Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Entry 13, Pretentious Antifoundationalist/Van Gogh Entry

     Wittgenstein goes on and on about inexact vs. exact. On and on and then writes:
"Logic lay, it seemed, at the bottom of all the sciences. -- For logical investigation explores the nature of all things. It seeks to see to the bottom of things and is not meant to concern itself whether what actually happens is this or that --- It takes its rise ... from an urge to understand the basis, or essence, of everything empirical."(Wittgenstein, Section 89)

Later he writes, remember he is talking about things he really rejects:

"...we eliminate misunderstandings by making our expressions more exact; but now it may look as if we are moving towards a particular state, a state of complete exactness; and as if this were the real goal of our investigation."(Wittgenstein, Section 91)

But I take it from all the subjunctive and conditional statements and so on that he is rejecting the program of seeing past rough, inexact language, like the broad strokes in a Van Gogh (ha!), to a precisely-lined ideal language. The empirical phenomena of language is where we live, it is presumptuous of a logic to claim to be its purification; logic is a system that applies to ideal languages.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Entry 12, Logic and Ideal Languages(not everyday language)

"F.P. Ramsey once emphasized in conversation with me that logic was a 'normative science'. I do not know exactly what he had in mind, but it was doubtless closely related to what only dawned on me later: namely, that in philosophy we often compare the use of words with games and calculi which have fixed rules, but cannot say that someone who is using language must be playing such a game. -- But if you say that our languages only approximate to such calculi you are standing on the very brink of a misunderstanding. For then it may look as if what we were talking about were an ideal language."(Wittgenstein, Section 81)

So, in philosophy perhaps philosophers 'correct' common sense usage or notions, referring to such as the language or thought of 'the vulgar'. But it sounds like Wittgenstein is saying that ordinary usage is its own thing.

"logic does not treat of language -- or of thought -- in the sense in which a natural science treats of a natural phenomenon, and the most that can be said is that we construct ideal languages."(Wittgenstein, Section 81)

Does this mean that the logic I took as an undergraduate, that turned ordinary language into symbolic form was forcing something into an ideal form that obeys different rules? Well, I don't see how ordinary logic is somehow not applicable to ordinary language, but only to artificial ones? Perhaps I'm missing a broader point here and you, gentle reader, can help me. One thing that's clear is that language has all these games in it with rules.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Entry 11, thoughts on generality and definition

     While Wittgenstein is talking about whether the boundary between game and non-game is blurry, he picks up the topic of "seeing what is common". You know, this problem is famous in Plato/Socrates. This is the oldest arrow in Socrates' quiver: "No, tell me what all these things have in common". So this is real philosophy, though sometimes it doesn't feel like it to me.  He talks about different ways of showing someone the color 'yellow ochre' or 'blue', and 'leaf'. He circles back around to wondering about what's in the mind of the user -- we've been here before in the Investigations, but now we have seemingly digressed from games back to this topic, but he's not really, he is applying these thoughts to the notion of game. He says:

"What does it mean to know what a game is? What does it mean, to know it and not be able to say it? Is this knowledge somehow equivalent to an unformulated definition? So that if it were formulated I should be able to recognize it as the expression of my knowledge? Isn't my knowledge, my concept of a game, completely expressed in the explanations that I should give?"(Wittgenstein, Section 75)

So here's an obvious question -- is the Philosophical Investigations itself a game? Is it a game he's defining during the course of the work itself, trying to avoid defining it so as not to privilege one of the standard games in the text itself? Is that why this is so difficult to get a handle on? Or should philosophy not be a game? If it's not a game then what is it? Should I have asked the last question? Oh dear, I smell self-reference.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Entry 10, "Family Resemblances"

"Here we come up against the great question that lies behind all these considerations.--For someone might object against me:'You take the easy way out! You talk about all sorts of language-games, but have nowhere said what the essence of a language-game, and hence of language is: what is common to all these activities, and what makes them into language or parts of language. So you let yourself off the very part of the investigation that once gave you yourself most headache, the part about the general form of propositions and of language.'
And this is true.-- Instead of producing something common to all that we call language, I am saying that these phenomena have no one thing in common which makes us use the same word for all, -- but that they are related to one another in many different ways. And it is because of this relationship, or these relationships, that we call them all 'language'. I will try to explain this."(Wittgenstein, section 65).

     Well, he'd better explain all this. Just looking at the above, language is a loose consortium of games that are non-trivially related to one another. This leaves lots of questions like: if language is composed of disparate games, can there be ONE symbolic logic to capture it? It sounds like the answer has to be 'no'. Or, perhaps, their similarity is enough to make our normal logic, like philosophy majors take as undergrads, apply in all circumstances. But, look, the answer just has to be 'yes'.

     Listen to what he says about numbers:
"Why do we call something a 'number'? Well, perhaps because it has a -- direct -- relationship with several things that have hitherto been called number; and this may be said to give it an indirect relationship to other things that we call the same name."(Wittgenstein, Section 67)

"How should we explain  to someone what a game is? I imagine that we should describe games to him, and we might add: 'This and similar things are called 'games'". And do we know any more about it ourselves? Is it only other people whom we cannot tell exactly what a game is? -- But this is not ignorance. We do not know the boundaries[between games and non-games] because none have been drawn."(Wittgenstein, Section 69)

"One might say that the concept 'game' is a concept with blurred edges."(Wittgenstein, Section, 71)

So, so far the concept of game is not rigorously defined, and I don't know if it will be. It may be that the philosophy here is showing what games are but not defining what they are. Games are practices of some kind, but not a kind he will define once and for all. Is he on to something? I don't know.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Entry 9, The Way of Being

     A long time ago I read Parmenides, who talks about how there is the 'way of Being' and the 'way of non-Being', but the way of non-Being is not there to be discussed, so you can't go that way. But what is Being? Well, it's not anything that has a not or non in front of it. Being ends up an infinitely dense sphere, like a black hole, no hair, no nothing. Contemporary thinkers tend not to go this way in their analysis of being, or Being. They look at the place a term has in language, like Quine's "To Be is to be the value of a variable". Wittgenstein references his and Russell's early work. Language, according to this earlier analysis, is decomposable into simples, 'individuals' or 'objects'. Wittgenstein quotes Plato's Theaetetus talking about how simples don't have 'definitions', only names. You name that which is simple, like 'red', but you don't define it, per say. 

    Wittgenstein worries over this a bit, inventing clever arguments to problematize what is simple and what is complex. By the time he's done I have no idea what's simple and what's complex.

"What does it mean to say that we can attribute neither being nor non-being to elements? -- One might say: if everything that we call 'being' and 'non-being' consists in the existence and non-existence of connexions between elements, it make no sense to speak of an element's being(non-being); just as if everything that we call 'destruction' lies in the separation of elements, it makes no sense to speak of the destruction of an element."(Wittgenstein, section 50)

There is a kind of circling around what is 'simple' like the color 'Red' that seems to be a name of something indestructible(how do you destroy 'Red'?) and other things that are complex and destructible. But all kinds of objects, many of which Wittgenstein mentions come up. I can conceive of an idea of a person, say 'Russell', even though Russell has died, is 'destroyed', yet the name 'Russell' still has meaning, and the referent 'Russell' is still meaningful, has some kind of indestructible referent, though it does not name a living person. But I get the point that 'Red' seems more indestructible than Russell.

Wittgenstein entertains the notion that that which is indestructible is that of which it cannot be said 'it exists', presumably because anything that can exist can also not exist(?); but people do say 'Red exists', meaning I think that "there is a color called 'Red' ", so I don't know where this leads. Any ideas?

Next time I will take on what Wittgenstein calls "Family Resemblances".