[Wittrs] Re: [C] Does The Tractatus Invalidate Itself?

  • From: "College Dropout John O'Connor" <sixminuteabs@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 3 Mar 2010 13:28:39 -0500

SWMirsky wrote on Tue, 02 March 2010 06:59
> --- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "College Dropout John O'Connor" 
> <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> Yes, you're right. It seems that was his position if this quote is a fair 
> rendering of what he said in that lecture. As he says nonsense is nonsense, 
> at least in the case of these two varieties. The question, then, must be, is 
> he right in this assessment. As you know, based on what I said earlier, I 
> would say no.

Good morning to you SWMirsky!
And, at least we know where you stand.

> I would even go so far as to suggest that he was only referring to one sense 
> of "nonsense" in noting that that two instances he gave in the lecture were 
> nonsense in the same way, i.e., that of being unintelligible. But as I 
> offered before, there are different kinds of intelligibility such that some 
> apparently nonsense usages ("'Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and 
> gimble in the wabe" or my "heart was an eagle, soaring skyward") are not 
> without their own meaning and, thus, sense.

The three words he uses, I believe, are NONSENSE, SENSELESS, and MEANINGLESS.  
Is there some important distinction we should be hung up on?  Well, at best you 
have a triadic relation like in the Beautiful the Just and the Good-- but W is 
not interested in commenting on such.  The other thing is, if he uses all three 
words to refer to tautologies then the possibility for making distinctions is 

But your whole point might be summed up as: some nonsense makes more sense than 
others.  Or maybe, some thing make sense and others do not.  Or maybe, some 
things are logical and others are not.  W's point is to show that there is 
nothing outside of logic.  There are limits, but one cannot get past them.

> His example of "this is green and yellow at the same time" (akin to my "Jane 
> is a good boy") strikes me as something the later Wittgenstein of the PI 
> would have (or should have) acknowledged as also being meaningful under 
> certain conditions. Suppose there were an object that looked red when seen 
> from one angle and yellow from another and we could choose at any moment to 
> look from either angle (so that the time sequence was not fixed). At any 
> instant of time the object could be seen to be red OR yellow. wouldn't that 
> make the statement which under normal circumstancess looks nonsensical 
> meaningful? And wouldn't the later Wittgenstein want to agree based on his 
> own theses concerning how we use language?

I think you are hung up on the word nonsense.  You think it an insult to 
certain phrases or dismissal of poetry.  This is not the case.  There is not a 
value or judgment in recognizing something as tautological or a contradiction 
(nonsense in general).

Besides, what you speak of sounds like either subatomic physics or "Jesus is 
the Christ".  Nevermind W is not concerned with how a chair looks from 
different angles but the uses of the word 'chair'.  And that can be found in 
the Lectures on Philosophy, something only 'latter W' is supposed to speak on.

> One could argue that "Ab sur ah", at least in English, lacked this potential 
> and in this, perhaps, it is more akin to the example I gave of completely 
> jumbled English words: "slimy was the in grove brilliant". And here this word 
> jumble becomes not much different than a collection of meaningless sounds 
> which have no role in English (which is not to say they might not come to 
> have that).

Your use of 'meaningless' appears as a negative remark.  Why not say "sounds" 
rather than "meaningless sounds"?  But I thought of the word 'absurd' when I 
read 'Ab sur ah'.  A Frenchie would probably think of a different word, if one 
at all.

> Are these instances the equivalent of taking a tautologous statement to be 
> carrying information about the world? My instinct would be to say no because 
> the nonsense accruing to such a statement would depend on how it was being 
> used: Is it merely a report of a usage, i.e., a definition, or a stipulation 
> ("I use it this way") or was it intended to claim some kind of special lock 
> on truth?

Tautologies don't add to our knowledge.  It would be impossible for them to.

As for your use of 'nonsense', it is as if I said the Last Supper was beautiful 
and you said, "That depends on ow you use the word Beautiful".  It is 
irrelevant-- look at how W uses it.

> Yes, I think Wittgenstein changed markedly (though there are certainly common 
> themes and concerns throughout his entire work). I also think that the early 
> years after his return to Cambridge saw him kind of knocking about 
> intellectually, trying to get his footing on the new ideas he had begun to 
> have while in self-imposed exile in Austria. As I have often argued here with 
> some, we can't take every thought he had (which happened to be recorded by 
> others) during what was, in essence, his transitional period, as part of the 
> gospel according to Wittgenstein. Until you get to the PI (though arguably 
> the Blue and Brown Books may be included to some degree, with allowance for 
> many changes or inadequately formulated ideas in those) you really don't have 
> a record of what he wanted to say in his maturity as he wanted to say it. The 
> interregnum record of lectures and such are quite interesting, especially to 
> those of us who admire Wittgenstein in all his phases, but the later work mu!
 st trump the earlier contributions if we're to be true to Wittgenstein 
himself. (Or else, what was the point of his extensive efforts to refine and 
finish the PI?)

The years following his return to Cambridge saw him explaining the sense of the 
TLP.  Even the Philosophical Remarks is an immediate followup to the TLP, as 
per its introduction and first few remarks.  I have read the Blue&Brown&Yellow, 
and 3/4ths of the PI-- after which my PR and PG arrived and I took them up.  
And, sorry to disagree, but if there is anything that is essential to "the 
Gospel According to W" it would be his TLP since he never published anything 
else in his lifetime.  But I don't care to do that, so why not take it all?

And you missed my point and insisted that the "latter W trumps the earlier W".  
The earlier W spoke of a new calculus and the latter W spoke of the history of 
calculus-- read the introductions to his full works; the TLP, the PR, the PG, 
and the PI.  That should give you an idea as to his progression.

> True, but as philosophers we aren't authors explaining our own work but, 
> rather, explaining the workings of the kinds of things artists do. Too bad 
> it's Conrad's quote though. I never much liked him. I find him overwritten 
> and turgid in most cases.

Conrad is purely descriptive and lived a wonderful life.  His Heart of Darkness 
makes for a great analog to the TLP, in points of purpose.  But as 
philosophers, according to W, our goal is not to create new propositions but 
clarify propositions (hint hint).  Both you and Sean asked some good questions, 
and I didn't want to expend all my ammo on you.  Sean deserves some, too.  ;P  
I'll probably give some more examples from W in that post if you are interested.

> I would say that in many ways Wittgenstein was a unique philosopher in the 
> Western philosophical tradition. He was a man who moved beyond the ordinary 
> discursive way of thinking that is so deeply ingrained in that tradition. But 
> it is for that very reason, I suppose, that many in that tradition simply are 
> not at home with him.

Peace be with you,
College Dropout John O'Connor
He lived a wonderful life.

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