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Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

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posted on May, 18 2009 @ 04:04 AM
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There, that thread title should have scared some people off.


I was thinking about how language doesn't actually communicate what it is referring to, and how it rather only communicates structures about what it refers to. That the act of using language has more true informational quality than any static construction of language itself.

Wittgenstein had a few thoughts about this, too, and I wanted to share. A few excerpts from Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:


1. The world is all that is the case.


4.003 Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical. Consequently we cannot give any answer to questions of this kind, but can only point out that they are nonsensical. Most of the propositions and questions of philosophers arise from our failure to understand the logic of our language. (They belong to the same class as the question whether the good is more or less identical than the beautiful.) And it is not surprising that the deepest problems are in fact not problems at all.


4.1212 What can be shown, cannot be said.


5.621 The world and life are one.


6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.


6.53 The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science--i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy--and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person--he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy--this method would be the only strictly correct one.


6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.


7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.


So, take heart, the next time you might feel depressed by a thread descending into "useless ideological bickering"!




posted on May, 18 2009 @ 04:48 AM
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The name of this post initially caused me to think you were talking about a 16th Century German Music Composer.

This post makes me think about the saying, "what does one hand clapping sound like" and "If a tree fell down in a forest, and nobody heard it. Did it make a sound?"

Anywho, interesting read.



posted on May, 18 2009 @ 06:43 AM
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reply to post by Ian McLean
 


Ive only briefly thought about the philosophy of language. However, i think it plays a major part in today's misinterpretation of religious texts etc.

The way I see it, words represent concepts. "love", "pain" etc all refer to concepts of "love" "pain". Therefore, everybody's understanding of language is completely subjective, However, we dont actually notice in general day-2-day conversation because we take generalizations of terms. Love etc.

Best way for me to explain this is an analogy. So for example, If i held out pen infront of me and you. (say you are opposite me) and i say "Can you see what i see?" In a generalized sense, yes you do, you see a pen as do I. However, on a specific level, you may see scratches and markings on the side facing you (i.e the side I cannot see.) Therefore, on a specific level, we do NOT see what eachother does.

Bringing it back to religious texts, that is why we have such discrepancies. People read into the words what they choose to. Like in the Bible it says "to love thy neighbour as you would yourself". People's understanding of what it is to "love" now cause discrepancies.

We learn what it is, to love for example through our experiences. Whether that be relations, reading etc. Therefore, if you come from a abused background, your idea of what it is to "love" is going to be different in some aspects.

you agree?

[edit on 18-5-2009 by Toughiv]



posted on May, 18 2009 @ 07:38 AM
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I don't know Wittgenstein at all, but


1. The world is all that is the case.

Agreed.


4.003 Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical.

Agreed, and Ludwig isn't the first to have pointed this out. Remember Nietzsche 'on the prejudices of philosophers'? 'You blockheads!' is one of the kindest forms of address he uses upon them.


Most of the propositions and questions of philosophers arise from our failure to understand the logic of our language. (They belong to the same class as the question whether the good is more or less identical than the beautiful.) And it is not surprising that the deepest [philosophical] problems are in fact not problems at all.

Very true, though I'd like to see the underlying arguments before I go touting Wittgenstein as the Answer To It All.


4.1212 What can be shown, cannot be said.

I disagree. Modern physics and information theory suggest the opposite. As do I, who write for a living, and would regard it as truer to say that what can be said cannot be shown.


5.621 The world and life are one.

Oh, that's a big one, as one of our ancestors is supposed to have said to the other. It's one of those philosophical problems we've just been told is no problem at all. There are solid arguments both for and against, though no argument is incontrovertible.


6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.

I wonder. Must read the man for myself.


6.53 The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science--i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy--and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person--he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy--this method would be the only strictly correct one.

You could say this was how I proceed on ATS.


6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

What a load of pullulating, irrational bollocks.


What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

That one's a bit obvious, innit?

Thank you for something with a bit more meat to it than the average 'Akron, Ohio is exploding!' thread. A flag for you; let's hope it doesn't attract too many of the hoi polloi...



posted on May, 18 2009 @ 10:11 AM
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Originally posted by Astyanax
I'd like to see the underlying arguments before I go touting Wittgenstein as the Answer To It All.

Happily, the complete E-book of Tractatus is available online, for free:
www.gutenberg.org...

Wittgenstein's use of hierarchical numbering of his propositions is particularly interesting. Or perhaps he's just particularly Austrian.



4.1212 What can be shown, cannot be said.

I disagree. Modern physics and information theory suggest the opposite. As do I, who write for a living, and would regard it as truer to say that what can be said cannot be shown.

I'd say the "opposite" you suggest may very well be true, as well. I'm confused as to whether Wittgenstein was attempting to indicate a totality there, or whether he meant "not all that can be shown can be said".

He also seems to indicate that he believes (in the preceding propositions) that not all thoughts can be put into words clearly:


4.116 Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly. Everything that can be put into words can be put clearly.

4.12 Propositions can represent the whole of reality, but they cannot represent what they must have in common with reality in order to be able to represent it--logical form. In order to be able to represent logical form, we should have to be able to station ourselves with propositions somewhere outside logic, that is to say outside the world.





6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

What a load of pullulating, irrational bollocks.

This reminds me very much of the Zen koan "Mu". The idea being to transcend the belief that understanding must necessarily flow via pathways of the determinable dialectic. I would like to be able to read German, to tell if his use of the term "senseless" (found nowhere else in the text) is a translational artifact, or a deliberate parallel to the phrase "see the world". Is the senseless meaningless? Mu.

I think perhaps Wittgenstein wrote Tractatus like a sort of backwards One-A-Day Calendar - I can just see him numbering up and a carefully penning his one and only one little nugget for the day, each day for months on end in a little room in Vienna somewhere.





[edit on May 18th 2009 by Ian McLean]

[edit on May 18th 2009 by Ian McLean]



posted on May, 18 2009 @ 10:30 AM
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Originally posted by Toughiv
People read into the words what they choose to. Like in the Bible it says "to love thy neighbour as you would yourself". People's understanding of what it is to "love" now cause discrepancies.

We learn what it is, to love for example through our experiences. Whether that be relations, reading etc. Therefore, if you come from a abused background, your idea of what it is to "love" is going to be different in some aspects.

you agree?

I agree. Though I think that people learn, though iterative process of imperfectly successful communication, and their linguistic consideration of concepts (such as "love") moves towards a less isolated (and perhaps, "truer") relationship with experiential truth, where the differences in perspective are mutually understood without need of explicit reference.

In words of your pencil analogy, we know the other observer sees different scratches on the opposite face of the pencil, but we have learned about perspective by rotating the pencil, and finding that it's pencilness remains just as pencily. Thus there grows a mutual understanding that the scratches and such differences in perspective are irrelevant, when talking about a pencil. This truth is sensible, not logical - it can be ascertained only by experience and not deduced from the structure of language itself.

Another interesting quote, concerning the tendency to attempt to step outside the context of language to analyze the 'truth' of what is trying to be said:


4.063 An analogy to illustrate the concept of truth: imagine a black spot on white paper: you can describe the shape of the spot by saying, for each point on the sheet, whether it is black or white. To the fact that a point is black there corresponds a positive fact, and to the fact that a point is white (not black), a negative fact. If I designate a point on the sheet (a truth-value according to Frege), then this corresponds to the supposition that is put forward for judgement, etc. etc. But in order to be able to say that a point is black or white, I must first know when a point is called black, and when white: in order to be able to say,'"p" is true (or false)', I must have determined in what circumstances I call 'p' true, and in so doing I determine the sense of the proposition. Now the point where the simile breaks down is this: we can indicate a point on the paper even if we do not know what black and white are, but if a proposition has no sense, nothing corresponds to it, since it does not designate a thing (a truth-value) which might have properties called 'false' or 'true'. The verb of a proposition is not 'is true' or 'is false', as Frege thought: rather, that which 'is true' must already contain the verb.



posted on May, 18 2009 @ 10:39 AM
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reply to post by Ian McLean
 

I really don't know Wittgenstein, or any of the western philosphers very well for that matter. Something 'gave way' I think when I tried really, really hard to digest one of Emmanual Kant's books a very long time ago. After that I wasn't able to consider western philosophy very seriously.

Anyway, sounds like you are not the only one to have an admiration for Wittgenstein -


According to an end of the century poll, professional philosophers in Canada and the U.S. rank both his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP) and Philosophical Investigations among the top five most important books in twentieth-century philosophy, the latter standing out as "...the one crossover masterpiece in twentieth-century philosophy, appealing across diverse specializations and philosophical orientations".

Source : Wikipedia

My own tastes run more toward Berkely, who seems to assert that all percieved objects exist not at all from their 'own side', but do so merely by 'mental designation.'

This is very 'Buddhist' ...


George Berkeley

[A] philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism" (later referred to as "subjective idealism" by others). This theory contends that individuals can only directly know sensations and ideas of objects, not abstractions such as "matter." The theory also contends that ideas are dependent upon being perceived by minds for their very existence, a belief that became immortalized in the dictum, "Esse est percipi" ("To be is to be perceived").

Source : Wikipedia

I am reminded of a chat I once had over tea with a Tibetan lama. I was very interested in the Tibetan notion of the 'smallest division of time.' After answering my query on this subject, with authority, he then went on to other topics, one of which was the following question he posed -


How long will the sun and the moon exist ?

My answer : "I don't know, Rimpoche."

His answer :


As long as there is someone to see them.

Strange stuff ...



posted on May, 18 2009 @ 02:05 PM
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Originally posted by Pokémon
This post makes me think about the saying, "what does one hand clapping sound like"

Am I the only one who just claps their fingertips to the heel of their palm when they hear this question? It makes a sound! With either hand! Koan solved!



posted on May, 18 2009 @ 02:47 PM
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Originally posted by Ian McLean

4.1212 What can be shown, cannot be said.


-Snip-

So, take heart, the next time you might feel depressed by a thread descending into "useless ideological bickering"!


I'm interested in that you attempted to bridge these points toward online communications as it necessarily calls into consideration a different type of expression, especially with the quote I chose above. Very interesting and something to be pondered (per the relative 'newness' of online communication).

But I do think that the above quote is somewhat out dated and if i had more patience at the moment I would go through the entirety of your chosen quotes. Out dated in that if one considers that the inherent communicative values of body language and inflection (what can be shown) were less understood then they are today (an assumption but one I am comfortable making) then it could probably be said that "what can be shown" can be said as we are able to interpret these cues as they relate to what is actually being said (NLP proficients can do this in real time; I have to reflect...
)

As it relates to online communication, the reasoning behind the word selection of an individual and the ares of expressed text where emphasis are placed are "what can be shown" and could probably be defined in the same vein as real time social cues after several/many interactions where a 'norm' has been 'quantified'.

Interesting stuff and something that I really like considering. Communication is a very important aspect of our daily interactions and as such it's veracity and the many avenues by which communication can occur are fascinating.



4.003 Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical.


Would "subjective" be a better word in the above quoted than "nonsensical"?



6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.


I disagree in that there is always a way to discuss that which may not be readily put into words. Mysticism can be discussed in substantial terms if one does not want to relegate one's comprehension to an ambiguous abstract.

Great thread and there is much to consider...



posted on May, 18 2009 @ 08:03 PM
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1. The world is all that is the case.


Shouldnt that be your existence is all that is the case. Why world and not existence



4.003 Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical. Consequently we cannot give any answer to questions of this kind, but can only point out that they are nonsensical. Most of the propositions and questions of philosophers arise from our failure to understand the logic of our language. (They belong to the same class as the question whether the good is more or less identical than the beautiful.) And it is not surprising that the deepest problems are in fact not problems at all.


Maybe he disregards the evolution of thought, the sensical becomes the nonsensical when we've had 2500 years to build on it, and he might call them nonsensical but hes still stood on their shoulders.



6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.


I guess no one introduced Wittgenstein to the works of Giordano Bruno, Paracelsus and the rest.


7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.


What the hell is he on about


[edit on 18-5-2009 by DiscoDave]



posted on May, 19 2009 @ 03:17 AM
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Now I finally understand this!



posted on May, 19 2009 @ 10:13 AM
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Originally posted by MemoryShock
But I do think that the above quote is somewhat out dated and if i had more patience at the moment I would go through the entirety of your chosen quotes. Out dated in that if one considers that the inherent communicative values of body language and inflection (what can be shown) were less understood then they are today (an assumption but one I am comfortable making) then it could probably be said that "what can be shown" can be said as we are able to interpret these cues as they relate to what is actually being said (NLP proficients can do this in real time; I have to reflect...
)


Wittgenstein calls these various methods "signs":


3.1 In a proposition a thought finds an expression that can be perceived by the senses.

3.11 We use the perceptible sign of a proposition (spoken or written, etc.) as a projection of a possible situation. The method of projection is to think of the sense of the proposition.

3.12 I call the sign with which we express a thought a propositional sign. And a proposition is a propositional sign in its projective relation to the world.


And makes the distinction of "simple" signs, such as names of objects:


3.23 The requirement that simple signs be possible is the requirement that sense be determinate.


However, non-determinate signs, such as body language and NLP-connoted actions, are sensible, but not determinate.

The concept of 'language' developed contains effect of all such signs, not merely those of the baseline syntax of written communication:


3.5 A propositional sign, applied and thought out, is a thought.

4. A thought is a proposition with a sense.

4.001 The totality of propositions is language.



Originally posted by MemoryShock
As it relates to online communication, the reasoning behind the word selection of an individual and the ares of expressed text where emphasis are placed are "what can be shown" and could probably be defined in the same vein as real time social cues after several/many interactions where a 'norm' has been 'quantified'.


Wittgenstein gives hint to what you're talking about, with reference to "tacit convention":


4.022 Man possesses the ability to construct languages capable of expressing every sense, without having any idea how each word has meaning or what its meaning is--just as people speak without knowing how the individual sounds are produced. Everyday language is a part of the human organism and is no less complicated than it. It is not humanly possible to gather immediately from it what the logic of language is. Language disguises thought. So much so, that from the outward form of the clothing it is impossible to infer the form of the thought beneath it, because the outward form of the clothing is not designed to reveal the form of the body, but for entirely different purposes. The tacit conventions on which the understanding of everyday language depends are enormously complicated.


The question that arises then, are those tacit conventions elements of language, given the previous definitions? Yes.


Originally posted by MemoryShock
Would "subjective" be a better word in the above quoted than "nonsensical"?

I would perhaps assert that the nonsensical (note: removed of the negative connotations of that word!) is inherently subjective in apparency.


Oh this is fascinating stuff! Fun, but not exactly satisfying in an "I had something chewy for breakfast" sort of way. Kind of like nutritious but ephemerally solid cotton candy.




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