[Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] Tractarian Solipsism

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2010 13:26:03 -0000

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 this,
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 well.
We cannot think what we cannot think; so what we cannot think we cannot
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 it
cannot be said , but makes itself manifest. The world is my world: this
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 were
subordinate to my will, and which were not, etc., this being a method of
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 of
the world.

5.633 Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be found? You will
say that this is exactly like the case of the eye and the visual field.
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 is
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 a
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, with
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 for
absolute certainty produces no escape from dreams or evil demons without
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 where
certainty can have provenance.

IMHO, it takes a willingness to accept fallibalism to escape the danger
of solipsism here (unless we can get a benevolent and omnipotent God to
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 without
even the sort of mystical rationalism that W was espousing at the time. 
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.


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