[lit-ideas] Re: Wittgenstein's Whistle

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2012 14:41:12 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 7/8/2012 12:25:30  P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, 
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
The point about  "whistling it" is that, as an expression (with a kind of 
sense that is common in  certain kinds of intellectual culture), it offers 
some everyday notion to  explicate something that here goes beyond the 
everyday [compare Einstein's  determinism explained in terms of a God who 
play dice: does God play  anything?  

I'll re-read McEvoy's contribution. But I'd like to point out that in the  
original quote, by F. R. Ramsey:
'General Propositions and Causality’, 
in his (posthumous), "The Foundations of Mathematics", Routledge, 1931, p.  
238 -- perhaps we can get an earlier citation? --:
"But what we can’t say, we can’t say, and we can’t whistle it  either."

The first part of the utterance reminds me -- and indeed Grice -- of John  
Cook Wilson. This was a great figure in the Wykeham chair of logic at 
Oxford.  YET, what Grice mainly learned from Cook Wilson (we have to add "Cook" 
since  Wilson is a rather too spread surname in England) was:
What we know we know.

or, as Grice has it, perhaps ungrammatically:

What we know, we know.
What we can't say we can't say.

Or more ungrammatically, as Ramsey has it:
What we can't say, we can't say.
YET, Ramsey goes on to add:
"and we can't whistle it either".

This shows that the logical form of Ramsey's utterance  is:

This is a better reading than my previous one, where I suggested that the  
'it' in
"we can't whistle IT, either"
means 'nonsense'.

For surely Witters can whistle a part of Bethoveen's 7th symphony and  yet 
it would be odd to require Witters to say it.
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