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

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 10 May 2012 16:33:47 +0100 (BST)

From: "palma@xxxxxxxxxx" <palmaadriano@xxxxxxxxx>

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

Not sure what the sense of this is - even though I am aware 
of a 'what-is-said'. (Go figure).

Perhaps it is alluding to the fact that W told his publishers that what the TLP 
did not contain was more important than what it did contain. And perhaps this 
allusion further implies that, in saying this, W was saying that what is only 
implicit in TLP is more fundamental than what is explicitly stated in TLP:- 
that his fundamental POV is what is important, and this hinges on the 'key 
tenet', but this is something only shown or implicit - shown [or implicit] by 
[or in] what, in TLP, is 'said' or explicit. Thus W meant that what is not 
_explicitly_ contained in TLP [but is implicit and shown] is more important 
than what is explicitly contained in TLP.*

If so, who am I to disgree? Btw it's only Thursday and soon I might be in 
Audley. I hope Robert Paul's hand has healed by now.

* A rival school of thought might exegise:- that W meant that 'anything other' 
than what is contained in TLP is more important than what is contained in TLP - 
so, for example, a Dan Brown novel or book by Sarah Palin (assuming these are 
not contained within TLP) would, in W's view, be more important than what is 
contained in TLP. This school of thought might be thought to have the notable 
advantage that it entirely avoids the shown-implicit/said-explicit 
dichotomy, with the mere disadvantage of being utter bollix.

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 
>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 theywere 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? **** 
>Writing what may be passed over in silence
>*“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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