[Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] Re: Tractarian Solipsism

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2010 23:02:01 -0000

Here's Anscombe's version of W's argument for solipsism (Introduction at

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world; but all languages
have one and the same logic, and its limits are those of the world;
therefore the limits of my world and of the world are one and the same;
therefore the world is my world.

--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "walto" <calhorn@...> wrote:
> 5.6 The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
> 5.61 Logic pervades the world: the limits of the world are also its
> limits. So we cannot say in logic, 'The world has this in it, and
> but not that.' For that would appear to presuppose that we were
> excluding certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case, since it
> would require that logic should go beyond the limits of the world; for
> only in that way could it view those limits from the other side as
> We cannot think what we cannot think; so what we cannot think we
> say either.
> 5.62 This remark provides the key to the problem, how much truth there
> is in solipsism. For what the solipsist means is quite correct; only
> cannot be said , but makes itself manifest. The world is my world:
> is manifest in the fact that the limits of language (of that language
> which alone I understand) mean the limits of my world.
> 5.621 The world and life are one.
> 5.63 I am my world. (The microcosm).
> 5.631 There is no such thing as the subject that thinks or entertains
> ideas. If I wrote a book called The World as l found it, I should have
> to include a report on my body, and should have to say which parts
> subordinate to my will, and which were not, etc., this being a method
> isolating the subject, or rather of showing that in an important sense
> there is no subject; for it alone could not be mentioned in that book.
> 5.632 The subject does not belong to the world: rather, it is a limit
> the world.
> 5.633 Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be found? You
> say that this is exactly like the case of the eye and the visual
> But really you do not see the eye. And nothing in the visual field
> allows you to infer that it is seen by an eye.
> 5.6331 For the form of the visual field is surely not like this.
> 5.634 This is connected with the fact that no part of our experience
> at the same time a priori. Whatever we see could be other than it is.
> Whatever we can describe at all could be other than it is. There is no
> priori order of things.
> 5.64 Here it can be seen that solipsism, when its implications are
> followed out strictly, coincides with pure realism. The self of
> solipsism shrinks to a point without extension, and there remains the
> reality co-ordinated with it.
> 5.641 Thus there really is a sense in which philosophy can talk about
> the self in a non-psychological way. What brings the self into
> philosophy is the fact that 'the world is my world'. The philosophical
> self is not the human being, not the human body, or the human soul,
> which psychology deals, but rather the metaphysical subject, the limit
> of the world--not a part of it.
> I probably couldn't make a terribly good case for this, but I have the
> strong sense that it is W's assurance that the form of the world must
> match the form of his thinking that produces the sense for him that he
> is somehow locked into his private world.  Just as Descartes' search
> absolute certainty produces no escape from dreams or evil demons
> the help of a Deity, W's confidence about what is "shown" by the
> structure of thought/language lands him in the only sort of world
> certainty can have provenance.
> IMHO, it takes a willingness to accept fallibalism to escape the
> of solipsism here (unless we can get a benevolent and omnipotent God
> come to our rescue).  It seems to me that that is where the solid (but
> maybe not so brilliant?) American philosophers of the period ought to
> have been looked at more charitably by the Brits. James, Pierce, R.W.
> Sellars, even maybe Santayana were much more comfortable living
> even the sort of mystical rationalism that W was espousing at the
> And, I think that W eventually came to terms with this  himself as he
> attacked the notion of private languages with more and more force,
> starting in the 30s.
> I mean, if we can only have gotten the meaning of such terms as "rock"
> and "red" from others, while we might be wrong about any particular
> attribution, the danger of solipsism seems to fade away.
> Walto

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