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Witt Gen Stein

Witt Gen Stein

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Published by: ceaselessmufin on Jan 13, 2009
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11/24/2010

 
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Ludwig Wittgenstein
Born: 1889, Vienna, AustriaDied: 1951, Cambridge, England
Major Works:
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), Philosophical Investigations (1953)
Major Ideas:
Language and the world share a common logical form.
Sentences are logical pictures of the world: The logical relations between theelements of a sentence reflect the relations between the elements in the world.
Sentences can show their form but they cannot say it; Sentences that attempt to saywhat can only be shown are pseudo-sentences or nonsense.
Language consists of "language games" that reflect forms of life.
For many expressions, the meaning is the use: To grasp the "meaning" of such anexpression is to know how to use it.Ludwig Wittgenstein is distinguished among philosophers for developing two very differentphilosophical theories, a feat that attests to his reputation as a man both brilliant andeccentric. He was born in Vienna, Austria in 1889. By 1912, an initial interest in engineeringhad brought Wittgenstein to England to study the foundations of mathematics with BertrandRussell. He completed his dissertation while serving in an artillery unit of the Austrian armyduring World War I. After the war, believing he had solved fundamental philosophicalproblems, Wittgenstein returned to Austria to teach in village schools until 1926. Over thenext few years, conversations with members of the Vienna Circle led Wittgenstein toreconsider his early work. In 1929, he was back at Cambridge and he lectured there until1946. He died of cancer in 1951.Questions about the relationships between language, thought, and reality preoccupiedWittgenstein throughout his career. His project was critical. Like Kant, Wittgenstein soughtto define the limits of thought. Unlike Kant, he took language as his starting point. In hisearly work, Wittgenstein argued that sentences "picture" the world by reflecting its logicalstructure, that is, the arrangement of simple objects in a state of affairs. According to thetheory of meaning developed in this period, most traditional philosophical problems lie
 
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outside the limits of what can be sensibly said. Wittgenstein's later work rejects thesystematic aspirations of his early theory. A new understanding of language as first andforemost a product of social convention replaces the early realism. This new understandingof language in turn implies a new conception of meaning and philosophical method, both of which are perhaps most prominently displayed in what has come to be known as the privatelanguage argument.Wittgenstein's major works are notoriously obscure and dense. His writing style is austere,almost epigrammatic. Two works in particular represent Wittgenstein's two distinctconceptions of philosophy. The Tractatus, Wittgenstein's dissertation, was the only book hepublished during his lifetime. He left instructions that his second major work, PhilosophicalInvestigations, should be published after his death. The investigations contains the core of Wittgenstein's refutation of his own early theory. In addition to these two authorized works,collections drawn from Wittgenstein's lectures and notebooks have been published bycolleagues and friends.
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicas
The central feature of the Tractatus is the distinction Wittgenstein draws between "showing"and "saying." On the one hand, in a sequence of numbered sentences Wittgenstein developshis picture theory of meaning. This picture theory defines the limits of what can be said Butit is a consequence of the theory that the sentences of the Tractatus itself cannot sensibly besaid Instead, the limits they describe can only be shown. Wittgenstein's distinction betweensaying and showing turns the book from a treatise on the logical foundations of language toa work on metaphysics and, Wittgenstein himself claimed, ethics.The basic intuition behind the Tractatus is Wittgenstein's conviction that all languages sharea common logical form, a form they also share with the world. In fact, this shared formmakes it possible for sentences to "say" something. What a sentence says is just the logicalpicture it presents of the world It is the understanding that sentences are pictures that leadsto the distinction between showing and saying. Sentences give pictures of the world but theycannot give pictures of themselves. They show the logical form they share with the world,but they cannot say it. Sentences can only show their logical form, because trying to makethem say it pushes language beyond the limits of sense.When he wrote the Tractatus, Wittgenstein had a very particular understanding of what"sense" could be As he saw it language is made up of names arranged in sentences. Thenames have meaning because they stand for objects in the world These names can bearranged in sentences in certain ways and the possible ways of arranging them define thelimits of sense. For Wittgenstein, then only a sentence has sense, and its sense is thearrangement of names that pictures a possible arrangement of elements in the world.The problem as Wittgenstein saw it, is that sentences lose their sense when they try to domore than picture a possible state of affairs in the world. Wittgenstein never gave anexample of what he meant by a "name" or the kind of objects names stand for (sense data orordinary objects, for instance) but a rough sketch of his ideas might go as follows:
 
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That the world is as it is a purely contingent matter. "The cat is on the mat" describes onepossibility. "The cat is not on the mat" describes another. To know which sentence is true,one would compare the picture with the world. But now consider the sentence "Either thecat is on the mat or the cat is not on the mat." This sentence is what logicians call a tautologyIt is a special kind of sentence in that it must always be true; it cannot be false. The either-orsentence does not give a picture of the world. Instead, it tries to give a picture of therelationship between the sense, or form, of two sentences.According to the Tractatus, sentences like tautologies are not really sentences at all. They arepseudo-sentences. Pseudo-sentences transgress the bounds of sense because instead of justshowing their sense in a picture of a possible state of affairs, they try to say somethingnecessary about the forms and limits of sense. But if sentences say something and have senseonly by presenting pictures of the world, then pseudo-sentences, which do not present suchpictures, say nothing. They are nonsense.Like tautologies and contradictions, all of the sentences in the Tractatus lack sense. Bydescribing the limits of what can be said, they go beyond them. Wittgenstein's attempt todescribe the limits of language from within marks his project as Kantian. Wittgensteinrecognized that there is no vantage point outside language from which to describe the limitsof language, just as Kant had tried to show that there is no vantage point outside experiencefrom which one can describe the limits of all possible experience. And just as Kantemphasized that reason constantly and inevitably seeks to transgress its limits, soWittgenstein believed that we constantly try to say what cannot be said.According to Wittgenstein's early view of sense and meaning, most philosophical theories,and in particular ethical discussions, come out as nonsense. It was for this reason that hethought he had solved philosophy's problems. However, calling them nonsense did not forWittgenstein mean that they are unimportant. On the contrary, Wittgenstein thought thatsome nonsense, like the Tractatus, could be illuminating. This is the source of Wittgenstein'sso-called "mysticism."By 1929, when he returned to Cambridge, Wittgenstein had begun to revise his conceptionof meaning and language. He no longer thought that language primarily reflected the logicalstructure of the world. Instead, he now saw language as a product of social convention.There were several reasons for Wittgenstein's change of mind, one of the most importantbeing his new sense of what is necessary to learn a word, or grasp a concept.In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein argued that the meaning of a name is the object for which itstands. The intuition here is that the paradigm for learning the meaning of a word isostensive definition-the teacher points at the object while saying the word and the studentlearns to associate the two together. But how does the student know what is being pointedto? For instance, if the teacher says "red" while pointing at an apple, how does the studentknow she means its color, and not its shape or taste?

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