I look at a disagreement between Elizabeth Anscombe, on the one hand, and Peter Winch and Ilham Dilman, on the other, about whether it is legitimate to call something an error that counts as knowledge within some alien system of belief; and I look also at the question what Wittgenstein's view was. I try to show that our understanding of what is real cannot be adequately elucidated if we consider only its role within language-games, and I argue that an important (...) element in our thinking about what is and is not real emerges in our response to conflicting modes of thought. (shrink)
The philosophical image of a “universe of discourse” can be misleading in the suggestions it carries about how to read Wittgenstein and how to approach the topic of the relation between language and reality. That is what I try to show by examining Ilham Dilman's discussion of medieval cosmology. I sketch an alternative account of the relation between medieval beliefs about the heavens and our astronomical beliefs, and I consider in detail the disagreement between the two accounts.
Abstract: There is a famous quip of F.P. Ramsey's, which is my second epigraph. According to a widespread legend, the quip is a criticism of Wittgenstein's treatment in the Tractatus of what cannot be said. The remark is indeed Ramsey's, but he didn't mean what he is taken to mean in the legend. His quip, looked at in context, means something quite different. The legend is sometimes taken to provide support for a reading of the Tractatus according to which the (...) nonsensical propositions of the book were intended to convey what cannot be said. But, since the legend has no basis in reality, it provides no evidence in favor of any such reading of the Tractatus. The quip has great interest if it is read in the context of Ramsey's discussion of generality; it is closely related to issues of importance in the development of Wittgenstein's thought. (shrink)
One of Iris Murdoch's most characteristic philosophical ideas is that any way of understanding what moral philosophy is and how it may be practised will be shaped by deep-going conceptual attitudes, of which moral philosophers themselves may be unaware. In her own philosophical writings, she tried to bring out the role played by these attitudes, and to unsettle accepted ideas about the subject. I examine some of the elements in her thought which open up different ways of understanding the subject, (...) and I discuss the relevance of these ideas to contemporary moral philosophy. (shrink)
P.M.S. Hacker has argued that there are numerous misconceptions in James Conant's account of Wittgenstein's views and of those of Carnap. I discuss only Hacker's treatment of Conant on logical syntax in the _Tractatus. I try to show that passages in the _Tractatus which Hacker takes to count strongly against Conant's view do no such thing, and that he himself has not explained how he can account for a significant passage which certainly appears to support Conant's reading.
Wittgenstein gives voice to an aspiration that is central to his later philosophy, well before he becomes later Wittgenstein, when he writes in §4.112 of the Tractatus that philosophy is not a matter of putting forward a doctrine or a theory, but consists rather in the practice of an activity – an activity he goes on to characterize as one of elucidation or clarification – an activity which he says does not result in philosophische Sätze, in propositions of philosophy, but (...) rather in das Klarwerden von Sätzen, in our attaining clarity in our relation to the sentences of our language that we call upon to express our thoughts.1 To say that early Wittgenstein already aspired to such a conception of philosophy is not to gainsay that to aspire to practice philosophy in such a manner and to succeed in doing so are not the same thing. It is therefore not to deny that, by Wittgenstein’s later lights, the Tractatus is to be judged a work that is marked by forms of failure tied to its having failed fully to live up to such an aspiration. But if it is thus to be judged, then it is to some degree a failure even by Wittgenstein’s own earlier lights. This means that if one wants to understand the fundamental turn in Wittgenstein’s thinking as he moves from his earlier to his later philosophy, and why it is that he wanted the Tractatus to be published and read together with Philosophical Investigations, one needs to understand what sort of failure this is – and that requires coming to terms with the Tractatus’s own understanding of what sort of work it was trying to be. We think that readers of the Tractatus – be they admirers or detractors of Wittgenstein – have, on the whole, failed to do this. (shrink)
Wittgensteinian ethics, it may be thought, is committed to detailed examination of realistically described cases, and hence to eschewing the abstract hypothetical cases, many of them quite bizarre, found in much contemporary moral theorizing. I argue that bizarre cases may be helpful in thinking about ethics, and that there is nothing in Wittgenstein's approach to philosophy that would go against this. I examine the case of the ring of Gyges from the Republic; and I consider also some contemporary arguments about (...) thought-experiments in philosophy. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam has argued against philosophical theories which tie the content of truth-claims closely to the available methods of investigation and verification. Such theories, he argues, threaten our idea of human communication, which we take to be possible between people of different cultures and across periods of time during which methods of investigation change dramatically. Putnam rejects any reading of Wittgenstein which takes him to make a close tie between meaning and method of verification. What strands in Wittgenstein's thought appear (...) to lend support to such a reading? Can we do justice to the role which method of verification does have for Wittgenstein while retaining our hold on the idea that communication between people is possible despite substantial differences in methods of verification and investigation? Thus it is as if the proof did not determine the sense of the proposition proved; and yet as if it did determine it. But isn't it like that with any verification of any proposition? (shrink)