• Banno
    11.6k
    @RussellA brought this article to my attention in the course of the thread An Analysis of "On Certainty". See
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/516983
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/517740

    I think it presents a fine account of On Certainty, but in the end misses at least one key aspect of the way language games should be pictured.

    I've moved the discussion here because the topic ceases to be OC and becomes Grayling's OC - Graylingstein?

    This is a start up post just to mark a place; feel free to jump in with you own account of Grayingstein... Or wait for me to give mine.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Part I
    Grayling finds two views in OC:

    OC1: Our beliefs are to be found only within language games, each of which is formed by taking some beliefs as non-negotiable.

    OC2: Truth and knowledge are relative in that they are dependent on the language game in which the claims of truth or knowledge occur.

    Grayling claims that OC1 rests on a transcendental argument, an argument form that ought be treated with suspicion.

    The general form of transcendental arguments is that X occurs only if Y; X occurs; hence, Y. The case Grayling has in mind seems to be that doubt can occur only within a system of believe; but doubts occur; hence there must be a system of belief in which to doubt.

    I do not think this does justice to Wittgenstein's nuanced account. But I might leave this for others to comment on.
  • Mww
    2.3k


    I’m not knowledgeable enough with the particular background sufficient to comment, but nonetheless an interesting read.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Part II
    This section seeks to build tension between OC1 and OC2.This he does by having his sceptic move from doubting the book before us, to doubting the system in which we believe there is a book before us.

    And here it all becomes very curious.

    A topic to which I have returned repeatedly is the relation between Davidson's radical interpretation and Wittgenstein's language games, so it pleases me greatly to see Grayling addressing this. I'll throw my hat into the ring and agree outright with Davidson, Ido not think that a sceptic can sensibly posit a language that cannot be translated into our own. At the least we could not conceive of such radical incommensurability as constituting a language.

    Interestingly Grayling next draws attention to certain modal considerations, touching on a topic that has come up several times in recent threads.He draws attention to a mooted distinction between logically possible worlds - all those that exclude contradiction; and epistemic possible worlds - those that can be reached from the actual world by fiat. I remain unconvinced that this distinction can be made to work, since it is not clear that the totality of logically possible worlds is different from the totality of epistemically possible worlds.

    Taken together, these considerations if correct woudl indeed rule out relativism, and hence OC2 as posited.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Part III
    Does Wittgenstein's foundationalism get him out of this?

    The argument goes to Feyerabend, who's ideas derive from both Popper and Wittgenstein. We're covering a vast, yet familiar territory here. A community might find the meanings of it's terms shifting under it, unbeknownst; and hence be in the very position Wittgenstein posited for an individual with a private language.

    Grayling next posits a stronger version of OC1. Grayling does not see this as a way out for Witti, but I'm not so sure. It is apparent that we must take certain beliefs as non-negotiable in order to continue with a given game; but it is also apparent that in a different game those very same non-negotiable beliefs may be open to reconsideration. I'll try to follow through on this thought later.

    And Grayling considers a naturalistic interpretation, roughly that we have no choice as biological entities bu to take certain things as givens.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    I'm curious as to what you found interesting. Hey, I'm making this up as I go along, so comments welcome.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Part IV
    I've just come from a conversation with @Fooloso4 who made a similar point to the one Grayling makes here; it is unclear what sort of propositions are going to count as hinge propositions. Are they to be contingent, empirical, or grammatical, rules? Grayling cites examples of very contingent - mistaken - propositions which appear to have been considered "hinge". But so far as they are hinge propositions, they are not subject to investigation. Grayling concludes that they are therefore a priori; there's too much baggage with such a term for me to agree to it too quickly. Indeed, in

    318. 'The question doesn't arise at all.' Its answer would characterize a method. But there is no sharp boundary between methodological propositions and propositions within a method.
    319. But wouldn't one have to say then, that there is no sharp boundary between propositions of logic and empirical propositions? The lack of sharpness is that of the boundary between rule and empirical proposition.
    ... Wittgenstein comes close to Quine. However Grayling's point remains:
    The explanation is that if one includes among the foundations of the system propositions which are in fact contingent even if they have some kind of special status in their language-games, one is bound to accept that their status might change. Hence OC2; and hence the inconsistency in OC as it stands.
  • javi2541997
    595


    As @Mww said, I don't have a good background about this topic neither... But somehow I see so interesting this premises/logic.

    The general form of transcendental arguments is that X occurs only if Y; X occurs; hence, Y. The case Grayling has in mind seems to be that doubt can occur only within a system of believe; but doubts occur; hence there must be a system of belief in which to doubt.Banno

    It is a good example of how we can have beliefs on something though. It remembers me about syllogisms of Aristotle.
    It remembers me about DARII, if the minor premise is affirmative (doubt occurs) then the major premise must be universal (hence there must be a system of belief in which to doubt)


    It is so interesting. Thanks for sharing it I going to read it closer and focus more in the main OP
  • unenlightened
    5.6k
    Wittgenstein's apparent inability to hold apart genuinely grammatical and contingent propositions destabilises this thesis too, for relative indubitability will not do for certainty, as the remarks in the cited paragraphs clearly show. So this is indeed an aspect of OC in need of housekeeping. — Grayling

    It seems to me that Grayling wants hinge propositions to be 'grammatical' distinguishable from distinguishable from contingent and thus dubitable propositions. And this is to miss the point completely.

    "the bishop remains always on the colour it starts on." is a dubitable fact in the context of describing the game, to someone who has no knowledge of chess. None of the other pieces have this property, I might have misremembered things, or whatever.

    But in the game of, say, learning to play chess, it is as indubitable as the law of gravity. If you want to play chess, you have to accept the rules as 'given'. If you are questioning the rules you are not playing the game.

    It not this the 'solution' to scepticism, that a certain scepticism is appropriate and meaningful to a particular language game, but each language game has a framework that is indubitable in context. The global sceptic keeps jumping out of the conversation into another in which what is being said is doubtful. W. deals with the sceptic by turning the trick back on her. 'What are your grounds for doubt?' 'What do you mean by doubt?'

    Boris Johnson is an habitual liar. Once i have satisfied myself that this is true, I have grounds to doubt everything he says. But woe betide that I find grounds that everyone is a habitual liar, because at that point the language itself has changed; belief is no longer a function at all; all that is left is a masturbatory entertainment of meaningless ideas.
  • Luke
    1.4k
    It seems to me that Grayling wants hinge propositions to be 'grammatical' distinguishable from distinguishable from contingent and thus dubitable propositions. And this is to miss the point completely.unenlightened

    Exactly. The entire point of OC (as I read it) is that some empirical or contingent propositions (hinge propositions) occasionally have the same indubitable status as do mathematical or grammatical propositions. Yet Grayling accuses W. of "muddling" them together.

    I also find it ironic that Grayling views OC as "Wittgenstein's acceptance, at last, of philosophy's legitimacy as an enterprise". This also misses the point. I think it more likely W. begins his treatment with Moore's proposition of "This is a hand", for much the same reason that he begins PI with Augustine's view of language: because they are paradigm examples of errors made exclusively by philosophers.

    406. What I am aiming at is also found in the difference between the casual observation "I know that that's a . . .", as it might be used in ordinary life, and the same utterance when a philosopher makes it.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.5k
    The case Grayling has in mind seems to be that doubt can occur only within a system of believe; but doubts occur; hence there must be a system of belief in which to doubt.Banno



    The deficiency in this perspective is the idea that doubt must be justified. Once this idea is dismissed, doubt is merely uncertainty, and uncertainty need not be based in any form of certainty. So the proposition "doubt can occur only within a system of believe" is false. This assumes that "doubt" must be defined relative to something which is doubted, and does not respect the true nature of "doubt" which is lack of definition.

    And you cannot get beyond this brute fact in the way unenlightened suggests: "If you want to play chess, you have to accept the rules as 'given'.", because the nature of free will, and the phrase "if you want..." does not produce the necessity required. So there is always the possibility that someone does not want to play the game, and this person's skepticism concerning the game itself, rather than the any specific rule, is still a valid "doubt", even though it remains unjustified.
  • Mww
    2.3k


    The first part of OC1is interesting because I agree with it, with respect to the set of components attributed to Wittgenstein in support of it, “...The view I shall call OC1 and which constitutes a version of a foundationalist refutation of scepticism, and therefore a contribution to the theory of knowledge...”

    And this is interesting because I don’t:

    “....a clever encapsulation of the transcendental argument is given at 248: 'I have arrived at the rock-bottom of my convictions. And one might almost say that these foundation-walls are carried by the whole house.'...”

    Metaphoric representation aside, it remains that foundation walls are not carried by the house; the foundation walls carry the whole house, in which case it is found that the clever encapsulation of Wittgenstein’s transcendental argument...is neither clever nor that argument.

    While the transcendental argument is the means to arrive at what’s called the rock-bottom of my convictions in the form of propositions which are not susceptible to doubt, re: #341 (in the Kantian sense, the unconditioned), and is a foundation of that which is possible to follow from it, it is self-contradictory to then say it is that which is built upon the conviction, that is itself foundational.
    ————-

    I had a bone of contention with Antony, a Wittgenstein advocate of high caliber, as to method. In the present article is found....

    “.....Of course it only sketches a kind of view; it amounts to recognising that theories of knowledge like, say, Kant's–framework-invoking theories–are on the right lines. Now one would like to see the hard detail of such a theory....”

    ....which exactly describes my lack of reception of Witt’s philosophy: he tells me all this stuff but never once tells me how it comes to be that way. I mean....

    “....#450. A doubt that doubted everything would not be a doubt.....”

    ......is an analytic truth, a tautology, and while correct in itself, never gets used to justify something relatable to it. It’s one of those foundational rock-bottom convictions of his, but without the bother of building a house the foundation would support.

    Anyway.....now you know. Not to rain on your parade or anything, just some personal observations.
  • unenlightened
    5.6k
    The deficiency in this perspective is the idea that doubt must be justified.Metaphysician Undercover

    No it isn't. What is this 'doubt' of which you speak? I know of no such thing. what is it made of? What even is 'deficiency'?

    From what perspective can a perspective be said to be deficient?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.5k
    No it isn't. What is this 'doubt' of which you speak?unenlightened

    I could try to explain it to you, but if you are already doubtful of what I am saying without understanding what I am saying, then you probably already know what I mean, through your own doubt which requires no understanding, so there is no need.

    From what perspective can a perspective be said to be deficient?unenlightened

    The perspective I speak of is the perspective of being uncertain. From the perspective of uncertainty, the claim that uncertainty requires certainty is seen as deficient. It appears as a misunderstanding of uncertainty. If you are uncertain about this "doubt" of which I speak, as you imply with your question, do you really believe that it is necessary that you are certain of something in order to support this uncertainty as real uncertainty? Do you not think that it is possible for a person (Socrates for example) to have a general, overall attitude of uncertainty, and therefore truly be uncertain about everything? Many people demonstrate an attitude of certainty, and others demonstrate an attitude of uncertainty. Why conflate these two opposing attitudes by insisting that the attitude of uncertainty is really a form of certainty?

    It appears completely logical to me, that a person could actually have such an attitude of uncertainty, such a lack of confidence. So I really don't know why the idea is quickly rejected by so many people, as if uncertainty is just a form of certainty in disguise. Doesn't certainty require faith? Are there not people living without faith? Rearrange Grayling's argument. Certainty only occurs when there is faith. Sometimes faith is lacking. Therefore sometimes certainty is lacking. Where certainty is lacking there is doubt. Grayling's premise "doubt can only occur within a system of belief" is false. Those outside a system of belief are there because they lack faith in that system, therefore they are uncertain and doubtful of it, and this doubt is not from within the system, it is external to it.
  • unenlightened
    5.6k
    It appears completely logical to me, that a person could actually have such an attitude of uncertainty, such a lack of confidenceMetaphysician Undercover

    Yes, it appears quite possible to me too that a person could be uncertain. However, you do not appear to be uncertain, but quite dogmatically certain. you are playing the uncertainty card in order to dispute something that you do not in fact dispute. and that is the game I am playing back at you, that you are now disputing in turn. This is by way of a demonstration of something, rather than a proof of anything. You want to tell me "you probably already know what I mean," but you will not have it the other way about.
  • frank
    6.7k
    From what perspective can a perspective be said to be deficient?unenlightened

    When a person lets go of a delusion, is it just the wrong beliefs that change? Or does everything change because all beliefs hang together?

    Sometimes when I learn something new, it seems like my whole worldview is altered, so maybe it's the latter.

    Societies can also become deluded. There's a movie called A Beautiful Mind, where the protagonist's delusions reflect those of the society he's in.

    For the people in this society, questioning the idea that they're threatened by Russia is to question everything (so to speak) because it's so entangled with all of their fears and arrogance.

    Point is, sometimes you need to be able to question the basics.
  • T H E
    147
    I do not think this does justice to Wittgenstein's nuanced account.Banno

    Agreed.

    I'll throw my hat into the ring and agree outright with Davidson, Ido not think that a sceptic can sensibly posit a language that cannot be translated into our own.Banno

    That sounds right, and the issue here ('sensibly') is intelligibility.
    I also find it ironic that Grayling views OC as "Wittgenstein's acceptance, at last, of philosophy's legitimacy as an enterprise". This also misses the point. I think it more likely W. begins his treatment with Moore's proposition of "This is a hand", for much the same reason that he begins PI with Augustine's view of language: because they are paradigm examples of errors made exclusively by philosophers.Luke

    I second that, and I also read OC somewhat in terms of trying to free errant philosophers from a 'picture' of inquiry and language. This picture is so dominant, so 'obvious', that criticisms of the picture tend to be understood by the enthralled in terms of that same picture that's being criticized. The toy skeptic takes a notion of language and the world for granted (as does all intelligible discourse, it seems.)
  • unenlightened
    5.6k
    sometimes you need to be able to question the basics.frank

    When? How?

    You misunderstand in trying to answer my scepticism of scepticism. Of course you need to be able to question anything. But you cannot question everything. So I might sensibly wonder if I am dreaming - but if I suggest that to you, I am betraying my own doubt. The solipsist by definition cannot argue his position with an interlocutor.

    It's not that doubt of anything is impossible, it's that it becomes a performative contradiction in some language games.

    If I start to doubt that these words mean what I think they mean, what can I say about that?
  • T H E
    147
    OC1: Our beliefs are to be found only within language games, each of which is formed by taking some beliefs as non-negotiable.Banno

    FWIW (responding to Grayling), I think the most potent beliefs aren't explicit at all. I use language with the confidence of a squirrel leaping from treelimb to treelimb. I trust the 'meaning' of my statements. Some thinkers may imagine a set of explicit beliefs, only some of which are conscious at any time, but this doesn't sound right to me. You can also find a good critique of this in Being-in-the-world (Hubert Dreyfus). IMV, it's wrong to think in terms of some hierarchy of beliefs, some of which are on a lower, more foundational level. Even if this view is plausible and gets something right, Wittgenstein explicitly stresses groundlessness. Perhaps it's better to think of a centerless system of shared practices, where the linguistic practices are not sharply distinct from non-linguistic practices.
  • T H E
    147
    If I start to doubt that these words mean what I think they mean, what can I say about that?unenlightened

    Exactly, and while you are expressing doubts about those previous meanings, you nevertheless enact confidence in the intelligibly of this current expression of doubt.
  • T H E
    147
    When a person lets go of a delusion, is it just the wrong beliefs that change? Or does everything change because all beliefs hang together?

    Sometimes when I learn something new, it seems like my whole worldview is altered, so maybe it's the latter.

    Societies can also become deluded.
    frank

    Good point! And we might say that one society is deluded from the perspective of another. I don't 100% buy Peirce's vision of inquiry, but there's some value in it. The truth is something like the ideal end of inquiry, what a future community will finally settle on.
  • bongo fury
    972
    If I start to doubt that these words mean what I think they mean, what can I say about that?unenlightened

    That you have realised that there is no fact about that kind of matter?

    The hand proposition is the big fat fact.
  • T H E
    147
    The first part of OC1is interesting because I agree with it, with respect to the set of components attributed to Wittgenstein in support of it, “...The view I shall call OC1 and which constitutes a version of a foundationalist refutation of scepticism, and therefore a contribution to the theory of knowledge...”Mww

    FWIW, I think refuting the skeptic is just a pretext. The radical skeptic is not a serious person. I don't think refuting radical skepticism is experienced as an important task. It's as if Grayling is trying to pull Wittgenstein back into the very game that W is busy demystifying.

    It's better perhaps to think of Wittgenstein as doing a kind of phenomenology, which is to say call our attention to what would be obvious if it wasn't so terribly taken for granted. A certain kind of philosophy is trapped in a picture. This picture is mistakenly experienced as necessary (as the way of things) rather than as contingent (the conversation happened to lead us to taking these things for granted.) Both the skeptic and the earnest refuter of the skeptic are trapped in this picture together. Both make their cases in terms of this 'picture.'
  • T H E
    147
    Grayling cites examples of very contingent - mistaken - propositions which appear to have been considered "hinge". But so far as they are hinge propositions, they are not subject to investigation.Banno

    One way of looking at things: hinge propositions are context dependent. In a given inquiry, there's a framework taken for granted in which the explicit inquiry makes sense. If I ask whether energy is really conserved, then a vast, vague background is taken for granted, the meaning of 'energy' for instance, but this includes a vague history and methodology of physics. But it's not that an explicit set of propositions is taken granted. It's fuzzier than that.
  • Luke
    1.4k
    I second that, and I also read OC somewhat in terms of trying to free errant philosophers from a 'picture' of inquiry and language. This picture is so dominant, so 'obvious', that criticisms of the picture tend to be understood by the enthralled in terms of that same picture that's being criticized. The toy skeptic takes a notion of language and the world for granted (as does all intelligible discourse, it seems.)T H E

    You've expressed it much better than I could. Thank you.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Cheers. The weakness is in the "X occurs only if Y"; it's usually contentious, a single counterexample being all that is needed to defeat the entire transcendental argument.
  • frank
    6.7k
    If I start to doubt that these words mean what I think they mean, what can I say about that?unenlightened

    I understand. Uncertainty always has some kind of certainty nearby.

    Global skepticism is just an idea, rather than something people experience. Once you realize there isn't any criteria for telling if what you're presently experiencing is real, the idea of global skepticism appears. The accompanying certainty can just be a blank placeholder.

    I experienced that as a teen due to mind altering drugs that showed me how wrong I could be. It was a psychological challenge. Do you know what I mean?
  • frank
    6.7k
    The truth is something like the ideal end of inquiry, what a future community will finally settle on.T H E

    Like a mental placeholder?
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Being a hinge proposition - I'm not too happy with that term - is not a characteristic of a sentence in the way being a proposition or a question or being a priori or necessary is. Roughly speaking, any statement might be treated as a hinge proposition, for the purposes of some language game. That is, what counts as a hinge proposition is not dependent on the structure of the proposition but is a role it takes on in the task at hand.

    This by way of agreeing with you.
  • T H E
    147
    Like a mental placeholder?frank

    Yes, or a point-at-infinity. For Peirce, inquity is about settling beliefs. What's true for this ideal, future community is just reality itself (because there's no meaningful/practical difference.)
  • T H E
    147
    You've expressed it much better than I could. Thank you.Luke

    Thanks! I had a feeling we were on the same page.
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