[Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] Re: Tractarian Solipsism

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2010 14:03:55 -0000

--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> Hi Walter:
> I have always thought that 5.6 was a very strange statement. For example, I 
> might have a mathematical language and develop proofs of theorems that I 
> could not possibly imagine beforehand. This activity could give me an idea 
> about how the world might be. Then I might go out and experience precisely 
> the world-equivalent of my mathematical concept. For example, Riemann 
> developed a geometry where there were no parallel lines. He wasn't looking at 
> the world for this, but just doing his mathematics. Then Einstein discovers 
> that the world is actually like what Riemann was just imagining. So, my 
> language of mathematics can go beyond my world as it did with Riemann, and 
> then it may be brought back into synchrony with the world, as with Einstein's 
> theory of general relativity, or it may be forever beyond the world, as, say 
> with large cardinal axioms for axiomatic set theory.
> But Schroeder has an interesting remark that makes me think that I have 
> misunderstood 5.6 (and for that matter, Schroeder is saying that Anscombe 
> misunderstands it in the same way that I have!). What he says (see Richter's 
> student guide to the TLP) is that "note that in (both in 5.6 and 5.62c) the 
> limits of language and not said to *be* the limits of my world, but to *mean* 
> or *indicate* them (*bedeuten*). Logic and language *reflect* the form of the 
> world; they do not produce it (cf. TLP 5.511 and 6.13, where logic is said to 
> mirror the world). Anyway, Wittgenstein nowhere entertains the idea that 
> logic might be subjective in a transcendental sense: imposed upon the world 
> by us."
> So my language isn't a barrier to what the world contains, but instead it's a 
> set of construction cones, like they put on the highways, telling me where to 
> drive and where not to drive, where I'm permitted and where I'm not (yet). My 
> interpretation had been like Anscombe's, I think, that the limits of my 
> language are the limits of the world. 
> This also goes against any interpretation of W. as an idealist, as Martin has 
> been suggesting...although I can certainly sympathize with that impression 
> sometimes, because what he says is so outlandish in the TLP.
> Thanks!
> --Ron

Thanks, Ron.  I've been using the Richter book to read TLP, so I did see that 
Schroeder remark you point to above, but it's my sense that it's a distinction 
that can't really be cashed out, since for W. there's some deep (but unsayable) 
truth to solipsism.  That is, there simply can't be any "world" but "the world" 
that I can understand.  Riemannian geometry will thus either be within the 
world I can understand (whether anybody knew of it or not), or forever 
"nonsense."  In either case, it seems to be consistent with the solipsistic 
view that the limit to my language/understanding is the limit to my world. 

Your (quite sensible, IMO) questioning of whether Riemannian geometry must 
necessarily be relegated to one side of this "line of understanding" or the 
other for all eternity, involves just the sort of Quinean "empiricising" of 
logic that I think dooms the Tractarian theory.  If there is no hard and fast 
line between what is logic (and hence showable but unsayable) and what may or 
may not be "the case," the whole rationalistic foundation of the Tractatus 
begins to crumble.


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