[lit-ideas] Re: Wittgensteins Pfiff

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2012 19:20:04 -0400 (EDT)

Oops. In better, German, as per header.
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:


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:


"[An] argument Ramsey gives in ‘General Propositions and  Causality’  is"

indeed, as R. Paul notes, nothing to do with  Witters as such, but rather 

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, 
[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  

"What we can’t say in one form of  words we can sometimes whistle in  

------ The issue is  whether (other than Geary) you CAN whistle "in one 
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.


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