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".


  1. well the indestructible is the ultimate being that we cannot get at (some call it god some otherwise..) there is a lot of shennanigans around it but we all mean the same thing - if we came from the same source