A Defence of the Austere View of Nonsense

Synthese 201 (5):1-30 (2023)
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The austere view of nonsense says that the source of nonsense is not a violation of the rules of logical syntax, but nonsense is always due to a lack of meaning in one of the components of a sentence. In other words, the necessary and sufficient condition for nonsensicality is that no meaning has been assigned to a constituent in a sentence. The austere conception is the key ingredient of the resolute reading of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus that presents a therapeutical interpretation of the work, and rejects a possibility of conveying some ineffable truths by means of nonsensical sentences. In this paper, I defend the austere view against the most important objections. Firstly, I discuss textual sources for ascribing to Wittgenstein the austere view that have not been sufficiently thoroughly discussed yet. Next, I indicate that the apparent occurrence of words out of the context of a sentence on lists of verbs and in definitions is not in conflict with the version of the context principle recommended by austere theorists, since this argument does not sufficiently take into account the distinction between sign and symbol. Furthermore, I argue that the austere conception and the principle of compositionality are jointly tenable, for the former view does not exclude the existence of syntactic and semantic rules, but only shows that they are recognizable conditionally. Finally, I indicate that the austere view of nonsense should be seen as a viable option by a contemporary theorist of nonsense, for it helps us to avoid making controversial assumptions about the nature of meaning and content.

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Krystian Bogucki
Polish Academy of Sciences

Citations of this work

The Riddle of Understanding Nonsense.Krystian Bogucki - 2023 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 30 (4):372–411.

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References found in this work

From a Logical Point of View.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1953 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
The Concept of Mind.Gilbert Ryle - 1949 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 141:125-126.
Mathematical Logic as Based on the Theory of Types.Bertrand Russell - 1908 - American Journal of Mathematics 30 (3):222-262.
The Realistic Spirit: Wittgenstein, Philosophy, and the Mind.Cora DIAMOND - 1991 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 100 (4):577-577.

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