[quickphilosophy] Anscombe on W's "most fundamental thought"

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2010 09:03:46 -0700 (PDT)

From Introduction, pp. 163-5.

'My most fundamental thought is this: logical constants are not proxies for 
anything.  The logic of the facts cannot have anything going proxy for it. 

Here he is contrasting logical constants with names, which 'go proxy' for their 
objects: 'The possibility of sentences,'  he has just said,  'rests upon the 
principle of signs as going proxy for objects'--and what this principle in turn 
amounts to is the possibility of logical picturing through one fact's having 

same logical form as another--for only in the context of the proposition will a 
sign go proxy for an object.

Sentences thus cannot represent, and nothing in them can stand for, 'the logic 
of the facts'; they can only reproduce it.  An attempt to say what it is that 
they so o repreoduce leads to stammering....

[I]f we try to explain the essence of a relational expression to ourselves, we 
reproduce the relational form in our explanation.  For as we have seen, we must 
make the distinction between 'aRb' and 'bRa' and if we do this by e.g. saying 
that in one the relation goes from a to b, and in the other from b to a, we 
produce a sentence which employs the essential relational form; for it 
reproduces the distinction produced by exchanging the places of the terms.

All the logical devices--the detailed twiddles and manipulations of our 
language--combine, W tells us at 5.511, into an infinitely fine network, 

'the great mirror'--that is to say, the mirror of language, whose logical 
character makes it reflect the world and makes its individual sentences say 

such-and-such is the case. The simplest and most characteristic mark of this is 
that we do not have to learn the meanings of all the sentences of our language; 
given the understanding of the words, we understand andconstruct sentences, and 
know what they mean without having it explained to us....

It was at one time natural to think that the field of logic was the field of 
what was a priori true, i.e. true independently of all existence.  On this W 
says at 5.552: 'The "experience" that we need to understand logic is not that 
something is thus or thus, but that something is: but that is not an 
experience.  Logic precedes any experience--that something is thus.  It comes 
before the How, not before the What.'  According to the Tractatusthe 'what' is 
conveyed by the simple names, which cannot be taken to pieces by definitions 
93.261) and which name the 'substance of the world' (2.0211).  Thus even when a 
simple name is replace by a definite description, the description is merely 
'about' the object, it could not 'express' it (3.221).



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