[Wittrs] Re: [quickphilosophy] Re: 1.21 Continued

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 24 Jul 2010 10:32:44 +0100

I'm finding it difficult to give a brief answer to those points!  But 
I'll do my best.

It doesn't seem too easy to make general statements about philosophy. 
In the light of your list, I quickly read most of Plato's "Meno" and 
struggled to find much that didn't refer to every day experience.  Of 
course that is part of Plato's genius, but it was hard to see that his 
arguments were not seeking assent in just the same way as any other 

Turning to a philosopher who is nowadays often maligned (often with 
little more subtlety than Dr Johnson), Berkeley makes claims that are 
represented as being outlandish.  In a well known passage, he says that 
"When we do our utomost to conceive the existence of external bodies, we 
are all the while only contemplating our own ideas".  Idealist basher 
David Stove seeks to represent Berkeley as taking a tautology and then 
deducing from it a substantive claim.

But that is an uncharitable reading, plausible only by taking Berkeley's 
words out of context.  Rightly or wrongly, Berkeley is inviting his 
reader to conduct an empirical investigation of introspection in order 
to find immediate evidence in support of the claim.

There seem to be questions about how we should take a claim - whether 
the kind of simple claims with which Plato builds a case or the more 
complex claims of a philosopher like Berkeley.  So it might be said that 
a significant strand in philosophy is the raising and answering of 
questions about how we should take things.  And those inevitably lead to 
questions about what is our situation.

That in itself might not seem too un-Wittgensteinian at least in 
relation to the later writings.  Although I'm not really persuaded that 
W makes his case against philosophy as relying on words that are used 
beyond their reasonable context.  That seems to be something that 
happens in all kinds of situations, not just in philosophy, and one 
might equally well characterise philosophy as criticising arguments that 
rely on blurring contextual limitations.

Looking at the four numbered points, the question is why we should think 
in those terms at all.  What is striking about them is that they sound 
so characteristic of the period, and the beliefs of the logical 
empiricists (an unsurprising observation, no doubt).

But if we read the TLP as the assertions of some gnomic logical 
positivist, I'm not sure how that tells us anything of particular 
interest.  As Ayer said after giving a lengthy exposition of logical 
positivism, in response to the question of what was wrong with LP, "it's 

Specifically, I'm not clear why we would think that it is possible to 
decide for every claim whether or not it is determinable.  Won't it 
depend on how we look at the claim?  There doesn't seem any good reason 
to think that there is only one "correct" way to look at a claim.

And when it comes to item (iv) I struggle to know how to classify, say, 
Newton's Laws of Motion between true, false and senseless.  Is anything 
to be gained by doing so?

On 23/07/2010 17:49, walto wrote:
> --- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> <mailto:quickphilosophy%40yahoogroups.com>, Martin N Brampton
> <martin.lists@...> wrote:
> particularly about matters to do with realism/idealism.
>  >
>  > That Wittgenstein finished up concluding that all questions about
>  > realism and idealism are "nonsense" doesn't really respond to the
> question.
>  >
> I was thinking about the matter of philosophical "nonsense" a bit this
> morning and thought that maybe all philosophy must be nonsense if we
> believe these Tractarian theses:
> (i) Statements of philosophy are not empirical (or contingent). They may
> be quite general, but one can't determine their truth by, e.g.
> scientific investigation or inductions on every day experiences.
> (ii) Neither are statements of philosophy, as Hilbert thought math to
> be, either analytically true (tautologous) or analytically false
> (self-contradictory).
> (iii) There is no other type of necessity besides formal necessity. That
> is, all necessarily true statements are tautologies, and all necessarily
> false statements are self-contradictory.
> (iv) Assertions (as opposed to questions, commands, etc.) must be true,
> false, or senseless.
> Given that, what's left for philosophy to be besides senseless?
> One can of course, with Leibniz, Kant and Kripke, deny (iii) or one can
> take the position--contrary to (i)--that philosophy is just a very
> general science.
> These are issues that Everett Hall discusses in detail in his book
> "Philosophical Systems" where he holds that, along with analytic and
> synthetic statements there are also "categorial statements" which aren't
> quite either.
> The thing is, while there's no place in the Tractatus for categorial
> statements, without them, there's not much for philosophers to say.
> Walto

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