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2. The Early Wittgenstein

While some nonsensical propositions are blatantly so, others seem to be meaningful—and only analysis carried out in accordance with the picture theory can expose their nonsensicality. Wittgenstein does not, however, relegate all that is not inside the bounds of sense to oblivion. He makes a distinction between saying and showing which is made to do additional crucial work. This applies, for example, to the logical form of the world, the pictorial form, etc. They make themselves manifest.

Is, then, philosophy doomed to be nonsense unsinnig , or, at best, senseless sinnlos when it does logic, but, in any case, meaningless? What is left for the philosopher to do, if traditional, or even revolutionary, propositions of metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics cannot be formulated in a sensical manner?

It is an activity of clarification of thoughts , and more so, of critique of language. In other words, by showing them that some of their propositions are nonsense. For it employs a measure of the value of propositions that is done by logic and the notion of limits. It is here, however, with the constraints on the value of propositions, that the tension in the Tractatus is most strongly felt. It becomes clear that the notions used by the Tractatus —the logical-philosophical notions—do not belong to the world and hence cannot be used to express anything meaningful.

Since language, thought and the world, are all isomorphic, any attempt to say in logic i. That is to say, the Tractatus has gone over its own limits, and stands in danger of being nonsensical. The Tractatus is notorious for its interpretative difficulties. In the decades that have passed since its publication it has gone through several waves of general interpretations. These revolve around the realism of the Tractatus , the notion of nonsense and its role in reading the Tractatus itself, and the reading of the Tractatus as an ethical tract.

There are interpretations that see the Tractatus as espousing realism, i. Such realism is also taken to be manifested in the essential bi-polarity of propositions; likewise, a straightforward reading of the picturing relation posits objects there to be represented by signs.

As against these readings, more linguistically oriented interpretations give conceptual priority to the symbolism. In any case, the issue of realism vs. Subsequently, interpreters of the Tractatus have moved on to questioning the very presence of metaphysics within the book and the status of the propositions of the book themselves. Beyond the bounds of language lies nonsense—propositions which cannot picture anything —and Wittgenstein bans traditional metaphysics to that area. The traditional readings of the Tractatus accepted, with varying degrees of discomfort, the existence of that which is unsayable, that which cannot be put into words, the nonsensical.

More recent readings tend to take nonsense more seriously as exactly that—nonsense. The Tractatus , on this stance, does not point at ineffable truths of, e. An accompanying discussion must then also deal with how this can be recognized, what this can possibly mean, and how it should be used, if at all. This discussion is closely related to what has come to be called the ethical reading of the Tractatus. And it is precisely this second part that is the important point. Obviously, such seemingly contradictory tensions within and about a text—written by its author—give rise to interpretative conundrums.

There is another issue often debated by interpreters of Wittgenstein, which arises out of the questions above.

What Is Life? Is Death Real?

This has to do with the continuity between the thought of the early and later Wittgenstein. And again, the more recent interpretations challenge this standard, emphasizing that the fundamental therapeutic motivation clearly found in the later Wittgenstein should also be attributed to the early. The idea that philosophy is not a doctrine, and hence should not be approached dogmatically, is one of the most important insights of the Tractatus.

Wittgenstein used this term to designate any conception which allows for a gap between question and answer, such that the answer to the question could be found at a later date. The complex edifice of the Tractatus is built on the assumption that the task of logical analysis was to discover the elementary propositions, whose form was not yet known. What marks the transition from early to later Wittgenstein can be summed up as the total rejection of dogmatism, i.

Metaphysics - Wikipedia

It is in the Philosophical Investigations that the working out of the transitions comes to culmination. Other writings of the same period, though, manifest the same anti-dogmatic stance, as it is applied, e. Philosophical Investigations was published posthumously in It was edited by G. Anscombe and Rush Rhees and translated by Anscombe. It comprised two parts. Part I, consisting of numbered paragraphs, was ready for printing in , but rescinded from the publisher by Wittgenstein.

Part II was added on by the editors, trustees of his Nachlass. In a new edited translation, by P. In the Preface to PI , Wittgenstein states that his new thoughts would be better understood by contrast with and against the background of his old thoughts, those in the Tractatus ; and indeed, most of Part I of PI is essentially critical.

Its new insights can be understood as primarily exposing fallacies in the traditional way of thinking about language, truth, thought, intentionality, and, perhaps mainly, philosophy. In this sense, it is conceived of as a therapeutic work, viewing philosophy itself as therapy. Rather, it pointed to new perspectives which, undoubtedly, are not disconnected from the earlier critique in addressing specific philosophical issues. This picture of language cannot be relied on as a basis for metaphysical, epistemic or linguistic speculation.

Despite its plausibility, this reduction of language to representation cannot do justice to the whole of human language; and even if it is to be considered a picture of only the representative function of human language, it is, as such, a poor picture. Furthermore, this picture of language is at the base of the whole of traditional philosophy, but, for Wittgenstein, it is to be shunned in favor of a new way of looking at both language and philosophy. The Philosophical Investigations proceeds to offer the new way of looking at language, which will yield the view of philosophy as therapy.

Traditional theories of meaning in the history of philosophy were intent on pointing to something exterior to the proposition which endows it with sense. Ascertainment of the use of a word, of a proposition , however, is not given to any sort of constructive theory building, as in the Tractatus. An analogy with tools sheds light on the nature of words. We are misled by the uniform appearance of our words into theorizing upon meaning: So different is this new perspective that Wittgenstein repeats: In giving the meaning of a word, any explanatory generalization should be replaced by a description of use.

The traditional idea that a proposition houses a content and has a restricted number of Fregean forces such as assertion, question and command , gives way to an emphasis on the diversity of uses. Throughout the Philosophical Investigations , Wittgenstein returns, again and again, to the concept of language-games to make clear his lines of thought concerning language.

Primitive language-games are scrutinized for the insights they afford on this or that characteristic of language. Language-games are, first, a part of a broader context termed by Wittgenstein a form of life see below. Secondly, the concept of language-games points at the rule-governed character of language.

This does not entail strict and definite systems of rules for each and every language-game, but points to the conventional nature of this sort of human activity. There is no reason to look, as we have done traditionally—and dogmatically—for one, essential core in which the meaning of a word is located and which is, therefore, common to all uses of that word. Family resemblance also serves to exhibit the lack of boundaries and the distance from exactness that characterize different uses of the same concept.

Such boundaries and exactness are the definitive traits of form—be it Platonic form, Aristotelian form, or the general form of a proposition adumbrated in the Tractatus. It is from such forms that applications of concepts can be deduced, but this is precisely what Wittgenstein now eschews in favor of appeal to similarity of a kind with family resemblance. One of the issues most associated with the later Wittgenstein is that of rule-following.

Philosophy of biology

Rising out of the considerations above, it becomes another central point of discussion in the question of what it is that can apply to all the uses of a word. The same dogmatic stance as before has it that a rule is an abstract entity—transcending all of its particular applications; knowing the rule involves grasping that abstract entity and thereby knowing how to use it. Wittgenstein begins his exposition by introducing an example: Wittgenstein proceeds mainly in PI —, but also elsewhere to dismantle the cluster of attendant questions: How do we learn rules?

How do we follow them? Wherefrom the standards which decide if a rule is followed correctly? Are they in the mind, along with a mental representation of the rule? Do we appeal to intuition in their application? Are they socially and publicly taught and enforced? In typical Wittgensteinian fashion, the answers are not pursued positively; rather, the very formulation of the questions as legitimate questions with coherent content is put to the test.

For indeed, it is both the Platonistic and mentalistic pictures which underlie asking questions of this type, and Wittgenstein is intent on freeing us from these assumptions. Such liberation involves elimination of the need to posit any sort of external or internal authority beyond the actual applications of the rule.

Immanuel Kant

These considerations lead to PI , often considered the climax of the issue: And so there would be neither accord nor conflict here. One of the influential readings of the problem of following a rule introduced by Fogelin and Kripke has been the interpretation, according to which Wittgenstein is here voicing a skeptical paradox and offering a skeptical solution.

That is to say, there are no facts that determine what counts as following a rule, no real grounds for saying that someone is indeed following a rule, and Wittgenstein accepts this skeptical challenge by suggesting other conditions that might warrant our asserting that someone is following a rule. This reading has been challenged, in turn, by several interpretations such as Baker and Hacker , McGinn, and Cavell , while others have provided additional, fresh perspectives e. Whether it be a veritable argument or not and Wittgenstein never labeled it as such , these sections point out that for an utterance to be meaningful it must be possible in principle to subject it to public standards and criteria of correctness.

This notion replaces the stricter and purer logic, which played such an essential role in the Tractatus in providing a scaffolding for language and the world. Contrary to empirical statements, rules of grammar describe how we use words in order to both justify and criticize our particular utterances. But as opposed to grammar-book rules, they are not idealized as an external system to be conformed to.

Moreover, they are not appealed to explicitly in any formulation, but are used in cases of philosophical perplexity to clarify where language misleads us into false illusions. Grammar is not abstract, it is situated within the regular activity with which language-games are interwoven: Used by Wittgenstein sparingly—five times in the Investigations —this concept has given rise to interpretative quandaries and subsequent contradictory readings. Forms of life can be understood as changing and contingent, dependent on culture, context, history, etc; this appeal to forms of life grounds a relativistic reading of Wittgenstein.

This might be seen as a universalistic turn, recognizing that the use of language is made possible by the human form of life. In his later writings Wittgenstein holds, as he did in the Tractatus , that philosophers do not—or should not—supply a theory, neither do they provide explanations. The anti-theoretical stance is reminiscent of the early Wittgenstein, but there are manifest differences.

Although the Tractatus precludes philosophical theories, it does construct a systematic edifice which results in the general form of the proposition, all the while relying on strict formal logic; the Investigations points out the therapeutic non-dogmatic nature of philosophy, verily instructing philosophers in the ways of therapy.

Working with reminders and series of examples, different problems are solved. Trying to advance such general theses is a temptation which lures philosophers; but the real task of philosophy is both to make us aware of the temptation and to show us how to overcome it. The style of the Investigations is strikingly different from that of the Tractatus. As a matter of fact, Wittgenstein was acutely aware of the contrast between the two stages of his thought, suggesting publication of both texts together in order to make the contrast obvious and clear.

Still, it is precisely via the subject of the nature of philosophy that the fundamental continuity between these two stages, rather than the discrepancy between them, is to be found. In both cases philosophy serves, first, as critique of language. Two implications of this diagnosis, easily traced back in the Tractatus , are to be recognized. One is the inherent dialogical character of philosophy, which is a responsive activity: In the Tractatus , this took the shape of advice: This has been taken to revert back to the ladder metaphor and the injunction to silence in the Tractatus.

These writings include, in addition to the second part of the first edition of the Philosophical Investigations , texts edited and collected in volumes such as Remarks on Colour , Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology , Zettel , On Certainty , and parts of The Foundations of Mathematics. Besides dealing with mathematics and psychology, this is the stage at which Wittgenstein most seriously pursued questions traditionally recognized as epistemological.

On Certainty tackles skeptical doubts and foundational solutions but is, in typical Wittgensteinian fashion, a work of therapy which discounts presuppositions common to both.


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The general tenor of all the writings of this last period can thence be viewed as, on the one hand, a move away from the critical some would say destructive positions of the Investigations to a more positive perspective on the same problems that had been facing him since his early writings; on the other hand, this move does not constitute a break from the later period but is more properly viewed as its continuation, in a new light.

The Early Wittgenstein 2. The Later Wittgenstein 3. Biographical Sketch Wittgenstein was born on April 26, in Vienna, Austria, to a wealthy industrial family, well-situated in intellectual and cultural Viennese circles. The seven basic propositions are: The world is everything that is the case. The world is all that is the case. What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts. What is the case—a fact—is the existence of states of affairs. The logical picture of the facts is the thought. A logical picture of facts is a thought. The thought is the significant proposition.

A thought is a proposition with sense. Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions. A proposition is a truth-function of elementary propositions. An elementary proposition is a truth function of itself. This is the general form of proposition. This is the general form of a proposition. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.


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  • 1. Biographical Sketch.

What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence. Grant Luckhardt and Maximilian E. Aristotle further posited the existence of a prime mover, or unmoved mover , i. Thus according to Aristotle, the matter of a thing will consist of those elements of it which, when the thing has come into being, may be said to have become it; and the form is the arrangement or organization of those elements, as the result of which they have become the thing which they have.

Thus, bricks and mortar are the matter that, given one form, become a house, or, given another, become a wall. As matter they are potentially anything that they can become; it is the form which determines what they actually become. Matter is that which is potentially a given object but which actually becomes that object only when it is given the right form.

Bricks are more informed than clay, and a house more than bricks. The Aristotelian concept of form was uniquely adapted to Christianity by Thomas Aquinas , whose works mark the high point of the medieval Scholastic tradition. Other Scholastic philosophers, including John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham , worked with the Aristotelian concept of form, but none to as great an effect as Aquinas. For the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant , form was a property of mind; he held that form is derived from experience, or, in other words, that it is imposed by the individual on the material object.

In his Kritik der reinen Vernunft , ; Critique of Pure Reason Kant identified space and time as the two forms of sensibility, reasoning that, though humans do not experience space and time as such, they cannot experience anything except in space and time. Kant further delimited 12 basic categories that act as structural elements for human understanding.

The concept of form is also indispensable to the practice and criticism of several disciplines other than philosophy. In literature , for example, the term may refer to the schema, structure, or genre that a writer chooses for the presentation of his subject—e. In criticism of the graphic arts , the term form refers to the effect achieved by draftsmanship or mass as distinct from that achieved by such elements as colour or texture.

In sculpture and other plastic arts, form or shape is both tangible and visible and thus is the chief element of organization. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.

Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval. Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions. Our editors will review what you've submitted, and if it meets our criteria, we'll add it to the article. Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: Whatever happens involves some substance or substances; unless there were substances, in the sense of concrete existents, nothing could be real whatsoever. Substances, however, are not, as the name might suggest, mere parcels of matter; they are…. He insisted that a purely human knowledge of all things is possible, through the use of various scientific devices, learning…. All dogs, for example, consist of a form—the form of being a dog—and matter, which is the stuff out of which they are made.

The form of an object makes it the kind of thing it is. Matter, on the other hand,…. The theory of forms significance in phenomenology In eidetic reduction role in Greek philosophy In metaphysics: