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Type-casting the case

Type-casting the case

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The overall purpose of this essay is to present why I believe the Tractatus is bound to renounce its own ontological commitments in proposition [6.54] as nonsensical.
The overall purpose of this essay is to present why I believe the Tractatus is bound to renounce its own ontological commitments in proposition [6.54] as nonsensical.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
 Introduction
The essay will be concerned to establish what kind of ‘meaning’ gives a proposition its
 sense
, and how the limits of proposition’s ‘reflective range’ entails that ontologicalconjectures of the mythic kind transgress the limits of 
 sense
. The first four sections
(I – IV)
of the chapter will perform a detailed exposition of the Tractarian picture of theworld, and its reflection by propositions with
 sense
. The second half of the paper 
(V-VIII)
will argue that ontological propositions are
nonsensical 
because they do notconform to the limits of this picture. In so doing, some implications for the validity of inductive knowledge claims and ontological suppositions will become clear. It will also be argued that Wittgenstein reconstitutes traditional scepticism of meaning and situates itat the level of 
nonsense
.
 Nonsensical 
propositions are those which warrant our doubt.Wittgenstein’s
Tractatus
depends on what could be called the general myth of ‘ontology’and yet as will be shown its realist account of 
 sense
entails that it must reject its ownmetaphysical generalities as
nonsense
. The utterly general propositions that make upsection [1 – 2]
1
of the Tractatus are contentious, because he can offer no proofs for thiswholesale ‘myth’. The myth is characterised by the image of the great formal mirror 
(IV)
.The mirror is established by these utterly general claims, wherein language is stated toreflect the world [5.511]. Each statement of an ontological nature is reflected by astatement about the essence of language. As will be seen The Tractarian theory of reference draws strict lines for what constitutes a meaningful proposition anddistinguishes
 sense
, and
nonsense
which will render the claims of 6.54 consistent with therest of the text because of its originary ontological presumptions.
1
The world is all that is the case [1}The world is the totality of facts, not of things [1.1]The world is determined by the facts, and by their being
all 
the facts [1.11]For the totality of facts determines what is the case, and also whatever is not the case [1.12]The facts in logical space are the world [1.13]The world divides into facts [1.2]Each item can be the case or not the case while everything else remains the same [1.21]
1
 Abstract:
The overall purpose of this essay is to present why I believe the
Tractatus
is bound to renounce its ownontological commitments in proposition [6.54] as
nonsensical 
. To understand Wittgenstein’s reasoningit is vital that we follow the implications of its strict referential theory of meaning. Understanding thismovement is to understand the limits of propositions, and the self conscious myth that is the Tractarianontology. In an effort to clarify the jarring conclusion of the text I will sketch an account of the
Tractatus
in which I shall emphasise the importance of generalities and particularities so as toilluminate propositions of 
(A)
 sense
and
(B)
the problem of 
nonsense
.
 
(A) Sense
2
The Tractarian approach to language depends on the referential structure of languagewherein words stand for objects.
 
“A name means an object. The object
is
its meaning”[3.203] By way of comparison we should note that Frege’s account of 
Sinn
and
 Bedeutung 
asserts that a name such as the ‘Morning star’ has a
 sense
 
and 
meaning i.e.reference, in that it refers to the planet Venus. Equally the ‘Evening star’ which alsostands for the planet Venus has a different
 sense
Despite adopting such a referential position Wittgenstein did not follow Frege preciselyin the duality of reference and
 sense
.
3
The
 sense
of a proposition for Wittgensteinconstituted something quite different than an accompanying ‘information dossier’.
 
For Wittgenstein the
 sense
of the statement is not merely its
mode of presentation
. If we call
 p’ 
the statement “The morning star is bright” and ‘
q’ 
the statement “The evening star is bright” Wittgenstein would say that both
‘p’ 
and
‘q’ 
have the same
 sense
because theyare both statements about a particular luminescent star. They both have the sameextension. It could be said that for Wittgenstein a proposition’s
 sense
was the mode of itsexistence. Admittedly, it could be objected that neither ‘
 p’ nor ‘q’ 
contains a logically proper name, just a half hearted conventional description and so does not refer at all. If they are to have the same
 sense
“I must be capable of translating each into the other” andtherefore “knowing whether they signify the same thing or two different things” [4.243]As we will come to note, this pre-given knowing is a vital proviso.Propositions are seen to have
 sense
because they are bivalent – they must be true or false.If p is true then ‘~p’ is false and vice versa. The
 sense
of a situation is the possibleexistence or non-existence of its constituents. In the case of names understanding is a‘given’ and any
 sense
would be synonymous with the referent. Therefore names havereference, but no discernable
 sense
, while propositions have
 sense
and no definitional
2
The issues with which I deal with in the
Tractatus
are hotly debated in the literature, and to include anaccount of the contestants and their respective views would inevitably confuse and lengthen this essayexponentially. Therefore the reader should be aware that this essay (warts and all) is very much my readingof the Tractatus, and not representative of any particular strain of Wittgensteinean criticism that I know of.Having said that, there is possibly room for it in the confused collective that the “New Wittgensteineans”have the dubbed the ‘traditional’ readings.
3
On Sense and Meaning’ Translation by H. Feigl inEd. Martinich A.P.
The Philosophy of Language
fifth edition. Oxford University press. 2008.
2
 
meaning i.e. reference.
Sense
shows itself independent of any obtainment by a proposition of fact. “What a picture represents is its sense”[2.221] Like a model of reality, a picture’s logical multiplicity and form (e.g. spatial, colour, or logical form)
 show
a homogeneity between the proposition and a possible state of affairs which may or may not be the case. Propositions are validated in particular by an elementary agreement between a proposition and the reality it reaches out to. They refer to facts in the world because they depict them.The
 sense
of a proposition is what it represents, namely its state of affairs. Sense is bivalent in that it can only be true or false, but the possibility of either/or is recognisable before the fact of what is the case registers. “To understand a proposition is to know whatis the case if it is true” [4.024] The sense of a proposition is knowable antecedent to thefacts it depicts in that, the sense of a proposition is perceived before the fact isdetermined to be true or false. “Every proposition must already have a sense: it cannot begiven a sense by affirmation. Indeed its sense is just what is affirmed. And the sameapplies to negation, etc.”[4.064] The sense of a proposition is that which is intelligible inthe proposition regardless of its precise depiction. In other words the formal possibility of its constituent names determines the sense of the proposition. This is more than likely thesimplest principle of the
Tractatus
, and also the most important for understanding what isto come, because a proposition
 shows
its
 sense
.
(I)
 A sketch of the building blocks
This section presents a sketch of the building blocks from which the totality of the
Tractatus
is constituted. It then describes how such a referential theory of meaning must be opposed to general scepticism regarding meaning.
 
The initial distinction in the
Tractatus
is between the world of facts, and a world of things. [1, 1.1]. The world of things would be a world understood as an endless list of things, of little use even to a lexicographer. Instead the world “divides into facts” whichare the existence and non existence of all possible states of affairs. “For the totality of facts determines what is the case, and also whatever is not the case” [1.12] Facts are notmerely complexes of things because if they were, the world could be reduced to just a listof things. Facts are more accurately, a configuration of how things presently standtogether and they could stand. Facts are contingent
4
 because they could be otherwise - the
4
Facts are contrasted to tautologies and contradictions (neither of which will feature in this essay).However, the distinction between the three is worth noting. “Tautologies and contradictions lack sense.”Tautologies are necessarily true and contradictions necessarily false in virtue of their form, they areunconditionally true or false and are not pictures of reality. [4.461 and 4.4611]
3

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