[quickphilosophy] An Anscombe Error Regarding Negation?

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2010 13:45:27 -0700 (PDT)

On page 69-70 of her book Anscombe writes,

It is clear that [in negation] one must convey what situation one is saying 

not  exist, and this will be conveyed precisely by the picture depicting that 
situation.  No other picture could be involved: you could not for example make 

picture of the situation's not existing.  We must be careful not to confuse 

is not the case with what is the case instead of it; if you tried to make a 
picture of a situation's not existing you would only make a picture of what did 
exist instead of it.  The only exception to this is when we have the convention 
that not shewing something shews that the thing does not exist: as when a map 
shews that no large river passes through Birmingham by not shewing a river 
passing through Birmingham.

Today at least one convention for a pictorial "not" is very commonplace: a 
circle with a diagonal line through it placed over the original picture.  Of 
course, this may be (and often is) taken to mean "Do not ____", but there's 
nothing sacrosanct about this indicator being used as a command rather than 

It seems to me that both W and Anscombe go through a lot of convolutions to 
avoid relying on anything like Frege's assertion sign.  Pictures are different 
from props in that they depict only--and don't also say that what is depicted 

the case the way asserting a prop does. But it doesn't seem problematic to have 
a convention according to which adding a mark to any picture would mean that it 
is intended to be "non-fiction. "  I get the sense that W may here be overly 
fond of avoiding reliance on "saying" in favor of some sort of intrinsic 
property/element that can "show" what would otherwise have to be said.  



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