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Wittgenstein and Internal Relations
Abstract: Interpretations of the Tractatus divide into what might be called a metaphysical and an anti-metaphysical approach to the work. The central issue between the two interpretative approaches has generally been characterised in terms of the question whether the Tractatus is committed to the idea of ‘things’ that cannot be said in language, and thus to the idea of a distinctive kind of nonsense: nonsense that is an attempt to say what can only be shown. In this paper, I look at this dispute from a different perspective, by focusing on the treatment of the concept of internal relations. By reference to the work of Peter ´ Hacker, Hide Ishiguro and Cora Diamond, I show how this concept is understood quite differently in each of the two interpretative traditions. I focus particularly on how Wittgenstein’s idea of the ‘internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world’ (Tractatus 4.014) might be understood within the two interpretative approaches. I offer some reasons in support of the antimetaphysical treatment of the concept.
1. At least two, and possibly three, different approaches to interpreting Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (TLP) are currently on offer. First, there is a metaphysical approach which claims that Wittgenstein puts forward, or intends to convey, an account of the relation between language and the world in which, as Pears puts it, ‘the world is the dominant partner’ (Pears 2006: 1). The logical structure of our language is, as Hacker says, ‘ineffably answerable to the logical form of the world’ (Hacker 2001: 170), understood as the ‘language independent-de re possibilities’ (Hacker 2001: 171) for objects to combine in states of affairs. Second, there is what I will call an anti-metaphysical approach, which denies that Wittgenstein intended to offer any form of explanation of how language connects with the world, but is, rather, engaged in a logical investigation whose aim is to lay bare how the expressions of our language function. There is no attempt, on this understanding, either to ground the logic of our language in features of the world, or to infer features of the world from the nature of our symbolism. This anti-metaphysical approach represents a well-established interpretative tradition, which includes the work of Ishiguro, McGuinness, Rhees and Winch, and to which my own recent book on the Tractatus was intended to be a contribution.
European Journal of Philosophy 18:4 ISSN 0966-8373 pp. 495–509 r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
Wittgenstein’s use of the concept of an internal relation that I’ll focus on in my discussion is the following: ‘the . and defended it more vigorously. internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world’ (TLP 4. I will take the work of Peter Hacker as my basis. the idea of a sentence’s being nonsense because what it is trying to say lies beyond the limits of what can be said is a mirage. we are forced to speak nonsense—and thus to the idea of a distinctive category of nonsense: nonsense that is an attempt to say what can only be shown. by focusing on the concept of internal relations. the resolute readers claim. .. According to Hacker. resolute readers have argued that Wittgenstein does not recognize ‘kinds of nonsense’. in trying to say them. though closely related. and which it affirms to exist. then it must admit of the very same range of combinatorial possibilities within the symbolism as the object which is its meaning has in reality. A string of signs is nonsense if we have failed to give a meaning to at least one of the signs occurring in it. The logical forms of both objects and states of affairs are r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2. On this understanding. my hope is that by focusing on it. and. one effect of this re-invigoration of the opposition to the metaphysical reading has been to focus the dispute concerning the correct interpretative strategy on the question whether the Tractatus is committed to the idea of ‘things’ that cannot be said in language—things such that. Certainly. Thus. Similarly. direction. In this paper I want to approach the dispute between the various interpretative strategies from a slightly different. . the nature of the dispute between them may be further illuminated. the logical syntax of our language is held to be ‘ineffably answerable’ to the logical form of the world. if the former is to represent the latter. simply because he has worked the view out in more detail. The logical form of the world is constituted by the combinatorial possibilities of the simple objects that make up the substance of the world. This is a concept that appears to be handled quite differently by these interpretative traditions. Warren Goldfarb. distinct from that of Ishiguro et al. It is a moot question whether this reinvigoration—the so-called ‘resolute’ reading—constitutes a third approach. Against this. and others. this internal relation is to be understood as a substantial relation of isomorphism which must hold between language and the world. or whether it is better seen as putting forward a distinctive way of defending an anti-metaphysical approach to an understanding of Wittgenstein’s early work. Let me begin by presenting the understanding of the concept of internal relations that has emerged within the metaphysical approach. . Tom Ricketts. than anyone else in this interpretative tradition.496 Marie McGinn The opposition to the metaphysical reading of the Tractatus was re-invigorated in the 1990s. a proposition must have the same logical form as the state of affairs the existence of which makes it true. is actually the principal target of the Tractatus. by the work of Cora Diamond. Michael Kramer.014). James Conant. if a sign occurring in a proposition is a name.
the features of the world that are isomorphically mirrored in a language which represents it cannot be described in language. which Wittgenstein places on propositions with sense. but is rather presupposed by. like an external relation. There is a requirement that language ‘fit’ the world. The holding of this internal relation between signs and the objects they stand for is a substantial condition on representation. In the same way. results in nonsense sentences that fail to express a sense: the things that we are attempting to say cannot be expressed in senseful propositions. what I want to focus on is what I will call this interpretation’s relational understanding of Wittgenstein’s concept of ‘the internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world’. The features of the world that are essentially mirrored in language are necessary and therefore ineffable: they cannot be described in senseful propositions. unlike an external relation. but cannot be described in senseful propositions. show itself in the logical features of well-formed propositions. the internal relation between language and the world is. but shows itself in our expressing propositions with sense. Thus. The ‘fit’ that is required is between the possibilities for signs to occur in propositions and the ‘de re possibilities’ for objects to combine in facts. The connection between this interpretation of Wittgenstein’s use of the concept of an internal relation and the conception of nonsense which is criticized by Diamond and Conant is clear. The logical form of language is taken to show features of reality that cannot be described in language. however. those that lack this relation. These features are not contingent and a description of them would fail to accord with the bi-polarity requirement. this interpretation of the concept of an internal relation commits Wittgenstein to the idea that there is a kind of nonsense which is the result of our attempting to say what can only be shown. This isomorphism between language and the world is a condition of the possibility of representation. or the relation of depiction. . it is in this sense that the logical form of language is answerable to the logical form of the world. but. and the internal relation of depicting is the holding of this relation of fit. which gives content to the idea that the logical syntax of language is ‘answerable’ to the world. propositions with sense. On this understanding. properly or genuinely relational in nature. The attempt to describe either the logical form of the world. The logical form of reality does. the internal relation of depicting is a genuine or substantial relation: expressions that have this relation to the world express a sense. do not. the internal relation of mirroring that is a condition of representation is itself something that cannot be expressed in senseful propositions. according to the metaphysical approach. the internal relation which constitutes the relation of depiction is one that exists between language and the world. it cannot be represented in. r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. However. However. Thus.Wittgenstein and Internal Relations 497 language independent: they are constituted by possibilities that are independent of our system for representing states of affairs in language. What makes the relation ‘internal’ rather than ‘external’ is that it cannot be expressed in language: it is necessary and ineffable.
There is no sense here that there are ‘things’ that are necessarily true of objects. the distinction between saying and showing is not to be understood as a distinction between the contingent/expressible and the necessary/ineffable features of reality. in it she clearly repudiates the idea that Wittgenstein held that the logical syntax of our language is answerable to anything outside language. On this understanding. ‘For Wittgenstein’. for Wittgenstein. A quite different understanding of the concept of internal relations can be ´ discerned in the anti-metaphysical approach to the Tractatus. ‘being a propositional function or being an object are correlates of certain logical categories of our language’ (Ishiguro 1981: 45). and the categorical understanding we have’. or to make ‘the obscure claim that the reference of names and references of predicates are different kinds of entities. but which cannot be said. Thus. she argues. she writes. equivalent to providing a philosophical grammar or logical syntax that makes the logical form of the constituents of propositions perspicuous. the logical syntax of a symbol. unlike Russell and Frege. and not with what they mean. . Being an object. the later being unsaturated (Frege) or indefinite (Russell)’ (Ishiguro 1981: 51). Thus. in virtue of which it is the symbol it is. The ‘fit’ between a sign and what it signifies is no longer understood as a substantial relation of isomorphism. but as a reflection of the fact that what kind of symbol a symbol is—how a symbol signifies—is fixed by the nature of the symbolism. but is a feature of the symbol that is manifest in its role in the symbolism. is not an attribute of what the symbol stands for. The ‘internal relation’ between the logical form of a sign and the logical form of what it signifies does not.498 Marie McGinn 3. On this interpretation. ‘[t]he logical form of a proposition is something we must grasp in order to understand that the words in the proposition say anything at all’ (Ishiguro 1981: 47). or being a property. the logical form of a proposition is seen as the ‘structure which makes us understand propositions as pieces of language’. it is rather to be understood as the correlate of a formal concept that characterizes a way of symbolizing. only shown. and is not answerable to anything outside language. is not to be understood as an attribute that is possessed (ineffably) by the entities that signs stand for. something that is made fully manifest in the employment of signs in propositions with sense. She argues that a theory of logical types is. Although Hide Ishiguro does not use the term ‘internal relation’ in her paper. ‘reflect[s] our grasp of logical syntax’ or ‘our grasp of the logical form of our language’ (Ishiguro 1981: 54). It is essentially concerned with how symbols of our language symbolize. Rather. Wittgenstein. we might read Ishiguro as rejecting the idea that Wittgenstein held that the logical form of a proposition stands in a substantial relation of fitting to the logical form of the state of affairs that makes it true. by the signs that represent them. ‘Wittgenstein and the Theory of Types’ (Ishiguro 1981). Ishiguro sees Wittgenstein as ‘distinguish[ing] between what we say or express by means of our language. the latter. on this r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. resists ‘the temptation to think of the theory of types—[or logical syntax]—as a general classification of things’ (Ishiguro 1981: 48).
or imply any substantial relation of ‘fit’. Thus. A symbol’s way of symbolizing is something internal to the symbolism and is made evident in its logico-syntactic employment. If this is our model for the understanding of internal relations. the ‘fit’ between signs that combine to form propositions that represent possible states of affairs is understood as something that concerns. something that is shown in the use of expressions in propositions. by how the sign is used with a sense. . she argues against Hans Sluga’s claim that Wittgenstein is committed to a version of the correspondence theory of truth. Russell’s vicious circle principle is not only incoherent. then it suggests that the internal relation of depiction is itself one that needs to be understood in a way that does not involve anything genuinely relational. the nature of symbols. and not in the nature of things. or is grounded in.Wittgenstein and Internal Relations 499 view. and no variable can show what is common to two symbols that symbolize in different ways: and ‘that is the whole of the ‘theory of types’ (TLP 3. 4. no function can be the value of the variable that presents the prototype of its argument. The logico-syntactic properties of a symbol are presented by means of a variable. have anything genuinely relational about it. The combination of names that makes up a sentence is also a fact. is that logical distinctions are distinctions between the logico-syntactic properties of symbols. rather. that the logic of our language does not represent and is not answerable to anything outside language: the logical syntax of our language concerns how symbols symbolize. In a different context. and a fact is the existence of a state of affairs which in turn are combinations of objects. The rule that a variable expresses does not need to concern itself with what signs mean. which are made manifest in the employment of signs in propositions with sense. . . according to Ishiguro. In ‘Truth Before Tarski’ (Diamond 2002). I will return to this topic in section 5. On this interpretation. but also unnecessary. Variables present what a class of symbols have in common. The meaning of a sign does not have to be mentioned in order to rule out a function’s occurring as its own argument. which Sluga describes as follows: The world . one might see it as the great achievement of Wittgenstein’s early work that it makes clear that logic does not belong to the level of facts. but only with how signs signify: with their logico-syntactic properties. consists of facts. which is equivalent to a rule for the construction of a class of propositions. The point of Wittgenstein’s critique of Russell’s theory of types. the difference in the mode of signification between a propositional function and its argument already rules out a function’s being applied to itself. and a sentence is true if it r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Cora Diamond has also argued against the possibility of interpreting the notion of an internal relation as involving anything genuinely relational. and in a rather different fashion. the logical form of a symbol and of what it signifies is settled in a single stroke.332).
(Sluga 2002: 90) Diamond argues that Wittgenstein’s putting forward what looks like a correspondence theory of truth is properly understood as an attempt to get us to see that ‘what we usually think of as correspondence theories of truth are attempts to treat as theory what is actually a reflection of certain ways we operate with sentences. Diamond r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. or ‘fitting’. Diamond holds that Wittgenstein’s intention is to ‘redirect our attention toward logical features of the use of ordinary sentences’ (Diamond 2002: 259). dependent on their logical character’ (Diamond 2002: 256). In the case of the Group 1 pattern. We’re concerned here with the idea that there is a relation of correspondence. on the idea of a relation between language and the world. she argues. Rather than focusing. However. we might try to express the significance of this inference pattern by saying that a proposition and its negation correspond to a single fact: a single reality determines the truth or falsity of both propositions. but she argues that we need to be attentive to the way in which he tries to get us to recognize what such talk actually amounts to. as Sluga does. which characterize our ordinary use of propositions: Group 1 p So ‘p’ is true and ‘not-p’ is false not-p So ‘p’ is false and ‘not-p’ is true Group 2 A believes p p So A’s belief is correct A believes p not-p So A’s belief is incorrect A believes p A’s belief is correct So p These patterns record logical features of our use of sentences. Diamond concedes that Wittgenstein does indeed talk of a proposition’s agreeing or disagreeing with reality. . Talk of the relation of agreeing or disagreeing with reality is. between a proposition and the fact that makes it true. The understanding at which Wittgenstein ultimately aims ‘does not in the end rely on the structure of relations’ (Diamond 2002: 259). prompted by the following kinds of inference pattern.500 Marie McGinn stands in a strict mapping or picturing relation to a fact in the world.
r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. it seems equally possible to construe Wittgenstein’s talk of an internal relation between a proposition and the fact that makes it true as a rejection of the idea of a substantial. once again. Again. and our moving from a statement about what A believes and a statement about what is the case to a statement as to whether A’s belief is correct or incorrect. whatever content the idea that thought is answerable to reality has lies entirely in its alluding to these inference patterns. Diamond. but ineffable. is inclined to see all this as a matter of showing that the concept of an internal relation explodes from within. In the same way. all that is left of our relational talk is the inference pattern that prompted it in the first place. talk of the internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world is intended to draw our attention to features of our ordinary use of expression. from which. In the same way.Wittgenstein and Internal Relations 501 argues that Wittgenstein’s ultimate aim is to show us that the relational talk. However. so that what we initially picture as genuinely relational comes to be seen as no more than a reflection of how we actually employ expressions. lies entirely in its alluding to inferences of the Group 1 pattern. all sense of anything genuinely relational is absent. which is [essentially] reversible’—Wittgenstein thereby clarifies the distinction between propositions and names. is incoherent. In getting us to see that the way propositions symbolize essentially involves directionality—‘a rule-governed kind of comparison with reality. in accordance with the precepts of the resolute reading. whatever content the idea that a single reality determines the truth of both a proposition and its negation has. Thus. talk of an internal relation is to be understood as alluding to features of the symbolism that are internal to it and evident in our ordinary employment of expressions: we employ propositions to say how things are. Relational talk of correspondence between a proposition and a fact is now seen to collapse into incoherence: to talk of a relation between a proposition and a fact would essentially involve treating a proposition as equivalent to a name. and from which all suggestion of anything genuinely relational is completely absent. which this inference pattern prompts us to engage in. What we are left with is our ordinary use of propositions both to say what is the case and to give the contents of judgements. but altogether dispenses with the idea of truth as a relation between a proposition and something that fits it. . and brings us to recognize that propositions cannot be relata: ‘nothing with directionality is a relatum’ (Diamond 2002: 269). On this understanding. Thus. Recognizing these features does not issue in an explanation of what the relation of truth consists in. and reveals itself to be incoherent. relation of correspondence or ‘fitting’. and for the same reason: ‘nothing with directionality is a relatum’. Diamond argues that this relational talk of agreement also collapses into incoherence. relational talk of a thought’s or a judgement’s agreeing or disagreeing with reality is to be seen as prompted by the Group 2 pattern of inference. and to see Diamond’s explication of talk of a proposition’s agreeing or disagreeing with reality as a working out of the kind of interpretation of the notion of an internal relation that Wittgenstein intends us to give.
or as what we really had in mind. but rather invokes the rules internal to our normatively governed practice of saying what is the case. as what we had in some sense wanted all along. The idea of a proposition’s answerability to the world is simply equivalent to its having a sense that determines the conditions under which we call ‘p’ true and ‘ p’ false and.502 Marie McGinn For example. although what [we] would thereby have accepted would certainly not have been the kind of thing [we] had earlier described as what we wanted. However. Establishing the truth of a proposition. even though we had never thought of it that way at all’ (Diamond 2002: 273). the fact that we use the proposition ‘p’ to describe the fact that obtains if ‘p’ is true. by the same stroke. but of using the rule that constitutes the sense of a proposition to determine whether p or p is the case. is not a matter of establishing that a relation holds between a bit of language and a bit of the world. that we use the proposition ‘ p’ to say what is not the case if ‘p’ is false. the conditions under which we call ‘p’ false and ‘ p’ true. we might. and the implication is that what this shows is that we haven’t got to the top of the ladder and completely thrown away the inherently incoherent idea of a relation that holds between language and the world. in the final paragraph of her paper. a relation not expressible by ordinary propositions’. may bring about the satisfaction that it was wrongly supposed could only be achieved by means of a substantial account of what the relation of truth or correspondence consists in. the Tractatus gives me what I was really after with my talk of correspondence’’. which the idea of an internal relation between a proposition and the state of affairs that exists if it is true alludes to. However.e. when [we] had laid down the conditions for an adequate account of truth’ (Diamond 2002: 273–4). she agrees. conceived as ontological items. A fact—something that is the case— is essentially something that can be said to be the case by a true proposition of our language Diamond herself seems willing to acknowledge this when. she concedes that Juliet Floyd may be right in holding that Wittgenstein’s aim is to ‘lead us to acknowledge something as what we had wanted to say. and so on. or the correctness of a belief. this does not incline her to give the notion of an internal relation a clean bill of health. She suggests that ‘[w]hen we talk about logical relations. Wittgenstein. c . She argues that ‘[c]onfidence that we can distinguish logical [i. What we come to see is that the idea of thought’s answerability to the world does not invoke a substantial relation of isomorphic mapping between propositions and facts. recognizing the features of the symbolism. internal] relations from relations is part of what stops us from throwing away the ladder’ (Diamond 2002: 269–70). One could see it as a term that Wittgenstein employs in transitional remarks designed to bring the reader to a clarified view of the logic of c c c r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Although it explains nothing. we tell ourselves that we mean a special sort of relation-that-is-not-really-a-relation. there is nothing in the idea of an anti-metaphysical approach to interpreting the Tractatus that imposes this view of the fate of the notion of an internal relation on us. that we use the proposition ‘p’ to say what is the case in reality if A’s belief that p is correct. In this case. be willing to say: ‘‘‘Yes.
or of our ordinary use of expressions. One way to understand this is to see it as saying that the relation between a proposition and the situation it represents does not depend upon anything other than the rules of projection whereby we derive from the proposition—i. on this interpretation. one that sees it as concerned with the nature of the symbolism itself. as incoherent. a perspicuous view of that structure. from these words as they are used in this combination on a particular occasion—an understanding of how things stand in reality if the proposition is true. or upon a proposition’s having any relation to. or that employment. say. This. not as genuinely directional. provide of Wittgenstein’s remark? To say that the relation between a proposition and the situation it represents is internal is. talk of an internal relation amounts to is something that is shown by the features of the symbolism. is what an expression of philosophical puzzlement. I have so far said very little about how an anti-metaphysical. or to our actual employment of expressions. concerning. internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world’ (TLP 4. The notion is implicitly a rejection of any explanatory intent. . We have already seen what sort of account of the relation of depicting that holds between language and the world the metaphysical interpretation finds in the Tractatus. in any particular case. I want to argue. and the notion of an internal relation between language and the world.Wittgenstein and Internal Relations 503 our language. However. ‘thinking of propositions as items going into a relation as its terms. in the end. and which exists if it is true. what. to say that it is not genuinely relational and thus does not depend upon. which Wittgenstein’s remarks draw our attention to and serve to clarify. anything outside the symbolism. In this case. or between a sign and what it signifies—the fact that it does not. is all that the notion is. The fact that an internal relation is not intended to be understood as a substantial or genuine relation between a proposition and the situation it depicts. the nature of truth or the nature of representation. intended to leave us with. ultimately. rather than explanation. 5. I’ve now suggested that a fully resolute reading is one that rejects both the idea of a substantial relation of depicting. reading might interpret the phrase ‘the . . amount to anything genuinely relational—is precisely what permits it to play this purely transitional role. Insofar as the notion is always an implicit allusion to the structure of the symbolism. . that is. not as genuinely capable of propositional sense’ (Diamond 2002: 270). and implicitly a recognition that perspicuous representation of what our employment of the symbolism itself makes clear. does not involve. calls for. and the sort of understanding of the concept of an internal relation that is implicit in it. What understanding does a nonrelational interpretation of the concept of an internal relation. A proposition represents a possible state of affairs insofar as it r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.014).e. but non-resolute. as Diamond claims that failure to recognize the incoherence of talk of internal relations inevitably must.
. the internal relation of depicting amounts to this: ‘p’ says p. On this reading. One of the fundamental ideas of the anti-metaphysical reading is that Wittgenstein does not intend to prioritize the relation of correlation between propositional constituents and objects. Rather. The notion of an internal relation does not explain how language connects with the world. and in virtue of which a speaker is able to say what is the case. is understood to be dependent upon the occurrence of the constituents in propositions that can be compared with reality for truth or falsity. all idea of a genuine relation has completely disappeared. insofar as it is used to express thoughts that are assessed for truth or falsity. This is something that is grasped and understood only within the perspective of our ordinary use of language. talk of ‘the . but the rules of projection in virtue of which we understand a propositional sign in its projective relation to the world.504 Marie McGinn expresses a sense that is equivalent to a rule that lays down the conditions under which we call it true. Thus. in virtue of which a proposition has the internal relation of depicting to a possible state of affairs. which constitutes the ‘pictorial relationship’ (TLP 2. that is. or in any way use it to explain how a proposition represents what it does. A propositional constituent is essentially anything that a class of propositions have in common. A proposition is a logical picture of a state of affairs insofar as it combines elements that are representatives of objects in a way that portrays how those objects are combined if the proposition is true. the conditions under which we call it false. the notion of an internal relation simply alludes to our employment of propositions within a practice of saying how things are in reality. which could be characterized only from a position external to language. only from within the perspective of a mastery of the rules whereby language is projected onto the world. the rules of projection. that is. the meaning of the propositional constituents is itself something that is determined within the system of representation insofar as it stands in a projective relation to the world. to say how things are in reality.1514). includes the correlation of the propositional constituents with objects that are the constituents of the state of affairs it represents. Thus. in virtue of which we can use them. or understand a proposition. In this way. Wittgenstein sees it as one of the fundamental insights of the Tractatus that a proposition expresses a sense only insofar as it is a logical picture of a state of affairs. the correlation between propositional constituents and objects. but this is something that can essentially be discerned in the way that propositions symbolize within the system r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. and by the same stroke. . on particular occasions. The central project of the Tractatus is to clarify what is essential to a propositional sign’s expressing a sense in the way that it does. . and to understand a propositional constituent is to understand the contribution it makes to determining the sense of propositions in which it occurs. internal relation of depicting’ is to be understood as part of an overall attempt to get us to see that what we’re concerned with is not a substantial relation between language and the world. The ‘fit’ between language and the world lies in the rules for the use of the expressions of our language.
of course. none of this. and which determine the method for comparing language with reality. of what can be the case. Furthermore. Are there reasons for preferring one of these interpretations of the concept of an internal relation and its role in Wittgenstein’s early thought over another? I will end by making a few gestures in favour an anti-metaphysical approach. then. that fixes whether the propositions of our language make sense. 6. The conditions of sense lie outside language: it is only if the logical form of our language mirrors the independently constituted logical form of the world that what we take to be propositions are expressions with sense. is mirrored in our understanding of the propositions of our language. However. For example. as they are employed within the metaphysical account. Language is essentially applied—that is to say. the notion of ‘answerability’ is being employed in a context in which the idea of a method of comparison makes no sense. or which explains why they have the sense they do. the claim is. No doubt Wittgenstein is led by a number of presuppositions. no such rule is available in the case of the logical form in virtue of which we recognize a proposition as the proposition that it is. . First of all.Wittgenstein and Internal Relations 505 of representation to which they essentially belong. appear to be completely empty. that conditions whether the propositions we take ourselves to understand make sense. including the tautological nature of all logical inference and the determinacy of sense. prior to our determining whether a particular proposition is true or false. the idea that the possibilities for signs to combine in propositions ‘fits’ the possibilities for objects to combine in states of affairs is revealed as amounting to no more than this: our conception of what is possible. into making dogmatic claims about the essence of a proposition. And this. What sense is to be made. of the idea that the logical form of a proposition is ‘answerable’ to the world? The concepts of answerability and the concept of fit.e. everything that is essential to our symbols’ symbolizing in the way that they do— is answerable to something that exists independently of language. is something that Wittgenstein rejects outright as r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. involves him committing himself to the idea that the logical form of our language—i. the metaphysical interpretation of the relation of depicting is internally incoherent. It makes sense to talk of a proposition’s being answerable to the world just insofar as our understanding of a proposition is essentially constituted by grasp of a rule that determines whether we can correctly assert it or its negation. Thus. the idea that the logical form of our language is answerable to something outside language suggests that it is not the logical syntax of our language that determines what constitutes a proposition with sense. This makes it look as if an experience is needed. Clearly. used to express judgements that are true or false—but there is nothing outside the rules by which language is projected onto the world.
and then. it is also surely a prima facie reason against an interpretation that it finds an incoherent view in a text. essentially involves directionality. the philosophical point of the work is that by the end of it the reader should have understood that Wittgenstein’s remarks fall apart when we try to give meaning to the signs that occur in them. (Conant 2002: 421–2) According to Conant. then I grasp that if it cannot be said it cannot be thought (that the limits of language are the limits of thought). . and that directionality itself belongs to the proposition through a kind of use. How can nonsensical remarks do work in removing a philosophical illusion if they are themselves nothing more than an expression of that illusion? The problem is manifest in the way that would-be resolute readers frequently appear to fall away from the precepts of resoluteness and to articulate important insights concerning how language functions that they find in Wittgenstein’s early work. The outcome of the lesson is that we are no longer tempted to engage in this kind of nonsense: ‘we say nothing except what can be said’ (TLP 6. a rule-governed kind of comparison with reality. . the very idea of such a perspective on language is an illusion. (Diamond 2002: 269) The whole of logic is internal to the logical character of every referring expression. One of the difficulties that critics have raised in response to this proposed way of reading the Tractatus is to ask how a series of remarks that give a mere illusion of sense can afford a reader the necessary insights to recognize them as nonsensical. I grasp that there has been no ‘it’ in my grasp all along (that that which I cannot think I cannot ‘grasp’ either). For example: The expressive capacity of a proposition . within which sentences have their identity as signs. by means of this recognition. but arises simply from our understanding of and operating with the sensical sentences of our language. James Conant describes the dialectic that the resolute reading finds in the Tractatus as follows: [F]irst I grasp that there is something that must be. when I have reached the top of the ladder. The value of the lesson lies in the reader’s coming to see.53). is what goes with any referring expression. that there is nothing that constitutes even so much as an attempt to get outside language and explain how it connects with the world. (Diamond 1995: 201) [O]ur understanding of possibility is not ontologically based in some realm of the possible. finally. (Goldfarb 1997: 66) r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. especially if a coherent interpretation is available. which is reversible. Although Hacker is clearly right that attacks on the coherence of the views he attributes to Wittgenstein do not in themselves show that Wittgenstein did not hold them. then I see that it cannot be said.506 Marie McGinn early as September 1914. (Diamond 1995: 201) The truth-functional calculus. .
and nor do they convey truths that cannot be expressed in propositions. of an object. Insofar as the clarity we achieve. in our saying nothing except what can be said. plays a central role in this inescapable. They provide the ‘liberating word’ which serves to bring about a clarified vision of the logical order which—Wittgenstein believes—is there in language insofar as it represents states of affairs. that is. r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. which he discerned in Frege’s and Russell’s philosophical logic. in the context of a logical investigation of how language functions. entirely transitional. insofar as it is intended to invoke aspects of our employment of signs that are internal to our practice of using propositions to say how things are. they do not express propositions with sense. An anti-metaphysical reading of the Tractatus separates out the illegitimate idea of explaining how language connects with the world from the legitimate idea of allowing language to reveal how it functions. and which we grasp in virtue of being masters of the language. save as what is meant by the names that can occur in fully analyzed sentences. through the kind of investigation Wittgenstein is held to be engaged in. but it provides a form of philosophical insight in which questions about how a proposition expresses its sense. how we can infer one proposition from another. then it might be argued that the proper expression of what we thus see clearly is our simply using signs correctly. core task of clarification and elimination of philosophical problems. completely disappear. (Ricketts 1996: 92–3) 507 It is hard not to hear these as insights concerning the nature of our symbolism and its representational capacities. as a distinction between what a symbol signifies and the logico-syntactic properties in virtue of which it signifies what it does. concern thoughts that are expressible and thoughts that lie beyond our capacity to express them in language. and is not properly seen as expressive of philosophical illusion. it emerges. concerns what is essential to a sign’s expressing its sense. This clarified vision does not amount to a theory of depicting. as it were from inside language. which Wittgenstein believes attention to the symbolism itself makes clear. they can be completely left behind. does not involve a necessarily doomed attempt to take up a perspective on language from a point outside it. This allows us to acknowledge that. or the nature and status of logic. something that is shown in how signs are used with a sense. [and] there is no conception of a constituent of a possible atomic fact. completely disappear. once Wittgenstein’s remarks have achieved what they are intended to achieve. why all the propositions of logic are given as soon as we have a language in which states of affairs are represented. Rather. and which he believes will make the philosophical problems concerning the nature of a proposition.Wittgenstein and Internal Relations There is no conception of a possible fact save as a situation in logical space representable by a sentence. His remarks are. and so on. The idea of clarification. on this interpretation. The distinction between what can be said in language and what shows itself does not. in this sense. . The contention is that the notion of an internal relation. What gets clarified is the logical order of a language in which thoughts are expressed.
and so on. it is the idea that logic or grammar is arbitrary: grammar determines essence. in the later philosophy. a concept he employs throughout his philosophical career. and as such neither equates with the anti-metaphysical understanding of Wittgenstein’s employment of the expression. and an implicit expression of the conviction that the sort of understanding that philosophical questions call for—the kind of understanding we need to resolve philosophical paradoxes or problems—is one that concerns the role of expressions in our language. by means of an analysis of p. on the other hand. and thereby on our normative practice of employing r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. means that the context in which talk of internal relations has its place changes. the idea is that the logic of our language is grounded in the indescribable nature of things. which is not only forced to claim that Wittgenstein uses a single expression to express fundamentally contrasting ideas. then it must be shown. ‘It is in language that an expectation and its fulfilment make contact’. in the early philosophy. Thus. Thus. of connections that are internal to our practice of using language. to the idea that all logical inference is tautological. or recognizing. from ‘Notes Dictated to Moore’ to Remarks on Colour. as there is on the resolute reading. I want to hear this as saying that it is in language that internal relations or connections are made. Thus. Both of these ideas attempt to take a sideways-on view of the relation between language and the world. but that these ideas are. the focus on the notion of internal relations. to the idea that the internal relations between propositions can be read off the symbols themselves. but for a seeing. This contrasts sharply with the metaphysical interpretation of such talk. However. that there are questions we cannot ask. and thus as an echo of PI 445. its point is better understood as claiming that Wittgenstein’s central commitment is to a methodological principle concerning where to look if we want to understand the workings of our language. The point of the anti-metaphysical reading is not to be expressed in terms of either a positive or a negative thesis about the relation between language and the world. in a way that is at least harmonious with his employment of the concept in the later work. The essential idea remains the same: talk of internal relations is always a rejection of substantial philosophical theory. to the idea that if a proposition. the anti-metaphysical understanding of such talk permits us to see this change as merely an evolution in Wittgenstein’s approach to allowing language to make clear how it functions. no suggestion. that q is part of the sense of p. but rather a realization that the questions we raise call for a kind of investigation quite different from the one we had supposed: they don’t call for an account of anything.15 ‘The existence of an internal relation expresses itself in language by means of an internal relation between the propositions representing them’ (my italics). . when he says.508 Marie McGinn One further advantage of the anti-metaphysical reading is that it construes Wittgenstein’s early talk of internal relations. His early commitment to the idea of a logically perspicuous symbolism. at TLP 4. is logically entailed by a proposition. q. p. in both the early and the later philosophy. philosophically substantial. There is.
J. Block (ed. —— (1971). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. clarification) of the employment of expressions takes the place of explanation. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. ‘Throwing Away the Ladder’. in E. Hacker. Goldfarb. Floyd and Van Heijenoort’. Pears and B. Stern (eds). Sluga. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (1981).mcginn@uea. G. Oxford: Oxford University Press. T. is not to embrace one of the options provided by realist/anti-realist readings of Wittgenstein’s work. M. Diamond. Oxford: Oxford University Press. From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Hylton.). in Wittgenstein: Connection and Controversies. Reck (ed.). ‘Frege on the Indefinability of Truth’. L.ac. trans. (1996). ‘Pictures. E. after Ricketts. D. From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Wittgenstein. From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. McGuiness. . Paradox and Platitude in Wittgenstein’s Philosophy. ‘Naming. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Reck (ed. (2002). in E. H. Ishiguro. in The Realistic Spirit.). (2006). Anscombe. Marie McGinn Department of Philosophy University of East Anglia UK m. C. after Geach. ‘The Method of the Tractatus’. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Philosophical Investigations. Reck (ed. S. P.uk REFERENCES Conant. in H. H. (1958) . W. H. Thinking and Meaning in the Tractatus’. M. Pears. (2001). ‘Metaphysics and Nonsense: On Cora Diamond’s The Realistic Spirit’. XXII: 57–73. r 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (2002). H. but to recognize its essentially therapeutic purpose: description (i. Journal of Philosophical Research. Ricketts. F.e. F. Sluga and D. (1995). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Perspectives on the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Wittgenstein and Internal Relations 509 expressions that this notion is to be understood as alluding to. trans. in I. The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein.). —— (2002). F. ‘Wittgenstein and the Theory of Types’. (1997). H. ‘Truth before Tarski: After Sluga. Logic and the Limits of Sense in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus’. D. in E. after Goldfarb. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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