[lit-ideas] Re: The nothing noths

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 11:34:31 +0100

Hm... surely it is possible to argue that certain statements that purport
to be metaphysical are actually nonsense without making the sweeping claim
that they all are. Neither is it necessary to posit the criterion of
empirical verifiability for statements to be meaningful as the positivists
did. (It might be argued that statement has to be meaningful in at least
some sense in order for us to be able to tell whether it expresses an
empirically verifiable proposition.) Here are some of the possibilities:

A statement in metaphysics [a metaphysical statement, proposition] may have
at least three values:

1. It may be nonsense
<http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwitt3.html#Nonsense-and-Contradiction> --
i.e. an undefined combination of words. (Of course this might be the value
of a statement in any subject, not just philosophy.)

2. It may be a disguised rule of grammar
<http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwit11.html#concept-versus-theory> (PP p.
312) -- rather than the statement of fact ("real definition
its author the metaphysician intends it to be.

3a. It may be a suggestive picture -- i.e. one that suggests images to us,
but that takes us no further. The proposition 'It's 5 o'clock on the sun'
illustrated by "a grandfather clock which points to 5" (PI§ 350), and maybe
the "questions without answers
are examples of these.

Many such pictures give a false account
<http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwitt4.html#a-picture-language> of the
way we use some "sign
<http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwitt1.html#Logic-special-notation>" or
other of our language -- i.e. they are a mistaken understanding of the
sign's "grammar
(The distinction between a sign and its use in the language), e.g. the word
'mind' as the name of an invisible object.

3b. Or it may be a way of looking at things
<http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwit11.html#a-way-of-looking-at-things> --
i.e. speculation that is not subject to falsification by anomaly. (Note
that some scientific theories are also ways of looking at things -- that
is, ways of summarizing [organizing] a selected set of data [Every
scientific theory is facts *plus* imagination
-- that are not falsifiable, e.g. the heliocentric and geocentric models of
the solar system.)

Of course it may also simply be an idle picture -- although note well
that metaphysicians
know <http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwit51.html#time-not-real-Gestalt> that
their pictures cannot be compared with "perceptible reality
<http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwit12.html#Is-reality-confined>" --
i.e. that their metaphysical propositions are not empirical propositions --
and therefore it does not trouble them that their speculative propositions
cannot be verified or tested by experience. For, metaphysics says, "Our
experience is only experience of appearances, not of reality itself"; cf.
Plato's cave image (*Republic*515c). Which statement may be an example of
senses (2) or (3a) of the word 'metaphysics'.

Some religious pictures may resemble these "idle pictures", because they
also are not hypotheses; however, pictures in religion are used very
differently <http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/manner.html#Parak-Note-3> from
the way metaphysicians use pictures, e.g. they are not speculative.

3c. Or it may be a picture that it is "logically impossible
for us to be taught how to apply
"How is this picture, e.g. Michelangelo's God creating Adam (LC, p. 63), to
be compared with what it is said to be a picture of?" But there is no
answer -- i.e. the word 'compare' is not defined in this particular case;
indeed, the artist did not intend for a comparison to be made.

Source: http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwit24.html

On Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 11:14 AM, Redacted sender Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx for
DMARC <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> On p. 121 of "Quaestio Subtilissima", D. P. Henry proposes this
> formalisation of
> i. The Nothing noths
> (He distinguishes this  from
> ii. The nothing noths.)
> iii. ͻ[[Λ]](Λ)
> The use of "[[...]]" Henry borrows from Oxford philosopher A. N. Prior.
> On p. 120, he notes that the 'the' "portents some sort of singularity",
> which Henry symbolises as
> iv. sol(Λ)
> Henry says that (iv)  justifies "the use of the capital initial letter".
> Henry concludes the section on Heidegger with the remark that (i) can thus
> be seen as being sensical and "a truth derivable from the deductive
> metaphysics" which he is constructing.
> I agree with J. L. Scherb that this was a "pre-war debate" (pre-Second
> World War) between Rudolf Carnap and Martin Heidegger about allegedly (as
> D.
> P. Henry has it) meaningless metaphysical statements such as  "The Nothing
> noths" ("Das  Nichts
> nichtet").
> Within the mainstream of  20th century analytical  philosophy  this
> statement, "The Nothing noths"  has come to be regarded as  obvious
> metaphysical
> nonsense.
> And it was Sir Freddie Ayer who brought the news to Oxford. It is said that
>  Oxford could not BEAR with the 'enfant terrible' -- but I WOULD
> distinguish  between a Carnapian scientist approach and Ayer's, which was
> directed
> towards  empiricist epistemoly in general -- and Ayer did not stay at
> Oxford
> for long,  finding a post in London. In terms of the history of philosophy,
> this is seen as  Oxford never having 'bought' the idea that metaphysical
> statements were, as Ayer  thought he had shown, after Carnap,
> 'meaningless'.
> There were hordes of  philosophers practicising metaphysics THEN (think
> Collingwood) as there are  hordes of philosophers practising metaphysics
> NOW at
> Oxford
> As we all know, this led to an unfortunate confrontation between
> analytical  and continental  philosophy -- with Sartre assuming the
> Heideggerian
> position and generalising it: "Das Nichts nichtet" and  consciousness is
> "le
> néant néantisant".
> The judgement of "The Nothing noths" as nonsense was somewhat 'corrected'
> by D. P. Henry.
> But the conflict still seems to exist.
> Henry's remark didn't find its way to  a  greater  audience, because Henry
> didn't *prove* his claim in a   canonical way, and because Henry's remark
> may be alleged to contains  an ambiguity, which may give rise to criticism.
> The required disambiguation, together with the missing proofs, can be given
>  within the ontology introduced by Stanisław Leśniewski -- notably
> protothetic -- that Grice adored ("protothetic (why?)" -- "Aspects of
> Reason" --
> Grice had a taste for a Polish neologism).
> Ludger Honnefelder calls the systems Stanisław Leśniewski, which  were
> developed roughly at the same pre-war time  (1913-1939), a new  beginning
> of
> metaphysics.
> They systems of Stanisław Leśniewski (that Henry learned via Geach --
> whose  mother was Polish) provide the missing link (to use a  metaphor)
> between
> Heidegger and Carnap (and Ayer).
> The systems of Stanisław Leśniewski can thus be regarded as an ontological
>  (if not metaphysical) supplement to and a  partial correction of  Michael
> Friedman's essay on Heidegger, Carnap and Cassirer.
> A  hermeneutical conclusion may be drawn from this that allows  for a
> reconciliation between two types of
> philosophy.
> This is possible not only in terms of Cassirer's observations,  but also
> along the lines of "logical form", broadly conceived -- as  Henry
> suggested.
> The hermeneutical outcome suggests that one CAN make use  of PRECISE logic
> tools in a more general  way than Carnap himself  allowed (if not Ayer and
> less so Grice), alla D. P. Henry, without having  to declare that at a few
> central  statements of Heidegger's   Fundamentalontologie are pure
> nonsense --
> but rather pretty illuminating --  if you think of them ("and even if you
> don't").
> Cheers,
> Speranza
> Refs.:
> Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic
> Grice, "System Q"
> Grice, "Philosophical Eschatology".
> Henry, Quæstio subtilissima.
> Ryle, Review of Heidegger, "Sein und Zeit", Mind, 1929, vol. 38.
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