[lit-ideas] Re: Wittgenstein's Pfiff

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2012 19:18:59 -0400 (EDT)

As R. Paul notes, F. P. Ramsey was the first English translator of the  
Tractatus (a book by Witters).
 
In fact, in some drafts, he purposively crossed out 'zeigen' ('show') and  
wrote, rather capriciously, "pfeifen" ('whistle'), instead:
 
Wittgenstein:
 
Was gezeigt werden kann, kann nicht gesagt werden. 

Ramsey's first translation:
 
What cannot be said cannot be whistled (either).
Was nicht gessagt werden kann, kann nicht gepfeift werden.
 
This first attempt to translate Witters' 

"Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."
 
is not so much a translation as a paraphrase:
 
Wovon man nichts sagen kann, darüber muss man  pfeifen."
 
In "Ramsey's whistling: a discordant note", Holton and Price write  at:
 
_http://sydney.edu.au/time/price/preprints/Ramsey_paper-old.pdf_ 
(http://sydney.edu.au/time/price/preprints/Ramsey_paper-old.pdf) 
 
"[An] argument Ramsey gives in ‘General Propositions and Causality’  is"
 
 
indeed, as R. Paul notes, nothing to do with Witters as such, but rather 
 
"the
consideration that a universally quantified sentence can be written  out, 
whereas an
infinite conjunction cannot."
 
For, "if we treat universally quantified sentences as  expressing
propositions we will be forced to see them as equivalent to  conjunctions 
which, since
they are infinite", to quote directly from  Ramsey:
 
"we cannot express for lack of symbolic power." 
 
----- he had been holding conversations with Witters at this point --  
Russell, who overheard some of them, famously came out with his quip, "Some  
[implicating Ramsey] like Witters, but Moore's MY man."
 
"But that is no good", Holton and Price note, and again quoting the famous  
dictum ('final whistle'?) by Ramsey,
 
"What we can’t say we can’t say, and we can’t whistle it either."
 
"Is this argument convincing?", Holton and Price ask.
 
As we note, with the help of R. Paul, it's not. For consider "a part of  
Beethoven's 7th Symphony". Now replace the 'it' in Ramsey's nonsequitur:
 
What we can't say we can't say -- and we can't whistle it either.
---- But surely you can't _say_ a part of Beethoven's 7th Symphony and YET  
you can, more or less, whistle it."
 
Holton and Price note that 'pfeifen' is NOT a word that Witters would use  
("He would never say "whistle"") -- but they agree that, more or less  
metaphorically:
 
"What we can’t say in one form of words we can sometimes whistle in  
another."
 
------ The issue is whether (other than Geary) you CAN whistle "in one form 
 of words" (cfr. Geary, "Whistling Dixie and the Brown Book"). 
 
Holton and Price go sublime when they paraphrase their claim:
 
"Or, in the King James version: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one  
should investigate the possibility of
other modes of expression" --, hence  their discorant note to Ramsey's 
rather monotone.
 
Cheers,
 
Speranza




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