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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 28 Feb 2010 04:18:39 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "College Dropout John O'Connor" <wittrsamr@...> 

> [quote title=SWMirsky wrote on Thu, 18 February 2010 14:25
> Have you a link or direct quotation for this statement?


> Sadly, No.  I browsed through certain texts last night and could not find 
> what I was looking for.  I even ploughed through the yellow books.  As for 
> the first lecture on the foundations of mathematics, well, it basically 
> invalidated what I claimed.
> The point is, there is no way to logically differentiate between different 
> kinds of nonsense-- just as there is no sound way in differentiating between 
> different kinds of tautologies.  That is, if tautologies have no proof or 
> disproof, then there is no means for comparing one against another and 
> recognizing a hierarchy.  However, he does say "What can be said at all can 
> be said clearly" and it is in this sense that his nonsense [the TLP] is 
> clearly stated nonsense (tautologies).

I can agree that we cannot use standard logic in order to differentiate 
different kinds of nonsense since they would all seem to be outside logic by 
dint of being nonsense. But I would disagree if you still maintain there aren't 
different kinds of nonsense. Nor can I imagine the later Wittgenstein thinking 
that since his idea of words having ranges of uses, depending on context, alone 
would seem to militate against that.

> Quote:
> > may say of something I hear, that seems utterly unsupportable to me, that 
> > it is nonsense and mean by this that it is just so obviously wrong no one 
> > in his or her right mind could be expected to accept it. This pejorative 
> > sense of "nonsense" is often confused with, say, a claim that something 
> > someone has said is simply unintelligible, i.e., that it may look 
> > superficially as though one can make head or tail of it but, really, on 
> > closer examination one will see that we cannot. It is simply "non-sense" as 
> > in lacking in any genuine meaning.

> This sounds like you are either speaking of false truth values or negative 
> facts, and using the word non-sense to refer to those concepts.  But surely 
> the word non-sense does not refer to concepts.

I would say it depends on what we mean by "nonsense".

> Quote:
> > And then there is the nonsense of doggerel and the like. Perhaps Lewis 
> > Carroll's jabberwocky poem would be an ideal case in point. Think of a line 
> > like "T'was brillig, and the slithy toves" and so forth.


> One could argue that Carroll was inventing new words.  Sure, no Shakespeare.  
> One could more easily say that those were just not sentences than they were 
> tautological or contradictory.  And as for nonsense, "red arrived tomorrow" 
> is pure nonsense because it lacks a sense.  One could not understand it even 
> if one tried.
> Maybe this is like Fermat's last theorem?

Maybe. Was Carroll inventing new words or playing with sounds to create the 
impression of words and, thereby, a certain kind of picture, a mood, etc.?

> Quote:
> > Moreover, the words in the Lewis Carroll line have the organization, the 
> > seeming grammar, of the real words. A set of words like "brilliant the 
> > t'was grove in slimy" would seem to be more nonsensical than "T'was brillig 
> > in the slithy tove" because the words in the latter group not only evoke 
> > real words with sense in our language but also seem to follow the 
> > grammatical form of those words, while the latter even fail to do that.

> Consider how Wittgenstein uses the words beautiful and good and how the word 
> nonsense is akin to those.  In culture and Value, Wittgenstein remarks"
> If someone says, let's suppose, "A's eyes have a more beautiful expression 
> than B's", then I should say he is certainly not using the word "beautiful" 
> to mean what is common to everything we call beautiful.  On the contrary, he 
> is playing a game with the word that has quite narrow bounds...
> If I say A has beautiful eyes someone may ask me: what do you find beautiful 
> about his eyes, and perhaps I shall reply: the almond shape, long eyelashes, 
> delicate eyelids.

> It is as if, when asked why it was raining outside, Wittgenstein would say, 
> Because it is dark and cloudy.  And this is mathematical argumentation-- not 
> experimental.

I don't quite get this. But certainly Wittgenstein did point out that words 
were dependent on the particular things we did with them, the language games 
they were deployed in, for their meanings.

> Quote:
> > I'm inclined to think there may be other types, too. So I would be 
> > surprised if Wittgenstein (in his later phase at least) would have really 
> > thought that there are no distinctions to be made with regard to assertions 
> > of what counts as "nonsense", i.e., and that all instances of nonsense are 
> > just the same. Yes, all may be dismissed in some fashion or other but 
> > perhaps not to the same degree. Is even poetry that speaks of things that 
> > aren't, say 'the soaring eagle of my heart', be dismissed as merely 
> > nonsense because hearts really don't leave our bodies and soar above us in 
> > the heavens as eagles do?

> Again, everything that can be said can be said clearly.  If we are going to 
> speak nonsense, look not past the tautological propositions > of the TLP, 
> which are clearheaded beyond most things written.

I'm not so sure of that!

>  W remarked, see C&V, that a philosophical work could be composed entirely of 
> jokes-- ala, contradictions, irony, humor.  Everything in the TLP is but the 
> opposite of that- tautological, grammatically true, serious.

> Quote:
> > Should assertions of what is good or beautiful be similarly dismissed as 
> > nonsense, as some logical positivists (active during Wittgenstein's earlier 
> > years) wanted to say?


> Why differentiate between good and bad nonsense?  Is the Bible bad nonsense?  
> Supposedly God created everything that is the case in 6 days, and supposedly 
> His days are not the same as ours, and no man knows how long one of God's 
> days are.  Tautological indeed.  Clear?  Well, I guess W has numerous remarks 
> on the Gospels in C&V.

I just think it's manifestly true that sometimes nonsense has a role and then, 
if deployed in its proper game, there is nothing wrong with it, nothing bad in 
which case it's good (in that it serves a purpose we wish to serve by 
communicating in language).

> As for the positivists-- why mention them?  I think most people know how 
> wrong headed their half-reading of the TLP is, especially in light of the New 
> Wittgenstein (realist) readings.

For perspective only.

> Quote:
> > Yes, sometimes a tautology must seem quite pointless and so be nonsense in 
> > an important sense. More to the point, if one wants to say that what has 
> > sense has it because it carries information about the world, then, on at 
> > least one level of consideration, a tautology would not qualify. Yet aren't 
> > tautologies, too, information about the world, i.e., how we or the 
> > appropriate language users deploy a particular term (X is equivalent to Y)? 
> > Sometimes don't we need to know meanings, too? And not just because we may 
> > not know quite how to use a word but, perhaps, because we may not see that 
> > some uses are pre-ordained by the word itself?

> When the theist says, God is, and the atheist says, God isn't; they are both 
> at the limits of language-- contradictions and tautologies.  So, yes, 
> tautologies are nonsense and also, to some people, quite important.  For they 
> mark off the limits of our language.  So too could contradictions.  And, 
> again, any fact could be otherwise and everything else remain the same.

Yes, in a certain sense it makes no more sense to affirm God than to deny God.

> Quote:
> > Sean is interested in the idea that a bachelor is an unmarried male (or 
> > man) may not be a real tautology and, of course, it is and it isn't. It 
> > depends on when and how we are using the term. I disagree with Sean's 
> > assertion that Tiger Woods, who is currently married with children, could 
> > be called a bachelor though I agree that 1) he might think of himself that 
> > way, 2) carry on in that fashion (maintaining a "bachelor pad", picking up 
> > women and sleeping with them, etc., and 3) that the term "bachelor" could 
> > be stretched to apply to a lifestyle as well as to one's legal status under 
> > a certain system of laws and institutional norms.

> This gets into mathematical argumentation and that all the propositions of 
> mathematics are tautological, as per the TLP.  See the Lecture on 
> Philosophy-- mathematical argumentation is my new investigation in 
> Wittgenstein readings.  I made other remarks in the last post, but I am 
> unsure whether to place this definition as mathematical.  As for now, it 
> lacks a context- namely a question.

I was just pointing out that we can use "bachelor" in a variety of ways and 
often do, making the tautology aspect a function of some ways of using the term 
but not others.

> Quote:
> > I don't see how you arrive at this. "The world is everything that is the 
> > case" has the look of a stipulation, a statement of meaning, not a 
> > tautology in the sense I have described it above (the form of a claim). 
> > That is, sometimes it's useful to explore a meaning and not a form and, in 
> > the above, Wittgenstein chose to commence the Tractatus with a statement 
> > which, on examination, could withstand challenge because of its stipulative 
> > quality, albeit a stipulation that reflects actual usage (i.e., the 
> > language community stipulates it, not Wittgenstein alone, he is merely 
> > making explicit what is already found in the use).

> The world is a tautology, the statement, The world is everything that is the 
> case, is akin to saying, Bachelors are unmarried men.

Ah, so a definition and, in the context of the TLP a stipulative one.

> He has defined the world as composed of cases.  This definition is important 
> because it allows for a truth table to be possible, not in a book, but in a 
> life.  And if the world is all Ts, or everything that is the case, well 
> doubting or having faith in the world is quite senseless.  Having the world 
> as all Fs doesn't change anything about these being cases.

> Quote:
> > But is the result the claim that the world is, therefore, not to be 
> > doubted? Whatever is the case will be the case, of course, but what has 
> > that to do with the nature of what is the case? One might still decide that 
> > the world is illusion (because everything that is the case is illusory) and 
> > so no gain is made against a claim of solipsism.

> If the theist and atheist coincide, then the meeker solipsists and realist 
> coincide just the same.  This would be the end of dualism.  This would be the 
> end of philosophical misunderstandings.  It makes no sense to speak of 
> knowledge where we could not speak of doubt.  I know not how to doubt or know 
> tautologies or contradictions.  Or, at the least, it would be meaningless.  
> It is akin to doubting or knowing 2+2=4.  Or that I am I.

Still the world could be everything that is the case and yet we may not 
understand its nature, i.e., it may be all a single entity's dream after all 
and thus solipsism would be true. Of course the later Wittgenstein's point 
against solipsism is that you cannot really talk like that (language being of 
public provenance after all) so formulating claims of solipsism is ultimately 
unintelligible (nonsense).

> Quote:
> > > 'Whereof one cannot speak, Thereof one must be silent' is again 
> > > tautological.
> > >

> > Yes and no. I agree it has a tautological aspect but it also has an 
> > important prescriptive aspect here, i.e., it is a kind of recommendation. 
> > And in that it goes beyond its tautological form. Is it nonsense? Yes in 
> > one sense but no in another which takes us back to the question of whether 
> > there are types of nonsense and whether Wittgenstein, at least in his later 
> > phase, would have agreed that there are.

> Well, W does say that every description can be construed as an instruction. 
> And since I am failing miserably at stealing a fine quote for you, might you 
> be able to show me his remarks on different kinds of nonsense from the latter 
> years?
> Regards,
> College Dropout John O'Connor
> --
> He lived a wonderful life.
> ==========================================

Off hand I cannot think of any. Perhaps someone who is more conversant than me 
with chapter and verse these days can suggest something though. My view is as 
I've stated it though: I think the gist of the later Wittgenstein's thinking 
implies different kinds of nonsense even if, at one point in his earlier 
career, he may have seemed to be saying otherwise.


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