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[Wittrs] The Tractarian vs. the Author of the Philosophical Investigations [message #5454] Thu, 19 August 2010 19:14 Go to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
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So what's been gained from this exercise of combing closely throught the Tractatus? I don't know what the feedback was on the other site where this discussion has been conducted, but I found it interesting to read along, especially some of the commments.

And yet I am struck anew by just how radically the later Wittgenstein, as exemplified in works like the Philosophical Investigations and On Certainty, differs from his earlier incarnation. While I would agree with those here who have insisted that many of his concerns and even the direction of his thinking (what he comes up with) do not seem radically divergent, still his results most certainly do. Again and again, while reading along, I am struck by how much I think the later Wittgenstein would have challenged and dismissed the ideas of his younger self if he had encountered them in a student of his during his years teaching his later philosophy at Cambridge. A few examples below:

--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, wittrsamr@... wrote:

> ----- Forwarded Message ----
> From: walto <calhorn@...>
> To: quickphilosophy@yahoogroups.com
> Sent: Sun, August 15, 2010 9:52:46 PM
> Subject: [quickphilosophy] The Conclusion of the Tractatus >

> 6.41

> The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is and happens as it does happen. In it there is no valueâ€"and if there were, it would be of no value. >

> If there is a value which is of value, it must lie outside all happening and being-so. For all happening and being-so is accidental. >

> What makes it non-accidental cannot lie in the world, for otherwise this would again be accidental. >
> It must lie outside the world.

Does anyone think the later Wittgenstein would have thought it made sense to speak about what lies outside the world?

Of course we see at the end that he dismisses all his earlier statements in the Tractatus as a form of "nonsense" but without telling us what that nonsense amounts to! After all, the later Wittgenstein explicitly recognized ranges of meanings in word usages and would surely have seen that "nonsense", like so many other words, has many different uses and thus meanings and that it cannot be helpful to assert things without a clear indication of their context and the role which the words asserted play.

If, in the Tractatus, he reverts to characterizing his own prior words as "nonsense" he yet shows an insufficient appreciation here of just how vague and nonsensical such blanket statements, words extracted from their ordinary meanings and thrust into a metaphysical context (words gone "on holiday" as it were) must be.

I know that such an accusation will be taken as heretical in some quarters but I want to remind readers again that he explicitly acknowledged that he had made "grave mistakes" in the Tractatus and implied that at least one point of the Investigations was to correct those.

> 6.42
> Hence also there can be no ethical propositions. >
> Propositions cannot express anything higher.

Of course in the later work he does not focus any longer on propositions per se, that is the conjunction of words in terms of what they are taken to signify. Instead he shifts to a focus on the actual uses we put words to, noting that not all such seemingly coherent combinations of words are propositional (signifiers of referential meaning).
> 6.421
> It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed.
> Ethics is transcendental.
> (Ethics and æsthetics are one.)

I cannot imagine the later Wittgenstein asserting claims about the transcendental. What does the word mean? It suggests a word or phrase that somehow points at something that cannot be actually pointed at. This is wholly inconsistent with the later Wittgensteinian philosophy where words are seen to do a great many things, including but not limited to pointing, and where words that do point are seen to have no purpose and no meaning if they are not actually able to pick out what they are pointing at. Although Wittgenstein continues to concern himself with language and meaning and so forth, he has done a 180 degree turn away from the metaphysical musings that informed his work in the Tractatus.

I don't honestly see how we can study and appreciate Wittgenstein without recognizing the radical shift and its implications for the earlier work.

> 6.422
> The first thought in setting up an ethical law of the form "thou shalt . . ." is: And what if I do not do it? But it is clear that ethics has nothing to do with punishment and reward in the ordinary sense. This question as to the consequences of an action must therefore be irrelevant. At least these consequences will not be events. For there must be something right in that formulation of the question. There must be some sort of ethical reward and ethical punishment, but this must lie in the action itself. >

> (And this is clear also that the reward must be something acceptable, and the punishment something unacceptable.) >

Here I think he shows evidence of already seeing, however indistinctly, what he will later articulate more sharply: that ethical language is a different language game than what it superficially appears to be when looked at from the point of view of the descriptive/denotative paradigm whose form it often takes.

> 6.423
> Of the will as the subject of the ethical we cannot speak. >
> And the will as a phenomenon is only of interest to psychology. >

Would the later Wittgenstein concern himself with talk of "the will"? I believe he would not as in his later period he got away from such abstractions in favor of focusing on how we actually talk and the things that are suitable for the application of our words in the context of ordinary language. Where is the will? Well yes we can speak of having the will (or strong intention not easily thwarted) to do X. Or of making a will to express our wishes. Or of lacking the will to go on. Or of acting wilfully or of lacking willpower and so forth. But the later Wittgenstein would surely ask how philosphers have got from talk of these things to assertions about something in us called our "will". He would have said go back to the actual usages and find your meanings there.

> 6.43
> If good or bad willing changes the world, it can only change the limits of the world, not the facts; not the things that can be expressed in language. >

What, the later Wittgenstein would say, is good or bad willing besides some strange notion of philosophers and theologians (religionists as philosophers)?

And what does it mean to speak of the "limits of the world"?

In fairness, here at least he has been fairly explicit in his Tractarian exposition earlier so we can see that he means by this to delineate the notion of the subjective perspective.

But even so, in recognizing that there is no way to really talk about this, that we can see it and, using various artifices -- both linguistic and otherwise -- can even hope to point to it at times he shows that we cannot, finally, refer to it as a referent that is locatable in the world. And, if we cannot, we may have a way of experiencing the solipsistic notion through other means (a movie like Inception?) but, as he later points out with his private language musings, in the end there is no sense in talking about this kind of thing in any serious philosophical way because it cannot be captured denotatively -- though poetry and other art froms can prompt in us the sense of what is being referenced.

Thus here the Tractarian insight seems to partake of the poetic but loses the purely philosophical which, no doubt, is why so many see in the Tractatus a different kind of work than just a bit of philosophical exposition. And, finally, however flawed, that is what it is. And yet we must get beyond it as Wittgenstein himself did. And not just by pronouncing it nonsense but the good kind. We must recognize the mistakes inherent in its exposition and start again, as Wittgenstein did.

> In brief, the world must thereby become quite another, it must so to speak wax or wane as a whole. >

Oy! How does a world wax or wane, as a whole or otherwise? Would the later Wittgenstein have spoken in this way? I suggest those of us who care look closely at the later works and answer honestly.

> The world of the happy is quite another than that of the unhappy. >

Meaning, no doubt that a happy person feels differently about the things around him or her than the unhappy. Well, yes . . .

> 6.431
> As in death, too, the world does not change, but ceases. >

A useful insight and yes, the world, insofar as it is the world of the given subject, ceases with the subject. Whatever persists does so if it does but it is irrelevant to the deceased who is only deceased to those who remain, those for whom a world still exists because they exist.

> 6.4311
> Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through. >

Of course not though dying is and the deaths of others certainly are. It always depends on what we mean, in this case on what he means by "death".

> If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present. >

A very Buddhist insight here.

> Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit. >

Again the subjective picture of existence . . . the sort that leads to solipsism. I think Wittgenstein's long periods in isolation led him out of his solipsism of this sort and toward his later mode of thinking. That and his experiences teaching grammar school in the Austrian back country.

> 6.4312
> The temporal immortality of the human soul, that is to say, its eternal survival after death, is not only in no way guaranteed, but this assumption in the first place will not do for us what we always tried to make it do. Is a riddle solved by the fact that I survive for ever? Is this eternal life not as enigmatic as our present one? The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time. >

Here he rightly points out that the religious notion of eternal life, which is so often conceived as the perpetuation of some shadow or aspect of the living person, is confused and would not even be satisfactory were it to be somehow true. But, of course, sophisticated religious thinking renders a different picture for us. Buddhism and Hindusim have has the cycle of death and rebirth at multiple levels of existence ending finally, if it does end, in a non-existence (conceived either as a merger with a greater reality or as the negation of all reality). The Judeo-Christian and Muslim ideas are more clearly anthropomorphic but sophisticated thinkers in these traditions also imagine this in other terms, e.g., eternal communion with a super mind outside the realm of space and time. But finally there is nothing that can be said about this sort of thing. One either imagines something like this, which because imagined is necessarily inadequate, or one simply shuts off one's thinking about it and engages in the prescribed practices.

> (It is not problems of natural science which have to be solved.) >

> 6.432
> How the world is, is completely indifferent for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world. >

Would not the later Wittgenstein ask what would it even mean to say that "God reveals himself"? Still apparently religious at some level at the end of his life, he seems to have moved further and further from such orthodox pronouncements and claims.

> 6.4321
> The facts all belong only to the task and not to its performance. >

I'm not sure what to make of this but presume he is referring, here, to the idea that real religion is found in its practices (including its language games) and not in the information ostensibly referenced by religious words and statements. It is not referencing, on his view, that characterizes religion, but doing. (By the way, I am not entirely in accord with this as I think he erred in his understanding of the way religions operate -- from what I have seen, the denotative dimension of religious words certainly do matter -- if we are not resurrected as the bible promises, what's the point?)

> 6.44
> Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is. >

This is a keen and powerful insight on my view.

> 6.45
> The contemplation of the world sub specie aeterni is its contemplation as a limited whole. >

Is such a contemplation even possible? What does it even mean? Note that the later Wittgenstein stopped referencing the religious experience in his work. I think that is significant, even if he continued to consider himself a Catholic of a sort to his dying day.

> The feeling that the world is a limited whole is the mystical feeling. >
> 6.5
> For an answer which cannot be expressed the question too cannot be expressed. The riddle does not exist. >

Also keenly insightful, no?

> If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered. >

Assuming he means, of course, answered in theory rather than in fact.

> 6.51
> Scepticism is not irrefutable, but palpably senseless, if it would doubt where a question cannot be asked.

Here he has found the line of thinking that will mature so dramatically in the later work. Skepticism is not to be argued for or against but is to be simply dismissed in terms of discourse because, as he will later see, the very notions behind it cannot be coherently expressed in words, in our thinking.

> For doubt can only exist where there is a question; a question only where there is an answer, and this only where something can be said. >


> 6.52
> We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer. >

Insightful again. Here is why the earlier parts of the Tractatus must finally be seen to fail. They cannot get us to this kind of thinking while Wittgenstein, himself, wanted desperately to go there. Thus he must finally surrender to the realization that, if you can't talk about some things (as he repeatedly maintains in the Tractatus) then the reason must lie finally in our language (its limits) and not in some gap between its capacity to express and the world about which those expressions are finally made. Thus, again, to talk about the limits of our language is not to talk about the limits of our world but only to talk about the limits of our language!

> 6.521
> The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of this problem. >

Here I think we have a glimpse of the deeply troubled soul of this very sensitive man, the problems of life, his life, being found referenced again and again in his personal jottings published later as Culture and Value.

> (Is not this the reason why men to whom after long doubting the sense of life became clear, could not then say wherein this sense consisted?) >

Yes. What cannot be said cannot be said and if you are engaged in thinking about such things then how can you expect to report back what you have discovered?

> 6.522
> There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical. >

This is a cryptic statement that yet seems to have a very important point to it. And is not "the mystical" all the senses we get of things which simply defy our ability to convey them. My son and his wife, having seen the movie Inception reported back to me that I had to see it to because it is, my son assured me, mind blowing. Well I did not find it so though I found it interesting. I think for those who have not grappled with such things, it would indeed have the effect my son described. But, having thought about such things for years, I was not so moved -- and yet I thought it a nicely done film rendering of that which cannot be adequately articulated: what is real and if the real isn't real what finally is?

> 6.53
> The right method of philosophy would be this: To say nothing except what can be said, i.e. the propositions of natural science, i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy: and then always, when someone else wished to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had given no meaning to certain signs in his propositions. This method would be unsatisfying to the otherâ€"he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophyâ€"but it would be the only strictly correct method. >

I always felt troubled by this claim of his. I don't think it is the right method at all and, indeed, I don't think he came to think it was either, for the work he did later on is not that but, rather, to explore linguistic usages in order to return our attention to actual meanings in our words and actions. This is NOT just to remind someone that he has given "no meaning to certain signs in his propositions" though it is that, too. That is, it is a method for correcting meanings and, thus, for showing WHY the metaphsyical meanings fail.

> 6.54
> My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) >
> He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly. >

And here we come to it. He says I have written all this and now you must see that it is nonsense, without meaning. But if it is worth reading (as so many of us think it is and as Wittgenstein himself thought it was worth writing) then it must have meaning or why would we have bothered with it? Well, is not the meaning in it that it is to be a mechanism for boosting ourselves onto a higher plane of understanding? Is not this the mystical to be found in the Tractarian Wittgenstein?

And yet does not the later Wittgenstein avoid such claims, shy away from assertions about the mystical in favor of focusing on the here and now or ordinary language? Again, would the later thinker have tolerated such confused usages from the younger man?

> 7
> Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. >

And so falls the curtain -- until awakening again, Wittgenstein resumed his journey only now setting his feet upon a somewhat different path. If the mystic's job is to experience but not speak (because what is experienced on a certain level is simply inarticulable) does he not finally come to see that the role of the philosopher is not to be mystical, i.e., to write a kind of logical poetry, but rather to pay attention to such problems as trouble philosophers and those who are philosophically inclined in order to show them the way through to resolution -- as he says in the Investigations, to "shew the fly the way out of the bottle"?

As noted, I think this has been a useful exercise to follow along with but I think it would be more useful for those of us who regard Wittgenstein with awe and respect to study how he changed from the young thinker of the Tractatus to the wiser head we discover in the Investigations. But I know that this is an heretical notion for some.


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[Wittrs] Re: The Tractarian vs. the Author of the Philosophical Investigations [message #5461 is a reply to message #5454] Sat, 21 August 2010 16:46 Go to previous messageGo to next message
gabuddabout is currently offline  gabuddabout
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Wittgenstein wrote:

> 6.421
> It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed.
> Ethics is transcendental.
> (Ethics and æsthetics are one.)

Stuart (> from here on out)) wrote:

> I cannot imagine the later Wittgenstein asserting claims about the transcendental. What does the word mean?

Since W. is borrowing heavily from Schop., and Schop. was borrowing terminology from Kant, and Kant distinguished between the transcendent and transcendentAL, what is meant by transcendental for W. is most likely "pertaining to the mind's categories." By "expressed," I'm guessing is meant some proposition that denotes, whether using atomic signifiers alone or some more complex way of signifying. This interpretation allows for the type of meaningful talk (of ethics, aesthetics, how crumpled shirts may make one feel) we'll find in the Investigations, where discussion of how people use words is the subject matter of philosophy, if it has one.

> It suggests a word or phrase that
somehow points at something that cannot be actually pointed at. This is wholly inconsistent with the later Wittgensteinian philosophy where words are seen to do a great many things, including but not limited to pointing, and where words that do point are seen to have no purpose and no meaning if they are not actually able to pick out
what they are pointing at.

If you take in my reading above, you'll see that his earlier view was not that inconsistent with his later view--he was having trouble with his earlier view when entertaining it. Then he thought the earlier TLP at the end of the day elucidatory. Then he thought the TLP nonsense because its subject matter was about sense (and reference) when in ordinary language you have sense and reference without having to talk about sense and reference. Or something like that..

> Although Wittgenstein continues to concern himself with language and meaning and so forth, he has done a 180 degree turn away from the metaphysical musings that informed his work in the Tractatus.

Actually, the TLP was also about how metaphysical musings don't amount to much. But he stole this from Schop. See Schop.'s "Epiphilosophy" found in the second volume of his _World as Will and Representation_. And an excellent companion to that is his second volume chapter: "On Man's Need for Metaphysics."

Put my way, the TLP was about talking about how some talkings about don't amount to much. The Investigations just went at ways of talking regardless.

> I don't honestly see how we can study and appreciate Wittgenstein without recognizing the radical shift and its implications for the earlier work.

The radical shift was simply not to talk about (in the Investigations) how well he'd dismissed metaphysics in the Tractatus, having done it in a way that couldn't be said but only shown. And not whistled either, according to Ramsey's joke.

It's not much of a radical shift to go from there to discussing ordinary language issues.

The thing is that W., if he were honest, would have publically acknowledged a debt to Schopenhauer. Note also that Schop. is constantly pulling examples of early writing and commenting on word use, among other things.

Now just so we're clear, I don't agree with everything Schop. has said. And you can see that I found a fair bit of the TLP retarded as good philosophy. (by the way, it is very bad to think that modern philosophy is reproducing the mistakes the TLP was warning against--very bad, because doing so makes the mistake the TLP warned against, i.e., saying something about everything in general, like "All philosophy is bad. Bad, bad, bad")

For example, Schop. wanted to characterize the thing in itself negatively as that which admitted no plurality. I abbreviate "thing in itself" in the singular as TIT, especially as it lends itself to a joke.

Nietzsche, on the other hand, wanted to characterize things as they are in themselves as having original plurality, the property of being finite in number, and he thought this was just TITS--or that a philosophy of TITS should seem tits, meaning cool in this context, but not as cool as a witch's one teet.

Ironically, or so it would appear, Schop. chased more TITS than Nietzsche. But really, Schop. made the point that chasing just TIT (read: transcendent metaphysics) didn't amount to much--and that's one., just one, of the sense that Nietzsche had of him in "Schopenhauer as Educator." So W. might have acknowledged Niet. too, since it was Niet. who preached against a complete infinity in the form of necessary original plurality--but that was because of what we couldn't think (others will claim that arguments from conceivability are notorious nonstarters). And note that the inconceivability claim of Searle's vis a vis strong AI is about the inconceivability of functional explanation doing the kind of work good scientific explanation ought.

So the ref's are Schop.'s WWR, vol.2; Niet.'s "Schop. as Educator."


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Re: [Wittrs] Re: The Tractarian vs. the Author of the Philosophical Investigations [message #5963 is a reply to message #5461] Sun, 27 February 2011 14:43 Go to previous message
RetroDeathRow is currently offline  RetroDeathRow
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Registered: January 2010
Location: Texas
Most reviews of Wittgenstein say that there are two distinct philosophies he embraces, and the latter is mostly just an attack on what was earlier.

Mattew 5:17
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

The second to last line of the TLP says what LW thinks the only reasonable method of philosophy is-- and this lifts up the words of others over his own in terms of significance. But the TLP is entirely nonsense; when LW comes back to teaching, he is all about sensible propositions and his use of nonsense is really only apparent in 'On Certainty'; it is regulated to almost nothing in the PI (and associated lectures).

So the TLP is full of discreteness and the latter teachings are all about the uselessness of discreteness (the meaning of _____ is not a definition or series of definitions, but its use). I might as well replace that ______ with 'TLP'.

The TLP begins with the differentiation of sense and nonsense. That is why the PI, if published, were to be compiled with the TLP. Mr Diamond (iirc) compares the TLP and PI to the old and new testament. Seemingly not everything written by Wittgensteinians is completely worthless.

As LW writes in the PI: 'The Rooster clucks to call the Hens.' Wink

SWM insists we can do without the TLP. I think not. Indeed, if there were anything essential, it would be the TLP, the one thing he did publish! But SWM may be right that us wannabes don't need to quote it.

My Bible ends with a map, concordance, index, and On Certainty Razz

Any mathematical textbook is full of laws and examples. A disciple studies these. There may also be an answer key at the end, but it only answers the odd questions.

Ive been considering the whole 'does pi develop '7777' or not?' as something to the Book of Revelations. Will there be some city of gold with 12 gates and so-and-so many people etc.? Well, if it is an infinite development of a law, it makes no sense to even ask such a question. Likewise the 'Rose in darkness vs plain ol darkness' and the whore of Babylon.

Oh, right, the TLP and PI. Does the TLP adequately dismiss the logical basis it asserts with its own admission to being nonsense? Does the TLP do the philosophy it preaches, or is what it preaches for after the TLP? A ladder that needs to be thrown away says it all, right?

He had a wonderful life.
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