[Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] Re: What are objects, and what is the form of an atomic prop?

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 04 Aug 2010 21:28:10 -0000

Hi Ron. Thanks for your comments--I was getting very lonely.

I'm a bit short of time at present, so will only note now that your remarks 
seem quite un-Griffinian (even if they're not un-Tractarian!). I'm curious: How 
much of the Griffin book have you gotten through so far? And, in your opinion, 
how did he get so off base with respect to what W had in mind as elementary 
props and (atomic) objects?


--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> Hi Walter:
> I've fallen a little bit behind, but let me offer a few comments here. I'm 
> reading Griffin's book, by the way, and think it's pretty informative...if a 
> bit quirky.
> I don't think it's right to say Russell "eliminated" definite descriptions 
> (DDs); it was one of his most important and lasting contributions to 
> philosophical logic (cf. Neale, "Descriptions," Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 
> 1990). And W, I think, basically adheres to the analysis of DDs given by 
> Russell, namely, that they are disguised existential and uniqueness 
> statements.
> Agreed, of course, that no DD is atomic. The atomic sentences in predicate 
> logic are just the strings of symbols of the form R(a, b, c, ...), where R is 
> an n-ary relation, and each a,b,c, etc. is either a constant or a term 
> containing no variables. So, if W. has this logic in mind for the way the 
> world of all that is the case operates, then he has to at some point concede 
> that there are atomic facts and corresponding atomic propositions. I don't 
> see any way around this, unless the TLP is vacuous.
> At the same time, I think I can see how "The leaf is green" might be 
> analyzed into atomic propositions. We need names for simples and we need 
> either names for spatial locations or predicates that define spatial 
> locations (otherwise, there's no language for the arrangment of objects). So 
> "The leaf is green" becomes "Leaf is here" & "Green is here". In this way, 
> every atomic fact is just a thing at a place. But then we need properties or 
> effects, like green, warm, liquid, noisy, etc., to be things.
> Why can't there be names for complexes? Why can't I have a name for a house, 
> "Tara", for example? Propositions about Tara resolve into more elementary 
> propositions about Tara's component objects: "Tara is burning" = "The roof is 
> burning" & "The porch is burning" & ....
> It would also appear that species and genera would acquire names and logical 
> structures through disjunctions of some sort: water = this_water_1 | 
> this_water_2 | ....
> Individual things, even if they are composite, like Tara, would be given by 
> logical conjunctions Tara = this_stud & that_stud & this_rafter & this_brick 
> & that_joist & ....
> It's practically impossible to carry the analysis of complexes as far as it 
> would need to go, and there is always the possibility that empirical 
> investigation leads to the discovery that what we had named a simple is in 
> fact analyzable into components. Thus, there is no dire need to provide 
> examples, and this, I would suggest, is why W. did not provide concrete 
> examples. Although, as you point out, he did indicate their form: just what 
> first-order predicate logic would demand.
> Thanks!
> --Ron
> --- On Tue, 8/3/10, walto <calhorn@...> wrote:
> From: walto <calhorn@...>
> Subject: [quickphilosophy] What are objects, and what is the form of an 
> atomic prop?
> To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Tuesday, August 3, 2010, 3:33 PM
> In Wittgenstein' s Logical Atomism, James Griffin says that one common view 
> of what W meant by "analysis" in the Tractatus is mistaken.  The confused 
> commentators have said that as W admired Russell's elimination of definite 
> descriptions by the use of bound variables, when he talked about analysis of 
> propositions down to ultimate elements, he must have been thinking of the 
> Russellian model for elimination of definite descriptions.  But Griffin 
> points out that no such expression as 
> "(Ex) Fx and (y)if Fy then y=x" 
> can be elementary because it contains logical terms, and, in any case, if 
> there is a problem of ambiguity with respect to "the biggest guy in the room" 
> it won't be eliminated through by  Russellian analysis.
> In Griffin's view, W's propositional analysis is strictly analogous to 
> chemical analysis, and an analysis of "the broom is brown" will start with 
> such sentences as "the bristles are brown, the broomstick is brown, and the 
> bristles are connected to the broomstick."  It will in this way analyze "the 
> broom" into smaller and smaller referents, just as a physical analysis would 
> break down the broom itself.  
> As Griffin understands the Tractatus, what's being claimed is that the 
> multiplicity of language mirrors that of the world partly because the most 
> elementary words (names) can designate only the most elementary objects 
> (simples).  And, like Leibnizian monads, no atomic object can be altered or 
> destroyed, only moved around and/or combined with others.  Similarly, on 
> Griffin's view of W, no name can be of any complex, but only of a simple 
> object.  If that's true, it's unsurprising that W couldn't provide any 
> examples of atomic propositions.  
> With that intro in mind, here are a couple of interesting excerpts from 
> Griffin's book:
> Every element in a proposition will be either a name or defined by names.  
> But this means that descriptive words like `broom', `brush' and `stick' will 
> be defined by names.  But if names are of particulars, how can they define 
> general words?  `Broom', after all, can be used to describe many things, and 
> how can I possibly give the meaning of this general word in terms which refer 
> to particular objects?  It would almost seem on the basis of this that 
> names, other evidence to the contrary, cannot be restricted to particulars.  
> Now, however, we should see a way out of this difficulty.  I said earlier 
> that analysis explains that what I mean by `the broom' is `the brush in a 
> certain relation to the stick'.  What it explains, in other words, is what I 
> mean on this occasion; I mean this brush in a certain relation to this 
> stick'.  And analysis is definition in this sense; by moving from statements 
> about complexes to statements about particulars, I
>  eventually define what I now mean by the signs in the unanalysed sentenceâ?¦.
> [S]ince particulars configured in such and such a way constitute a broom, 
> names configured in such and such a way will say that these objects 
> constitute a broom.  The role of general words in propositions is, in other 
> words, taken over in the elementary proposition by the configurations of its 
> signs.
> What Griffin attempts to deduce from this is that no prop of the form Fa can 
> be an elementary proposition.  In a recent post, I reproduced this:
> 4.123 A property is internal if it is unthinkable that its object should not 
> possess it.  (This shade of blue and that one stand, eo ipso, in the 
> internal relation of lighter to darker.  It is unthinkable that these two 
> objects should not stand in this relation.)
> and I mentioned some difficulties it seems to engender.  Griffin handles 
> them as follows:
> If a shade of blue can have an internal property, then it also has a 
> structure; and if it has a structure, then it cannot be an object in the 
> strict sense.  It is called an object because it and a darker blue are 
> spoken of as standing in a relation to one another, and speaking loosely we 
> can call terms of a relation objects.  So, at least when the "F" in "Fa" is 
> a colour, "F" cannot refer to an object and "Fa" cannot be elementaryâ?¦.The 
> "a" in "a is blue" must therefore be complex.  A blue object is an object 
> whose elements have a certain structure.  Now, this way of talking, along 
> with W's earlier talk of physicists' points as examples of simples, makes his 
> account of blue very close to that of physics: a blue object is blue because 
> its surface is structured in a certain way, and it is blue rather than, say, 
> red, because to be red it would have to be structured differentlyâ?¦.
> [B]oth colours and shapes, i.e. what we see, and sounds, i.e. what we hear, 
> turn out to be analyzableâ?¦.These areâ?¦good grounds for entertaining 
> seriously the idea that W thinks all `F''s in "Fa" are to be analysed away.  
> All facts, it seems, are quite literally objects in some configurationâ?¦ .
> In analyzing `the broom is in the corner' we pass through several stages in 
> which we talk of the brush and the stick and then, presumably, of 
> sub-descriptions of these.  The final stage comes when, leaving descriptions 
> altogether, we mention only particulars.  Thus, names appear only in the 
> final stage.
> This means that a name will appear in a proposition only when all the rest of 
> the signs in it are names too.  This in turn, would seem to mean that since 
> the propositional sign "Fa" has the sign "F" in it, which is not a name, "a" 
> cannot be a nameâ?¦.Consider 3.221. `Objects can only be named'; in other 
> words, I cannot describe them; I cannot say of an object that it is an F.  
> 3.221 does not say just this, but I think we can surmise it.  It does say 
> that I can only state how a thing is and not what it is.  That I can only 
> say how a thing is means, I think, that I can only say how an object stands 
> in realtion to other objects; I can only give its configuration with other 
> objects.
> I think it's worth mentioning here that the method by which Griffinâ?"and, he 
> says, Anscombe tooâ?"attempts to make this interpretation of objects and 
> simple props consistent with 4.24 (in which W explains his symbolism) doesn't 
> seem entirely convincing.  On the Griffin interpretation of 4.22, it seems 
> to conflict with the simplest reading of 4.24, which certainly suggests that 
> there are atomic props of the form `Fa'.
> Walto

Other related posts: