[Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] Re: Anscombe on Tractarian epistemology & its incompatibility with verificationism

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2010 22:39:03 -0000

That's a very good question, Ron.  

As I've said, I think W's argument for simples is as audacious as any 
philosophical argument I've ever heard.  Maybe I could swallow an argument that 
concludes that they (like Leibniz's monads) must exist.  But W says that we 
have to use them constantly since otherwise we'd understand nothing.  
Everything we believe (not just know) requires us to constantly utilize them, 
and yet somehow.....nobody can give an example of one. 


--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> Hi Walter:
> If ostensive definition can apply only to elementary propositions, how can it 
> be that we have no examples of elementary propositions?
> Thanks,
> --Ron
> --- On Tue, 8/10/10, walto <calhorn@...> wrote:
> From: walto <calhorn@...>
> Subject: [quickphilosophy] Anscombe on Tractarian epistemology & its 
> incompatibility with verificationism
> To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 7:30 AM
> The following is alengthy excerpt (pp. 152-154) from Anscombe's Introduction 
> to W's Tractatus. I apologize in advance for the inevitable typos.
> `Psychology is no more akin to philosophy than any other natural science.  
> Theory of knowledge is the philosophy of psychology' (4.1121). In this 
> passage W is trying to break the dictatorial control over the rest of 
> philosophy that had long been exercised by what is called theory of 
> knowledgeâ?"that is, by the philosophy of sensation,perceptio n, imagination, 
> and, generally, of `experience' .  He did not succeed.  He and Frege 
> avoided making theory ofknowledge the cardinal theory of philosophy simply by 
> cutting it dead; by doingnone, and concentrating on the philosophy of 
> logic.  But the influence of the Tractatus produced logical positivism, 
> whose main doctrine is `verificationism' ; and in that doctrine theory of 
> knowledge once more reigned supreme, and a prominent position was given to 
> the test of significance by asking for theobservations that would verify a 
> statement. (Further, in the period between the Tractatus and the time when 
> he began to
>  write Philosophical Investigations, W's own ideas were more closely akin to 
> those of the logical positivists than before or after.)
> We can see how the Tractatus generated logical positivism, although the two 
> philosophies are incompatible, by studing Mortiz Schlick's essay, "Meaning 
> and Verification" : `Whenever we ask about a sentence, "What does it mean?" 
> what we expect is instruction as to the circumstances in which the sentence 
> is to be used; we want a description of the conditions under which the 
> sentence will form a true proposition, and of the those which will make it 
> false.' Here Schlick seems to follow the Tractatus, except in the last clause 
> of his statement: the Tractatus says that I `determine the sense of a 
> proposition by `determining in what circumstances I call it true; (4.063). 
> (It is implicit in this that the `circumstances I question may hold or not 
> hold;for it is an essential part of the picture theory that a proposition 
> which heldin all circumstances would not have `sense': it would lack TF 
> poles.)
> Schlick class the `description of the conditions; under which a word has 
> application, or a sentence is true, the ;rules for the use; of the word or 
> sentence.  These `rules' will consist partly of `ostensive definitions' , of 
> which the simplest form will be a pointing gesture combined with the 
> pronouncing of the word; this can be done with words like `blue'.  For words 
> like `immediate', `chance', `because', `again', Schlick says, the ostensive 
> definition is of a more complicated kind: `in these cases we require the 
> presence of certain complex situations, and the meaning of the words is 
> defined by the way we use them in these different situations.'  Allrules for 
> use `ultimately point of ostensive definitions' .  `This,' Schlick says, `is 
> the situation, and nothing seems to me simpler or less questionable.  It is 
> this situation and nothing else that we describe when we affirm that the 
> meaning of a proposition can be given only by giving the rules of
>  its verification in experience.  (The addition "in experience" is really 
> superfluous, as no other kind of verification has been defined.)'
> This shews us the transition from the Tractatus to `verificationism' very 
> clearly.  What Schlick says leads immediately (a) to the quick test for 
> significance: `What experience would verify this?' and (b) to the maintenance 
> of theory of knowledge as the cardinal theory of philosophy.
> In the Tractatus, the `determination of the circumstances in which I call a 
> proposition true' must be a statement ofits truth-conditions.  This is a 
> completely different thing from a `rule for the use' of a sentence, if this 
> takes the form of an `ostensive definition'. There could be no statement of 
> the truth-conditions of an elementary proposition, other than a restatement 
> of it;and for all non-elementary propositions there can always be statements 
> oftruth-conditions.  If, then, Schlick is following the Tractatus, 
> `ostensive definition' can only be relevant to the elementary proposition.
> Further, Schlick insists that our `rules for use; are `arbitrary'; we give 
> what rules we like; all that is essential is that we give some. Theonly 
> arbitrariness in the Tractatus is in the assignment of names.  There is no 
> arbitrariness about the fact that a certain type of arrangement of names is 
> capable of representing such-and-such a situation; it can do that only by 
> reproducing in its own structure the arrangement of objects in the 
> situation,and we cannot make it do so at will. â?¦
> On the Tractatus view,then, one could not ask what observations would 
> establish the truth of aproposition unless the `structures' of possible 
> observation statements alreadystood in certain internal relations to the 
> `structure; of the proposition.  In the presence of these internal 
> relations,the question of meaningfulness cannot arise, except in the form of 
> a questionabout the reference of the individual signs; if these signs are not 
> given areference, the proposition could not be  `given' a sense, even by 
> stipulating that its truth would be established if and only if such-and-such 
> observation statements were verifiedâ?¦.
> My only comment here is that there seems to me to a kind of epistemological 
> strain functioning here despite W's (and Anscombe's) denials. That, e.g., 
> language MUST have a particular sort of relation with the world, that there 
> MUST be elementary objects or there could be no understandingâ?" these seem 
> to me akin to Descartes' methodological claims regarding the impossibility of 
> error with respect to the cogito. There is a metaphysical "comfort" supplied 
> by the non-empirical, yet non-tautological props of the Tractatus, and W's 
> certainty of the impossibility of the falsehood of any of them is its own 
> sort of foundationalism.  
> When Anscombe says "There is no arbitrariness about the fact that a certain 
> type of arrangement of names is capable of representing such-and-such a 
> situation; it can do that only by reproducing in its own structure the 
> arrangement of objects in the situation... "â?"it's the very assurance of the 
> impossibility of any invasion by "the arbitrary" that may give an empiricist 
> pause.
> Walto

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