Things in themselves
Is there a reality independent of conceptions? Plato's Forms or Wittgenstein's "the meter standard" -- concepts and reality.
Context: these are logic of language -- that is Wittgenstein's expression but apparently my jargon -- discussions which ask how the distinction between language with meaning and "mere sound without sense" is made in when discussing philosophical problems.
Topics on this page ...
- das Ding an sich = "the thing in itself" (reality independent of perception)
- "Why the eternal questions are eternal"
- For example, Is there an afterlife?
- Mystifications or Self-mystifications | Mysteries or Muddles?
- "Not, by Socrates sitting, Idle talk to pursue"
- The "shepherd qua shepherd" vs. "man qua man" (Worldliness vs. Care of the soul)
- The reward of religion
- The misalignment of the ideal and the real
- Misunderstood language and children's picture worlds
- The Danger of Philosophy
das Ding an sich = "the thing in itself" (reality independent of perception)
A very strange notion that is. Because of course no one has ever seen such a thing (Cf. Plato's Forms: "Have you ever seen any of these things with your eyes?" (Phaedo 65d; Plato's self-criticism in Parmenides 135b-c); but also undefined combinations of words e.g. "absolute point of reference" which nonetheless seem to suggest something). A thing as it is in reality, independent of man's or any other animal's perceptions-conceptions (percepts-concepts) of it -- is there such a thing?
That would be the meaning of 'the thing in itself' or 'the thing as such'. And we do make this distinction between man's perceptions-conceptions of a thing and the thing as it is when stripped of any perceptions-conceptions of it. Of course it's a very strange distinction because we are unable to give anyone a thing in itself, to say what it is. Because man can't say anything about anything apart from his perceptions-conceptions of "it". (Is that a grammatical remark? What kind of "cannot" is this?)
So the only thing we are saying with that expression is that there are a multiplicity of possible (In which way possible?) conceptions and consequent perceptions (and vice versa) of a thing, not just one. And therefore we can't speak of the reality of a thing unless we contrast 'reality' with 'illusion' -- rather than contrast 'a conception of the thing' with 'the thing as it is in itself, independent of man'.
Historically. Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814) questioned whether there is any such thing as a thing-in-itself (or whether that notion is an idle postulate), and his denial that there is made idealism possible. [Kant and Metaphysics: more about percepts and concepts.]
Bishop George Berkeley. Perception (and reality)
About "to be is to be perceived", does the philosopher (1685-1753) mean there is no thing in itself? I do not think he means, or merely means, that there is no difference between saying there is no thing in itself and saying there is an unknowable thing in itself (cf. PI § 293), but something much deeper, namely that man through his perceptions-conceptions creates what man perceives-conceives. That creation is the only reality man knows.
We think to reply, "Just because you turn out the light doesn't mean that whatever the light shone on is no longer there." But what would our reply mean except that "when you turn the light back on, your perception-conception has not changed? "But still," we say, "there must be something there to perceive; otherwise there would be nothing "to be" in the "to be is to be perceived" -- i.e. there would just be the conception alone [a concept without a percept], as with an hallucination. A perception must be a perception of something; it cannot be a perception of nothing." But that is merely a grammatical reminder, not a statement of fact other than that as we normally use the word 'perception' .... Yes, the world appears the same to Bishop Berkeley as it does to everyone else, as our agreement in the language we use everyday shows (PI § 241; the words 'the same thing': their meaning is given by the standard of measurement-verification used). But metaphysics seeks a "deeper level" than mere grammar (which, in this particular case, is mere custom, usage).
Question: Is there a thing in itself, or is it that the human mind brings so much of itself to its perceptions-conceptions ["conceived-perceptions"] that it [i.e. the mind] essentially creates what it perceives -- that what it perceives has no essence of its own? But if a thing has no essence, then it does not exist in itself [in its own right, independently of being perceived].
Does man create the essence of the "thing" he perceives? Man creates the concept that gives sight to the percept (which would otherwise be blind, i.e. without meaning [= meaningless]), and that sight is the essence of the "thing" perceived. [Is reality anthropogenic? If reality = conceived percepts, then apparently.]
"... the world appears the same." You cannot picture the "thing in itself". It is not as it were a mass of contoured grayness. If a man and a bumblebee look at "the same thing", they do not see the same thing -- not if 'the same thing' is defined by (the grammatical "standard of measurement") the structure of the lenses of their respective eyes, which are very different. According to the lenses analogy, the reality of the bumblebee is different from the reality of man. And therefore to ask if their perceptions are of "the same thing in itself" would be to try to appeal to an absolute -- not merely a possible -- standard ... but there is no such standard, no absolute point of reference.
If a bumblebee could talk it too might ask itself about "whether reality is confined to what is in principle perceptible to [its] senses". If "to be is to be perceived" by man, then, "to be is to be perceived" by cat or bumblebee as well. How could one claim its conceptions-perceptions to be in closer touch to reality than any other's are?
The Problems of Philosophy (1911)
Bertrand Russell thought the hypothesis that there are things that exist independently of being perceived is the simplest, meaning that it accounts for the data of experience while creating fewer difficulties than the hypothesis of idealism.
If asked whether there are objects that continue to exist as they are in themselves regardless of whether we are looking at them, touching them, or hearing them, our naive response would be, "Yes, of course, obviously." But is that response a statement of belief, or a rule of grammar? Yet it does not strike us as a rule, but instead as if it were a statement of fact. "Realism" is a powerful picture: "Where do objects go when you close your eyes, then? And where do other human being go when they leave your presence -- haven't they really an existence of their own, independent of yours?"
That is not "the rebellion of common sense against idealism", because as Fichte said, "idealism is a speculative position": it is not a counter-picture to "realism" -- the world looks the same to the idealist as to everyone else. G.E. Moore's objection to idealism is an objection to a straw man, and Russell's "naive realism" (of which Russell called a naive example: Grass in itself really is green, not only in our perception of "it") is not a counter-thesis to idealism. Their only rebellion is against imagined rules of grammar -- that no one is proposing: idealism is not a counter-grammar (reform of the language) to our normal one.
[A perception that is not a perception of something is not a perception at all, i.e. that form of language is nonsense. And that might be a criticism of absolute idealism -- but it is a grammatical criticism only, not metaphysical.]
Philosophy as speculation
Metaphysics always ends with I don't know. For it is speculation. Whether or not it is idle depends on what we want from philosophy. Metaphysics as speculation may come after logic and ethics or ethics and logic in the course of one's philosophical interests. (For youth maybe it seems only an endless afternoon of make-believe.)
"And I make no hypotheses"
Query: how does Aristotle explain family resemblance?
If the query alludes to Wittgenstein's common names and "family likenesses", I don't know, although Aristotle does say, at least as I recall reading, I think in Guthrie's history, but not in Aristotle (I don't know where he says this, if he says this), that defining-common-nature definitions are not always the most useful/best method for defining words(? or things?). (If I recall aright, Aristotle's view was that non-essential definitions are often more often what is needed in ethics.) The following is what I unclearly remembered.
Those who speak in general terms [as if there were an essence of virtue] ... are wrong. To enumerate the virtues, as Gorgias did, is much nearer the mark than to make this kind of [general] definition. (Aristotle, Politics 1260a25)
Questions I would like to know the answer to: How does Aristotle account for common names: What is the meaning of a common name, according to Aristotle? Does he (1) simply describe the facts in plain view, saying that there very often are no "essences" (i.e. defining-common-natures such as Socrates seeks in Plato's Socratic dialogs) -- that is, does Aristotle, as Wittgenstein also does, NOT account for common names -- or does Aristotle (2) claim, as the "theory of abstraction" does, that even though there are no visible defining common natures, nonetheless they REALLY exist and are the meaning of common names? (Plato's question is in nowise idle -- it cannot be dismissed as a conceptual muddle or misconception: if there is no common nature behind a common name, then has that name any meaning?)
... that in so far as they think they see the limits of what is knowable they also think they can see beyond them. (Cf. CV p. 15 [MS 111 133: 24.8.1931])
For the historical Socrates it was enough, I think, to find the limits of what we know according to Socrates' standard that if a man knows anything he can give an account of what he knows to others. (That is what I myself have called "Socratic ignorance".)
A speculative thesis can only be refuted by being shown to state a logical impossibility -- i.e. to be an undefined combination of words -- but it cannot be verified -- i.e. it cannot be shown to be true, and therefore it cannot be known. And the aim of Socratic dialectic is to agree to true propositions and to refute false propositions. Any speculative thesis is therefore rejected because it cannot be knowledge -- i.e. a true proposition. (Cf. hypotheses non fingo.) Plato, on the other hand, wanted to see beyond those apparent limits.
Kant's innate categories versus "thing in itself" distinction is a reflection of Plato's myth of the cave (Republic 515c: we are like men with our backs to the light, seeing only the shadows cast on the wall and trying to account for the shadows: what casts them?) -- i.e. both appear to be instances of thinking you can see beyond the limits of what we know. (Of what we can know? -- well, the word 'can' already expresses a theory (i.e. speculation).) As Ramsey [did not say] said, and I believe, "What we don't know -- we don't know. And we can't whistle it either."
What Ramsey did say is: "But what we can't say we can't say, and we can't whistle it either" -- which in my context means that Socratic philosophy is verbal: whatever "cannot be put into words" (but only be, as music can only be, whistled) doesn't exist for it -- i.e. the words 'say' and 'know' have essentially interconnected meanings as Socrates uses those words (as in Socrates' criterion for 'knowing').
Nil sapientiae odiosius ... But for my purpose, I shall give this meaning to Seneca's words: "Nothing is more an obstacle to wisdom (to the philosophical understanding of the logic of our language) than a intellect that theorizes rather than looks at (studies) the facts themselves. (But what is the relationship of this to Goethe's "All fact is already theory"?)
Query: patterns in nature; Plato, Parmenides [and Diogenes' objection to it].
That there are patterns in nature ... we might want to say is obvious. But that's the very question Kant is asking: are the patterns we find in nature itself or only in the human perception-conception -- i.e. in the innate categories of the human mind -- of it? [Contrast cups with "cuphood": Diogenes' objection to Plato's Forms and Plato's reply.]
Query: Plato calls learning recollection; why?
If learning requires knowing the meaning of common names, assuming that the meaning of a common name is the common nature it names, then how else can you learn but by recollecting what you saw when your soul was not "in the body" -- because, certainly with respect to anything philosophically worth knowing (namely, goodness and beauty, and even lesser things like triangle-ness if that is picturable), "you have never seen any of these common natures with your eyes" (cf. Plato, Phaedo 65d), have you?
Do I myself know anything worth knowing/anything important to know? What I know of are many things that men think they know but do not know, e.g. what death is. And the whole aim of Socratic philosophy is this -- not to think you know what you don't know.
To accept that our life is a mystery that we will never understand (because we neither define -- nor want to define -- what we would call 'understanding' here), and not fancy that in so far as we can see the limits of what we know, we can also see beyond them -- That condition, state of mind, has been called "learned ignorance" (or "lur-nid" or educated ignorance) -- but its relationship to the historical Socrates' aim in philosophy is, in my view, doubtful.
Wittgenstein's "second part" (including, on his account of them, ethics, the concept 'God', and "all that music has meant in my life") may or may not be important -- but if it cannot be put into words it is not philosophy. Without language man is a brute "wanting discourse of reason" -- i.e. deprived of dialectic either with himself or his companions. The "second part" -- i.e. the part of the TLP that is "shown" (i.e. shows itself to be, but not in words) rather than "said" (i.e. in words) -- is that notion not to think one sees beyond the limit of that mystery?
Query: language bedrock under our life. Wittgenstein.
For Kant: the categories, "innate concepts", maybe. For Wittgenstein, we might say that some particular concepts serve as the foundation of all our thought and so of our way of life, e.g. 'object' (CV p. 86 [MS 174 1v: 1950 § 2]), 'space' -- concepts like this maybe? But Wittgenstein says that "if anyone believes that certain concepts are absolutely the correct ones ... then let him imagine certain very general facts of nature to be different from what we are used to, and the formation of concepts different from the usual ones will become intelligible to him" (PI xii, p. 230).
Yes, but with respect to Kant: are we talking here about "fictitious natural history" -- i.e. "let him imagine certain very general facts of nature to be different" -- we have invented (ibid.) (an example) or mankind's actual natural history? And if we are talking about man's natural history, is it not possible that Kant is correct about the categories he identifies as innate to all human perception? Kant's picture is speculation -- metaphysics -- i.e. if it is not nonsense (i.e. undefined combinations of words), then it can only be logically possible (and even then it requires a god who can see what man cannot).
Whether particular concepts or categories should be called "bedrock" (or "bedrock tools") or not, they are not the type of examples I wrote about before, where I referred to particular propositions or types of propositions as bedrock, following Wittgenstein's On Certainty.
Creation of ideas versus revision of ideas
Query: who created the word "philosophy"?
Query: we must define our terms. Socrates.
In Xenophon's Memorabilia iv, 6, it says that Socrates "never stopped investigating, with the help of his companions, the meaning of every single term". If we know the definition of a word, we can explain its meaning to others. And, otherwise, according to that standard (which Socrates set for philosophy), we don't know what we're talking about (because we don't know the meaning of the sounds we are making) (Plato's discussion with Thrasymachus appears to be an example of that).
Query: what were the thoughts of Descartes and Kant about knowing?
Descartes: that the contents ("ideas") of one's own consciousness can reveal the nature of reality to one; Kant: one is only looking in a mirror when one examines the contents of one's own consciousness: innate ideas belong to the subject (oneself) not to the object (independent reality, "the thing in itself", if there is such a thing, Fichte asked).
Query: would it be possible to explore nature without preconceptions?
That is what Goethe wanted, but he said that "the most important thing to remember is that all fact is already conception", that is, that every fact is a conceived fact, that a percept is "blind" -- i.e. unintelligible -- until a concept gives it sight -- i.e. makes it intelligible.
We are never in touch with precepts themselves ("raw percepts"), but that every perception of nature (the natural world) is a concept (i.e. the conception of a percept). Our word "concept" is synonymous with Goethe's "theory": all fact is already conception; all fact is already concept. We are never in touch with reality itself (if there is such a thing, if the notion "reality itself" is a coherent idea at all, and not just a false grammatical analogy) but only with our concepts, our conceptions, for we can only perceive reality this way or that way, not as it is in itself (The "ways" are concepts).
But if it is true that "percepts without concepts are blind", then what will our free-of-preconceptions -- i.e. concept-less -- eyes see if we open them? On the other hand, if it is possible to doubt everything -- just not everything at the same time -- then by using some concepts but suspending others, we may be able to see aspects of nature in new ways -- i.e. form new concepts [or revise old concepts] rather than be bound to prior concepts [conceptions]. Theory revision need not always be a response to new instruments of investigation (e.g. microscopes, telescopes) or travels to unexplored lands and the new phenomena they reveal. (But if it need not be, then when what is wanted is to reconceive already familiar phenomena, is it by suspending some concepts while continuing to use others how we do this?)
As to the query, it does not define 'preconceptions' apropos of exploring nature. But
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem ...
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy ...
Is what Wordsworth's ode describes -- i.e. perceptions that have lost the "freshness and glory of a dream" that "nothing can bring back", having taken on the stolidity of all-too matter-of-course concepts/conceptions -- Is that necessarily the condition of the grown-up; is it the only possibility? But that "question-sign" is so far only an undefined combination of words -- because we have set no criteria for answering it correctly.
What is the relation of this -- i.e. of whatever we're talking about, if we are talking about something here -- to the notion das Ding an sich? If there were percepts without concepts that are not blind, those would be perceptions of "the thing in itself" ... although wouldn't any such "unblind percepts" be, as it were, not pre-conceptions -- but "pre-perceptions"? In other words, is there such a thing -- i.e. is this nonsense -- as an unconditioned perception? (I wrote earlier, apropos of "forms of life" questions without answers, that "It may be that only human beings can perceive things the way human beings do. And perhaps no two human beings perceive them the same way". Cf. Helen Keller's The Story of My Life.)
As so often when creating metaphysical pictures, it's hard to distinguish defined language from "sound without sense" -- What's a non-conditioned percept/perception when it's at home? (Is 'unblind percept' simply an undefined combination of words? Or have I defined it above?)
Does Plato say, as it were, about his Forms that "And when your soul is freed from the body by death (Phaedo 64c), you shall be as gods, seeing reality as it is in itself"? Actually Catholic Christian theology, at least according to Pope St. Gregory the Great, does say something like that: "whoever sees God sees all things" as those things really are, which is "by definition" how God sees them. (Paul's "eye hath not seen nor ear heard" -- is that no more than a nonsense combination of words?)
Query: why do we ask questions that cannot be answered?
Define 'why' in this context and maybe you will have your answer. (The "questions without answers" I talk about will never be answered -- unless their meaning is revised in such a way as to make them answerable. If they can or cannot be answered, the question for logic of language is: Why can or can't they be answered (Which kind of possibility is this)?)
"Why the eternal questions are eternal"
Query: meaning of none but God is wise; Pythagoras.
The title "wise" is worthy of only a god; no, rather call him a "lover of wisdom" (Plato, Phaedrus 278c-d), which I imagine is a similar idea to that ascribed to Pythagoras, that he is not a sophist ("wise man") but only a philosopher. A Socratic reply to the query is that "If a man knows anything ..." but dialectic shows that he does not know what is most important for him to know -- if that unknown is the standard Plato speaks of, regardless whether a general ethics is knowable or not (and I believe it is: both Socratic ethics and Jesus' ethics of love as the mark of belonging to the kingdom of God share it).
Query: there is not only one right way to live and conduct oneself - true or false?
If ethics is rational and if its results are true or false propositions (if "the type of verification is the type of language-game" and if tautologies can state true propositions), then its results are universal. For example, the common ancient Greek standard "The just man benefits his friends and harms his enemies" (332d: "To do good to friends and evil to enemies ... is justice") that Plato refutes at the very beginning of his Republic is similar to Jesus' "But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you" (Matthew 5.44). (I, years ago, called "Do good and evil exist?" a question without an answer, although I now believe that it does have an answer, that Socrates was correct, that if man seeks to know the excellence that is proper to him, then he will discover "no small matter, but how to live".)
Another possible reply to the query is: Because only God sees the complete plan (Lichtenberg), whereas man sees it only in part -- if he sees it at all, for he may simply be deluded (i.e. he can only seem or not seem to see it (PI § 258: "in the present case I have no criterion of correctness. One would like to say: whatever is going to seem right to me is right. And that only means that here we can't talk about 'right'")). No one knows what God's plan is, if He has a plan (Is to deny that there is a plan to deny that there is a God?): "My thoughts are as high above your thoughts as the heavens are above the earth."
Wittgenstein: "We feel that even if all possible scientific questions can be answered, the problems of life have still not be touched at all" (TLP 6.52, tr. Ogden). Well, but that is because they are not questions belonging to natural science, but to philosophy -- the philosophy which man is to be cured by, not (contra Wittgenstein) of, Socratic philosophy (Again: the appropriate method of verification; and non-trivial tautologies).
The questions of science, scientific questions and their explanations, only lead to further scientific questions, none of which is relevant to ethics, which is "concerned with life and all that has to do with us" -- the word 'life' in the sense of Plato's "no small matter, but how to live" (not 'life' in the sense of 'biology', which in the ancient Stoic division of philosophy into three parts would belong to physics, where 'physics' means both 'natural science' and 'metaphysics').
Mankind's eternal questions are not eternal in one way only, for our way of understanding what is being asked by those questions ("question-signs", combinations (but not arbitrarily chosen combinations) of words) is revised from time to time, if we think about those questions often enough.
For example, Is there an afterlife?
Some men believe there is life after death, while others are convinced of just the opposite. Neither is mistaken -- so long as neither supposes that what he believes in is the truth or falsity of an hypothesis (or, in other words, that what he believes is that an hypothesis is true) rather than a metaphysical picture.
Neither proposition is an empirical proposition; neither can be verified nor falsified by our experience of the world. Why is this?
Because when we go to sleep and wake up, both events happen in this world -- i.e. we are alive on both sides of this event. But death is not this way; it is not an event in our life, but instead the limit of our life in this world. We don't live through death [cf. TLP 6.4311: "Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through" (tr. Ogden)] as through an illness or as one passes through an underwater roadway tunnel; one does not experience both ends of it in this world. The picture does not allow that possibility -- it is not what we mean by the word 'death', by which we mean an end to life in this world, and therefore both sides of death cannot be events in this world/in this life -- and verification or falsification can only take place in this world (or, in other words, within this world). There is no outside this world for a person to stand on both sides of, to experience both sides of while still in this world. (All these are of course grammatical remarks.)
... the veil hung black as a pall and I was minded to believe that nothing lay beyond it. (Marshall, This Sorry Scheme (1925), vii)
And this is what these two pictures are, being minded to believe that something or nothing lies beyond the veil, which is our ignorance of what life, of what existence is.
Whether there is an afterlife or not is a mystery. It is only when we think we know what we don't know that we think otherwise.
Query: an answer is a mistake.
An answer already shows that one thinks one knows what one does not know? Or offering an answer to a "Question without Answer" suggests that you do not understand the purpose of those questions -- (because they are similar to rhetorical questions: they do not ask for an answer, but only to be asked, to be given a place in our life)? Those are two possibilities.
Mystifications or Self-mystifications | Mysteries or Muddles?
"... or only muddles?" This uneasiness, uncertainty -- subjective uncertainty ("Is my understanding only blindness to my own lack of understanding? It often seems so to me" (OC § 418) -- and that is what we mean by calling this uncertainty 'subjective': that it only seems to be (PI § 258), because 'objective doubt' requires also objective grounds for doubt) -- is at the very soul of philosophy as an irrational root that cannot be extracted. Why "irrational"? -- is it because we never make blunders, even very fundamental blunders, when we philosophize? That you can't say.
Query: Plato, form; Wittgenstein, standard meter.
This is the, somewhat toned-down, response I made (in my notes) in November 2006: "The query is quite frightening: what a mass of conceptual confusion to sort out! What a marvelous way to mystify yourself. The difference: the meter standard exists; it is a physical object (namely a stick in Paris, France) -- not an "Idea", not an "abstract object". There are -- indeed there must be (because this is what we mean by the word 'standard') -- defined ways to compare the meter standard with other objects in order to determine their length. (The meter standard has only extension -- it does not have a measurable length: that is what we mean by designating it as 'the meter standard': other objects are compared with it to determine their length, but not vice versa.)
"Whereas Plato's "Ideas" or Forms exist nowhere, not even in the imagination, because no one can imagine nonsense: even in the case of the stuff named by the common name 'clay', which Plato says does have an essence, there is no Form to point to (If the word 'Form' does not mean a picture, then does it mean anything more than 'common nature' -- but if that's its only meaning then Ockham's razor applies). What's the Form 'shape' (Meno 74d, 72c) when it's at home? Well an undefined combination of words ('the Form 'shape'') has no home."
Plato's invention of Forms was a metaphysical answer to a logic of language question, namely, What is the meaning of a common name -- is its meaning not the common nature named by the common name? But it was a metaphysical answer -- i.e. an unverifiable speculation (a picture that there is no defined way to compare with what it is proposed to be a picture of). His notion Forms (or, Patterns, or, Archetypes, or, Paradigms) is a comparison to actual existent "Forms" such as the meter standard -- but they are not actual themselves (That is one distinction). They are a general invention -- e.g. Plato asks about the Form 'shape', but he never says (is specific about) what such-a-thing would look like -- i.e. the comparison he makes is very general (That is another distinction).
Further, meter sticks are not generated by the meter standard as, as it were, emanations, nor do they in any defined-language way "partake" or "participate" in the meter standard (or, "meterness" -- for isn't the meter standard the essence of "meterhood"?).
Of course you could say that meter sticks are patterned on the meter standard, but it isn't just a question of meter sticks because many things are measured in meters that are not shaped like the meter standard, e.g. curves for which tailor's measuring tape (or a meter's length of string) is used to measure their length in meters.
We might at first blush think: Both the meter standard and Platonic Forms are standards; therefore they are well-compared. But the only way in which they are alike is that they are both "in some way" standards, if Plato's Forms are in some way standards. When we say that Plato asks for a standard in the Euthyphro, it's clear what we mean by the word 'standard', but in the case of the Forms it isn't -- not unless the Forms are pictures? Not even then. Because by the word 'standard' we don't simply mean 'an object of comparison' (Also, "projection rules" are needed: defining rules for how the comparison is to be made).
"The nature of the thing named"
Query: what signifies knowing the names if you don't know the nature of things?
Do you mean the names of "abstractions", or of common objects such as cows? By "what signifies" do you mean 'of what benefit is'? -- But then that is not the question. The question is instead: , e.g. What do you mean by "knowing the nature of the things named"?
"In philosophy," I wrote, "we define words, not things" -- but why is that? Is it because that is our project in philosophy, or because that is all philosophy can do? (Well, but which kind of possibility does 'can' signify here?) Definition in Wittgenstein's logic of language (PI § 43): As to the second part -- i.e. explaining the meaning (PI § 560) of the name of an object by pointing to the object named -- that might or might not make the nature of the thing named known (but is the nature of the thing in all cases defining of the name, e.g. must you know that cows give milk in order to know "the meaning" of the word 'cow'? Say whichever you like -- i.e. there is no rule of logic to guide your choice here:
Should it be said that I am using a word whose meaning I don't know, and so am talking nonsense? -- Say what you choose, so long as it does not prevent you from seeing the facts. (And when you see them there is a good deal that you will not say.) (ibid. § 79)
The propositions philosophy discusses are not empirical (PG i § 32, p. 68) -- by which I mean that they are not definitions-hypotheses about "things"; although a grammatical reminder may be a description of actual (and therefore empirical) language use, such a reminder is a grammatical -- not a "philosophical" proposition, if by 'philosophical proposition' we mean 'metaphysical, or, speculative proposition' (which we may want to liken to an hypothesis, if by 'hypothesis' we mean a 'picture offered to be compared with what it is thought to be a picture of', except that it is not offered for comparison because it does not say how it is to be compared with what it is thought to be a picture of; hence like and not like an hypothesis). (Philosophy and "abstract language"; but a grammatical remark might concern any language, as e.g. the word 'cow' above.)
Defining Philosophy and Knowing what you don't know
Query: define philosophy in a philosophical way.
Query: how did Wittgenstein define philosophy?
Is it possible to find what you are looking for if you don't set criteria for finding it? Or can't. "I'll recognize it when I see it." (Will you? How do you know you will? Well, you don't: "Whatever seems correct is going to be correct ...")
What does it mean, to know it and not be able to say it? Is this knowledge somehow equivalent to an unformulated definition? So that if it were formulated I would be able to recognize it ...? (PI § 75)
"I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for -- but, you know, a definition." That does give some orientation, but how do we decide whether it is enough to say whether someone knows what they are talking about?
Don't we live this way ("ways of life")? Aren't I even now as I write this trying to find whatever it is that logic (of language) needs to say in response to the query?
What is a "philosophical way of defining philosophy" when it's at home? Is it a statement of what the definer thinks philosophy should be -- i.e. philosophy as a project towards some end (which might be knowledge or clarity e.g.)?
(1) What is philosophy? versus (2) How do we normally use the word 'philosophy'? The second kind of question can be asked about any language, but can the first kind be asked about abstractions ("abstract language")?
"Theories about  what philosophy is"? And what would we be calling a 'theory'? One way to account for all the SELECTED data, self-consistently. Is the rub the "selected" bit? Wittgenstein's exclusion -- i.e. deselection -- of ethics (confining philosophy to logic and metaphysics only) -- but Plato's "we are discussing no small matter, but how to live" -- is that an example of "bewitchment by means of language"? Is it self-mystification? (Wittgenstein: Being deeply struck by some aspect philosophy, and saying: Here is the essence of the thing. But being limited by the selection of data he has chosen.)
When Wittgenstein says things like "Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language" (PI § 109), is he defining the word 'philosophy'? Decidedly not. Is he saying what we do in philosophy -- i.e. when philosophizing? And what is the difference between "This is what we do in philosophy" and "This what philosophy is"? Is Wittgenstein stating a definition of any kind, or is he characterizing philosophy -- and what is the difference between 'defining' and 'characterizing'?
Those questions look like being poor in categories -- of trying to force "things" into classes they don't clearly fit into. There may be many meanings of the word 'definition' -- not just the verbal versus "real" distinction Aristotle made. And of course there is also the nebulosity of the discussion.
Which reminds me of this: that I almost never agreed with my old teacher, but at least he gave me something to disagree with, whereas the Sophists I allowed myself to be subjected to -- you can't agree or disagree to a proposition if you don't know its meaning.
My new method in philosophy leaves aside the question of truth and asks about meaning instead. (Cf. CV (1998 rev. ed.) [MS 105 46 c: 1929]; the actual text is: "I myself still find my way of philosophizing new ... This method consists essentially in leaving the question of truth and asking about sense instead.")
That was the decisive move Wittgenstein made in philosophy.
Query: Socrates knows what he does not know.
Yes, Socrates does know what he doesn't know, as for example in Plato's Euthyphro he knows that he doesn't know the universal standard he seeks in ethics that will tell him in every particular case what the good man should do. But is this query about Apollo's oracle at Delphi and Socratic ignorance?
Or is the query about the contradiction -- no, not the apparent but the actual contradiction -- of 'I know what I don't know' = 'I know x, and I don't know x', where 'x' = 'what I don't know'. The contradiction is only "apparent" if we make a distinction, such as I earlier did, between contradictions in sense (-- where 'sense' = 'use in the language', because the word 'sense' like the word 'meaning' has many other meanings --) and contradictions in form. (Cf. a 'paradox' is a 'contradiction that is true': 'Socrates knows what he doesn't know' is an example of a paradox.)
Being convinced that contradiction is a sure test of truth and falsity is an example of being unable to imagine an alternative: "How can (p AND not-p) be anything other than false?" And so this is where a slogan like "Ask for the use rather than the form" could be useful. (Cf. the distinction of use versus form in Wittgenstein's later thinking, and his criticism of his contemporaries apropos.)
"And if anyone knows anything about anything," said Bear to himself, "it's Owl who knows something about something," he said, "or my name's not Winnie-the-Pooh," he said. "Which it is," he added. "So there you are." (Winnie-the-Pooh, iv)
I confess that I have never been able to figure out quite at all what philosophers mean when they use the expression 'circular argument'. Is the above an example: B is true, if my name is A, and my name is A, and therefore B is true?
Haven't all deductions that form: If all men are mortal (and they are), and Socrates is a man (and he is), then Socrates is mortal? No, if A + B, then C -- but not the other way around: Neither A nor B can be deduced from C.
A "critique of language" and Kant
"The task of all philosophy is to find the limits of language." That is its "critique" of language (TLP 4.0031). As in the Wittgenstein's metaphor of surveying the shoreline to mark its limits. And according to that book the "limits of language" is made by the distinction between what can and what cannot be put into words that are not nonsense, or, in other words, of what can be "said" by means of language that is not nonsense versus what can only "show" itself by means of language that is. (Yes, this use of the word 'nonsense', where what is called nonsense has meaning, is eccentric.)
If I recall aright, Wittgenstein says somewhere that either the view of language of the Philosophical Investigations or of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus must be the correct one. If the meaning of a name is the object the name stands for, then the TLP's account is correct (which has the unhappy result that most or all language about "abstract objects", including common names, is nonsense.
Indeed, the language that is not nonsense is limited to things like this example Wittgenstein gave Parak: "If a book is on the table, then this is a fact. If a drawer wants to represent this fact or state of things, then the elements of the drawing must correspond to the objects of reality. Now, if we want to express this fact by means of language, then the proposition is the image of a state of things in the language").
"What language cannot say cannot be thought"
The main point ["my main contention"] is the theory of what can be expressed (gesagt) by props -- i.e. by language -- (and, which comes to the same, what can be thought) and what can not be expressed by props, but only shown (gezeigt); which, I believe, is the cardinal problem of philosophy. (Letter R.37 from Cassino to Russell 19.8.19)
How to make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense in the context of philosophy -- which distinction would, I think, be equivalent to setting "the limits of language" -- is what I think is il problema cardinale della filosofia ("the cardinal problem of philosophy") and what I think Wittgenstein's master question in philosophy was. All philosophy takes on that task -- or doesn't (and that it doesn't shows itself in the writing of nonsense (i.e. undefined combinations of words), or, in other words: Thus all "philosophy assumes" -- whether it intends to or not -- "an investigation of the limits of language", if that is equivalent to an investigation of sense and nonsense). That is a possible meaning for:
All philosophy is a critique of language ... (TLP 4.0031)
"I am certain that the use of the word 'critique' here is a deliberate reference to Kant," Drury wrote ("Letters to a Student of Philosophy", ed. Lee, in Philosophical Investigations, vi (1983; written in 1954), p. 82). That connection did not suggest itself to me, but another did:
Kant's categories -- categorical limits of/to thought -- are only, I think, language limits. The limit of language = the limit of philosophy -- is concept formation (i.e. imagination, or, the ability to invent/describe the logically possible). Note: language is the limit of philosophy, not of thought (that nebulous notion).
Philosophy's limit is logical possibility, or, maybe, in other words you could say: the limit of Gestalt shift, of logically possible "aspects" (PI II, xi, p. 194). Why shouldn't "reality" impose limits on logical possibility? (Whether or not it imposes limits on real possibility is a question without an answer: "What can be described can happen too" (TLP 6.362, tr. Ogden) -- Really?)
Alternatives to the concepts 'object' and 'space'
So I have written many times, but is it true? Why has no one, if no one has, invented more serviceable -- or at least alternatives to -- the concepts 'object' and 'space'? ("Concepts ... are the expression of our interest ..." (PI § 570), and surely this project would be of great interest to metaphysics.)
If concepts arise to answer a felt-need, then people have not felt a need for alternatives. Can we say that?
"Not, by Socrates sitting, Idle talk to pursue"
Query: what is it called when someone is obsessed with asking and knowing the why to everything?
Query: why do some people question life and others accept everything?
What is the name of this -- "Socrates-itis", "Euripides disease", "Platonic syndrome"?
People waken (or are wakened) from the dogmatic slumber of childhood. (Schweitzer spoke of "the fundamental impulse to reflect about the world [that] stirs us during those years in which we begin to think independently".)
People waken (or are wakened) ... Socrates and Euripides were accused of radicalizing youth. That is half the indictment against Socrates. The most grievous aspect of the crime of "corrupting the youth" would be calling on young people to "question everything".
I taught them all these knowing ways By ... making all my speakers try To reason out the How and Why. (Aristophanes, The Frogs, tr. Rogers, ca. line 971; the title is ca. line 1491)
Aristophanes' The Clouds shows Socrates sowing doubt, as if Socrates could seed the clouds with doubt that would rain down on Athens, endangering the Athenians' way of life. In the verse above Euripides is accused of weakening the community (by way of ideas) by questioning what it doesn't question, thus turning young men toward philosophy.
As to the query's why? What would a "because" look like in this instance? Give us a model on which to base our answer. What type of answer is the query seeking (Need the querier be able to say?) or expecting?
Query: what did Socrates mislead the youth about?
According to the historian-scholar Hammond, I think, Socrates was guilty in law (at least in so far as he seemed to "introduce a new divinity", namely, his divine guide). Well, but in what way did Socrates make the youth worse in character, if he did make them worse in character. What was the source of the corruption claim in his indictment? The men Socrates cross-questioned in dialectic became angry when refuted, and they made accusations against him.
When they are asked, "Why, what does he do? What does he teach?" they do not know what to say. Not to seem at a loss, they repeat the stock charges against all philosophers and allege that he investigates things in the air and under the earth, and that he teaches people to disbelieve in the gods, and to make the worse argument appear the stronger. For, I suppose, they should not like to confess the truth, which is that they are shown up as ignorant pretenders to knowledge that they do not possess. (Plato, Apology 23c-e, tr. Church, rev. Cumming)
Namely, ignorance of what it is that Socrates teaches. But Socrates says that he is not a teacher.
And I cannot justly be charged with causing these men to turn out good or bad, for I never either taught or professed to teach any of them any knowledge whatever. (ibid. 33b) I was never anyone's teacher. (ibid. 33a)
Socrates had a criterion (to give an account) and a method (dialectic). He taught no doctrine (although, according to Aristotle, he did hold that virtue is knowledge, he did not profess to teach that knowledge). What Socrates had were questions which showed up those who thought they knew what they did not know. That was his crime.
Query: why some people have the need to question everything?
Does conformism -- i.e. unquestioning acceptance -- belong to the excellence that is proper to man? Or is questioning, which is a use of reason, not a unique and defining virtue of man?
Again, the query asks "Why"? But what would an answer look like here -- would it come from psychologists? (Psychology and the question of verification)
Query: neuroscientist, why do people question everything.
Can this "why" be answered -- i.e. what meaning shall we give it? "Here is the location in the brain, the physiological event, of questioning everything"? Is questioning everything an organic mental illness to be cured by a medical procedure such as Yevgeny Zamyatin imagined in his book We? Or is not questioning everything the illness --.
"Hemlock to the philosophers!" There are and have been many places where that is the cry of the community towards those few who, like Socrates, have a mind to step outside the community of ideas. Questioning everything is, of course, revolution. Philosophers have been rare in human history. Most rebellion is actually within the thought-world of the community. (Mine, for instance.)
Query: which Greek philosopher believed authority should be questioned?
They all did by their very act of philosophizing. Philosophy is defiance of authority, of the authority of the community of ideas, of the authority of tradition, of the authority of the authorities. It is not "faith (reverently) seeking understanding" (theology) -- It is criticism. (For example, the query is not an example of philosophizing: it is compliant rather than defiant, conformist rather than rebellious. As is the next query below.)
Query: in your own words explain why logic is an important branch of philosophy?
What are you calling logic, because the word 'logic' has many meanings? The method of the Sophists: to ask for "your own words", but give you a bad mark if they don't like "your own words". (Wittgenstein to Sraffa: "Every way of thinking is all right as long as it isn't stupid" -- but what does 'stupid' mean in philosophy?) The query is more akin rote learning than to philosophy in this respect, that
The "shepherd qua shepherd" vs. "man qua man" - this worldliness vs. Care of the soul
Query: what do Plato and Thrasymachus agree about justice?
It seems that they disagree -- but about what exactly do they disagree, if they disagree (What do they mean by the word 'just' when they say that they are "defining justice": defining words versus defining things -- and in this case an "abstract thing" at that)? Thrasymachus has heard the earlier part of the discussion (Republic 331e-335e), where the topic does seem to be -- and indeed is -- what we mean by the word 'justice'. But when Thrasymachus enters the discussion, Plato seems to wander away from that topic.
What they agree about: the role of the shepherd qua -- 'qua DEF.= 'in essence' -- shepherd (ibid. 343b ff.) -- that the "just" shepherd tends his sheep for the sake of their well-being rather than his own benefit (qua money-maker) -- whether or not those are the same, because they might not be. It is the task of the shepherd qua shepherd to care for his sheep without regard to money-making, just as it is the task of the doctor qua doctor to care for his patients without regard to money-making.
But does the good shepherd milk the sheep for the benefit of the sheep? And does the good shepherd deliver his sheep up to the butcher to be slaughtered for the benefit of the sheep? (If the good shepherd does such things, then what does the bad shepherd do!) -- are these the acts of a "just" shepherd in-so-far-as he is a shepherd (a shepherd as-such, or, shepherd qua shepherd)? or does he change roles to do these things, from shepherd to milkmaid, from shepherd to cattle-driver?
Query: what does Thrasymachus mean when he says "justice is literally the other fellow's good"?
Does 'literally' = 'in the strict sense of the word' or 'x qua x' (where 'x' = 'justice' as in Republic 343b-c) or 'essentially'? If it does it is Plato's jargon. Plato's general definition of 'justice' is 'correct conduct (doing one's duty) towards men' (Gorgias 507a-b).
The statesman (politician) who benefits himself at the cost of (i.e. harm to) those he rules over -- is he as ruler qua [i.e. as (such), in so far as (it is)] ruler unjust? (See the emperor Trajan's letter of warning to Pliny the Younger: the just ruler is guided only by the public good.)
The just soldier qua soldier will obey all legal orders and even sacrifice his life and the lives of others for the sake of victory -- is that what we mean by 'being just' or 'justice' in the case of the soldier (qua soldier)?
But for Ethics (for Plato's "we are discussing no small matter, but how to live"), is not the question about man qua man rather than about man in any particular role? Because both laws -- "legal orders" -- and the war itself my be unjust, and therefore what is just for the soldier qua soldier may be unjust for the man who acts as a soldier -- i.e. the soldier qua man?
The just judge rules solely based on the law rather than to his own or someone else's advantage. But suppose the law prohibits him from ruling based also on equity? Then may he not be an unjust man precisely because he is a just judge qua judge?
That is, I am beginning to doubt the usefulness (benefit) to Ethics of Plato's distinction between "man as x" and "man as man per se", where 'x' = 'some role or other man may play at some time or other in his life'.
It might seem that the elementary question of ethics here is whether being just belongs to the excellence that is proper to man, or, in other words, whether it belongs to the good (life) for man. But that is not ethic's question. By definition of the word 'justice', justice is a moral virtue, and the question ethics asks is, not whether man should be just, but what man must do to be just.
Question: Is there an essence of justice -- i.e. a defining- common-nature definition of the word 'justice'? and if there is not, what is the point of Plato's and Thrasymachus' discussion? (In which sense of 'point'?) What do all these "just" men have in common, from the shepherd to ruler to soldier to judge? To be 'just' is to serve whatever the good is from the point of view of that profession regardless of whether the consequence is of worldly benefit to oneself (e.g. as money-maker) or not. Then it appears that to be disinterested is to be 'just' (cf. Plato, Apology 32b-c) -- and that is the good for man qua man in such-and-such role -- but is it also the good for man as man? Disinterested service of the good is, I think, the answer, to "what justice is", then.
The reward of religion
What seems clear is the distinction between advantage or benefit in the eyes of this world ("worldliness") and benefit to one's soul -- i.e. to oneself as an ethical human being.
That is the distinction Jesus, in the context of his religious world-picture, makes between "this world and all it loves" and belonging to the kingdom of God. Because note that if the good for man is to be ethical = the good for man is to belong to the kingdom of God (and it does), then Jesus' ethics of love and Plato's tautological ethics are in accord.
If ethics is rational, and there is truth in ethics -- i.e. if there are true or false propositions and not merely "categorical imperatives" (which are not rational), then there is only one truth in ethics, as everywhere else in philosophy. (This is, of course, a grammatical remark.) (For example, the relationship between Plato's "traveler sheltering beside a wall" (Republic 496c-d) and the Gospel's "Love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22.39) but not more than thyself -- i.e. not to the point of doing harm to oneself as an ethical human being. Another example is Matthew 5.43-44: "You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" and Republic 332d: as Polemarchus reads the poet Simonides "to do good to friends and evil to enemies is justice", but Plato demonstrates that (335e) "in no case is it just to harm anyone".)
The "reward for goodness" (Epictetus) spoken of by Jesus is not in or of this world, but of the kingdom of God only, although, on the other hand, maybe the reward is in even now belonging to the kingdom of God, that is, in "being in this world, but not of it". When he says of some that "they have their reward" (Matthew 6.2), as the ones who call attention to themselves when they help the poor, their reward is in and of this world but not in the kingdom of God. (This is the distinction between worldly benefit and care of the soul, between the worldly man (worldliness) and man as an ethical human being.)
The misalignment of the ideal and the real
There are ideal series of events which run parallel with the real ones. They rarely coincide ... and its consequences are equally imperfect. Thus with the Reformation; instead of Protestantism came Lutheranism. (Novalis, Morale Ansichten, tr. Poe. [Friederich von Hardenberg (Heinrich von Ofterdingen), 1772-1801])
The same seems to apply to philosophy: the real replaces the ideal. In place of philosophy came Platonism, Aristotelianism, Cartesianism, Positivism, Wittgensteinian, and so on -- history of philosophy rather than philosophy.
Meaning what? That philosophy -- is philosophizing, which is revision -- i.e. seeing afresh --, but that with the death of a philosopher it fossilizes in the hands of his students -- and in the hands of the Sophists ("professional philosophers") who interpret it for their students. That fossilization is the real replacing the ideal.
The Reformation. If education has anything to do -- and in the humanities it has -- with learning to think soundly for oneself, then the educated man will demand freedom to decide these questions for himself, unwilling -- indeed unable -- to submit to another's tutelage (authority). And if he sells his soul by taking an oath of fidelity to something he has no faith in, "false face must hide what the false heart doth know" (but "God is not fooled"). A society not of good man, as was the Stoic ideal, but only of outward conformity -- That is another instance of the real replacing the ideal.
The Reformation. From the ideal of religious freedom came instead the replacement of one doctrine or set of doctrines with another set of doctrines. Whereas reformation should have expunged the concept 'heresy', Lutheranism identified heresies of its own. Protestantism, which is revolution, should be constant reform, never ossified, each man his own doctor of divinity (Thomas Arnold).
Men have been burned at the stake to "save their souls", but so have their books -- i.e. ideas. Which is the greater offense to ... to what exactly? (I have been reading about Peter Canisius (1521-1597) and the Reformation.)
Conscience and Philosophy
Would Milton (1608-1674) have granted free speech to the serpent in the Garden?
Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. (John Milton, Areopagitica, circa 1644)
"And so farewell hope, and, with hope, farewell fear." Why was publication of Paradise Lost not forbidden -- because surely its portrait of Satan's majestic pride is a cause of offense to religion? Further, Milton's picture is dependent on the picture of God as an all-powerful tyrant, an example both of a monstrous God and of an unserviceable "God as a working-hypothesis".
The serpent in the Garden was most certainly not the devil, because the devil is not capable of a grand gesture. There is nothing so petty, nothing so ignoble, nothing so unworthy, as the devil, the personification of evil. A knocked-over glass of water -- that is the gesture the devil is capable of, not something so noble as freeing mankind from an eternal childhood. The serpent in the Garden was the Jewish Prometheus, Paradise Lost notwithstanding.
Why does Milton add "according to conscience" -- what does he mean by that?
The pastoral versus the dogmatic stage of religion
Is religion really about the profession of doctrine -- or about faith, the word 'faith' as equivalent, not to 'belief in [doctrine]', but to 'trust' (to trust that, in Kirillov's words: "All my life I've wanted it not to be only words") -- a profession of belief in religious-picture propositions masquerading as the empirical hypotheses they certainly aren't?
This is what I would like to say, although it is not true, that with respect to religion, the age of dogma is over, that we live in a pastoral stage (Luke 6.46). "A Christian is one who has the spirit of Christ. This is the only theology." (To reverse Alexander Pope's words: what trivial contests rise from mighty things.)
Has "according to conscience" aught to do with philosophy? The Sophistic promise "to make the worse appear the better" reason -- The truth or falsity of a proposition is not a question of conscience. A proposition, a thesis in philosophy, is tested for agreement or refutation in Socratic dialectic ... in philosophical dialog that never comes to an end -- just as sunrise follows sunset, theses are or may be revived by further thought. But what connection has that to conscience? Well, it has none: love of truth is not dependent on that nebulous notion, but belongs to the excellence that is proper to man. But part of the trouble here is that I don't use the concept 'conscience' as a tool to philosophize about ethics (just as I don't use Wittgenstein's notion "absolute value"). That is the profound difference between Socrates' ethics and -- what I take to be -- Kantian ethics (or non-ethics, if by 'ethics' we mean a thoroughgoing use of reason).
Could we say that to philosophy the statement of a thesis is less important than its defense or refutation in dialectic, if, that is, to discover the truth is the point of philosophizing? I don't know, but one can't philosophize about nothing.
Faith and Eternity
Although I am now "an old man and easily moved to tears" (Tolstoy), I am not a religious man -- Now, why do I say that? in what sense? world-picture? being-poor-in-concepts? or rather in conceptualization, in imagining what to do with the word 'God' (I can more easily say what I don't mean by the word 'God' than what I do), but I am envious of those who have a religious faith, who have a personal relationship with God, with eternity, that lifts them out of this world (as if into the depths of the starry night sky above), so that nothing else matters. With eternity rather than with the dust of reality and the heavy clay, the world of philosophical ideas ("ways of looking at things", seeking the truth which no man can know) and books.
That applies as well to the down-trodden (the "injured and humiliated"). Their faith lifts them out of the insignificance of their life in the eyes of this world, in the eyes of those who treat them as they count them, i.e. as nothing. Because in the eyes of God they are everything, so that nothing else matters -- and that is enough to fill a whole life.
"... a personal relationship with God." -- But can you have a personal relationship with God if God is not a person? And if everything anthropological is rejected for the very reason that it is anthropological, then what can be done with the word 'God'? ("God as a person, e.g. as a loving father" is not a metaphor? but then what is its meaning?) But then you are forgetting the word's of the Fourth Gospel, that "no one has ever seen God; it is only the Son, who is closest to the Father's heart, who has made Him known", and what he has made known is that "God is love", the love that Jesus himself showed. And that is what the Christian is focused on, I think.
And so I have been rereading about St. Therese of Lisieux, of Sister Therese of the Holy Face, that is, of Jesus on the way to Golgotha (Veronica's veil), of "the suffering servant" in the text of Isaiah [Isa. 53]. And yet it seems to me that of the two parts of Christian faith [Matthew 22.37-40], the first part is the far easier one. Yet both are necessary. If the rich man who walks past Lazarus at the gate is rich in love for God but is poor in love of his neighbor ...
That way of thinking, that way of life, is so foreign to me (What has self-forgetfulness to do with my life!). Of course anyone is free to call it fantasy, but I don't know what to make of it. There is something beautiful about it, but at the same time, something fantastic. I never had the imagination for it even when I was a child (knowing one's limits as an individual human being), but, of course, it is not a question of imagination.
So maybe it is correct to speak of faith as a gift, of God seeking man rather than man seeking God (Bonhoeffer and "Jacobs-ladder") ... On the other hand, there is the oration in Athens -- that God made all men to seek Him (Acts 17.27). But all that is religion, not philosophy.
That about religious faith. On the other hand, what I am not envious of is religious belief that imposes itself on the world of experience, on the natural rather than the supernatural world, and with respect to world-pictures upbringing may be determinate, especially if someone never questions his own community of ideas ("Dare to doubt" is very well for Kant to say, but not everyone has the mind for that). On the other hand, what a worshipful picture of the natural world the Victorians before Darwin had, although I don't know if those who now live in a pre-Darwinian world-picture share that wonder when facing the creation. This effect, the loss of wonder, occurred regardless of Darwin's intention.
In order to marvel, human beings -- and perhaps peoples -- have to wake up. Science is a way of sending them off to sleep again. (CV (1998 rev. ed.) [MS 109 200: 5.11.1930])
"Ah well, you know it's all just evolution," people think, although why we think this way, I don't know. It certainly has no justification in philosophy. "Science: enrichment & impoverishment" (ibid. [MS 134 141: 13.4.1947], but in a different context).
Query: is there any question which has no answer in the world?
And this makes me really angry (with myself), this picture that scientists know everything. "There's no use wondering about that; science has (-- i.e. must have (for that is the picture of science) --) already explained it". Science has killed wonder. The picture injures the soul that deeply.
"Miracles can't happen"
Do I believe these stories? No, I don't -- but I wouldn't say that I disbelieve them either. Because I don't believe even in the possibility of such things happening. Here, as Wittgenstein (maybe) says in his lectures (LC p. 59-60), is that strange expression 'believe in' again. Do I "believe in" my foundational beliefs, world-picture? To base your whole life on "so, you only believe" rather than know ... Well, but that's logic, not anthropology.
It is as a class/category of events -- miracles as such -- that I don't believe that such things happen: they are logically possible but not real possibilities. (How do I know that they are not real possibilities, because, after all, I have very limited experience of the world? Is that why I say I don't believe in even their possibly happening?)
Lourdes, Fatima. If I say, "No, I don't believe," it is not because I have passed judgment on the individual events/stories. I wouldn't know how to evaluate the Lourdes and Fatima stories. Would I say that the children were liars? Certainly not. What right would I have to say that.
Should I say that such events are simply "outside my experience"? The question is: What right would I have to say more than that -- for it is not as if my world-picture gave me the right to say that this or that general proposition is "really" true, this really false.
"Outside my experience." Abnormal psychology, mental illness. Why do I believe such stories? "They are well-attested to." -- Really? and what do I know about that? Have I investigated those attestations? Do I have so much faith in psychiatry? (This I think is a question of belonging to a "community of ideas": I have confidence in science.)
How do I know that no one returns from the grave, that all men are mortal? Those are common, or, popular, beliefs -- is that why I believe them -- "because everyone does"? "I have beliefs about biological possibilities" (cremation as an act of contempt) -- but the resurrection of the dead, as Paul says, has nothing to do with biological possibility ("spiritual bodies").
Wittgenstein: "The difficulty is to realize the groundlessness of our believing" (OC § 166). My life seems to be guided by pictures of what reality is -- but they are not metaphysical pictures -- because metaphysics is rational. "I am convinced." Bad grounds are as good as no grounds.
Misunderstood language and children's picture worlds
... the picture of the solar system -- why does the picture have to be presented to the children as if it were a fact? For obviously that is not a grammatical requirement. Children are e.g. frequently told that we can turn the Map of the World upside down -- i.e. that 'north' and 'south' do not mean 'up' and 'down'. ("Pictures that mislead", in the Philosophy of Science of M. O'C. Drury)
'Where is south of the South Pole?' English language syntax allows the formation of that apparent question = English language syntax allows the formation of nonsense (i.e. a concatenation of words that has no defined use in the language; we could invent a meaning for it, as e.g. the answer 'South of the South Pole is outer space', but that is not normal usage). 'What is down in itself?' is another question-in-appearance-only, because there is no more an absolute down ("down-hood") than there is an absolute large (Plato, Parmenides 132a). The concept 'down' is a relational concept, meaningless except in relationship to its antithesis. But English language syntax will not tell you that. Rather, the meaning of language is its use, if any, in the language, and therefore the logic that matters to philosophy is about use-in-the-language, which Wittgenstein called 'grammar' -- (in his jargon) -- rather than about syntax (form). That is the meaning of 'logic' = 'grammar' in Wittgenstein's second philosophy.
"Is the Earth round like a ball or round like a plate?" The ancient Greek and Roman world map was round like a plate (Orbis Terrarum), and in the Odyssey [Book 11] when Odysseus visits the dead in the underworld of Hades, "a shadowy place inhabited by shadows" about which Homer is vague, he travels across Ocean to over the edge of the world. (Hamilton, Mythology (1942), i, 1, p. 42)
Compare Wittgenstein's remark about the child's picture of cloth being made by a tailor sewing one thread onto another. The child has never seen a loom, but has seen only cloth. But the child's picture is not a misunderstanding of language. (The picture of a stork delivering a baby is also not a misunderstanding of language but simple ignorance.)
Someone once told me that as a child he had been surprised that a tailor could 'sew a dress'-- he thought this meant that a dress was produced by sewing alone, by sewing one thread on to another. (PI § 195)
The "underground railroad" of U.S. history. The child who pictures a tunnel with train-tracks and a steam-engine pulling carriages on them, and would like to visit that place, but does not know where it is other than that it ran from the South to the North and freedom for the black slaves. That is a picture fostered by a misunderstanding of language, namely, the picture suggested by the word 'underground' = 'beneath the surface of the earth', but not as if the railroad were above ground either. By 'railroad' no one means 'escape routes and hiding places' -- thus what right had anyone to use the word 'railroad' this strange way? A metaphor may become a usage, but that did not happen here -- because there is no clear metaphor (although anything may be compared to anything else in some way or another. But you must say in what way).
Query: man uses ignorance.
Indeed, man does: both his own ignorance (because he is misled about what the good for man is) and the ignorance of others (in order to trick them into foolish acts). There is an Italian saying that "Everyone takes advantage of the ignorant", which is true -- if everyone who takes such advantage is also recognized to be ignorant of the good for man.
The Danger of Philosophy
Query: Wittgenstein in layman's terms.
What protocol told -- what is for most of the world -- the search engine that? My site Wittgenstein's Logic of Language isn't "Wittgenstein in layman's terms" -- it is Wittgenstein in Wittgenstein's own terms, which are down to earth. Why shouldn't philosophy be written in "readable sentences" rather than -- in any other way?
The roots of philosophy
About the natural sciences maybe we could say that if we keep digging them up by the roots -- i.e. constantly calling their foundations into question, the principles of science (as Newton's four rules for reasoning in natural philosophy) -- then the sciences cannot develop (they will be like a plant that cannot grow if its roots are not in soil), but that philosophy is unlike this -- that the roots of philosophy flourish only in the daylight, whereas ... that is the limit of this metaphor. (The crow of Apollo and Socrates.)
Query: which of the branches of philosophy is the most important?
If the Stoics' three parts of philosophy are alluded to, then are they all three equally important? Or are Logic and Metaphysics without also Ethics of dubious worth? For what does it profit a man to know how to reason and "what reality is" if he doesn't know how to live his life (because he does not know what the good is for man)? On the other hand, philosophy is not possible without logic, and of metaphysics: is a life without wonder the good for man? For man to be man -- i.e. "fully human" (or, in other words, to live in accord with the excellence that is proper to man) -- all three branches of philosophy are needed; otherwise man is merely a caricature of himself.
Query: can our lives be better if we question everything the way philosophers do?
But then you would risk becoming a philosopher yourself. And nothing is more unwelcome to the community of ideas than someone who steps that far outside it. If you really were to become a philosopher, you would get both the best of all things -- and myriad poverty to go with it (for philosophy, unlike Sophistry, is a "breadless art"). Diogenes of Sinope about why people give to beggars but not to philosophers -- "Because they think they may one day be lame or blind, but never expect that they will turn to philosophy" (Diog. L. vi, 56, tr. Hicks).
Query: why is wander the beginning of philosophy?
"Goosey, goosey, gander! Whither shall I wander?" -- or to whither have I wandered, because I have become lost (PI § 123), and I may find this disturbing (Plato, Euthyphro 11b-e, Meno 80a-b) or unwelcome and angering (Plato, Apology 21d, Meno 94e-95a). "There I met an old man Who would not say his prayers; I took him by the left leg, And threw him down the stairs." But that is not why people fear studying philosophy, being thrown down the stairs. Or is it, because the consequences of standing outside one's "community of ideas" to question what "all right thinking people" never question may be upsetting and costly, as the example of Bruno Bauer shows. [In a different community of ideas it would be the old man who would say his prayers who is thrown down the stairs.]
Philosophy was all very well in its way, but, as Novälis had said, it baked no bread. (Marshall, The Little Friend (1928), xxv, 3)
In the Gospel story, Mary, in our context, questioned everything "the way philosophers do". And her sister Martha did not share the Lord's view of her (Luke 10.38-42). (Nor did Callicles: philosophy versus the fairer arts of business and finance.)
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