[lit-ideas] Re: Philosophical Investigations - text and comments - The Preface

  • From: "palma@xxxxxxxxxx" <palmaadriano@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 6 May 2012 18:00:26 +0200

t'adoriam, ostia divina, t'adoriam ostia d'amor.....

On Sun, May 6, 2012 at 5:43 PM, Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>wrote:

> Note: The ‘key tenet’ is *the sense of ‘what is said’ is never said in
> ‘what is said’, the sense of ‘what is said’ can only be shown*.
> In the Preface to PI, W says various things that indicate that the ‘key
> tenet’ will be fundamental in what follows. These, as in the main text,
> stop short of explicit statement of the ‘key tenet’. That W might leave
> such a ‘key tenet’ only implicit might seem very dubious – except for the
> striking (even extraordinary) background against which PI must be assessed.
> To begin with, the ‘key tenet’ is in the TLP, and W wrote to Russell that
> it is the fundamental point of the TLP:- yet even there this fundamental
> point is not *explicitly* *emphasised* *throughout* the text. Nor could
> one easily recognise the ‘key tenet’ from what W says in the Preface to
> TLP. Rather, it is only at the end of TLP that W points out that, according
> to the “truth” TLP presents (which “truth” is, fundamentally, the ‘key
> tenet’), the TLP’s sequence of numbered propositions do not say anything
> with sense but are an attempt to show what cannot be said. Few are likely
> to have otherwise considered them as not saying anything with sense on
> merely reading them: only in the light of the ‘key tenet’, and the
> statements that make this tenet more or less explicit, is it clear that
> this is how they are to be read.
> This is so important to understanding the TLP, and W’s later PI, that it
> bears close consideration and emphasis. Though on careful examination we
> find the ‘key tenet’ is fundamental to TLP, even in TLP the fundamental
> role of the ‘key tenet’ is not made *that* explicit – rather the
> fundamental POV it reflects is left largely implicit. It is only in
> relative terms that we may say that the ‘key tenet’ is explicit in TLP
> whereas it is only implicit in PI: for it is largely left implicit in TLP;
> indeed *implicit – not explicit – in every single numbered proposition
> that makes up the text*. It is *implicit in every single proposition* not
> by way of ‘implicature’ from what those propositions ‘say’, but because the
> doctrine of ‘showing not saying’ that underlies the work must be *implicitly
> taken as given for understanding every single proposition of which the work
> is constituted*. And this is what W more or less explicitly recognises
> when he concludes TLP: “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. 7 Whereof one cannot speak,
> thereof one must be silent.”
> Reasons have been elsewhere given as to why W left the ‘key tenet’
> implicit in PI whereas it is (albeit only relatively speaking) explicit in
> TLP. It avoids the paradoxical character of appearing to say [though only
> actually showing] what cannot be said – a paradox that might be thought to
> undermine the TLP’s fundamental POV, as its numbered propositions turn out
> to say nothing with sense. In the later philosophy this ‘paradox’ is
> avoided by simply showing ‘what cannot be said’ without explicitly ‘saying’
> what cannot be said. Thus, in PI, W deploys a more self-consistent way of
> showing what is claimed (implicitly) to be only showable and not sayable.
> But there is perhaps a hitherto unmentioned reason W left this ‘key tenet’
> implicit – W thought his thinking could only be really understood by the
> like-minded. Doubts as to how his work would be understood are a running
> theme in W’s life. The Preface to TLP begins: “This book will perhaps
> only be understood by those who have themselves already thought the
> thoughts which are expressed in it—or similar thoughts.” The Preface to
> PI almost ends: “It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of
> this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light
> into one brain or another—but, of course, it is not likely.” Throughout
> his life W felt his work was profoundly misunderstood – including by close
> associates like Russell and Ramsey. Indeed, W thought his work would only
> be properly understood in another age – in some different time and place
> where the sense of what he wrote would resonate aright.** For those
> suitably like-minded, the ‘key tenet’ could be – and might be best - left
> unsaid and implicit.
> Against this striking –  indeed extraordinary – background, it can
> understood why the ‘key tenet’ is left implicit in PI – and so the fact it
> is not made explicit in PI is not much of an argument that the ‘key tenet’
> of TLP has been abandoned in PI.
> The ‘key tenet’ is implicit in the main text but also implicit in the
> Preface. How is this *shown*?
> (1) The numerous points in the main text illustrating the ‘key tenet’,
> some of which are pointed out in these posts: in particular, when we ask
> what is the purpose of what W writes, or what is its point, we find the
> ‘key tenet’ is at the back of it.
> (2) If W had abandoned the ‘key tenet’ of TLP as among its “grave
> mistakes”,* W would have been explicit on this or at least made this
> clearly implicit. That is, if the fundamental point of the TLP was itself
> just a “grave mistake” in W’s later view, W would have been clear to this
> effect in his later philosophy. It simply beggars belief, and would amount
> to W derogating from his aim of utter clarity, that W would not acknowledge
> if the fundamental point of TLP was a “grave mistake”. The truth is that
> the “grave mistakes” W was forced to recognise are not so fundamental as
> the fundamental point of the TLP which still underpins PI as the ‘key
> tenet’.
> (3) W wrote to Russell to the effect that the ‘key tenet’ was the central
> point of the TLP. And W writes in the Preface to indicate there is
> fundamental continuity as well as important discontinuity between the TLP
> and PI: “It suddenly seemed to me that I should publish those old
> thoughts and the new ones together: that the latter could be seen in the
> right light only by contrast with and against the background of my old way
> of thinking.” Though it is not said, it is implicit that the ‘key tenet’
> constitutes the point of fundamental continuity between TLP and PI.
> (4) There is the reference to Sraffa in the Preface which is, implicitly,
> a reference to the central importance of ‘what can only be shown not said’,
> and how this ‘key tenet’ of the TLP has been reworked in PI. When W writes,
> “I am indebted to *this *stimulus for the most consequential ideas of
> this book”, that “*this*” is a *this* that can be shown, not said; and
> the effect of *this* stimulus will be *shown*, not said, in what follows.
> (In this, the acknowledgment has something of the air of a self-referring
> joke).
> (5) W writes in the Preface:-
> “After several unsuccessful attempts to weld my results together into
> such a whole, I realized that I should never succeed. The best that I
> could write would never be more than philosophical remarks; my
> thoughts were soon crippled if I tried to force them on in any single
> direction against their natural inclination.——And this was, of course,
> connected with the very nature of the investigation. For this compels
> us to travel over a wide field of thought criss-cross in every direction.—
> The philosophical remarks in this book are, as it were, a number of
> sketches of landscapes which were made in the course of these long
> and involved journeyings.
> The same or almost the same points were always being approached
> afresh from different directions, and new sketches made. Very many of
> these were badly drawn or uncharacteristic, marked by all the defects
> of a weak draughtsman. And when they were rejected a number of
> tolerable ones were left, which now had to be arranged and sometimes
> cut down, so that if you looked at them you could get a picture of the
> landscape. Thus this book is really only an album.” – PI, from the
> ‘Preface’.
> How might we view the above in the light of the ‘key tenet’?
> What, for example, is the “natural inclination” of “thoughts” so that they
> are “crippled” if we try “to force them on in any single direction”? Why
> are the “same or almost the same points…always being approached afresh
> from different directions”? [Why not, instead, always different points
> arising from the “different directions”?]
> The answer to these questions is, I suggest, implicit: it arises from
> understanding the implicit ‘key tenet’. The “same or almost the same
> points” are those points that ‘show’ the ‘key tenet’:- this tenet is *
> shown* to underpin discussion of sense no matter what part of the
> landscape of language is being traversed or from which direction. It must
> do, of course, because the key tenet is that the sense of language is *
> never* *said* in ‘what is said’ in language. And this is held to be true
> no matter ‘what is said’ in whatever kind of language. It will be true of a
> ‘name-object’ kind of language [or ‘language-game’]. It will be true of a
> language-game where formulas are stated and then applied. It will also be
> true of the ‘language-game’ of chess. It will be true of a language-game
> where a simple sequence of numbers [zero to ten] is stated. And so on.
> The ‘key tenet’ is the “natural inclination” of W’s thought: and this
> means his thought is “crippled” if forced in any single direction – for
> “any single direction” would not enable us to grasp the myriad ways that
> sense may be *shown* to be ‘affected’ or changed.
> By showing how sense may be affected or changed***, we may show how
> 'senses' may be differentiated within distinct ‘language-games’. To *show
> the sense* we show how there would be differences in sense if we varied
> such-and-such. This is how W’s discussion of the ‘language-game’ of chess
> should be understood: as *showing the sense* by imagining differences
> that might affect its sense. Why discuss a person who cannot understand, as
> we do, the sequence ‘0,1,2,3 etc.’; or why raise the possibility of a
> person who thinks that ‘continually add 2 to *n*’ means that the sequence
> after ‘996’ runs ‘998, 1000, 1004, 1008’ and after ‘1996’ runs ‘2000, 2008,
> 2016’? The answer is clear albeit implicit: these are presented to show
> that the sense of ‘what is said’ in these cases is not said in ‘what in
> said’. For otherwise what is the point of what W writes? ****
> Dnl
> Writing what may be passed over in silence
> Eng
> * “I have been forced to recognize grave mistakes in what I wrote in that
> first book” [i.e. TLP] – PI, Preface
> ** *Monk*, p275-6: “Wittgenstein’s conviction that his paper on infinity
> would be ‘all Chinese’ to the philosophers gathered at Nottingham is a
> typical expression of a recurrent feeling that whatever he said would be
> liable to be misunderstood. He was, he felt, surrounded by people unable to
> understand him. Even Ramsey was unable to follow him in his radical
> departures from the theory of the *Tractatus*.” *Monk*, p.486: “‘The
> darkness of this time’, therefore, is directly attributable to the worship
> of the false idol of science against which his own work had been directed
> since the early 1930s. Thus, his ‘dream’ of the coming collapse of science
> and industry was an anticipation of an age in which his type of thinking
> would be more generally accepted and understood. It is linked with his
> remark to Drury: ‘My type of thinking is not wanted in this present age, I
> have to swim so strongly against the tide. Perhaps in a hundred years
> people will really want what I am writing.’ And yet, if ‘they’ mean to do
> it, and the apocalyptic view is not absurd, then that time might never
> come. There would never be an age in which his type of thinking was wanted.”
> *** ‘Changed’ by, for example, changes in “grammatical form”, changes in
> tone, and – perhaps most importantly – by changes in “use” and “training”.
> These last are most important because learning how differences in tone or
> “grammatical form” affect sense is, in effect, learning about different
> “uses” of language – or is being trained in different “uses”.
> ****This question contains the central challenge to those who would deny
> the ‘key tenet’ plays this (or any) role in PI – for what, on their
> interpretation, is the point of what W writes? If the ‘key tenet’ is denied
> its role, what, for example, is the point of talking about conceivable
> misunderstandings of a sequence of numbers like ‘0 to 10’ or of a formula
> like ‘continually add 2’? *Monk*, p.338: “As [W] himself once explained
> at the beginning of a series of lectures: ‘What we say will be easy, but to
> know why we say it will be very difficult’.” That is (we might add, though
> W does not say it) unless we bear the ‘key tenet’ and its central role in
> mind. Then it is (relatively) easy to see why W writes what he writes.

palma, KZN

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