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In the following essay I shall be trying to analyzing four passages from Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. This book was the last to be written by Wittgenstein, with the last entry being written two days before his death, it comprises of all what Wittgenstein wrote in relation to G.E Moore’s A Defence of Common Sense, in which Moore tries to dismiss skepticism by claiming that there are certain things in the world which we know for certain and what Wittgenstein thought on certainty and knowledge. While Wittgenstein is trying to defeat the skeptical argument just like Moore is, who believed that the skeptical doubt was a practical doubt which needing a practical answer, he thought that the skeptics would not be satisfied with Moore response because there is still a further doubt beneath the practical one (OC §19). ‘But I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness; nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. No: it is the inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false.’ (OC §94)’ In the first passage Wittgenstein talks about how we formulate our world-view or Weltbild, he states that we do not formulate our view with facts that we have proven to be true or even facts that we have be shown to be true but instead our world-view is made out of the experiences that we receive and information that we receive from other people. This world-view that we attain is not something we actively create but instead is inherited from our parents or other authoritative adults, and it is this picture of the world which we ultimately use it to differentiate between what is true and false. It is only in this world-view can we assert and doubt things for example I can think of a way in which I can test whether or not there oxygen on the moon, but the only reason I can assert or doubt whether there is or not is because I already assumed lots of other propositions first; what the moon was, whether the machine that tests for oxygen works, and so on. ‘The propositions describing this world-picture might be part of a kind of mythology. And their role is like that of rules of a game; and the game can be learned purely practically, without learning any explicit rules.’ (OC §95)’
In the second passage Wittgenstein describes this world-picture as ‘a kind of mythology’. Now Wittgenstein uses the term mythology to represent statements that the earlier Wittgenstein would have labeled as nonsense, but he no longer sees them as that due to
Without these ‘hard’ propositions our language-games could not work. of the form of empirical propositions.F. But this does not mean that these propositions are certain and cannot be doubted. Vol. I. Polity. Although if someone were to be in an accident and woke up afterward and couldn’t feel his hands. This means that we learn most of our survival. and that this relation altered with time. and it mentions the fact that people can learn the rules to this game purely practically without learning any explicit rules. 1998). when a you are in a room where you can clearly see and feel your hand. 4 (Summer. the question ‘do I have a hand?’ begins to 1 J. Dienstag.the fact that this ‘mythology’ refers to everyday activities rather than unknowable transcendence. He also points out that the mythology is not permanent fixed by the logic of language but instead can change over time.e. for example when a child first begins to talk they do not know all the rules of the language but they learn how to communicate by repeating what their parents and other people say in certain circumstances. (OC §96)’ In this passage Wittgenstein is suggesting that certain propositions are like foundations on which the rest of our propositions rely on in order to make sense of the world. would be nonsense in Wittgenstein’s eyes in normal conditions. in so far as the hinges on a door must be secure in place for the door to open or close. Action and Political Theory. ‘It might be imagined that some propositions. we copy and then we are rewarded and so we conform to those rules without truly understanding them. and this is the same for language-games. for example the question ‘do I have a hand?’. because in order to doubt whether or not you have a hand you would have to doubt so much which you take for granted it would nearly getting rid of you entire world-view.1 The second part of the passage refers to this mythology like a game which people ‘play’ by communicating. p591 . certain propositions must be held to be certain in order for the rest to be work. 30. coping skills and rules of language without being taught specific rules but rather. were hardened and functioned as channels for such empirical propositions as were not hardened but fluid. No. we watch. Wittgenstein among the Savages: Language. in that fluid propositions hardened. they are like the hinges on a door. and hard ones became fluid.
He goes on to mention that there is a distinction between hardened propositions. and here is another.make sense. which are later shown to not be certain. the riverbed. and must remain in order for language to work and continue. (OC §97)’ In this passage Wittgenstein compares the propositions talked about in §96 to that of a riverbed. it is all about the context of how you apply the propositions. This adds verisimilitude to Wittgenstein’s theory that ‘hinge’ or ‘hardened’ propositions. the river-bed of thoughts may shift. The main argument that the skeptics use is the fact that the only thing we can know for certain is Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’. though there is not a sharp division of the one from the other. ’Here is one hand. ’I was born’ with technology today we can recreate baby’s in test tubes. the hardened propositions are like the riverbed. the once ‘hardened’ or ‘hinge’ propositions can become fluid and the river can keep flowing while a structure build upon foundations. would be unstable and collapse when attempting to build upon it. The question ‘do I have a hand?’ does not change itself but the way in which we see the question changes. is the fact that a river is constantly moving. (PI II xii) Wittgenstein’s examples are perfect to show this due to the fact that now we don’t ‘hold fast’ the hinge propositions which Wittgenstein held. Now that I have outlined what I believe Wittgenstein was trying to say in those four passages I will now discuss the implications that his view have on the skeptical argument and if he has succeed where he believed Moore failed. but he points out that the distinction while not ‘sharp’ mustn’t be ignored. and Moore replied with saying that we can know a number of things e. But I distinguish between the movement of the waters on the river-bed and the shift of the bed itself. which must stay in place for the river to flow. for Wittgenstein its seems that while there are things that should not be doubted normally.’ ’The earth existed for a long time before my birth’ . can soften or soften and disappear over time. ‘The mythology may change back into a state of flux. the waters of the river. and unlike a metaphor of a house with foundations. we should not think of empirical and logical propositions as the same thing. which a group of people who all use a certain language game accept. and fluid propositions.g. One reason why this is a good analogy to the way in which we conceptualize our world-view.
and ’I have never been far from the earth’s surface’. p410-441 . as in you wouldn’t understand what the person meant if they did that. by saying that you couldn’t prove or disprove skeptical questions about things which we hold to be true without calling into question most of our world-view which would include the ’hinge’ propositions which allow language-games to work in the first place. Now Cook goes on to say that Wittgenstein has not gave us enough of a hypothetical situation do illustrate his point. by stating that the skeptics are misusing language and doubting things which cannot be doubted in our world-view is correct. The first is if two business men meet in a corridor of their office and without notice start to talk business and 2 Michael Kober. The Cambridge Companion Guide to Wittgenstein (2006). he claims that when Moore states he’s knows something he should in fact states in ‘stands fast’ for me due to the fact that while we all hold what Moore claims to know to be certain. A criticism of Wittgenstein approach to skepticism comes from John W. due to the fact that Cooke can think of at least two example where if someone did say Good Morning in the middle of a conversion it wouldn’t be meaningless. Cook gives (OC §464) as an example of this. this certainty is not a certainty which we can claim to know but it fact believe because of our world-view. Cook in his paper ‘Notes on Wittgenstein’s On Certainty’ in which he claims Wittgenstein has wrongly criticized Moore and his has not thought his examples out thoroughly enough and if he had he would have realized that they don’t work as examples of what Wittgenstein was trying to say. Now I believe that Wittgenstein’s response to these claims. ‘Certainties of a world-picture: The epistemological investigations of On Certainty’ . and to claim to know them is to speak nonsense. Wittgenstein here is drawing a distinction between knowledge and certainty and stating that things we hold to be certain are not necessarily things which we can claim to know. This criticism which Wittgenstein deals to the skeptic he also deals to Moore in his response to the skeptic. It can be said that he is applied a skeptical attitude to skepticism2 by claiming that there is doubt in the question of doubt. which claiming that saying ’Good Morning’ in the middle of a conversion would be meaningless.
support the claim that Wittgenstein remained throughout a tireless opponent of the propositional view. Notes on Wittgenstein’s On Certainty’ Philosophical Investigations 3.6 This is very similar to Wittgenstein world-picture view but the two differ when it comes to foundational propositions. He also rejects Cook’s claim that Wittgenstein held the propositional view but stating that ever since ‘Philosophical Investigations’ Wittgenstein abandoned the proposition view which he held in the ‘Tractatus’. They cannot support such a claim because the evidence is overwhelmingly against it. New York. They then begin to talk to somebody and the signal to cause them to say Good Morning goes off and they say Good Morning in the middle of the conversion.V Quine views in Two Dogmas of Empiricism’. 1961 p42 . the another example is if someone is hypnotized and commanded to say Good Morning on a certain cue. Another claim that Cook makes about Wittgenstein is that he implies that he still holds the propositional view.5 When Wittgenstein’s views in ‘On Certainty’ are looked at. the person is then awoken and does not remember what has happened to them. which claims that any well formed sentence said to another who speaks the same language can be seen as a proposition which can be tested against the world to see if its true. ‘I think. one can see striking resemblance to W. no.V. ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’ in From a Logical Point of View.’4 A response to Cook criticism comes from Wittgenstein friend Normal Malcolm in his paper ‘Misunderstanding Wittgenstein’ which he points that On Certainty was a collection of Wittgenstein’s notes which he did not think were going to be published and if Wittgenstein would have wanted he could have supplied Cook with a suitable example. ‘Misunderstanding Wittgenstein‘ Philosophical Investigations 4 (2) (1981) 6 W.3 Now Cooke claims that because you can think of a situation where certain phrase are not meaningless this means that Wittgenstein theory of certainty can not be true. 4 (Fall 1980) p17 4 Ibid p16 5 Norman Malcolm. in which he see or knowledge and belief as a man-made fabric which only at the edges combines with experience. Quine.then after five minutes one realizes they haven’t said Good Morning yet and say it to the other. Wittgenstein holds the view that there are some 3 John Cooke.
. and just because we cannot say we know something it doesn’t mean we cannot say certain things are certain for us.propositions which form hinge propositions on which language is built upon. To conclude with I believe that Wittgenstein’s view of certainty is correct. One way in which Quine’s ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’ seems to be the more appealing theory is the fact that he believes there are logical and rational reasons to choose ones world-view or fabric of reality through the scientific method or through logic. but because we need them in order for language to flow and operate in the world. While Wittgenstein doesn’t belief we can choose our world-view as we inherit it from the language games we play. there are propositions that we hold to be certain and we don’t hold these certainties because we have proved them or seen them be proved. These certainties do not have the attributes of certainty that die hard skeptics need but as Wittgenstein points out these skeptics are misusing the language-game and asking questions which don’t conform to our world-view. while Quine believes that because of the indeterminacy of translation talk of propositions was meaningless and propositions should be replaced with sentences.
D. London: Routledge. trans. Rhees. E. Action and Political Theory‘. H. Oxford: Blackwell. trans. Anscombe and R.. M. no. (1961) The Blue and Brown Books. Eds. Vol. No. J ‘Notes on Wittgenstein’s On Certainty’ Philosophical Investigations 3. Ogden. E. J. Trans. 1953. 4 (Summer. G. E. 15-37 Kober. Trans. Anscombe. p410-441 . C. G. L. G. The Cambridge Companion Guide to Wittgenstein (2006).. M. Eds. 30. ‘Wittgenstein among the Savages: Language. ‘Philosophical Investigations. M. Polity. London: Routledge. 2nd . Pears and B. Malcolm N. ‘On Certainty‘. E. 3rd ed.1953. 2nd ed.F. 4 (Fall 1980) Dienstag.Bibliography Wittgenstein. ‘Misunderstanding Wittgenstein‘ Philosophical Investigations 4 (2) (1981) Cooke. K. (1973) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. F. McGuinness. M ‘Certainties of a world-picture: The epistemological investigations of On Certainty’ . Oxford: Blackwell. 1958. 1998). (1969).(1960). M. 1922. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. G. von Wright. Anscombe and G. Paul.Anscombe and D.
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