[Wittrs] Re: [quickphilosophy] Re: 1.12; 1.13; 1.2 & 1.21

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2010 21:08:49 +0100

Neil, in case it helps, the TLP was written at a time of reaction 
against idealism, and when Frege's Begriffschrift was highly 
influential, encouraging philosophers to think that thought was being 
constrained by the inability of ordinary language to express concepts 
clearly.  But maybe you knew all that.

It's odd, and Derrida often points it out forcefully, that philosophers 
are so enamoured of elementary descriptive statements, such as "snow is 
white".  Whereas ordinary people habitually use language primarily to 
talk about their personal relationships and other such evaluative 
abstractions.  They also (and I don't exclude myself) often tell lies, 
even from a very early age.


iro3isdx wrote:

> If you want to know what I really think, here it is. I think the whole
> idea of a logical structuring of language, or of knowledge, or of
> thought, is absurd. It's not merely absurd - it is obvious nonsense.
> It continues to puzzle me that intelligent philosophers attempt to
> engage in such absurdity. In the case of Wittgenstein, at least he was
> able to see the absurdity in the latter part of his career.

Thanks for your comments, glad to hear from you Ron.  As it happens, 
I've for a long time owned a copy of Sprigge's book "Theories of 
Existence".  I recommend it :)  If you can show that my question 
involves a confusion, well and good.

You say W is "making statements about objects and states of affairs" and 
Walter mentions W discussing "HOW they [constituents of thought] 
correspond with objects in the world".

Now one has to suppose that what W says in TLP is not necessarily what W 
actually believes, but unless we take the line (gladly taken by some 
commentators, notably Cora Diamond) that the TLP is literally nonsense 
and has no meaning, then we seem to need to find some way to make at 
least provisional sense of it.  Or, since the statements of the TLP 
don't appeal to me one little bit, should I (presumptuously) assume that 
I am already in the state one is supposed to attain after having climbed 
up the steps of the TLP?

If we were to immediately apply the kind of strictures that are 
associated with the later W, such as that philosophy mistakenly takes 
ordinary terms and makes them into absolutes, then surely we would 
immediately reject the introductory statements of the TLP as falling 
into this trap.  For "the world" is surely used here in a sense 
different from ordinary language, and a highly suspect one at that.

Whether we construe these claims as idealist or realist (and I am using 
that conjunction of terms to embrace every possible position around or 
between them) is at the outset a secondary issue.  But I cannot see that 
it is possible to make the first few remarks of the TLP without raising 
questions that can only be understood in relationship with the spectrum 
of views that fall around idealism and realism.

For example, if the world is the totality of facts, don't we need to 
answer the question of how and where do facts exist?  The answer to that 
question seems to have profound implications for what we are being told 
to see as "the world".


Ron Allen wrote:
 >
 >
 > Hi Martin:
 >
 > I don't think Wittgenstein is so much an *idealist* here in the
 > 'Tractatus' as he is a *rationalist*.
 >
 > If I may be so blunt--and I know that we don't agree too often on things
 > philosophical--you may be confusing the two tendencies in this case. Or,
 > perhaps it's just a symptom of how the discussion has evolved. Let me
 > expound. Or just quote. Sorry; this is how "it must be" for now.
 >
 > "A philosopher is an idealist if and only if they believe that the
 > physical world exists *either* (1) only as an object for mind, *or* (2)
 > only as a content of mind, *or* (3) only as something itself somehow
 > mental in its true character, a disjunction we shall sum up as the
 > thesis that the physical is derivative from mind." (T.L.S. Sprigge in
 > 'Idealism,' "Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy," E. Craig, ed.)
 >
 > OK, now, THAT IS NOT what Wittgenstein is doing in the opening points of
 > the TLP. He is making statements about objects and states of affairs,
 > not making statements about mental constructs, let alone their
 > linguistic formulations in terms of propositions. These are metaphysical
 > statements.
 >
 > Indeed, "Rationalism is the view that reason, as opposed to, say, sense
 > experience, divine revelation or reliance on institutional authority,
 > plays a dominant role in our attempt to gain knowledge."
 >
 > In the TLP, W. is saying initially that there is a close match between
 > logical form and physical form, even down to the atomic level, so that
 > our reasoning mechanisms match our understandings of objects and their
 > properties in the world. But this is not to say that our reasoning
 > mechanisms are the world. Wittgenstein is rationalist, if anything, not
 > idealist.

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