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

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2010 23:18:58 -0000

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. (4.0342)

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 the 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,
forming '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 that 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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