Well, McEvoy entitled his thing, "Wittgenstein sends us shopping" -- so I
thought "Witters & Sons" would be an appropriate one -- shop, I mean.
Meanwhile, let's recall Smullyan,
"Why should I be worried about dying? It ain't gonna happen in my lifetime."
McEvoy quotes from Witters:
"Think of the following use of language: I send someone shopping. I give him a
slip marked 'five red apples'."
In logical form:
where "5" stands for the fifth natural number, R for the predicate red (a
favourite of Russell's) and A for apple (cfr. Beyond the Fringe, "Apples in the
Witters goes on:
"He takes the slip to the shopkeeper, who opens the drawer marked 'apples',
then he looks up the word 'red' in a table and finds a colour sample opposite
it; then he says the series of cardinal numbers—I assume that he knows them by
heart—up to the word 'five' and for each number he takes an apple of the same
colour as the sample out of the drawer.—It is in this and similar ways that one
operates with words—"But how does he know where and how he is to look up the
word 'red' and what he is to do with the word 'five'?" Well, I assume that he
acts as I have described. Explanations come to an end somewhere.—But what is
the meaning of the word 'five'? No such thing was in question here, only how
the word 'five' is used."
On the other hand, we may well imagine this conversation between the shopkeeper
and the customer:
ii. Customer (Griceian): What is the meaning of 'five'?
Shopper: What d'you mean?
Customer: I expect you've read Austin's translation of Frege on the concept
Customer: No. Austin. He who used to say, "Some like Witters, but Moore's
McEvoy goes on:
"Lawrence may well have finished reading Wittgenstein or not yet begun, but I
think anyone reading Wittgenstein could do with some help. Above is a passage
that in many ways is typical of W's style of presentation in PI."
In Anscombe's translation! In Witters's own prose it's way obscurER!
"It is liable to throw a casual reader. It does not consist of an explicit
argument or conclusion. It invites the reader to think for themselves. It also
It also invites the question whether Anscombe had a RIGHT to publish something
that Witters left uncompleted. Hence the lack of conclusions.
Anscombe thought that just because she attended Witters's lecturers, she could
publish the thing with Blackwell. I'm surprised Blackwell accepted it for
publication without Witters's consent. Also, couldn't Anscombe find a
Cambridge-based publisher (just as, say, Heffer & Sons) rather than the epitome
of the Oxford publisher (Oxford where Witters never taught): Blackwell.
"I mention all this because both W's TLP and PI are works that anyone with a
serious interest in philosophy should read."
None of them was written in English by Wittesr. The TLP was best known in
Ogden's tr. -- my favourite. At least Witters gave the _okay_. Still, he only
accepted a BILINGUAL edition, Witters did.
"At one level, they use language that is simple and non-technical and which
gives an appearance of straightforwardness. But when we try to convert the
[essays] into an expressible set of propositions (e.g. to put its [point of
view] in other terms) it becomes clear these works are bedevilled with problems
of interpretation. The TLP begins "The world is all that is the case" - which
seems simple and straighforward at one level, but what would it mean to deny
Well, I can very well imagine the Oxford philosopher Bradley uttering:
iii. The world is NOT all that is the case.
-- the implicature being that Bradley's world (he was a Hegelian) involved MORE
than all that is the case.
I say 'implicature' because if the world ifs all that is the case, and, as
Bradley implicates, MORE than all that is the case, Witters's
iv. The world is all that is the case.
would still be true. A stricter (logical, as opposed to 'implicatural')
negation would be:
v. It is not the case that the world is all that is the case.
which sounds, admittedly, clumsy, even if uttered by C. K. Ogden -- otherwise a
McEvoy goes on:
"What picture is given by saying "It is false that the world is all that is the
Well, 'It is false that...' and 'It is not the case that...' trigger different
implicatures. "It is falsified that..." triggers even different ones. So one
has to be careful. In a truth-value gap logic (Strawson, "The king of France is
bald"), one can use "not" but not 'false'.
McEvoy: "What else could be the case? So what is this "world"? It is clearly
not just the planet Earth. Is it the universe of cosmology? It seems different
than this too - at least different to the universe of science."
I am reminded of Ackerley,
vi. We think the world of you.
I think 'world' and 'Welt' are turns of phrase, as in the name of the newspaper
Clark Kent worked for.
"So there is no way into a proper understanding of Wittgenstein without
accepting that his work throws up problems of interpretation - moreover, these
problems are not simply interpretation at the margins but interpretation going
to the core of what W intends to show or say by his work. So any reader needs
to be forewarned."
-- and that he (the reader) is dealing with translators, too! (unless you are a
"In posts long ago and far away I presented a case as to what constitutes the
core of W's thinking - that it centres on the "limits of language" (which W
takes to be much more imposing than most might assume), and on the limits of
what can be expressed with sense and what cannot. This is fundamental to both
the TLP and, in my present view, the PI - 'a doctrine' of what can be shown but
not said/expressed provides a point of fundmental continuity between this
earlier and later work. My suggestion is that W provides enough evidence that
this the core of his thinking but that it is easy to lose sight of this core
and once lost sight of it is easy to read W wrongly."
Perhaps Derek Jarman's implicature, in filming a film called "Witters" (or
"Wittgenstein", I forget) was to prove Witters right: sort of -- My film will
show you Witters -- never mind _reading_ him. Sad he found a bad actor to play
Witters. I think Ryan Gosling should have been chosen.
"Take the above passage. Without any 'core' grounding our interpretation, we
might think W is dismissing the views of the interlocutor or providing clear
answers to them. We might think W is writing as if he is giving an answer in
some ultimate sense, rather than giving an answer 'of sorts' that simply
provides a basis for further thought. For example, we might think the following
shows how the question is answered - '"But how does he know where and how he is
to look up the word 'red' and what he is to do with the word 'five'?" Well, I
assume that he acts as I have described. Explanations come to an end
Many of those embedded questions were perhaps Anscombe's. Recall these were
Witters's non-public classes at Cambridge. So I can well imagine:
vii. Witters: And that is that.
Anscombe: But how does he know where and how he is to look up the word
Witters: Good question, Lizzie. I assume he ACTS as I have described.
Anscombe: But we need explanations!
Witters: No. Explanations come to an end _somewhere_.
Anscombe: Over the rainbow you mean?
Witters: Your musical humour never ceases to amaze me, Lizzie.
"On my view this would be a serious mistake, and this becomes clear the more we
understand W[itters]'s point of view"
Well, but it's not an outrageous idea to think that it is Anscombe's input that
SHAPES the "PI". After all, she translated it and she PUBLISHED it!
"(In my view,) W[itters] thinks the question is a good one, and it brings out
something crucial - that the so-called explanation presupposes or assumes a
whole lot that is not explained. W is actually showing the untenability of the
kind of the explanation being offered - that it's an unsustainable myth that
can only be sustained by a fiction that we can presuppose or assume many other
things as if they do not need explanation. On the other hand, and as W
continually brings out, language has its specific sense without us having
anything like a full or proper explanation for how it has that sense - we know
the sense without fully knowing how the sense is arrived at."
Recall that Witters was many things other than philosophers: a school teacher,
a gardener, a soldier... Anscombe, on the other hand, is primarily a
philosopher. So I think that Witters's refusal to give philosophical
explanations may be due to his background, which was not strictly
philosophical. Gardeners, for example, do not have to EXPLAIN to their
employers why the roses haven't bloomed that well this season. And school
teachers can avoid explanations by, e.g. sending the student for a walk or
Russell always called Witters, "the Austrian engineer". Engineers, as Grice
viii. The bridge was made of nylon.
need explain things when things go wrong (cfr. Hart, "Causation and the law"
for a similar argument: we use 'cause' when something unexpected has happened).
"This is part of a wider view. We know the sense by participating in language
games but the rules of those games are not expressed but are shown by the games
we play. Fundamentally, the rules of language are inexpressible and can only be
shown - and in this way it is right that explanation comes to an end somewhere:"
Over the rainbow?
"Somewhere" in logical form presupposes
There is a place or locus where explanation does come to an end. "Somewhere"
usually triggers wrong implicatures. Grice's example (as he organizes an
itinerary from Paris to Portofino):
ix. Grice: And where does Smith live?
Strawson: Somewhere in the South of France.
-- Grice's implicature is "Shall we pay him a visit". Strawson's implicature,
by using "Somewhere" is, 'Depends on how much you want to detour.' It may also
implicate "I don't know exactly where -- but all the South of France looks the
same to me, if you axes me."
" it actually comes to an end right at the point at which language has sense in
the first place. At that point, language simply has the sense it has, and has
this sense aside further philosophical explanation. If this were not the case,
language could hardly get started. So, in this respect, the later philosophy
makes much of the following insight: language does not have sense because it is
philosophically explained how it has sense. In W's view it is the philosopher's
project of providing a theory or explanation for the sense of language that
needs to be replaced with continual careful attention to language as it is used
and has actual sense - for there is no getting beyond this (given the "limits
of language"). Yet it has to be admitted that none of this may be obvious from
the surface of the text."
Or the letter, rather than the spirit of it, we must speak legalese.
Also, since McEvoy has used 'explanation' a lot, perhaps we should provide some
linguistic botany for "explain". Cfr. the British adage:
x. Never explain, never complain.
The focus should be on the verb, 'to explain'. Suppose we provide an analysis
in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions:
xi. U has explained that q, by providing p.
xii. p explains q.
There are different types of explanation. Byron used to complain that the
explanation of a poem he never quite well understood, 'required in turn its own
explanation'. So there are explanations and meta-explanations.
It should be plain for a linguistic philosopher to provide a good analysis of
'explain', since, well, 'explain' contains 'plain' -- in fact, 'explain' brings
the 'plain' OUT ('ex').