Wittgenstein Ethics Essay Outline

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Remarks about Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Introduction: the meaning of the title of Wittgenstein's book. Wittgenstein's own title for the TLP was Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung ("Logical-philosophical Treatise"). G.E. Moore suggested the Latin title (in the tradition, although not following the pattern, of the titles of Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica and Moore's own Principia Ethica). And so by 'logical' what does Wittgenstein mean -- and by 'philosophical' (Surely it is important that the book is not titled simply Principia Logica), and by 'treatise' what does he mean?

Logical research means the investigation of all regularity. And outside logic all is accident.

The exploration of logic means that exploration of everything that is subject to law. And outside logic everything is accidental. (TLP 6.3)

Two English translations of Wittgenstein's German language text, the first by Ogden (1922), which Wittgenstein proof-read before it was published, the second by Pears and McGuinness (1971), published twenty years after Wittgenstein's death.

Logical. By the word 'logic' the TLP means 'the study of laws of nature', as in expressions such as "laws of thought" and "the law of contradiction". The "theory of logic" of that book presumes that there are laws of thought, and that philosophy can discover those laws, and that indeed Wittgenstein has discovered them. It is a work of metaphysics.

That earlier definition of 'logic' contrasts with 'logic' = 'the study of rules, conventions', which was Wittgenstein's later (1933-34) use of that word, when he came to view all metaphysical speculation, including his own earlier, as conceptual confusion rather than an investigation of reality.

Although Ogden's translation does not use the word 'law', yet its second sentence ("And outside logic all is accident", meaning that it is not as it is by necessity; cf. 6.37: "The only kind of necessity is logical necessity") suggests that word.

That Wittgenstein had "laws of thought" in mind is shown by this, that "the limits of language" -- which are "the limits of thought" as well (Letter to Russell, 19 August 1919) -- are set by laws of nature, because what else could set those limits? They cannot be conventional, set by man, and therefore subject to flux -- not if they belong to the Wesen der Welt [5.4711] (the "essence of the world").

In the metaphysical world-picture of Wittgenstein's Tractatus, "language is a cage": Natural law determines what can be put into words that are not "nonsense", and what cannot. (This is Kant's topic: what sets the limits of thought?)

In contrast to Aristotle, who classifies logic ("Analytics") as a mere tool of philosophy, Wittgenstein in the TLP makes logic the basis of philosophy -- "The limits of the world are also the limits of logic" [5.61], and logic is thus what the philosophical understanding of the limits of language and the world rests on (namely, the study of natural law, or, necessity) and is built with (namely, the laws themselves, or, what is necessary).

So much then for the TLP's use of the word 'logic' -- for 'logic' = 'natural law', and 'logic' = 'the study of natural laws'. As Wittgenstein later used the word, and as I will use that word in what follows, 'logic' = 'conventions', 'rules' (as in Wittgenstein's later jargon, 'rules of grammar' = 'logic') as well as their study.

But logic is the basis of philosophy -- if by 'logic' is meant 'the distinction between sense and nonsense' (which I have christened 'logic of language' in these pages); it is not only the tool of critical thinking, although it is that too.

Philosophical. What does Wittgenstein mean by the word 'philosophical' in his title? In "Notes on Logic" (1913) he wrote, "Philosophy consists of logic and metaphysics: logic is its basis" (Notebooks 1914-1916, 2nd ed., tr. Anscombe), and originally the work was to be about logic rather than about "the world" (metaphysics) -- it was to be a Tractatus Logicus only. But on 2 August 1916 Wittgenstein wrote in his notebooks, "My work has extended from the foundations of logic to the nature of the world."

And so I think the present book could have been titled "Logical-metaphysical Treatise", because the TLP is a work of full-blown metaphysics: its project is to distinguish apparent reality ("the logic of our language is misunderstood") from reality itself. This is very different from Wittgenstein's later project in philosophy -- "A philosopher says: Look at things this way!" (CV p. 61), not how things "really" are.

Treatise. The TLP is a thoroughgoing exposition of both the principles and the conclusions of its topic (namely, the relationship between logic (necessity) and the world (accident) and the consequent limits of language and thought). That meaning of 'treatise' is implied by the book's Preface: "... the truth of the thoughts communicated here seems to me unassailable and definitive. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the problems have in essentials been finally solved" (tr. Ogden).

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Revision of the concept 'logic'. Wittgenstein uses the word 'nonsense' strangely in the TLP, for he defines -- not the way we normally use the word 'nonsense' -- but "what nonsense really is", which is the characteristic method of metaphysics, to seek "real definitions" of "abstractions". But does he also use the word 'logic' strangely?

The TLP's use of the word 'logic' is historically justifiable, because 'logic' = 'natural laws of thought' is the traditional use of that word (Kant's innate or natural categories of thought assumes it). It is Wittgenstein's later revision of the concept 'logic' that is non-traditional and strange.

Logical necessity. According to Wittgenstein's later view, logic is the study -- not of nature-imposed limits -- but of man-made rules (conventions), with this reservation: that they are more or less arbitrary rules. That is "the logic of our language", or, how it makes the distinction between sense and nonsense: Rules of "grammar" are the only "limits of language".

What is the source of logical necessity -- radical naturalism or radical conventionalism? The word 'radical' = 'thoroughgoing', and both views seem mistaken. Because that there is some vital relationship between general facts of nature and concept-formation (PI II, xii, p. 230) seems clear: language both is and is not a cage: it consists of conventions, some mere, but others apparently not (It does seem that some perception-conception and consequent rule-making is limited by man's nature).

Questions: Are our concepts more like the contours of a relief map (natural) or the lines on a political map (conventional)?


The riddles of poets

It was a riddling definition ... that Simonides gave after the manner of poets ... (Plato, Republic 332b-c, tr. Shorey)

I think I summed up my attitude to philosophy when I said: philosophy ought really to be written only as a poetic composition. (CV p. 24)

To write about Wittgenstein's earlier way of thinking, I have to use the tools of his later way of thinking, because I would be philosophically lost (PI § 123) without them. But why? because wouldn't I still have Socrates' method of asking for an account of what you know?

But that is a general method, to seek contradictions in any account of what anyone claims to know, to thereby accept or refute propositions. It is too general to serve by itself alone as a path out of the darkness. But to that I have added: (1) Wittgenstein's distinction between a conceptual and a factual investigation, that cannot be understood without (2) Wittgenstein's revised concept 'grammar' [Essential elements: the distinction between a sign and the meaning of a sign; the comparison of language to tools and work done with tools; the comparison of the meaning of language to rules of a game (as in "language-game"); and [very often] "the meaning of a word is its use in the language" (PI § 43)]. That contrasts with the unrevised account of the logic of our language (of how our language works), which basically is "Socratic definition" applied to all words, because, as in the TLP, all words are names and the meaning of a name is the object (whether physical or "abstract") the name stands for. [What Wittgenstein did was to set aside that way of looking at language.]

So elemental has Wittgenstein's distinction between a conceptual and a factual investigation become to my own way of thinking that without Wittgenstein's later logic of language, I would still be being battered about by conceptual confusion, as I was for so many years of my youth. (Of course things aren't all that clear now, but I do now have many tools to use towards making them clear, to "finding my way about" (ibid. § 123) philosophical problems.)


Outline of this page ...

Related pages:Wittgenstein at Cassino, an interlinear translation of selections from Franz Parak's Wittgenstein prigioniero a Cassino: Wittgenstein was held at the prisoner of war camp from November 1918 to August 1919; when he was taken prisoner he had in his knapsack the manuscript of his "Logical-philosophical Treatise", which was later published as the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. | If "everything speaks in its favor, nothing against it" (OC § 4), must the proposition be true? What did Wittgenstein mean by the word 'know' in the TLP: Do we not know that the sun will rise tomorrow [6.36311]?


The limits of language according to the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus - "Language is not a cage"

Anrennen gegen die Grenze der Sprache? Die Sprache ist ja kein Käfig. ("Running [Thrusting, Running up] against the limits of language? Language is not a cage.") (LE/Notes p. 14, 17 December 1930)

If the propositions of natural science are the limit of language -- i.e. the only type of language that is not nonsense [TLP 4.06, 6.53], then any attempt to say what is not a proposition of natural science is a "thrust against the limits" -- i.e. it is nonsense. And indeed that is what the TLP claims to be -- a book of nonsense: "My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless" (ibid. 6.54, tr. Ogden).

To define the word 'senseless' or 'nonsensical' in such a way as to make (i.e. classify) most discourse as nonsense -- i.e. all discourse other than that of the form "Such and such is the case. This is how things stand" -- declaring that to be the logic of our language, is the strange project in philosophy of the TLP.

(Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 4.5): "The general form of propositions is: This is how things are." -- That is the kind of proposition one repeats to oneself countless times. One thinks that one is tracing the outline of the thing's nature over and over again, and one is merely tracing round the frame through which we look at it. (PI § 114)

That frame is the only "cage". And therefore there is no cage, unless it is one created by our own way of looking at language, by our own way of thinking about language. Language itself is not of logical necessity a cage. (In the TLP language is by "real" necessity (cf. the notion "law of nature") a cage.)

Within the TLP's frame of reference, propositions about what is "the important part" of our life are nonsense. But only within that frame. (Note that the combination of words 'absolute frame of reference' is undefined.)

If the limit of language is -- concept-formation = frame-formation, then change the frame of reference. If the present conceptual frame is a cage, then change that frame for another. Or to use another metaphor: change the lens: we assume that we are looking through clear window glass, as if our "conceptual glass" had no properties that affected what we saw when we looked through it. (Or as if we thought the world must have the shape of the window frame through which we looked at it.)

It is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never occurs to us to take them off. (PI § 103)

(Wittgenstein later revised his view of the logic of our language, namely by saying that there is no essence ("general form") of language, but that language has many forms (which he describes as "language games"): "Instead of producing something common to all that we call language, I am saying that these phenomena have no one thing in common which makes us use the same word for all, -- but that they are related to one another in many different ways. And it is because of this relationship, or these relationships, that we call them all 'language'" (ibid. § 65). What distinguishes sense from nonsense varies by language-game: the TLP's statement of the essence of nonsense is discarded along with its statement of the essence (general form) of language.)

The structure of reality is the structure of the proposition

According to Wittgenstein at that time, even in an ordinary sense, a proposition -- and language, according to the TLP, consists essentially and exclusively of propositions (statements of fact) -- is essentially a picture of objects standing in relationships to one another [3.1431] ["the case" or "how things stand" is a constellation of simple (atomic) objects]. Wittgenstein's example for Parak: "If a book is on the table ..." states the relation between objects: the proposition is a picture of the relationship.

The essential nature of the propositional sign becomes very clear when we imagine it made up of spatial objects (such as tables, chairs, books) instead of written signs. The mutual spatial position of these things then expresses the sense of the proposition. (3.1431, tr. Ogden)

What language and the world have in common is a structure. We could picture that structure to be a Cartesian grid, a grid with addresses. A set of atomic objects and their addresses would be a "fact", a constellation of atomic objects, (in the TLP's jargon). And if we changed either the objects or their addresses, etc., that would be a different fact. The grid is what is constant; the grid is the structure that the world and language share (Language mirrors the world in this way -- that a proposition of language has (somehow) the same structure as a fact of the world: the proposition is a picture of a fact). That is the TLP's logic of language, I think.

Wittgenstein was reading in a magazine about a lawsuit in Paris concerning an automobile accident. At the trial a miniature model of the accident was presented before the court. [The physical model was a picture of the facts; it served as a proposition stating how things stood.] It has this function owing to the correspondence between the parts of the model (miniature-houses, -cars, -people) and things (houses, cars, people) in reality. [The parts of the model and the parts (i.e. words) of the proposition somehow correspond to one another. That is the essence of the relation between language and reality.] (von Wright, "Biographical Sketch", in Malcolm, Memoir 2e, p. 8)

But "essence belongs to grammar" (PI § 371) -- i.e. essence belongs to the frame, not to what is seen through the frame.

*

Note.-- Although it defines 'nonsense' differently, Wittgenstein's later project in philosophy too is based on a selected definition of 'meaning': "Let's only bother about what's called the explanation of meaning, and let's not bother about meaning in any other sense." (Wittgenstein's later meaning of 'meaning': the relation between rules of "grammar" and sense and nonsense.)

Every selection requires discretion -- i.e. choice -- and so at question is whether Wittgenstein's later account of our everyday concept 'linguistic meaning' is correct: whether his later account is too narrow to do the job it was chosen to do, as the TLP's account is too narrow an account of the logic of our language. The job it was chosen for is: to make the meaning (or absence of meaning [PI § 464]) of language in philosophical problems clear -- because philosophical problems should be where the selection "gets its light, that is to say its purpose" (ibid. § 109).

What was the purpose of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus? To separate the darkness ("the mystical") from the light ("what can be put into words"). It was to mark off the limits of propositions that are not "nonsense", as propositions about God, and ethical and aesthetic value are nonsense, because they are not propositions of natural science. The question was, as it was for the later Wittgenstein: what gives language (sounds, ink marks) its meaning? And the TLP's answer was: its being a picture of atomic facts. That was its "theory of meaning".

(A question: whether the TLP's theory was the result of an investigation -- i.e. the reasoned-to-conclusion or the foregone conclusion (the requirement not the result of an investigation) of that book? Was the Tractatus written to a thesis: was its argument circular? Did Wittgenstein set out to separate the darkness from the light -- or did he discover that distinction in the course of his investigation?)

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What is 'unsayable' versus What is 'undefined'

In our normal, everyday language, the expression 'what can be put into words' does not contrast with 'unsayable' -- it contrasts with 'undefined'. Of course our language does have expressions such as 'nameless longing', but they can be defined.

But by 'unsayable' in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein means any language other than the proposition type picturing-propositions -- i.e. "propositions" (strings of names) which are isomorphic pictures of "facts" (constellations of absolutely simple, atomic objects): This is the relation in which these objects stand to one another is the "general form of a proposition" [4.5] and the essence of language, although the form of our everyday language may hide this from us [4.002, 4.0031 (But was it Russell or Plato who invented "logical form"?)].

To break through the walls of this cage is "absolutely hopeless" (LE p. 12), and philosophers must give up trying to state propositions about aesthetics and ethics, God and the riddle of life, because such propositions do not belong to the language of natural science [4.06] and therefore they are nonsense. They try to put into words what cannot be put into words -- i.e. to say what is not "sayable" but "unsayable".

[Cf. Saying and Showing in Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.]

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Note: in the following discussions, I imply (1) that 'names of atomic objects' are names of absolutely simple things (PI § 48) perceived by the senses as likewise simple sense data, or at least (2) that constellations ("atomic facts") of these are -- although the TLP gives no examples of either atomic objects or atomic facts, nor of simple sense data. (The proposition Wittgenstein gave Franz Parak as an illustration does not seem to state an "atomic fact" [TLP 2.0, 2.01], nor a book to be an "object" [2.02]; maybe the proposition states a relationship between atomic facts.)

But Wittgenstein does not say that those "things" ("unknowns" really), or constellations of things, are perceived by the senses, nor does he ask whether they are. He thought at the time (as he told Malcolm) that this question is not for philosophy but for the science of experimental psychology to answer.

And Wittgenstein does not say that aesthetic and ethical value, and God, lie outside the world of atomic facts because they are not perceived by the senses to be among those facts. Is it not quite the contrary? That they lie outside the world is a deduction from his earlier definitions and premisses: For if the TLP's account of logic and its relationship to the world is independent of verification by sense perception, then that aesthetic and ethical value, and God, do not show themselves within the limits of the world must be knowable a priori, surely? (Whence the TLP's category "what is higher"?)

If "the world is all that is the case" [1] and "what is the case is the existence of atomic facts" [2], then the sense of the world must lie outside the world [6.41] -- indeed, the sense of everything must lie outside "the world". Because Wittgenstein's "atomic facts" -- if they are known to man as sense data -- do they have meaning (sense) in themselves -- or are they percepts without concepts? Are concepts, then, the sense of the things in "the world"?

In his Notebooks 1914-1916, Wittgenstein wrote, "How things stand, is God. God is, how things stand" (1 August 1916) -- now, is that the "undefined combination of words" type of nonsense, or the TLP type of nonsense (It is not a picture drawn using the language of classical mechanics)? Is it a concept applied to the-world-as-percept [cf. "the world is a limited whole" 6.45]? (Russell's and Frege's geometric heaven is "on the other side of the sky", with Plato's Forms -- i.e. not in "the world".)

Frege's response to the TLP ("unsayable" because incomprehensible)

How is the expression 'the world' normally used in philosophy? Responding to the TLP Frege wrote to Wittgenstein: "You see, from the very beginning [from the very first page] I find myself tangled in doubt as to what it is you want to say and can make no headway with it" (Letter of 28 June 1919, in Waugh (2008), p. 145, 301).

Wittgenstein wrote to Russell [R.37 dated 19 August 1919] "I also sent my M.S. to Frege. He wrote to me a week ago and I gather that he doesn't understand a word of it at all".

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Although he told Frank Ramsey (20 September 1923) that it was the result of seven years of thought, Wittgenstein's Tractatus is a youthful work built on a non-existent natural sciences foundation. In the world-picture of the TLP, "the world" is for the natural sciences to investigate, because logic (philosophy) is not concerned with empirical questions, because what is subject to law is not accidental (random) [6.3], which is what empirical facts ("what happens to be the case") are.

A proposition (assertion of an atomic fact) is a concatenation [4.22] -- that is, a string (like boxcars on a railway track) -- of names of objects ["The essence of language is the putting together of names of objects" is the idea, an idea which Plato criticised in Sophist 261e-262a in which he says that a proposition consists of names and verbs, never just one or the other]. But Wittgenstein never says what these objects are. 'A book is on the table' is an empirical proposition and seems to be a "proposition of natural science", but 'book' in the TLP's jargon does not mean an instance of what everyone calls by the common name-of-object word 'book', not if the word 'book' names an atomic object -- and if it names an atomic fact, an atomic fact is only a relationship among atomic objects (which stand like stars in a constellation) -- and no one knows what atomic objects "look like".

An "atomic fact" -- from the point of view of perception -- is a relationship among absolutely simple sense-impressions. But what these sense data are, like what atomic objects are, is left for natural science to determine, as is what the absolutely simple sense datum correlated to any particular atomic object is. Because questions about perceptions of the world are empirical questions -- i.e. questions about "what is the case" [1.21, 6.37].

And that is the TLP's non-existent foundation: the atomic objects and absolutely simple sense data which it presumes but of which natural science knows nothing. Wittgenstein later thought that presumption absurd (Malcolm, Memoir (1984), p. 70).

[What do the Tractatus' "propositions of natural science" look like? Are they what we normally call statements of fact? No, because in the TLP, Wittgenstein does not use the word 'fact' as we normally do, for we do not normally define the word 'fact' as 'a concatenation of atomic objects'. Questions such as "By 'proposition' does Wittgenstein mean an assertion verifiable by means of direct sense perception?" cannot therefore arise, because we know neither how nor even if atomic objects are perceived. (Years ago I conjectured about what the TLP's "propositions of natural science" might look like: one possibility, I thought.)]

*

On the one hand, only what "can be put into words" can be thought. But on the other hand, Wittgenstein says in the Preface to his book that "thoughts are expressed" in it. But those thoughts are "nonsense" thoughts [6.54] and should not have been thought at all [7], indeed, given that they are "nonsense", not put-able into words, they could not have been thought. (Is that merely a caricature of Wittgenstein's book -- am I wrong in seeing this as the way the TLP abuses language?)

Most propositions and questions, that have been written about philosophical matters, are not false, but senseless. We cannot, therefore, answer questions of this kind at all, but only state their senselessness. Most questions and propositions of the philosophers result from the fact that we do not understand the logic of our language. (TLP 4.003, tr. Ogden)

Wittgenstein writes that someone who understands him "finally recognizes" the propositions of his book as "senseless" (6.54) -- i.e. that its language is nonsense. But does that mean that the TLP's author himself does "not understand the logic of our language"? Or is it because of his understanding it that he is able to use "senseless" language to show others what he understands, namely, what the logic of our language is?

Again, as countless times before: To call language that conveys meaning 'nonsense' or 'senseless' is utterly eccentric, if not itself nonsense. Because if language that conveys meaning is nonsense, then what is language that does not convey meaning?

In TLP 4.112: Wittgenstein sets out his view of what philosophy is, but the TLP does not seem to be an instance of that project in philosophy. The Tractatus seems to me disjointed at points like this. But maybe that is only because I don't know it well.

*

The Pythagoreans defined 'point' as: a unit with position. Those "points" are Wittgenstein's "atomic objects", and the Pythagoreans' "objects" (solid bodies composed of points alone) are Wittgenstein's "facts". [See reality is number, in Philosophy of Geometry.]

If "the world" consists of "things" (atomic objects) standing in relation to other "things", like stars in a constellation, then the world must be mapped, as with a Cartesian grid, if it is to be intelligible. And then the question becomes: Where is the origin of that grid? and the answer is found in this, that "the world is my world" [5.641] -- that is, I, "the metaphysical-I" [5.633], am positioned as the origin of the grid.

The simplest proposition, the elementary proposition, asserts the existence of an atomic fact [i.e. of "a combination of objects" (2.01); "The object is simple." (2.02)].... The elementary proposition consists of names. It is a connection, a concatenation, of names [of objects]." (4.21, 4.22; tr. Ogden)

In an ideal language, which our everyday language isn't, each atomic object would be identified by a unique name. [There is elsewhere discussion (or explanation of meaning) of the topics sign versus symbol, rules of grammar, ideal language and reform of language, in the context of Wittgenstein's earlier and later philosophy.]

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Or maybe "language is a cage"

"Language is not a cage", Wittgenstein told Waismann (LE/Notes), 17 December 1930. From which it should follow that if anything can't be said, it is only because we are unwilling to make rules that would allow it to be said. As for example Wittgenstein's statement about "absolute value":

I would reject a priori any explanation of meaning on the very grounds that it was an explanation of meaning. (Cf. LE p. 11)

If the eternal questions without answers can't be answered, why can't they be answered?

If a proposition, a combination of words, is vague in meaning, it is because we ourselves have chosen not to make rules that would make its meaning clear.

As to trying to know "what can't be known" -- Why "can't" it be known? If a proposition is unverifiable, it is because "we ourselves made it unverifiable" (Z § 259) -- by not setting grammatical criteria for how it is to be verified.

The limits of language are where we place them; there are no limits except those of the "grammar" we accept or can invent (i.e. describe the practice of following). Imagination is the only limit of concept-formation = logical possibility.

On the other hand, the following remark seems to suggest that maybe in Wittgenstein's view, language is indeed a cage. (Although, again, it may be that only conventions, rather than facts of nature, form the walls of that cage.)

The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of plain [in contrast to disguised (PI § 464)] nonsense and of bumps that the understanding has got by running its head up against the limits of language. (ibid. § 119)

But, on the other hand, the remark that "different concepts would seem natural if some very general facts of nature were different" and "we can always invent fictitious language-games" (cf. ibid. II, xii, p. 230) appears to suggest that language is not a cage.

The facts that can account for concept-formation

That language is a cage -- i.e. that the limits of language are imposed by general facts of nature -- is the older, the TLP view. But what is Wittgenstein's later view? "Let's only bother about explanations of meaning" (PG i § 32, p. 69) -- that is to say: with describing the conventions of language, its grammar or rules of use -- i.e. with the limits of language in that sense of 'limits' only -- without regard to whether those conventions are imposed on us by general facts of nature or not. (The grammatical versus the natural limits of language.)

If the formation of concepts can be explained by facts of nature, shouldn't we be interested, not in grammar, but rather in that in nature which is the basis of grammar? (PI II, xii, p. 230) [But] this description gets its light, that is to say its purpose, from the philosophical problems. These are, of course, not empirical problems; they are solved, rather, by looking into the workings of our language ... (ibid. § 109) ... we are not doing ... natural history -- since we can also invent fictitious natural history for our purposes. (ibid. p. 230)

Accounting for concept-formation is not Wittgenstein's project in his later work in philosophy. Should it have been, as it was with Kant and Plato? What is the relation between our concepts and the natural world -- but how important is that relation to Wittgenstein's work of clarification of meaning in philosophy ( CV p. 19 [MS 154 15v: 1931], TLP 4.112)?


The meaning of 'nonsense' in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Preliminary: Wittgenstein does not say that only propositions that can be verified by the senses have sense. But it is implied -- because surely that is exactly what the propositions of natural science are: propositions that can be objectively verified by experience, propositions that can be verified at some point by the five senses:

"Every scientific hypothesis, if it is to be meaningful, must be begotten of observation and give birth to verifiable predictions. And these initial observations and subsequent verifications must be capable of being described in terms of immediate sensory perceptions." (M. O'C. Drury, "Fact and Hypothesis")

So that even if verification is not spoken of in the context of sense and nonsense, the presumption that it gives language sense is present in the background of the TLP's picture of how our language works -- i.e. of what the logic of our language is.

Wittgenstein told Malcolm that when he wrote the TLP he thought it was the task -- not to logic-philosophy -- but to the natural sciences to determine what the TLP's "objects" ("logical atoms") are. But how could natural science do that except through objective experience, which is to say verifiable by the senses experience? Or what would Wittgenstein have meant by 'the language of natural science' -- Is not the language-that-is-not-nonsense model of the TLP the language of classical mechanics? (I am asking, not telling.)

Question: can there be sense without reference in the TLP's account of "the logic of our language"? or is sense without reference nonsense? (Cf. the title of Frege's essay "Sense and Reference" (1892))

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What is the meaning of the word 'nonsense' in Wittgenstein's book? Here is one possibility, and if it were correct, it would make Wittgenstein's meaning clearer. In the TLP, 'nonsense' means 'sense-less' -- i.e. 'independent of (not tethered to, but floating free of) the five senses'.

And that there are important things that cannot be perceived by the five senses is shown by all is "non-sense" -- e.g. ethics and aesthetics and religious faith -- in our life. (This also shows the neither language nor "the world" is what is important: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world" [5.6], but the limits neither of what is important in reality nor of in life, e.g. "... all that music has meant in my life.")

The "mystical" is non-sense. It "cannot be put into words" [6.522] that are not nonsense, because words with sense are names of atomic objects (or atomic facts) that are correlated to sense data. And any word that is not that type of name is nonsense.

"... what lies on the other side of the limit will be simply nonsense." ("Preface", tr. Ogden; that limit would, I think, be the limit set by the five senses)

By the word 'nonsense', then, the TLP would mean any linguistic sign [6.53] that is "mere sound without sense" -- with the words 'without sense' here given the meaning 'not dependent on the five senses'.

Because by the word 'nonsense', the TLP cannot mean language that is "an unmeaning sound like the noise of hammering at a brazen pot" (Plato, Cratylus 430a, tr. Jowett). Because if it did, then the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus itself would be mere noise -- which it is not, for indeed Wittgenstein compares his work to a ladder [6.54] that can be climbed, whereas nothing whatever is communicated by undefined combinations of words. (And thus the observation that "nonsense" that can convey meaning is after all not nonsense. That is the fundamental flaw in the TLP's account of the logic of our language.)

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The Recovery of Philosophy

Philosophy consists of logic and metaphysics ... (Notebooks 1914-1916, 1913)

We feel that even if all possible scientific questions can be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course then there is no question left, and just this is the answer. (TLP 6.52, tr. Ogden; see also TLP 4.003)

There is no question left because the only language that is not nonsense is "the language of natural science". And that is the only "of course" about this -- i.e. one proposition is derived from other propositions (OC § 1). But thus nothing "metaphysical" [6.53] or "ethical" [6.42] can be said -- i.e. put into words that are not nonsense -- and thus all philosophy except logic is impossible, were it not that the language of logic is also nonsense. (Another word for 'metaphysical' (broadly taken) in the TLP is 'mystical'.)

The primacy of the proposition

Philosophy's concern is above all for propositions, because it is only a proposition can be true or false, and philosophy seeks to know the truth (in logic, ethics, and metaphysics). The difficulty is that propositions are not all of a kind: "the kind of verification is the kind of language-game" (cf. PI II, xi, p. 224): there are in the grammar of our language many proposition-types, not only the natural science type.

"Because all words are names of perceptible objects, language can only talk about what can be perceived, and because ethics and God are not perceptible, language cannot talk about them." That does not seem terribly profound, even if it were true (much less if it weren't nonsense). That is, there may be insightful remarks in the TLP, but its picture of language is not one of them.

Socratic Ethics

And yet, die Wundersind geblieben as well as the language to express it in, as Wittgenstein later acknowledged. (Cf. Frank Ramsey's notes apropos, about a thinker Russell called "a very singular man".)

In other words, as part of "The riddle [that] doesn't exist" [6.5] but does, ethics, also remains. And it remains as part of philosophy, if philosophy is rational, which it is. For if ethics begins, as Socrates does, with the Delphic precept "Know thyself" and seeks to know the excellence (above all the "moral virtue") that is proper to man, it discovers what the good for man is, and thus how man should live his life (i.e. in accord with that good) -- then Wittgenstein's question in (non-philosophical) ethics (non-philosophical because it is not a thoroughgoing use of reason) about "absolute value" doesn't even arise.

Or again, if ethics begins, as Plato does in the Republic, by contrasting what the good man does with what the evil man does, and asks rhetorically, "If the good man harms his enemies, then what does the evil man do", it sees that the good man harms no one -- then Wittgenstein's question about "absolute value" (which is, I think, in any case a religious rather than a philosophical notion) doesn't even arise. [About 'tautology' as defined in the TLP.]

On Wittgenstein's account, the subject of ethics is "absolute value", but as the above discussion of Socratic ethics shows, that need not be the case. The concept 'value' is not essential to ethics.

When two principles really do meet which cannot be reconciled with one another, then each man declares the other a fool and heretic. (OC § 611)

That is not the result of an investigation. Wittgenstein seems to me too ready to say it. "There is no disputing values." (Seneca about taste)

That metaphysical propositions are not verifiable -- i.e. are not propositions of natural science -- does not strip them of their use in our language (Malcolm, Memoir (1984), p. 55). An incomparable picture is nevertheless a picture.

All of which has the result that, contrary to Wittgenstein's view, Philosophy consists of logic, ethics, and metaphysics, and logic of language is its tool (and "a mind, too", which I doubt more and more that I have).

And so it is not to be wondered at that the deepest problems are really no problems. (4.003, tr. Ogden)

Where science must come to a halt, where its progress is barred by unsurmountable barriers, there begins the realm of art which knows how to express that which will ever remain a closed book to scientific knowledge. I Rektor magnificus of the University of Vienna, bow humbly before the former assistant teacher of Windhaag. (Adolf Exner, January 1892, quoted in Hans-Hubert Schönzeler's Bruckner, rev. ed. 1978, p. 99; at Windhaag in 1841-1843, beyond teaching in the school and playing the organ in church, Bruckner had been made to work in the fields after school, fetch and carry and spread manure (p. 25))

Music does not come in at the limit of scientific knowledge, as a sort of supplement. Nor is their relationship reversed. Music and science do not have a linear relationship (It is not a question of which comes before the other, as with Aristotle's meta-physics), nor have they a parallel relationship. In fact they are discontinuous: they have no relationship at all: "... will ever remain a closed book". But likewise scientific knowledge will ever remain a closed book to music.

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"The limits of my world"

Question: why does Wittgenstein say "the limits of my world" rather than "the limits of our world"? It suggests that every man lives in his own world, unable to know the world. Is the world, then, the totality of propositions of natural science? Since "the world" of the TLP is the subject of natural science only, it appears that 'the world' ≠ 'reality' in that book, for otherwise there could be no "the mystical"? (The press and the opposite of Wittgenstein's meaning, I think.)

In fact what solipsism means, is quite correct, only it cannot be said, but shows itself ["makes itself manifest"]. (5.62, tr. Ogden [tr. Pears, McGuinness])

But if it cannot be said, then how is it that Wittgenstein is saying it? Because in the jargon the Tractatus, the word 'said' = 'put into the language of natural science', and 'Solipsism is correct' is not that proposition type. It is "nonsense" that apparently is not nonsense -- i.e. meaningless.

And if solipsism is correct, then why isn't the TLP's first proposition: "My world is all that is the case"? Because if solipsism is correct, then what do I know beyond the existence of my world -- indeed, I have no reason to suppose there is anything beyond it. What do I know of "the world" -- unless 'the world' simply means 'my world'? (An hypothesis to account for the text: the world is the totality of facts; my world is the facts I know. Or, in other words, 'the world' means the all the propositions of natural science which are true, whereas 'my world' means the subset of those facts which I myself have language for.)

That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the limits of the language (the language which I understand ["of that language which alone I understand"]) means the limits of my world. (ibid.)

What has history to do with me? Mine is the first and only world! (Notebooks 1914-1916, 2 September 1916)

But what is this language that is the only language I understand? If it is not the language of natural science, then it is nonsense. So, then, the more natural science someone knows the more extended the limits of his thought, language and world are [TLP 3.01, 4.001]? Is that Wittgenstein's meaning here? (The word 'world' in the TLP.)

Well, but Wittgenstein says knowledge of "the world" is knowledge of "what is lower" [ibid. 6.432], meaning that it is not "the important part" to know. Indeed, the part that is important to know is the part that cannot be "said" -- i.e. the language of which is "nonsense".

What is the relation between "the mystical", "the world", and reality -- that is, among those concepts in the TLP?

Question: if the limits of language are the limits of the world, then does "the world" include God, ethics, aesthetics (music, the appreciation of art), love? and everything else which according to the TLP we cannot talk about, cannot put into words, but must pass over in silence?

Is all that -- are all those things not part of the world? Then 'world' apparently doesn't equal 'reality'. The limits of my language are not the limits of reality.

The TLP concerns itself only with the limits of language ("the logic of our language is misunderstood") -- i.e. with the island that is the "world" (Engelmann's metaphor), not with the vast ocean beyond it (but that ocean is just as real -- i.e. just as much part of reality; indeed, that ocean, "the mystical", is the important part of reality, in Wittgenstein's view) --, which is determined by language's relation to the world. What "cannot be put into words" = "what cannot be pictured" belongs neither to the world nor to my language (the essence of language being to picture: we make for ourselves picture-models of the facts [Engelmann, Memoir p. 100; TLP 2.1]).

How can I understand nonsense -- i.e. what gives "nonsense" language its meaning? and what is its meaning, because it does not consist of names of atomic objects or atomic facts? For it must be that I am able to understand it -- because the TLP is itself a book of "nonsense" -- and we can neither construct nor climb a ladder [ibid. 6.54] -- i.e. derive meaning from -- undefined combinations of words.

That there are different proposition types is an essential logic of language insight, but to call all proposition types except the natural-science type 'nonsense' is simply to rename the name-of-object versus name-of-abstract-objectdistinction, calling the latter "nonsense language" rather than "abstract language". And so the question becomes, What gives "nonsense" = "abstract language" its meaning? And now we have arrived at the first sentence of Wittgenstein's The Blue Book and at "Wittgenstein's logic of language".

"... it must be that I am able to understand it." But what is the word 'understand' to mean here? Because as we normally use the word 'nonsense', language that can be understood is not nonsense. Just the contrary.

Does Wittgenstein use the word 'world' ambiguously?

If good or bad willing changes the world, it can only change the limits of the world, not the facts; not the things that can be expressed in language.... The world of the happy is quite another than that of the unhappy. (6.43, tr. Ogden)

I find this incoherent. Aren't "the facts" the limits of the world -- for remember "The world is everything that is the case. The world is the totality of facts" (1.0, 1.1)? But man's attitude towards the facts does not change the facts, and so how can it change the limit of the facts -- namely "the world"? And "The world and life are one" [5.621] -- eh? what happened to "all music has meant in my life" -- as well as all that aesthetic and ethical value and God have "meant in my life"?

But if A shows itself, then isn't what A shows the meaning of A?

In the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, a "nonsense" combination of words such as 'ethical and aesthetic value' [6.42, 6.421], 'the higher' [6.432] or 'that the world exists' [6.44] must have meaning in some sense of the word 'meaning'. But it is meaning that cannot be "put into words" -- meaning that no one can "give an account" of to be put to the test in Socratic dialectic. But instead it is a meaning which mysteriously, unaccountably, shows itself (As if emphasizing the word 'shows' made anything clearer).

But how, then, do we know -- if we can know -- whether something does or does not show a meaning? For instance, is it possible for "what is higher" to show a meaning to some people only and not to others -- and how do we know whether someone sees what-is-shown rather than a mere illusion? (As with Wittgenstein's metaphor "family resemblances" that leaves the word 'family' undefined, there is no defined difference between 'showing' and 'not-showing'.)

The "connection between grammar and sense and nonsense" (BB p. 65) in Wittgenstein's later logic of language (which might be characterized as prescriptive: "Look at language this way!", because there are many meanings of 'meaning') is essentially public: any grammatical "account" is public and therefore objective -- and thus explanations of meaning can be put to the test of Socratic dialectic. But the TLP simply ignores any question of verification, of How do you know? It makes no distinction between mysticism and self-mystification.

In contrast to the TLP's meaning of 'nonsense', Wittgenstein's later definition of the word 'nonsense' (PI § 500) corresponds to our normal use of that word when by 'nonsense' we mean 'an undefined word' or 'an undefined combination of words', which is Aristotle's "mere sound without sense" (like the "music" of a weather harp). There are as many meanings of the word 'meaningless' as there are of the word 'meaning' -- but not all are useful to the philosophical understanding.

Note that Wittgenstein's later meaning of 'nonsense' is utterly different from that word's meaning when by 'nonsense' we mean 'foolishness' or 'absurdity' and by 'senseless' we mean 'foolish' or 'absurd'. -- For instance, the "nonsense verse" of Lewis Carroll's Alice books (PI §§ 13, 282), however absurd that verse may be, is not what is meant by the word 'nonsense' in Wittgenstein's later account of the logic of our language (at least according to my account of it).

[The German words sinnlos and Unsinn are used the same way as the English words 'senseless' and 'nonsense'.]

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Final characterization of the TLP

The relation between Wittgenstein's Tractatus and his later work can be described in Wittgenstein's own words: His early work in philosophy is an example of the metaphysical speculation of those philosophers who mistake conceptual investigations for investigations of reality (RPP i § 949). For the use of the word 'nonsense' in the TLP is nothing more than Wittgenstein's jargon: it is not, as he thought it was at the time, an insight into the essence of language and language's connection to "the world".

The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is a book to be studied by the light of what followed it -- namely, Wittgenstein's later work in philosophy. (And, in some sense, vice versa -- See the "Preface" to Philosophical Investigations: "... that the latter [book] could be seen in the right light only by contrast with and against the background of my old way of thinking".)

"All that music has meant in my life"

What is my understanding of Sraffa's (if my memory doesn't fail me about whose words these are, and it does, because they are Frank Ramsey's words and they do not appear to be apropos of Wittgenstein) criticism of the Tractatus, that "If you can't say it, you can't whistle it either" (Wittgenstein was a talented whistler)? Question: According to the TLP, is music nonsense (in that book's sense of the word 'nonsense')?

Of course there is a science of sound because sound does show itself "in the world". -- But it "is possible to be interested in a phenomenon in a variety of ways" (PI § 108), and what interests here is not the science, but the art of music as a manifestation of "what is higher". Is this aspect of music "nonsense" that can show what words cannot say? But in this case, we would not say: "But "nonsense" that can convey meaning is not after all what anyone calls 'nonsense' -- and if you can whistle a meaning, then you can also put that meaning into words." No, not in this case. And so it may be strange that Wittgenstein lists God and ethical and aesthetic value, but not music as an example in his book.

It is impossible for me to say one word in my book about all that music has meant in my life; how then can I possibly make myself understood? (DW p. xiv; cf. Recollections p. 160)

Natural science may know all about the physics and psychology of sound, but it knows nothing about music, about "all that music has meant in my life".

One day we discussed the development of his thought and he said to me ... "My fundamental ideas came to me very early in life" ... I think perhaps the remark that Wittgenstein made, that after his conversations with Sraffa he felt like a tree with all its branches lopped off, has been misinterpreted. Wittgenstein chose his metaphors with great care, and here he says nothing about the roots or the main trunk of the tree, these -- his fundamental ideas -- remain I believe unchanged. (DW p. ix)

The question is how to decide which ideas were fundamental, whether Drury's belief that Wittgenstein's idea that (1) there are natural (not man-imposed) limits of language [4.115], and that (2) beyond those limits lies what cannot be put into words [(clearly) 4.116], but that (3) nonetheless shows itself: "it is the mystical" [6.522] -- was for Wittgenstein a fundamental idea or not.

The meaning of 'nonsense' in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus versus the meaning of nonsense in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. And this is it, that in the TLP, nonsense -- i.e. nonsensical language -- has meaning. (To be nonsense -- to be a proposition "without sense" -- means to be a non-empirical proposition. Nothing more. Nothing else.)


"Religious language is not metaphorical"

Die Reden der Religion sind auch kein Gleichnis; denn sonst müßte man es auch in Prosa sagen können. ("Religious language is not metaphorical; for you must be able to restate metaphors in prose.") (LE/Notes, 17 December 1930, p. 14)

... in ethical and religious language we seem constantly to be using similes. But a simile must be a simile for something. And if I can describe a fact by means of a simile I must also be able to drop the simile and to describe the facts without it. Now in [the case of ethical and religious language] as soon as we try to drop the simile and simply to state the facts which stand behind it, we find that there are no such facts. And so, what at first appeared to be a simile now seems to be mere nonsense. (LE, p. 10)

'God is like a father.' That combination of words has the form of a simile -- but it does not have the use (meaning) of one -- because we cannot "drop the simile and simply to state the facts which stand behind it"?

But what is Wittgenstein asking be done? "No father gives his son a stone when he asks for bread" (Luke 11.11), and your Father in Heaven is like that.

But a statement that "simply states the facts" can be verified or falsified (That is what we mean by calling a proposition a 'statement of fact', that it can be put to the test? No, not in all cases; 'I have toothache' is an counter-example). -- But there is no test for Jesus' teaching: it is not a factual proposition -- and therefore it is not a simile, because all similes are statements of fact: "A is, or A is not, like B in such-and-such way"?

A simile can be put to the test; a religious proposition cannot? But Frederick Copleston says of the proposition 'God loves mankind' that it does exclude something -- and, indeed, mustn't it exclude something if it isn't to be nonsense ("Either A is, or A is not")? But what does it exclude -- that man comes to harm rather than benefit? But it does not exclude that, does it. But without some test "what at first appeared to be a simile now seems to be mere nonsense"?

In the religious context Schweitzer said that the proposition 'God is the father' is "a thought of God's" that man can no more understand that a goat can understand man's thoughts. But where is the difference between 'incomprehensible' and 'nonsense' here?

Although, is that the only possible test -- i.e. the only possible meaning of Jesus' saying, that man does not come to harm? Or isn't that the question: What is the meaning of Jesus' saying if it is -- as it apparently is -- not the obvious one?

Earlier I asked: "Without Jesus, what life would the picture of God as the father have? Without the force of Jesus' personality, it would be dismissed as a falsehood ..." But isn't that a function of which meaning we assign to Jesus' words?

Can you really say that, in religion unclarity is not a blunder?

Religious-propositions (Proposition type)

How can we restate 'God is the father' in prose? Well we can't, can we. I say "a comparison, an analogy is made and that analogy defines the statement". But does the definition also state that the picture 'God is the father' is not to be compared with our experience of the world? But does that "is not to be" belong to grammar -- i.e. is a comparison proscribed (forbidden by the rules of the game)? Can we say that verification-falsification is logically impossible (i.e. not describable)?

No, we can't say that (It would not be true to say that). The prohibition is made by piety: "You mustn't put God to the test." Jesus' saying that God is the father is an act of faith ("words are deeds" (CV p. 46)). Trust God that it is so.

As, I think (this is its meaning), Wittgenstein wrote in his Notebooks 1914-1916, "To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning" (8 July 1916), or as, in any case, I once wrote: Faith in God is faith that life has a sense, and that it is a good not an evil sense: "You could also say that by the word 'God' I mean 'life's meaning', and of course I believe that meaning is good not terrible."

Pregare è pensare al senso della vita. "To pray is to think about the meaning of life." (Notebooks 1914-1916, 11 June 1916)

Then do we want to call 'God is the father' an exemplar of a proposition type, a religious-proposition? What is defining of this type of proposition is not that these propositions are unverifiable-falsifiable -- but that their use excludes putting them to the test of experience. (They are thus unlike the "questions without answers" I describe -- because there is no religious prohibition against answering the latter.)

Does 'use' = 'grammar' here? If any explanation of the use of language, if everything descriptive of the "language-game", belongs to grammar, then Yes. Because if you don't follow that rule, either you don't play the game at all or you play it wrong [OC §§ 662, 446]. Nonetheless, it is a very strange rule of grammar, incomparable, as it were, really to other described types. (Grammar and piety.)

Surely 'God created man' is not a restatement in prose of Michelangelo's ceiling fresco (cf. LC p. 63), which would be the "poetry" (metaphor) to be restated. (Should the same be said apropos of the side fresco, the Last Judgment, that it is not restated in prose by 'He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead'? About this picture I am less clear.)

As to the proposition 'God forgives man's sins', there is no empirical measurement of this (The language of measurement is here undefined) -- but does that make the proposition an undefined combination of words? But why shouldn't the proposition be said not to be a simile? For how would it be restated in prose -- Isn't it already prose?

Or should I say that 'God forgives man's sins' = 'God is like the human judge who pardons men their wrong-doing'? Is that the proposition's "logical form" (Russell)? A proposition's logical form is the form that makes its grammar (use in the language) clear. It is not as it were what the proposition really is. (The concept 'logical form' is, after all, a tool invented for our use, not a metaphysical insight.)

In this case the simile form appears to make the proposition's grammar clear: it shows that we are making a comparison between God and a human judge, just as elsewhere we make a comparison between God and a human father. But when is being a simile not being metaphorical ....

If 'God created the world' is neither a statement of fact nor a simile, then how shall its proposition type be defined? We cannot simply call it a life-guiding "picture", because of pictures that guide our life there may be many types (some either are or are akin to statements of fact). About religious pictures, it does seem that they are both like and not like similes -- i.e. that they are defined by making analogies, but are forbidden to be verified or falsified by projection (i.e. comparison of the picture to the world of experience).

But we mustn't generalize based on a very few cases only

Because on the other hand, if we define the proposition type 'religious language' that way, then we have some examples in mind -- but not others. Because does that definition fit cases such as 'I believe there will be a Last Judgment', cases where nothing is grammatically forbidden. (If indeed there would be anything to forbid, because it is not logically possible (Just try to describe how) to put the proposition 'There will be a Last Judgment' to the empirical test.)

What we have defined (given a descriptive account of) above is but one type of religious proposition -- not the essence of religious propositions.

Belief in God versus Belief that God exists

The proposition 'God exists' can be empirically falsified by the existence of evil in our world -- if that is the criterion of verification we set for that proposition, treating it as if it were an empirical hypothesis.

The argument against the thesis may take this form: (1) God must, by definition, be all-good, and (2) because to be all-good is, by definition, to do and make what is good only, (3) whatever is created by God must also be good. (4) But from the ethical point of view, much of the Creation is cruelly evil. (5) Therefore, God does not exist, if by 'God' is meant 'the Creator of all that is', which is its normal meaning.

'I believe in God' seems to entail belief that God exists. But because the word 'exist' might mean countless things, that remark makes nothing clearer.

There is a distinction between the religious proposition 'I believe in God' and the non-religious proposition of the Natural Theology (i.e. questions about God without reference to revelation) of Metaphysics [-- whether with regard to "the God of the philosophers" or to Bonhoeffer's "God as a working-hypothesis" or Deus ex machina, which is akin to a pseudo-physics --] 'There is a God', where disproof of 'God exists' is logically possible -- i.e. both definable and allowed. Likewise proofs by empirical evidence are distinguished from proofs by divine theology (i.e. questions about God with reference to revelation).

But it would be the rare individual indeed who says 'I believe in God' without being aware of the existence of evil.

It is not grammatically forbidden -- i.e. it is not, according to some divine theologies, an impious deed -- to say 'I believe in God, but when I see so much suffering I am not without doubts'.

What is described may have nothing to do with what someone who says 'I believe in God' means by that profession. A straw-man -- i.e. what no believer means by 'belief in God' -- often stands in the way of understanding religious belief.

See the example stated above: 'I believe in God' = 'I have faith that life has a sense, that its sense is good rather than evil, although I don't know what its sense is'. That proposition is not put to any test, and indeed "The point is that if there were evidence, this would in fact destroy the whole business" (LC p. 56) -- i.e. there would be no concept 'religion' (and thus no religious propositions); there might be a concept 'superstition' (cf. 'magic') if it were a question of evidence, but not our concept 'religion'.

What is the grammar of religious propositions of the form 'I believe in ...'?

Is the definition of that proposition type connected to consequences for the way the believer lives his life -- i.e. is having a particular type of consequence defining of religious belief (I mean of our concept 'religious belief')?

Is that what we normally mean by saying that someone believes something, that he acts in a way that is different from how he would act if he did not believe?

Question: What is the "logical form", the "philosophical grammar', of the proposition 'I believe in God'?

The proposition 'I believe in God' is not a metaphor. Or is there a restatement in prose that would make that proposition's meaning clear?

The concept 'religious belief' -- i.e. the grammar of the expression 'religious belief' -- is interconnected with concepts such as 'piety' (See "definition by related concepts"). Focusing on a particular word or form of expression may be an obstacle to the understanding.

The declarative sentence and logical form

Bertrand Russell's concept 'philosophical grammar' = "logical form" makes a distinction between syntax and meaning, and rewrites forms of expression in a way that makes their obscured-by-an-inappropriate-syntax meaning clear. An example Wittgenstein gives is the declarative sentence 'It is God's will' rewritten as the command 'Do not grumble!'.

Now why am I so anxious to keep apart these ways of using "declarative sentences"? ... It is simply an attempt to see that every usage [Art = "kind", "type", "sort"] gets its due. Perhaps then a reaction against the overestimation of science. The use of the word "science" for "everything that can be said without nonsense" already betrays this over-estimation.

But of course the words "see that they get their due" & "overestimation" express my point of view.

The philosopher says "Look at things like this!" (CV (1998 rev. ed.) [MS 134 143: 13.-14.4.1947])

A command -- (like a rule of grammar: "And whether they take a form that we would naturally call a 'rule' or not, these remarks do the work of a rule, and so they are rules -- regardless of their form. In logic tools (i.e. signs) are defined by the jobs they are used to do") -- may have the form of a declarative sentence without having the logical grammar: "This is how things stand." [TLP 4.5]

About the proposition 'God is the father', would Wittgenstein say that it is not really a declarative sentence? that the proposition 'No father when his son asks for bread ...' is really the command: 'Have faith/Trust in God!' But Wittgenstein asks,

Now why am I so anxious to keep apart these ways of using "declarative sentences"? ... Did people in former times really not properly understand what they wanted to do with a sentence? (ibid.)

Did Jesus not really intend to tell his hearers what the nature of God and the kingdom of God is, but only to issue commands to them?

But can't the command 'Do not grumble!' be rewritten as the proposition 'It is God's will'? That is, what the logical form of an expression is -- is shown by how it is used in the particular case. It's not as if philosophy could discover an expression's true logical form, the only use it is possible to make of it.

But on the other hand, other logical possibilities must be described, not merely vaguely alluded to. What is a possible use of 'It is God's will' as a declarative sentence? A proposition does not say "how things stand if it is true" -- The users of the proposition do: they must set criteria for how things must stand if the proposition is true. And so far no such criteria have been set. -- And therefore the declarative sentence is an undefined combination of words?

It seems, therefore, that the logical form of 'It is God's will' -- if logical form = use in the language -- is command rather than statement of fact (proposition, declarative sentence). Yet it may be hard to accept that grammatical account -- why? is it a "stupid prejudice" that stands in the way?

Does this discussion make the grammar of 'God is the father' clearer? Jesus does state how things must stand if that proposition is true ("No father when his son asks for bread ..."). But things don't stand that way, not as we normally judge things. And therefore is 'God is the father' a command (e.g.) rather than a statement of fact?

The Catholic Profession of Faith, the Apostles/Nicene Creed -- Have these the logical form 'command' rather than 'declarative sentence' (Can they be rewritten as commands)? Can all religious doctrine/dogma (the Trinity e.g.) be rewritten to its logical form 'command', if that is doctrine's logical form?

God as Creator of the World and Ethics

I ask Wittgenstein: Is the existence of the world connected with the ethical?

Wittgenstein: Men have felt a connection here and have expressed it in this way: God the Father created the world [Cf. TLP 6.44], while God the Son (or the Word proceeding from God) is the ethical. That men have first divided the Godhead and then united it, points to there being a connection here.

(LE/Notes, 17 December 1930, p. 16)

That is Schweitzer's contrast between God the Creator and God as an Ethical Personality.

Although the rest of creation is amoral, in man God has created morality, the morality, which in Christianity, is given its highest form by Jesus' ethics of love and his picture of a kingdom of God governed by love rather than power.

And if God the Father created morality in man, then God the Father is not amoral -- although that does not make the how-ness of the world any less puzzling: the non-human creation remains amoral and from the ethical point of view so different from our picture of what we would expect it to be. (Nothing about the world from an ethical point of view makes sense to us. What we regard as our best impulses, the natural world appears to despise.)

"God as creator of the world and of ethics" -- There are laws of nature as there are also laws of ethics -- and both are natural law; both are rational. That is Socratic Ethics (and it does not use the word 'law' equivocally here). Had the Greeks pictured God as creator, it would have been as the creator of rationality, of what is rational -- i.e. of law.

And so the Kantian, the non-rational, the God as Law-Giver of Wittgenstein's religious ethics, is not the only possible meaning for 'God created ethics'.

*

Unidirectional comparisons

A comparison says "A is like B", but if there is no A [e.g. if 'A' names an abstraction, which is surely what the word 'God' does], then there is no comparison. There is no such thing as a one-sided analogy [in some cases, but that statement is not correct in all cases, for consider the case of describing something that does not, but logically might, exist. We say A is like B, even though there is no A, as e.g. "The kingdom of God is like ..." (although, note that the grammar in the case of 'God' is not like that).]

*

[See also the discussion: Is Wittgenstein's method of language-games -- because a method is what it is -- useful for understanding religion?]


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An ethics essay is an assignment that many students will receive during their higher education. What is ethics exactly? It’s the moral principles that keep our society intact. However, people tend to disagree with the various ethics and it can be a good topic to tackle when it comes to writing an argumentative or persuasive essay.

Professional ethics, personal ethics and general ethical guidelines are just a few of the places you can start your essay. Leave some time for research, since you’ll want some good, solid resources behind your arguments on ethical responsibility. As you do the research, make note of any sources you use. These should be reputable enough that you can trust the information coming from them.

The sources you use will also be listed at the end of your essay so readers can see where the information came from. You can create the bibliography as you go.

Introduction of Ethics Essay

Before writing your introduction, make sure you have a decent topic. Many ethical issues are ripe for exploring as you create your paper, so look at what is available and make sure you include the thesis statement. This will give the reader a clear idea of what you are for or against. From there, you can work to prove this to the reader, through the use of reputable resources.

Create an outline that covers your main points. If you just start writing, you’re likely to end up with a mess, rather than a properly formatted essay. It takes some planning to work it all out ahead, but the actual essay will be much easier to write.

Start the paper off with a great introduction paragraph. This should state the problem that you will be addressing and include a thesis statement. The thesis is the main point that the entire paper will be based around.

Importance of Ethics Essay

Without ethics, anyone would feel free to do anything to everyone else. The importance of ethics should be included in your essay on ethics. The body of the paper will be at least three paragraphs long and every paragraph should relate back to the thesis statement. Begin with an outline of your essay, to ensure you have all the information laid out clearly and in logical order. Having an essay will help you write the actual essay on ethics faster, too.

As you write, be sure to work in valid reasons for your claims. While you may feel strongly about things, you will get better results if you can back your statements up with actual studies and scientific facts. Using expert quotes can also lend some weight to your arguments. Remember that most people have high ethical standards, but not everyone has the same ethics.

If you need a little extra help for your essay on ethics, consider using a template. You can also look at an ethics essay example to learn more about how others structure their essays and present their claims.

Conclusion for an Ethics Essay

Once you have made your points clear, sum them all up in a final paragraph that will let your reader know your thinking once and for all. This conclusion should also include the thesis statement made in the first paragraph of the essay. Just make sure you rewrite it so that it will sound different.

Finally, check your ethics essay for any mistakes you may have made. Spelling and grammatical errors can destroy your paper, so it’s important to catch these. You should also try reading the paper aloud to see how it flows. If you find that it catches and is choppy, you need to rewrite the transitions between paragraphs to make sure it flows.

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