or less vague general definitions.)
These are remarks about the concepts 'fact' and 'opinion', about how we use the words 'fact' and 'opinion'. Or, again: remarks about the "depth grammar" (in Wittgenstein's jargon) of the words 'fact' and 'opinion'. As is this remark, that A fact is only a fact within the context of a particular world-picture [cf. Goethe's "Everything factual is already theoretical"], but of such pictures there are many, as many as there are "communities of ideas" and logically possible communities of ideas. (Statements about witches and dreams in different world-pictures, e.g.)
Degeneration of the human spirit
Query: language, thought and logic.
Drury had wanted to read Samuel Alexander's Space, Time, and Deity when he was younger although had found himself unable to understand any of it, and Wittgenstein said to him (This was in 1929):
Oh, I can understand that. If it is right to speak about the "great problems" of philosophy, that is where they lie: space, time, and deity. When I was a student in Manchester [ca. 1908-1911] I thought at one time of going to see Alexander ... (Recollections p. 99)
But if "space, time, and deity" are where "the great problems of philosophy lie", then the great problems of philosophy belong to Metaphysics. And then, where is Ethics -- Plato's "no small matter, but how to live", the most pressing concern of philosophy according to Socrates? Logic might be regarded as a tool of philosophy's other two parts, but Ethics is neither a tool nor a sidelight of Metaphysics (although even that is a possible way to regard it). In my earliest youth I never thought of space and time as philosophical problems (Now I would say that although much can be said about the concepts 'space' and 'time', that is logic of language, not metaphysics). I only thought about ethics, "deity" -- i.e. God --, and logic (the art of questioning and justifying assertions). There are different paths to philosophy, not only that of metaphysics.
In 1930, Drury writes, Wittgenstein "came to my rooms looking very distressed. So much so that I asked him what was the matter."
Wittgenstein: I was walking about in Cambridge and passed a bookshop, and in the window were portraits of Russell, Freud and Einstein. A little further on, in a music shop, I saw portraits of Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin. Comparing these portraits I felt intensely the terrible degeneration that had come over the human spirit in the course of only a hundred years. (ibid. p. 112)
And so the contrast is between the query's "language, thought and logic" and "space, time, and deity". And yet one could say that the TLP was concerned with the problems suggested by the title of Alexander's book, whereas it is precisely Wittgenstein's later work that concerns itself with logic of language -- but not as a tool to think about space, time, and deity, but only as a tool against the perplexities caused to the human mind by language (PI § 109).
Query: only thing philosophers are left is grammar.
"Philosophical investigations -- grammatical investigations" (Z § 458). And so is Wittgenstein's own later work part of the "degeneration of the human spirit", the degradation of philosophy an aspect of the cultural decline? Wittgenstein never explained why he did not talk about "space, time, and deity" in his later work. He did say that muddled philosophical speculations can so bring a topic into disrepute that it must be set aside for a time before it can be taken up fresh (Maybe "deity" is one such topic). But Wittgenstein did not explain his silence that way. Indeed, according to his later work, clearing away mistaken accounts of those topics cannot refresh philosophy -- it can only show that philosophy itself that is a mistake.
Query: questions that cannot be answered with grammar.
I don't think the eternal questions can be, nor do I think Plato's question about man's essence can be. I don't think that all philosophy is conceptual confusion, or that all philosophy does is to clarify conceptual confusion.
The world philosophy of the future will [result] in the confrontation between elemental [i.e. concerned with our life's meaning] and nonelemental [i.e. concerned with secondary issues such as logic and language, about playing the game rather than about why play this game] thinking. (Out of my Life and Thought op. cit., Epilogue, p. 231; well, but within those brackets I have given my own meaning to Schweitzer's words)
That I hope is true, as nonelemental thinking rules most of our world and life. For our world it is as if Socrates had never asked what the good is for man, the story of the merciful Samaritan had never been spoken, the Roman Stoics had never invented our concept 'common humanity'.
Query: language, word and idea in logic.
And yet, and yet at the same time, I feel that the question of the relation between the word and the idea is where "the great problems of philosophy lie". Well but is that to say anything more than that logic is one of philosophy's three parts, that "how to think" about language is both vital [essential] and perplexing?
"The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of this problem" (TLP 6.521, tr. Ogden), but Wittgenstein had later to admit that the riddle of existence does exist (CV p. 27). A dog cannot take life seriously (or unseriously) nor can the "the problem of life" vanish (or arise) for it. But for man "there is something problematical about life", and that is the principal difference between man and dog (instinct and reason).
Two Kinds of Resignation
Note: what follows supplements the discussion of ethics and world affirmation as Albert Schweitzer conceived that topic.
Socrates made a great effort to represent the ethical as the reasonable and to understand the world and life affirmation as having some meaning. But by an inexorable logic this leads to resignation. The ideal of Stoic philosophy is the wise man who retires from this world. (Out of my Life and Thought, tr. Lemke (1990), Chapter 18, p. 202)
Schweitzer distinguishes between two kinds of resignation. There is the resignation that comes from recognizing that it can have no metaphysical knowledge of God, the meaning of our life (ibid. Epilogue, p. 240, 233). And then there is the resignation that withdraws from this world ("world negation").
But Socrates did not "retire from this world" (That is why he was put to death), and Plato's ideal was of a city ruled by a philosopher-king (a statesman who would make the people better ethically rather than only materially), an ideal he himself attempted to foster in Syracuse (Magna Graecia).
And Socrates did make ethics thoroughgoingly reasonable by identifying the excellence that is proper to man as the good for man, the determinate of how man should live his life. This world is full of goodness and truth, which is reason enough to affirm its worth regardless of its also being full of their negations.
As to the Greek Stoics, I don't know (Schweitzer cannot, according to his own account of them I think, be talking here about the later Roman Stoics with their ideal of public service). But with the end of the way of life of the city-state wreaked by Alexander and Caesar, in the chaos of war and destruction ("men intent on viciousness") and subjugation to foreign rule that followed, it would not be "inexorable logic" to shelter like a traveler behind a wall as from a storm [Republic (496a-d)], but rather that: The attitude of world-affirmation requires a certain condition for the Greeks, namely, freedom ... Or maybe I simply don't know what Schweitzer is alluding to, because there is a very different account of Greek Stoicism in Diogenes Laertius.
Socrates was able to encourage his companions to seek the good for man through rational thinking (dialectic) and in this way to try to make them ethically better. That was possible in his own circle (and according to Plato's Apology far beyond his own circle to the whole of Athens). Rational reflection (conceptual-grammatical investigation in this particular case) shows that "The good man harms no one and tries to make even his enemies ethically better; to harm is what the bad man does, as is to neglect any good that he might do", and that is not reflection from which withdraw from the world follows.
Plato's "The good man harms no one and makes even his enemies better" -- that is, Socrates' rational quest for the good for man ("What is a good man?") -- is life affirmation. However, Schweitzer is talking about far more, for to work in that small sphere is "life affirmation", but it need not, I think, be "world affirmation", for one might say: I tend Candide's garden [Voltaire's Candide = Rational Man, I would say] while I am alive, despite my fully believing that when I am gone its weeds will return [Cf. Hamlet's soliloquy (i, ii) on "this world": "things rank and gross in nature possess it merely"]. But Schweitzer's faith was that the Kingdom of God must come someday (and maybe that man is moving, despite all setbacks, towards that kingdom).
It does seem that there can be -- if I understand how to use Schweitzer's conceptual tool (i.e. if I understand his meaning) -- life affirmation without world affirmation. Indeed, Schweitzer himself uses the phrase "world or life denial" (Indian Thought and its Development , tr. Russell (1956), p. 43); the 'or' rather than 'and' suggests that these can be separated. And also as Schweitzer points out, Jesus' world-view is world negation, but at the same time, because Jesus' ethics is an ethics of active love (as opposed to a mere attitude of benevolence nebulous), his world-view is life affirming.
Because I have confidence in the power of truth and of the spirit, I believe in the future of mankind. Ethical acceptance of the world contains within itself an optimistic willing and hoping that can never be lost. It is, therefore, never afraid to face the somber reality as it really is. (Out of my Life and Thought, Epilogue, p. 243)
Can any principle that is not religious (which the principle of Reverence for Life may be [See the letter from Malung below]) support that belief? For it is in contradiction to the facts in plain view. During Schweitzer's lifetime the world was becoming less not more Christian: more not less nationalistic, more not less profit-driven -- and that cultural decline has not changed at all in the fifty years since Schweitzer's death.
World and life affirmation unceasingly urges men to serve their fellows, society, the nation, mankind, and indeed all that lives, with their utmost will and in lively hope of realisable progress. (Indian Thought ... p. 2)
The "lively hope of realisable progress" requires a deep faith, for although in many places man's material well-being has progressed, that is to say, improved or been made better (e.g. by medical care and enough food), his ethical well-being has not, nor is there any reason -- in this case, 'reason' in the sense of 'evidence that withstands being refuted by the test of experience' -- to believe that man's ethical well-being ever will improve. (Plato asked if even Athens' greatest statesmen had made the people better ethically, and answered that they had not (Gorgias 517b, 518e-519a).)
There are two parts to why that is and can (as a grammatical possibility) only be: (1) communities of ideas are more concerned for the common good and tolerant than others, but although we may call the first kind more "ethical" than the second, that is not how Socrates used the word 'ethics'.And (2) that makes the ethical progress of mankind dependent on the ethical development of the community, although enculturation does not make an individual man an ethical being but only creates in or demands from him conformity to a particular set of values. Some
In human societies, ethical development moves forwards (progresses) and then moves backwards (regresses) again and again with astonishing regularity. (Note that there was nothing naive in Schweitzer's own world-and-life affirmation: during the years 1875-1965 he saw the facts in plain view: the two world wars of the twentieth century and the Christian Church's loss of its moral authority through its support for those wars.)
World and life negation takes no interest in the world, but regards man's life on earth merely as a stage-play in which it is his duty to participate, or only as a puzzling pilgrimage through the land of Time into his home in Eternity. (Indian Thought ... ibid.)
Schweitzer has here described two extremes in man's possible responses to our life, but are there not places between those extremes. Although Schweitzer might regard those places as mere half-way houses on the way to a world-view -- but if it is, as it is, impossible to know the final outcome of mankind and of the individual man, then a world-view that does not incorporate a sense of the "unreality" -- i.e. profoundest mystery of our existence -- and consequent detachment (There is also something resembling skepticism, in so far as skepticism resembles a wary wonder rather than a cynicism) would seem unnatural -- then what other source could a "life and world affirmation" world-view have but faith? (Well, but Socratic ethics is consistent both with detachment (Socratic ignorance) and with work in this world.)
Mankind is all very well, but this particular man is going to die
For there is, for example, this response, that one's life in this world is only of value because there is good in aspects of the world and in oneself. But it is indeed "a puzzling pilgrimage" (Byron's "the path is though perplexing ways"), but a pilgrimage to what (to sleep without dreams? That is no pilgrimage)? No who does not think himself wise when he is not man knows the answer (Apology 40c-41c). But because man must leave this world (and when he leaves, he leaves alone, for death is that way), as here he finds "no continuing place", why attach oneself to what one must lose? Is not a detached attitude more natural than "wanting to work in the world for the ethical and material perfecting of mankind"? However, the natural response is not necessarily consistent with the ethical response. To ethics, what man wants or is inclined to do is of no import. Ethics says what man must do if man is to what is good rather than what is evil.
Plato's conceptual tautologies as ethics are not an instance of "world-and-life-negation" -- because according to Schweitzer one aspect of that negation is the rejection of all activity directed at the perfecting of mankind, even if it is only directed at one's companions (cf. Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 6, 1, although Socrates, according to Plato (Apology 30e-31a), went beyond this). Rather, world-and-life negation views the world as "meaningless and sorrowful", and someone who holds that view:
resolves accordingly (a) to bring life to a standstill in himself by mortifying his will-to-live, and (b) to renounce all activity which aims at improvement of the conditions of life in this world. (Indian Thought ... ibid. p. 1-2)
When Schweitzer died Russell said about him: "Good and dedicated men are rare. Our age is hardly able to understand them. It certainly doesn't deserve them. Doctor Schweitzer was both a good and a dedicated man." But I wonder -- although what would verification look like here? Well, it's undefined -- whether to hold Schweitzer's view of world and life affirmation, there mustn't be a deep love of the kingdom of God Jesus describes, a kingdom ruled by love rather than by power (regardless of whether someone uses that particular point of reference or not) -- for what else does wanting the kingdom of God to come mean if not: wanting to work for the universal ethical and material perfecting of mankind, seeing that work as worth dedicating one's life to. (Is that an otherworldly attitude towards the world? Meaning what?)
Variation. Something one is unwilling to attach oneself to is something one does not assign inherent worth to. And as to our life in this world, we are at best only pilgrims. This world is not our home. Given that either our home is in eternity [-- because if it were some other place, that other place would merely be another stopping point on the path to oblivion --] or that man has no home, does the wise man attach himself to this world: what does the good man do? (The wise man is the good man. A grammatical remark.) The good man does what Socrates did, at least with respect to his companions. Although perhaps most of us, given the second part of "Know thyself" recognizing our own limitations, are not able to do much without harm either to ourselves or to or companions -- perhaps anyone can be helpful to those around him in some small, quiet, unseen ways. And that is life affirmation.
The saying 'being in this world, but not of it' does not mean the type of detachment I am alluding to here, because that expression only means 'not living by the world-view of worldliness'.
Schweitzer, "Religion in Modern Civilization": It is not only life that is at war with itself but also the universe that is at war with life, creating and destroying, welcoming and hostile by turns. That is another aspect of man's homeless in this world.
A question that is deeply troubling: How can Jesus' ethics of love or Schweitzer's Reverence for Life ever be anything but the ethics of a very few, because we are not born ethical but must become ethical, each of us as an individual -- or not? The ethical perfecting of mankind seems impossible, given that in man's nature there is a heart that may be made gentle or callous (life can, as a prolonged dull pain, wear one down) by upbringing and circumstance: compassion cannot be taken for granted, and neither can a mind that is able to overcome its own ignorance. Wittgenstein asked: could Smerdyakov have found salvation (as Raskolnikov apparently did)?
And so Wittgenstein asked what salvation for Smerdyakov would look like (Could Dostoyevsky depict that?). And salvation for the character Mugridge, the ship's cook in Jack London's The Sea Wolf, what would that look like? And I thought: "For man it is impossible, but for God all things are possible", that the love of Christ is limitless, that it extends to all mankind, and that men like Mugridge -- and like me -- are saved not through anything they are or do, but purely by God's love for man. (I think that is one Christian world-picture.)
But if there is no benefit to man for doing what is good, then why should man do good? According to Peter Canisius' biographer, that was a real question for many people in Germany during the early years of the Reformation and many ceased to act with love towards their neighbor because of it. The answer, however, is not hard to find in ancient books, for Epictetus asks, "Is there no reward, then?" and replies: "Seems it to you so small a thing, and worthless, to be a good human being." The Christian view, however, is more paradoxical still.)
It cannot be that men are condemned for their own individual God-given natures. It cannot be that men are condemned for their ignorance of things difficult to know. Why "cannot be"? Because God, i.e. the concept 'God', is an expression of reverence for what is holy, which an unjust god is not. A primitive picture of God, capricious, arbitrary, is to be feared rather than loved. God -- I mean the concept 'God' -- is a picture created by man for man's use, and what is the point of inventing an unjust God (to make the God of Nature and the God who is an ethical personality coincide? But that is not possible: we cannot keep one without losing the other). Contrast that God with Jesus' God the father who is love itself, mercy, forgiveness. Wittgenstein wrote that "how God judges a man is something we cannot imagine at all" (CV p. 86). If God is made in man's image, it is what is best in man that is reflected in that image, not the worst.
That of course contradicts Wittgenstein's picture of the good as "the good is whatever God says it is". As well as his remark that: "If God really does choose who is to be saved, there is no reason why he should not choose them according to nationality, race or temperament" (CV p. 72 [MS 137 57a: 26.6.1948), which I think is apropos of a an earlier remark about "Paul's doctrine of election by grace" which Wittgenstein calls "at my level irreligiousness, ugly non-sense. So it is not meant for me since I can only apply wrongly the picture offered me. If it is a holy & good picture, then ..." (cf. ibid. p. 32 [MS 120 8: 20.11.1937]). But about the notion of "an elect", again, if that is what God does, then what does the devil do? That is the same (rhetorical) question as: If the good man does evil, then what does the bad man do? (
[But when the answer to "Why haven't they ears to hear what the Lord says?" is "Because it is God's will that they be deaf to salvation", that too is a tautology, one written by the devil. There are fundamental contradictions in the Gospel (which has been revised by various hands): that salvation belongs to all men who do God's will (contra peoplehood), but that God has chosen which men are to be saved (pro peoplehood). The doctrine of election: (1) is a holdover from the Old Testament's chosen people doctrine, and (2) has been added to explain how the Lord himself could walk among the people and the people not repent of its wrong-doing, how they could hear the word of God yet chose this world rather than the kingdom of God.]
Can I place this within my own rational thought-world -- can the question of final justice ("how God judges a man") be posed and responded to there? What place would this faith ("trust in God") have there: that what is good will decide all in the end, that existence has a meaning, and that its meaning is good rather than evil, although man doesn't know what it is. (It must be that God wills [i.e. commands] the good because, in my "Greek" religious grammar, the good is higher than the gods: the gods, who are fully rational and therefore know what is good, will what is good be done because it is good -- which is contrary to Wittgenstein's "Hebraic" grammar [Why is this grammar? Because, according to Wittgenstein, "The way you use the word 'God' shows not whom you mean -- but instead what you mean" (CV p. 50); cf. "theology as grammar" (PI § 373), and 'God' and the Theory of Descriptions.]
[In the case of God it does seem true that essence belongs to grammar], because the good is whatever God wills it to be; in Socratic ethics the good is rational not irrational, the opposite of what the good is either in Wittgenstein's religious ethics or his view that philosophical ethics is impossible, because his notion "absolute value" cannot even be explained rationally.) I imagine that with that faith (which is an optimism, although not about "this world"), I might live at peace with the mystery of an afterlife, as in Plato's Apology, not needing an answer to it in this world -- although I then ask myself, What if "the good for man" is an eternal rest ("sleep without dreams") -- i.e. that he should never learn the meaning of [God's meaning for] our existence?
For that was what death really was: a making of things plain ... (Marshall, All Glorious Within (The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith (1945), xxxv)
That is our faith, that we shall not be "confounded in eternity" (cf. Isaiah 45.17), faith because we don't even know if there is an afterlife of any kind, much less of what kind.
The character Wolf Larsen is haunted by his need to disbelieve that a god has given our existence a meaning and an immortal soul, i.e. that there is any possibility of salvation. He discusses the question because he is deeply aware of it, but his thesis is set once and for all -- no argument or evidence to the contrary will be allowed to change it. In contrast, there seems to be the possibility of salvation for the coxswain in Stevenson's Treasure Island, an uneducated man whose world-picture has been formed only by his experience of life, because if life has so far driven him away from faith, hope and love, then were he now to be shipwrecked among good men and share their life, might not that experience change his "amen, so be it"?
"For thirty years," he said, "I've sailed the seas, and seen good and bad, better and worse, fair weather and foul, provisions running out, knives going, and what not. Well, now I tell you, I never seen good come o' goodness yet. Him as strikes first is my fancy; dead men don't bite; them's my views -- amen, so be it." (Treasure Island v, 26, "Israel Hands")
How can a man who thinks that way, a man with both feet in this world, who knows only the worst of this world, be brought belief in the kingdom that is "not of this world", the kingdom of God to which one belongs by loving one's neighbor as oneself? How does Jesus' gospel reach a man like that?
In a world where men have dedicated their lives to vice (Plato, Republic 496a-d), such as the world of brigands, a man either dedicates himself to vice or he is soon killed by those who have (as in the Attic border town where the people were all vicious because they'd long ago knocked all the decent people over the head). And so some men seem born condemned to a life of wrong-doing, but if "for God all things are possible" and His mercy limitlessness, then His way of judging such men may be beyond our imagining (Isaiah 55.8-9: "My thoughts are not your thoughts ...") -- and that how He will judge me is what I should be asking instead.
"The spirit of the age" (and death)
Most men live in the spirit of their age (only, note that each community has its own "age"). If the age is democratic, they are democrats; if it is fascist or monarchal, they are fascists or monarchists. If the spirit of the age is theistic, they are theists; and if it is atheistic, they are atheists. And yet each would claim that he has his own point of view, that he has assessed life for himself and come to certain conclusions. And he would be greatly offended if anyone claimed that it was otherwise.
... stupid as puppets which touch their collars a thousand times without ever discovering the string they are dangling on. (Heinrich Böll, Ansichten Eines Clowns (1963) [Paul, Romans 15.21], The Clown, tr. Vennewitz (1965), xv)
That all of us are dangling on, if our ideas be puppeteers. (Thought-worlds.)
Reading Samuel Pepy's diary. They were certainly theists, but just as certainly not Christians. They ask God for grace; they thank God for what they account good fortune. But the Gospels are to them a foreign country ("they do things differently there").
"In the nineteenth century it was the educated who doubted and the fools who believed," Methuen said. "To-day it is the educated who believe and the fools who doubt." (Marshall, Only Fade Away (1954), "Prologue")
Of course, it's hard to know whether 'believe' and 'doubt' are antitheses here -- that is, whether their content is, whether the same thing was believed by one that was doubted by the other. For diverse things can be meant by the word 'God', some silly, some even monstrous, having no more life in them than scarecrows; and even most of those who believe "doubt" those. The straw-gods of the age.
Schweitzer's letter from Malung, Sweden
I believe that God has assigned me the task of establishing a philosophical [world-view] that reconciles thought and religion ... The [world-view] of the Kingdom of God. (Letters 1905-1965, tr. Neugroschel , 5 Jan 1922, from Malung, Sweden, p. 64-65)
On the one hand, "Only when we gain the confidence that we can find the truth through our own individual thought will we be able to arrive at living truth" (Out of my Life and Thought, Epilogue, p. 227). But on the other hand, Schweitzer's thinking is not simply logic as is Wittgenstein's, but something quite else -- because Schweitzer uses the word 'thought' differently. He does not mean the word 'thinking' as in Wittgenstein's work in logic of language nor as in Socrates' work -- because, like logic of language, Socratic ethics is thoroughgoingly rational: If Socrates' account of ethics is a true account -- i.e. if the man who knows what is right will unfailing do what is right -- then man must live according to what he knows, his reasons having been put to the test of Socratic dialectic, because no one is willingly ignorant of the good. (Is the "stubborn man within" anything more than ignorance? What of the bad habits formed in the time of ignorance of the good, which we don't amend? But is not amending those due to anything but continued ignorance of the good -- aiming for a perceived good rather than the true good?)
Schweitzer says that the foundation of all ethics is compassion (or, pity). But how does he know that? It is the outcome of "thought": it is a conclusion which lies beyond the limit of man's reason. (I don't know whether compassion has a place in Socratic ethics; it may belong to the excellence that is proper to man, but whether it is would have to be established in dialectic, and it would therefore not be a foundation but a conclusion in ethics. Tautologically (Plato's method), however: If the good man is not compassionate, then what is the bad man! Of course that presupposes that the concept 'compassion' is used at all.) Schweitzer wrote that the principle of Reverence for Life "has power only if I live it" (Letters, op. cit.), and to live a life of compassion appears very different from living a life faithful to logic of language or thoroughgoing reason -- i.e. of philosophical integrity, because compassion is not only a disposition but also an emotion.
Maybe Schweitzer's ideas are far more difficult to understand than he presents them as being (or maybe one just presumes that religious thought is easily understood; presumption: the original sin in philosophy). Wittgenstein often said: "Don't think that everything you don't understand is nonsense", and here he meant 'nonsense' both in the sense of 'undefined combinations of words' and of 'foolishness' or 'rubbish'.
"World and Life Affirmation"
Plato's specifically tautological ethics (Republic 1.335e, which defines the expression 'the good man' by contrasting it to 'the bad man') does not withdraw from the world. But what of the the world-picture of the Phaedo -- is life-in-the-body-negation (i.e. negation of the value of reality as perceived by the senses) also life-in-this-world-negation? Or are we only looking at facets of our life rather than at our life as a whole -- i.e. should we say that according to Plato, when he philosophizes, the philosopher withdraws himself from the world of the senses? Plato says that "the philosopher makes dying his profession" (Phaedo 67e-68a) -- but in what sense of the word 'dying'? In the sense of removing himself from all activity in this world? Plato did not remove himself from life in this world; even in old age he sought to create a "philosopher-king" for Syracuse.
But what then of the wise man of Republic 6.496c-d, because he concerns himself only with "minding his own business", i.e. only with his only life? But he withdraws from activity in the world only in order not to be destroyed by his fellow men who are intent on vice (viciousness) rather than virtue. But were his circumstances otherwise ... And so we don't, I think, find life-in-this-world-negation in these works of Plato's. However, from that the good man does what is good it does not follow that the world he does good in is itself good, and if the world is not in itself good (however beautiful aspects of it may appear to be), then its worth is not inherent but only from time to time created by the acts of the good man.
And what are we calling 'the world' here? The natural world -- i.e. everything except man --, or only what concerns man's life only, or by 'world' do we mean everything? "My meaning is beyond your comprehension at the very outset. It seems you do not understand what is meant by 'all things'.... Well, 'all things' is meant to include you and me and, besides ourselves, all other animals and plants.... and besides that, sea and sky and earth and gods and everything else there is" (Sophist 233e-234a; cf. Philebus 28c-d). When Schweitzer speaks of "world affirmation", by 'world' does he mean Plato's "all things"?
When he discovered the principle of reverence for life, Schweitzer wrote, "I knew that the world-view of ethical world-and-life-affirmation ... is founded in thought." (Out of my Life and Thought, 1933 edition, p. 185, quoted by Marshall, op. cit. p. 85) But he does not mean that reverence for life makes world-and-life-affirmation rational -- because by 'thinking' here Schweitzer means reaching a somehow necessary (but not logically necessary) conclusion: "If rational thought thinks itself out to a conclusion, it comes to something non-rational which, nevertheless, is a necessity of thought" (by which combination of words I don't know what he means). I think that all Schweitzer can say is that he finds Reverence for Life a compelling way of looking at things -- which, if there is no "absolute reference point" (i.e. that combination of words is undefined), is all that is logically possible in philosophy: a world-picture (which is what Socrates' and Wittgenstein's ways of looking a things are) -- but not the world-picture.
Neither inertia nor joie de vivre is world-and-life-affirmation that is founded in reason. Neither is rational and therefore neither is ethical (for by 'ethics' we mean, not merely a collection of values, but 'philosophical reflection about the values appropriate to man').
What is the relation between Schweitzer's standards of judgments "world and life affirmation" and "world and life negation", "Reverence to Life" and Plato's ethics of tautologies created by the interconnections of our concepts (Republic 335e)?
This difference lies in the particular way of looking upon the world itself. Some thinkers believe that we should take an affirmative view of the world -- interest ourselves, that is to say, in its affairs and in the part we ourselves play in them. Others take a negative view, and advise us to take no interest at all in the world, or in our existence within it.... The one invites us to be at home in the world and to take a vigorous part in its affairs; the other urges us to live in it as strangers and to choose non-activity as the basis of our life here.
("The Problem of Ethics in the Evolution of Human Thought", delivered to the French Academy on 20 October 1952, appendix to Jacques Feschotte, Albert Schweitzer: an introduction, tr. John Russell (1955), p. 117)
Plato's tautological ethics is founded in philosophical reflection -- i.e. it is an ethics and not merely a way of life. But is that ethics world-and-life-affirming? That the world is inherently worth trying to improve both ethically and materially for mankind -- does that follow from this ethics? Not unless we say that to do no harm (or, not to harm anything) is not passive, but active ("vigorous"). Because the good man does benefit both his friends and his enemies (The bad man harms both), and that is active goodness.
Query: Socrates; make each man help his brother man.
Does "does no harm" = "does nothing"? Sometimes, but surely not always: often not acting/not helping itself does harm.
But does Plato's ethics entail the assumption that the world is moving ineluctably towards a good world, a good society (not merely a society in which there are occasionally good individuals or individuals who occasionally do go)? The good man does what is good regardless of how he judges the probability of the human world ever being a good world, which question, namely the probability, belongs not to ethics but to very general facts of nature and to metaphysics. Plato's method of ethical tautologies is not by itself a Life-philosophy, but only one method that can be used in the construction of an ethical world-picture.
"The good man harms no one." But is that the limit of what is required of him? For question: can he see a worm stranded in the sun and not go to its rescue -- for isn't not going to its rescue what the bad man does? Can it be enough that the good man simply does not himself harm the worm. And yet, if the good man seeks to do good even to his enemies, how strange if he also does not seek to do good also to those who are not his enemies! If the good man looks with indifference on suffering -- then what does the bad man do?
Ignorance as the Devil (The Devil as ignorance: "Satan" = "the Deceiver" = ignorance)
The one who thinks he knows what he doesn't know is misled himself and misleads others. (Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 6, 1)
The devil is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8.44)
The language of the devil is falsehood. The devil is the enemy of knowledge. Ignorance is my companion constantly and my only enemy. And it, my own ignorance, has done me more harm than anything else, infinitely more harm. Ignorance leads one to over-reach and under-reach oneself ("Know thyself" "Nothing to excess"). And I bear the scars in my flesh and soul of each act of ignorance. To presume that some act is wise is to think you know what you do not know, the cardinal and original sin of philosophy. Presumption is not always punished, but when it is, the punishment can be very high indeed.
Whenever I look back on my life, and when I see it as it is now, I see only a limitless sea of ignorance in which I am drowned again and again, countless times. To look back is not happy: "and must I ravel out / My weav'd-up follies?" As I have learned to my cost, ignorance is a devilish paymaster.
Socratically stated the Lord's Prayer is: "Forgive me my ignorance, as I forgive and have forgiven others their ignorance" (Luke 11.4) ... and how can that "educate one to belief in God" (CV p. 86)? I don't know that it must. But, on the other hand there is something hopeless about our life with respect to ignorance, its limitlessness and therefore the limitlessness of our own foolishness, the harmful things we do both to ourselves (Ignorance is its own Nemesis, for what other source has hubris except the failure to know oneself) and to others.
There is, he said, only one good, that is, knowledge, and only one evil, that is, ignorance ... (Diog. L. ii, 31; cf. Euthydemus 281e, Plato's exhortation to philosophy and virtue)
That was said about Socrates and there is evidence that this statement about Socrates is true ("Virtue is knowledge") in Aristotle's account (Nicomachean Ethics 1145b21-29), which is mistaken, in my view, in its rejection of Socrates' view, if ethics is practical (in the sense of 'practical' as 'concerned with how we can amend our life').
The story of the Garden of Eden. It took me fifty-three years to climb out of childhood, and I'm still climbing [out]. I don't want to go back to an absolute nonage. (But even when you reach your majority, ignorance can still hold you in childhood, and keep you there, for the rest of your life.)
If ignorance were more than akin to madness (cf. Memorabilia iii, 9, 6) but madness itself, then all men would be much more than somewhat mad.
... in our everyday understanding we are surrounded by madness. (CV p. 44 [MS 127 77v: 1944])
The philosopher is the man who has to cure himself of many sicknesses of the understanding ... (RFM v, § 53, p. 302)
But no man is ever finally cured. However much the frontier of his ignorance may -- or may not (OC 418: "Is my understanding only blindness to my own lack of understanding?") -- be pushed (or,blown) back, it remains like a cloud that encircles him, bounded but unlimited.
Although our condition is certainly not in all ways hopeless, because Wittgenstein has left to us a workable "logic of language", and from Socrates we can learn that through the thoroughgoing use of reason it is possible for a man to amend his life even in fundamental ways, for virtue is knowledge (i.e. that is the way of looking at our life that I have found most productive of change). One must know -- or try to know -- one's own limitations as an individual if one is not to over-reach oneself -- Thus our life [sound judgment] always comes back to not thinking you know what you don't know: In all regions of our life the difficulty remains "to say no more than you know" (BB p. 45).
Query: what is meant by I know nothing except the fate of my ignorance?
Ignorance in Candide's garden
The irradicable weed in Candide's garden is not the seven deadly sins, but ignorance (of which those sins are its various faces, like sides of a single cube) ... or so it would be if man were fully rational, and not a rational animal. No one rationally wills to do wrong -- harming his own soul (ethical self) -- unless he believes that what he is doing is not wrong but good, regardless of what he may say (That is a tautology but maybe not an idle one).
There is maybe, I can't recall, an idiomatic expression "as ignorant as sin". But if 'sin' = 'wrong-doing', and wrong-doing is ignorance, then the prose version of that expression is "ignorant as ignorance".
All presumption is ignorance. And for his presumption, man is punished, sometimes unjustly, it seems to man. (Tragedy as: The gods punish presumption.)
Voices crying in the wilderness ... that are heard but not heard
Dostoyevsky quotes a Russian saying: "He daily hears the words of Christ, but he prefers his own." For although man says he knows that Jesus' words are wiser than his own, he thinks he knows something wiser than Jesus' words.
With Socrates the same is the case: his words are heard, but their hearer thinks that his own wisdom is greater than Socrates' wisdom. And thus: "I say I know that Socrates is wiser than I am, but I really think that I am wiser than Socrates." (I say I know, but ...)
The hardest thing is not to lie to yourself, not to believe your own lies. (Dostoyevsky)
For there is nothing worse than self-deception -- when the deceiver is always at home and always with you ... (Plato, Cratylus 428d; cf. the sphinx in your own house)
The man who thinks he knows what he does not know is himself deceived and deceives others. (Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 6, 1)
I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah. (John 1.23)
If the devil were always easy to recognize at first blush, our life would be very different. And that is true whether it's called the devil ("the deceiver") or presumption ("conceited ignorance", self-deceit) or bad habit formed in the time of ignorance of the good or the base instincts of man's nature.
The good as a dysfunction of nature (Thought experiments)
Believing that your misfortunes are the work of a puppet-master God is more like believing in the devil than in God. "Does belief in the devil entail belief in God?" Ivan Karamazov asked. monstrous Gods.)(Cf. Graham Greene's "God the Father" and other
Then Augustine's statement might be reversed: not that evil is the absence of God, but that goodness is the absence of the devil. Of course, if we are going to equate the devil with ignorance ... although we might say that any wisdom man has is an accident. (Wisdom is certainly the exception, not the rule, as our life shows.)
[Descartes' picture of God as "an evil deceiver" or "false witness" (diábolos). Man has inverted reality. There is no all-powerful, all-good God, but only a devil, who is the creator of this world and all it loves, but also, in his limitless arrogance, creator of the angels. The angels being all rational and therefore all good at once rebelled against the devil, who is all evil and hence corrupted by irrationality, and because the angels are immortal the devil is unable to defeat them. The angels are responsible for whatever is good, true and beautiful in this world, but the devil, who is in all things, is forever ready to overthrow their work.]
The constancy (faithfulness) of nature
God is one thing, physics another. The man who complains when one apple slice does not fall into the bowl never gives thanks for the five slices that do. We cry over the pointlessness of spilled tea but are never grateful that tea usually does not get spilled. We rely on the constancy of nature, and then protest as if a sadistic god were pulling strings when we do not like nature's course.
God is not a puppet master. Man is not a marionette. And neither is the world. God is one thing, physics another.
God is not a sadistic super-man wandering around causing troubles for us. God is not a god.
[Yes, of course those are grammatical remarks, and not the only ones possible either, nor are they necessarily essential (for there are many conceptions of God -- i.e. concepts 'God', where 'concept' = 'rules for using a word').]
Logic queries "in a disordered string"
Query: strengths and weaknesses of Wittgenstein's language games.
It is not a weakness of a metaphor/comparison that it is not universally applicable: a key is not a bad key because it does not open every lock. That is the nature of tools. On the other hand, if 'limit' = 'weakness' here, then the inapplicability of the logic-tool of language-games to aesthetics and maybe to language in religion, for example, is a weakness. (The strength -- i.e. applicability -- of the tool 'language-games' is discussed in my Synopsis of Wittgenstein's Logic of Language.)
Query: branch of philosophy concerned with the meaning of words.
That branch, according to Wittgenstein's writing and according to my own account of his work -- and I think according to Socrates' thought as well (although we do not find Socrates talking about branches of philosophy: logic, ethics, physics, which were categories invented by the Stoics; for Socrates there is just philosophy) -- is logic (But the word 'logic' (logos) has more than one historical meaning), and that is why I titled my site "Logic of Language".
Query: the method of language-games as a method of logic.
(Logic in Wittgenstein's sense of the word 'logic', that is.) That was how I characterized it in religion and language-games, noting that, as with all methods of comparison, there are limits to this particular method's application: it is not a useful comparison to make in all contexts. But the statement that the method of language-games is one method logic uses, is important to understanding Wittgenstein's "fragment of philosophy".
Query: Wittgenstein, the surface of language.
Does this make Wittgenstein's distinction (PI § 664) metaphysics: "It appears to be ..., but when you look underneath it you see that it is not"? -- However, there is the normal case where we say that too, not only the metaphysical one. The difference: verification (for if verification were possible, we would not call it metaphysics)? Even what is underneath ("deep") in the case of logic of language is not essentially hidden, because the deep grammar is simply the use ("depth grammar") made of the form of expression ("surface grammar"). In Wittgenstein's logic-philosophy (-- and given that Wittgenstein's work excluded the subject of Ethics, it may as well be called that --), language meaning is not a question of form but of use.
Query: how can a word have a meaning but not refer to an object?
Well, this is it: 'noun' = 'name' -- but if there is no object to be named, then what? That is the first -- or, it is one possible (for there is more than one way to approach a problem) -- question in logic of language. "In themselves words are only sounds, ink marks on paper -- what then gives words meaning?" (Are "words about whose meaning we are at variance" (Plato, Phaedrus 263a-b) the names of things whose nature is not clear to us? (These words would be the "names" of so-called abstractions -- i.e. words that do not name objects, or, "non-name words".))
Query: does logic belong in ethics?
What interests me here: does logic -- i.e. reason -- belong in Kantian ethics? It does in Socratic ethics, but in Kant -- if the categorical imperative is irrational (a non-reasoned to sense of obligation)? ["There is no place in my life where I would wish to say: Here I do not use reason." Words of this radicalized disciple of Socrates.]
Query: why didn't Wittgenstein like dogs?
Like savages (PI § 194) we become the moment we stray beyond our own thought-world [world of thought]! "Well, he did say that a dog can't be sincere." But he also said that a dog can't be a hypocrite (PI II, xi, p. 229a). But this is all logic of language and has nothing to do with liking or disliking anything.
Query: who divided philosophy into branches?
Query: why is philosophy divided into branches?
Aristotle, I think, Aristotle more scientist than philosopher, for much of science is the organizing of data.
There is an impulse in some men (Aristotle e.g.) to classify things -- i.e. to seek similarities and emphasize those similarities, de-emphasizing the differences, by placing various things in categories. Why? I don't know.
Other men prefer to see things as unique, each "in a class by itself" (I am this way). Why? -- what would 'why' mean here?
The first is the view of the sciences, the second of "His eye is on the sparrow" as in the Gospel (Matthew 10.29). [This distinction I learned from Prof. Thomas McTighe.]
Hegel seems to me to be always wanting to say that things which look different are really the same. Whereas my interest is in showing that things that look the same are really different. (Recollections p. 157)
Seeking similarities, seeking differences. It is "surface grammar" that makes things that are different look similar. It is "depth grammar" that shows them to be different.
Query: Xenophon's account of Socrates is inaccurate.
That would be because Plato's account is accurate? Now, that we can't say, and that is the case whether Letter ii (314b-c) was written by Plato or not. According to which criterion is an account of Socrates accurate? (Where to seek the historical Socrates?)
Query: what are the contradictions of Plato and Xenophon on Socrates' philosophy?
Query: why Socrates told Euthydemus "know yourself" in the dialogue.
The discussion of "Know thyself" between Critias and Socrates in Plato's Charmides may be contrasted with the dialog in Xenophon's Memorabilia between Socrates and Euthydemus. But is the difference one of contradiction, or of not even being within the same frame of reference?
Maybe contradictions would be in Xenophon's acceptance of Socrates' standard for knowing a thing in philosophy, namely being able to give an account (explanation) of what one knows to others (which the early Plato explicitly accepts [Laches 190c]), and Plato's attack on a distorted notion of "an account" [Theaetetus 201c-d]; likewise with Xenophon's acceptance of Socrates' "virtue is knowledge" and that for Socrates, as for all wise men, "the better rather than the pleasanter" is the good for man [Memorabilia iv, 8, 11] and Plato's discussion of the obstacles the soul's life in a human body presents to the philosophical and ethically virtuous life [Phaedo 66c-d]; there is also their different understandings of Apollo's "of all men living, Socrates most wise" [Plato versus Xenophon].
Query: are ignorance and wisdom opposite?
Is it simply know vs. not-know? No, it is not simple. Normally, 'wise' contrasts with 'foolish', 'knowledge' with 'ignorance', but the conceptual relationship between 'foolish' and 'ignorant' is ... Is there a difference for Socrates? Two kinds of ignorance: the kind that is aware of itself (i.e. "that does not think it knows what it does not know") and the kind that is not (i.e. "that thinks it knows what it does not know"). Is the first kind foolishness? The second is.
Sometimes we are forced to act although we are ignorant (do not know) what it is wise to do -- but, in such cases, is it only after the fact that our act may be judged to have been foolish or wise? No, it is rather that the words 'foolish' and 'wise' are without application in such cases. Instead, the choice made shows itself to have been happy (fortunate) or unhappy. (These are grammatical remarks. This is not a rule of our language's grammar: 'Everything done in the absence of knowledge is foolish'. Nor is this: 'A guess that has a happy outcome is wise'.) Presumption -- i.e. presuming you know what you don't know -- is the gravest sin in philosophy; maybe it would be best to say that 'presumption' is the opposite of 'wisdom'.
Query: what did Plato mean by "-ness"?
In the expression "much of a muchness" -- is muchness the essence of much? By 'ness' Plato would mean the Form (the bare essence) of whatever "thing" he was examining. (Cf. the form of expression 'hood' as e.g. 'manhood'.
The essence of the thing
Query: why is water wet? Philosophical answer.
Is "water wet"? essentially wet? Has water an essence? Have other common names? 'essence' = 'that without which something cannot be what it is', e.g. 'If water is not wet, it is not water': 'if x is not wet, x cannot be water'.
The question of "defining characteristics" -- i.e. must something necessarily have such a characteristic (essence) (Wittgenstein's investigation of the concept 'games' -- is there a defining characteristic of games, of the common name 'game, for example')?
And where would these defining characteristics come from, from the thing itself or from the person who defines the thing, the concept-maker?
Suppose we plunged our hand into what in every respect appeared to be water and our hand came out quite dry -- Is what we plunged our hand into nonetheless water, i.e. to be called 'water'? There are not rules for things that never happen (language is a tool for our use), for things that are only logical but not real possibilities ("conceptual fluidity" -- the discussion of our concept 'thunder'). We might make either rule: that the stuff is to be classified as water, maybe a strange type of water, or that it is not. (Cf. "Why is a circle round?")
Could you say that geometry's value of π = C/2r shows that there is something fundamentally irrational about the universe? Or should you say that we stand in need of someone to invent a more useful mathematics? You think you are investigating reality/the universe, whereas you are only investigating the way the human mind presents reality/the universe to itself? Do I understand this? No, or maybe a bit and possibly a bit more.
Site copyright © September 1998. Send Internet mail to Robert [Wesley] Angelo. 2nd revised edition. Last revised: 4 October 2014 : 2014-10-04 (Original version: 18 August 2012)
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