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

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2010 09:57:59 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Walt:
I'm up to Chapter VI on Objects. Griffin points out some important sources for 
how W. came to his extreme version of logical atomism. I'll have to read more 
into the book, but I'm not sure that Griffin's wrong per se. Some things that 
he says, though, just scream out for clarification or comment, and yet nothing 
seems to take place.
For example, the case of the proposition "Red patch here" not being elementary. 
It's easy to prove that it's composite by a reductio. Suppose it's atomic for 
the sake of contradiction. Similarly, then, "Green patch here" is atomic. Their 
logical product is "Red patch here" & "Green patch here". But that's a 
contradiction in the logic of colors. W. says at 6.3751 that the logical 
product of elementary propositions can be neither a tautology nor a 
contradiction. But we have a contradiction. Thus, these propositions aren't 
But, what about names for simples and locations in object space? What if I take 
indexicals 'this' and 'that' for simple objects and an indexical 'here' for 
spatial location. My candidate elementary propositions are "this here" and 
"that here". My logical product is "this here" & "that here". This is a 
contradiction in the logical of extension, as long as 'this' and 'that' can 
name distinct simples. Thus, we can have no atomic propositions that name an 
object at a location. The whole notion collapses into incoherence. The only way 
around the contradiction is to say that there is only one simple (Ludwig 
Parmenides) or that W. is just wrong at 6.3751 and wrong already at 1.21, which 
is where this all gets started.
The thing is, though, that 1.21 is close to being correct! It seems to be 
correct for atomic facts. That is, "Red patch here" can be true or false and 
every other *atomic fact in the world* can remain the same. It's true that the 
proposition "Green patch here" is affected by whether "Red patch here" is or is 
not the case, but we don't care about any old proposition you might cobble 
together from a set of names. Russell and Carnap seem to have realized this, 
and their systems do not collapse so readily.

--- On Wed, 8/4/10, walto <calhorn@xxxxxxx> wrote:

From: walto <calhorn@xxxxxxx>
Subject: [quickphilosophy] Re: What are objects, and what is the form of an 
atomic prop?
To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 2:28 PM


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 sentence….
> [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 elementary….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 differently….
> [B]oth colours and shapes, i.e. what we see, and sounds, i.e. what we hear, 
> turn out to be analyzable….These are…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 configuration… .
> 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 name….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

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