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

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2010 18:42:22 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Martin:
Sorry for the tardy reply.
I'll have to check out Sprigge's book.
I think that at the time he wrote it, Wittgenstein was very much convinced that 
it was correct, and not, say, a metaphysical exploration. In fact, I think that 
he basically believed that he had settled philosophical questions, in the large 
sense, once and for all. It's not illegal or immoral to change your mind, 
either. Nobody, except a complete blockhead, keeps the same opinions forever; 
it's a mark of his integrity that he so resolutely critiqued himself. One could 
even argue, as AC Grayling has done, that W. was beginning to embark on a third 
philosophical path with "On Certainty", one that is more in line with typical 
philosophy, exploring epistemological questions in particular, and not 
evaporating them into nothingness by way of dialectic and conceptual analysis.
I'm aware of Diamond's viewpoint, but I just don't buy it. I think that the 
propositions of the TLP do make sense, and they make pretty good sense. If they 
are "nonsense" in any way, it's that they don't have a sense in the same way 
that our propositions about states of affairs have sense. They lack sense, in 
this sense, but are not nonsense, in that sense. I'm tempted to make some other 
puns, but I'll spare you....
Logical atomism is a plausible metaphysics. If you just think about the history 
of science, how things as great as stellar evolution have been broken down into 
smaller and smaller physical accounts with smaller and smaller component parts 
(matter, energy, fields) and that this works for explanation and prediction, 
then, yes, there should be every inclination to describe the world as 
composite, but at root atomic and logical. W just got carried away, and it 
happens right there at 1.21. Yeah, I can see why this axiomatics wouldn't 
appeal to you.
I don't think we have to decide Realism vs. Idealism to start reading the text. 
Actually, it might have helped his readers if W. had begun with such a 
discussion, locating himself within one or another philosophical tradition. But 
he didn't. And you just have to keep reading to see where he's going to wind 
up. This is Realism with a vengeance. The theory of truth is a 
correspondence-as-congruity theory.
I think there's a case for saying that the world is the totality of facts, not 
just things. An ordinary person would accept this, because, clearly, the world 
is different if the things in it are in a different arrangement. So, from an 
ordinary language point of view, the world is the totality of facts is good 
common sense. Where are the facts? you may ask. Well, they are in the world. 
But, there is a twist to this a little bit later, which has me at least really 
baffled, that distinguishes W from both Frege and Russell.

--- On Thu, 7/22/10, Martin N Brampton <martin.lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

From: Martin N Brampton <martin.lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: [quickphilosophy] Re: 1.12; 1.13; 1.2 & 1.21
To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Thursday, July 22, 2010, 1:08 PM


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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