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)
_Philosophy and Animal Life_ offers a new way of thinking about animal rights, our obligation to animals, and the nature of philosophy itself. Cora Diamond begins with "The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy," in which she accuses analytical philosophy of evading, or deflecting, the responsibility of human beings toward nonhuman animals. Diamond then explores the animal question as it is bound up with the more general problem of philosophical skepticism. Focusing specifically on J. M. Coetzee's _The Lives (...) of Animals_, she considers the failure of language to capture the vulnerability of humans and animals. Stanley Cavell responds to Diamond's argument with his own close reading of Coetzee's work, connecting the human-animal relation to further themes of morality and philosophy. John McDowell follows with a critique of both Diamond and Cavell, and Ian Hacking explains why Cora Diamond's essay is so deeply perturbing and, paradoxically for a philosopher, he favors poetry over philosophy as a way of overcoming some of her difficulties. Cary Wolfe's introduction situates these arguments within the broader context of contemporary continental philosophy and theory, particularly Jacques Derrida's work on deconstruction and the question of the animal. _Philosophy and Animal Life_ is a crucial collection for those interested in animal rights, ethics, and the development of philosophical inquiry. It also offers a unique exploration of the role of ethics in Coetzee's fiction. (shrink)
This paper is a response to a certain sort of argument defending the rights of animals. Part I is a brief explanation of the background and of the sort of argument I want to reject; Part II is an attempt to characterize those arguments: they contain fundamental confusions about moral relations between people and people and between people and animals. And Part III is an indication of what I think can still be said on—as it were–the animals' side.
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)
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)
My essay is concerned with two kinds of case of asymmetries in thinking about thought. If one says that there is nothing else to think but that so and so, one may mean either that there are no considerations which could make it reasonable to think the opposite, or that to think anything else is to be in a muddle, not really to be thinking anything. A case of the latter sort is important in Elizabeth Anscombe’s criticism of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, (...) while a case of the former sort is important for David Wiggins’s thought about truth in ethics. After setting out the issues, I examine Anscombe’s view and situate it in relation to ideas of Frege’s and Wittgenstein’s. I then turn to ethics and consider the relation between Anscombe’s view and that of Wiggins. (shrink)
I want to argue for the importance of the notion human being in ethics. Part I of the paper presents two different sorts of argument against treating that notion as important in ethics. A. Here is an example of the first sort of argument. What makes us human beings is that we have certain properties, but these properties, making us members of a certain biological species, have no moral relevance. If, on the other hand, we define being human in terms (...) which are not tied to biological classification, if we treat as the properties which make us human the capacities for reasoning or for self-consciousness, then indeed those capacities may be morally relevant, but if they are morally significant at all, they are significant whether they are the properties of a being who is a member of our species or not. And so it would be better to use a word like ‘person’ to mean a being that has these properties , to bring out the fact that not all human beings have them and that non-human beings conceivably might have them. (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)
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.
Whether one is reading Wittgenstein's Tractatus or his later writings, one must be struck by his insistence that he is not putting forward philosophical doctrines or theses; or by his suggestion that it cannot be done, that it is only through some confusion one is in about what one is doing that one could take oneself to be putting forward philosophical doctrines or theses at all. I think that there is almost nothing in Wittgenstein which is of value and which (...) can be grasped if it is pulled away from that view of philosophy. But that view of philosophy is itself something that has to be seen first in the Tractatus if it is to be understood in its later forms, and in the Tractatus it is inseparable from what is central there, the distinction between what can be said and what can only be shown. (shrink)
In her Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus , Elizabeth Anscombe took it to be a fault of the Tractatus that it excluded the statement “‘Someone’ is not the name of someone”, which she took to be obviously true. It is not a bipolar proposition, and its negation, she said, peters out into nothingness. I examine the question whether she is right that the Tractatus excludes such propositions, and I consider her example in relation to other propositions which, arguably at least, have (...) no intelligible negation. In considering the particular case of Frege’s response to Benno Kerry about the concept ‘horse’, I try to develop an account of the place in Wittgenstein’s philosophy for certain sorts of proposition which do not have an intelligible negation. (shrink)
My essay explains and examines Anscombe's disagreement with Wittgenstein about what the Tractatus supposedly excludes. I also discuss her apparent disagreement with Geach about propositions that lack an intelligible negation. My discussion of these disagreements leads to the topic of Anscombe on the relation between the “business of thinking” and truth. I suggest that she takes the business of thinking to include thinking that helps to keep thinking on track. Since there is a tie between thinking truly and the business (...) of thinking being done well and since helping to keep thinking on track belongs to the business of thinking, helpings-of-thinking can be described as true. (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.
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)
There is a natural view of nonsense, which owes what attraction it has to the apparent absence of alternatives. In Frege and Wittgenstein there is a view which goes against the natural one, and the purpose of this paper is to establish that it is a possible view of nonsense.
This essay is concerned with the question whether there is anything left of the Tractatus criticisms of Frege and Russell, if the principles on which those criticisms are apparently based are “thrown away.” I consider two examples of Tractarian arguments that criticize Russell, both of which may appear to rest on the context principle. I discuss only briefly Wittgenstein’s argument against Russell on the theory of types, but I look in detail at his criticism of Russell on generality. I show (...) how that criticism can be understood independently of any supposed Tractarian principles. I also consider the importance of ideas in Russell’s Principles of Mathematics for the development of Wittgenstein’s thought, including the distinction between saying and showing. (shrink)
For several terms at Cambridge in 1939, Ludwig Wittgenstein lectured on the philosophical foundations of mathematics. A lecture class taught by Wittgenstein, however, hardly resembled a lecture. He sat on a chair in the middle of the room, with some of the class sitting in chairs, some on the floor. He never used notes. He paused frequently, sometimes for several minutes, while he puzzled out a problem. He often asked his listeners questions and reacted to their replies. Many meetings were (...) largely conversation. These lectures were attended by, among others, D. A. T. Gasking, J. N. Findlay, Stephen Toulmin, Alan Turing, G. H. von Wright, R. G. Bosanquet, Norman Malcolm, Rush Rhees, and Yorick Smythies. Notes taken by these last four are the basis for the thirty-one lectures in this book. The lectures covered such topics as the nature of mathematics, the distinctions between mathematical and everyday languages, the truth of mathematical propositions, consistency and contradiction in formal systems, the logicism of Frege and Russell, Platonism, identity, negation, and necessary truth. The mathematical examples used are nearly always elementary. (shrink)