[lit-ideas] Re: Wittgenstein's Whistle

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 08 Jul 2012 13:19:40 -0700

Donal McEvoy wrote, re a passage in Ramsey's paper, 'General Propositions and Causality' (1929)

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 doesn't play dice: does God play anything? Or is this a loaded way
of suggesting God would not allow chance-like events?]. Is "whistling
it" not just a loaded way of conveying dissatisfaction with a
saying-showing distinction?

Ramsey was not addressing himself to anything Wittgenstein had said, but
to the view that (x) Fx was a conjunction. (Where I have an F, Ramsey uses the Greek letter phi, which I'm unable to reproduce in this font.)

For a sketch of Ramsey's association with Wittgenstein (he produced the
first English translation of the Tractatus), see


But it is best to stick to "showing" - for clearly in any literal sense
W was not "whistling it": and it is hard to see in what non-literal
sense W was "whistling it" either. Ramsey's reaction may be thought to
reflect a kind of philosophical prejudice.

Given the topic of the paper, I hardly think so.

Robert Paul

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