[quickphilosophy] "Propositions are Pictures"

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2010 17:53:08 -0700 (PDT)

The following is from Anscombe's 1989 paper "The Simplicity of the Tractatus."  
(I typed it in once already, but it never showed.  This aspect of Yahoo 

my "form of life."

Propositions are pictures.  If this means that there is a projective relation 
between propositions and possible or actual facts, must not the fact presented 
by a proposition, if it IS actual, be as much a picture of the proposition as 
the proposition is of it?  Projective relations can be seen as going in both 
directions.  So isn't the reality as much a picture of a possible proposition- 
-which, if actual, is itself also a fact--as IT is of the reality?  The answer 
to this objection is that the elements of a proposition (completely analyzed) 
are NAMES.  So if the reality represented by a true proposition were a PICTURE 
of the proposition, the simple objects of which IT was composed would have to 
stand for names.  That some object is a name is not to be seen by looking at 

object--the mark on paper or the bit of furniture or whatever is doing duty as 

name.  You have to understand the configuration of those objects as a logical 
configuration of NAMES in order to understand it as a proposition.  I dont mean 
that every picture is a proposition, its form of representation may be spatial 
and it a picture of a spatial arrangement somewhere; or termporal and picture 

a temporal arrangement.  But EVERY picture, according to the TRACTATUS, is at 
any rate ALSO a logical picture and proposition are ONLY logical pictures.  

is so even though they represent by means of a spatial arrangement.  A 
representation by a spatial arrangement- -like a musical score--can be 
representation of something temporal, i.e., of a succession of sounds.  Here 

'form of representation' is not the spatial form, because it isn't a 
representation of anything spatial; there is no form of representation in 
question except the logical form....

W's solution to the ancient problem of the connexion between language or 

and reality: Thoughts (we learn from a letter to Russell) consist ultimately of 
elements, just as propositions consist ultimately of simple names: these are 
sprinkled on a logical network--so W described his earlier doctrine in a later 
notebook.  The ancient PROBLEM is solved by the thesis of the IDENTITY of the 
possibility of the structure of a proposition and the possibility of the 
structure of a fact.

We can derive from this the astonishing thesis that the structure of reality 
within the world is logical structure.  See 2.18:  What any picture, of 

form, must have in common with reality in order to be able to represent it 

or falsely, is the logical form, that is THE form of the reality.

Next (if this stuff ever shows up), I hope to summarize some of Hacker's 
critique of the picture theory.  I must say, though, that it isn't very 
plausible to me (or apparently, to anybody else anymore).  What seems most in 
need of explication today (perhaps esp. after the critique of the W of the 
Investigations) is that it was ever as popular and influential as it was.  My 
own sense is that when W thought he had a solution to some thorny philosophical 
problem (like the Russellian contradictions. e.g.,) he was often too quick to 
say that what he found to fix the problem MUST ALWAYS be the case, that it 

never just happen that, e.g., picturing could sometimes occur and that would 
eliminate the need for self-reference.  Instead, he'd rush to claim that 
picturing must ALWAYS be the case, that he'd discovered that expression could 
occur in no other way.  (It kind of reminds me of the Roman Catholic "reform" 
that moved from the requirement that Masses be said in Latin to the PROHIBITION 
of Latin Masses.  It never seems to have dawned on anybody that they could have 
just ALLOWED vernacular masses without making any other type illegal.  (I 
dunno.  Maybe that's a bad analogy...._



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