[Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] "Propositions are Pictures"

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2010 23:47:25 -0000

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 disturbs 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 the object--the mark on paper or the bit of furniture or
whatever is doing duty as a 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 of
a temporal arrangement.  But EVERY picture, according to the TRACTATUS,
is at any rate ALSO a logical picture and proposition are ONLY logical
pictures.  This 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 the '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

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

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


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