• sime
    702
    The issue is the intent behind the creation of the thing. So the trail with a fork is not analogous, because each fork may have been created and intended to lead you somewhere different. Instead, we could talk about a sign which is intended to lead you in two distinct and incompatible directions. Such a sign is really not intended to lead you anywhere. However, this does not mean that it is not intended to do something, i.e. it does not mean that the sign is meaningless.Metaphysician Undercover

    I roughly concur; although by "trail" i wasn't necessarily implying a man-made trail. Tea leaf patterns at the bottom of a cup would suffice as an example, as would mental imagery that spontaneously arises inside the mind of a water-diviner. A sign's public information (e.g grammar, syntax, history of ostensive definition etc) under-determines any supposed external referent of the sign. The referent of anything interpreted as being a "sign" is subjective and relative to the intentions of a particular user who interprets the "sign" in a manner that is dependent on the user's personal history including his past observations of similar appearances of said sign, among other things.

    In my understanding, semantic realists tend to think of signs as teleological entities that express future-contingent propositions. They reason on the basis of past experience that a trail must lead somewhere, and consequently interpret the trail as signifying one or more unexplored possibilities, even if nobody ever follows it. They do this by imagining a fictional use of the trail that accords with their past experiences and they then conflate this fictitious extrapolation of memory with an actual use of the trail, which they then ironically attribute to a space of possible futures, in spite of the future playing no actual role in their experiences or use of words.

    My understanding of Wittgenstein's point, which is presumably related to your point, is that there is nothing a priori about a sign that can be called it's 'future-contingent' referent in any literal sense of the word "future". A forteriori, there is nothing a priori about a sign that can be called it's external bearer or referent.

    A person makes predictions with signs, but their predictions are merely reports of their observations in relation to their present mental state. Therefore if a contradiction arises between a previous prediction and presently observed circumstances, it isn't that the previous prediction is really wrong, rather the contradiction refers to the fact that the previous prediction is now labelled "wrong" as part of a post-hoc revision of linguistic convention.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k
    Where does he say at 261 that "sensation" has no referent or that we cannot say what it refers to?Luke

    I've quoted it numerous times already.

    Let's say that what I meant by the statement "I am going to the bank" is "I am going to the financial establishment". How does my intention remove the ambiguity from the statement? It could still mean either the financial establishment or the side of the river.Luke

    I didn't say intention removes ambiguity, I distinguished between intentionally creating ambiguity, and unintentionally creating ambiguity.

    But if we define "meaning" as what is meant, then what you say here would be contradiction. If, what you meant was "I am going to the financial establishment", then it is impossible that what you meant was " I am going to the side of the river. So we cannot say that it could mean either.

    And, in the example, you are the one saying both, "I am going to the bank", and "it could mean 'financial establishment' or 'side of river'". Being the person who made the statement, you would know whether it means the former or the latter, in that instance of use. So for you to say that it could mean either, indicates that it really means neither, because you would know which of the two is the case, if it meant one of them, so you could not say that it could be either one. If one of the two is the case, you cannot truthfully say that it could be either, because you know which one it is. Therefore you are intentionally being ambiguous.

    You have a lot of work to do to demonstrate that Wittgenstein intentionally uses the word "sensation" ambiguously (or at all ambiguously). And I know you're wrong about it, but you cannot be reasoned with, so I'm out.Luke

    I don't intend to make any such demonstration. I don't know how such a thing could be demonstrated. I am simply stating my opinion, and demonstrating the reality of, and the effects of, intentional ambiguity. But I know that you are very set in your ways, and could never be convinced of something you refuse to even try to understand.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k

    That's interesting. If I understand you correctly you are saying that what a person derives from a sign, is dependent on what they want to derive from the sign. But what role does the intent of the author play in this act? Does the intent of the author enter into the act, or is it only through pretense, as the reader pretends to want to derive the intent of the author?
  • Luke
    1.8k
    But is it also conceivable that there be a language in which a person
    could write down or give voice to his inner experiences — his feelings,
    moods, and so on
    — for his own use? —– Well, can’t we do so in our
    ordinary language? — But that is not what I mean. The words of
    this language are to refer to what only the speaker can know — to his
    immediate private sensations
    . So another person cannot understand the
    language. (PI 243)

    244. How do words refer to sensations? — There doesn’t seem to
    be any problem here; don’t we talk about sensations every day, and
    name them? But how is the connection between the name and the thing
    named set up? This question is the same as: How does a human being
    learn the meaning of names of sensations? For example, of the word
    “pain”.


    246. In what sense are my sensations private? — Well, only I can know
    whether I am really in pain;

    250. Why can’t a dog simulate pain? Is it too honest?

    251. What does it mean when we say, “I can’t imagine the opposite of
    this” or “What would it be like if it were otherwise?” — For example,
    when someone has said that my mental images are private; or that only
    I myself can know whether I am feeling pain; and so forth.

    253. “Another person can’t have my pains.” — My pains — what pains
    are they?

    256. Now, what about the language which describes my inner experiences
    and which only I myself can understand? How do I use words
    to signify my sensations? — As we ordinarily do? Then are my words
    for sensations tied up with my natural expressions of sensation?

    258. Let’s imagine the following case. I want to keep a diary about the
    recurrence of a certain sensation. To this end I associate it with the sign
    “S” and write this sign in a calendar for every day on which I have the
    sensation.

    261. What reason have we for calling “S” the sign for a sensation?

    263. “Surely I can (inwardly) resolve to call this ‘pain’ in the future.”
    — LW

    Wittgenstein uses the word "sensation" to refer to an "inner experience" such as pain. There is no ambiguity about it and none has coherently been pointed out.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k
    Wittgenstein uses the word "sensation" to refer to an "inner experience" such as pain. There is no ambiguity about it and none has coherently been pointed out.Luke

    There is no question that defining "sensation" as "an inner experience" is extremely ambiguous, just like defining "green" as "a colour" is extremely ambiguous. And it doesn't help to say "such as pain", just like it wouldn't help to say "such as red".

    But that is not the issue here. The issue concerns what Wittgenstein refers to with "the sensation", at 258, what he has called "a certain sensation". You have consistently ignored Wittgenstein's use of the definite article "the" at 258, when referring to "the sensation", since we engaged in this thread. And it appears, you will continue to do so.
  • Luke
    1.8k
    There is no question that defining "sensation" as "an inner experience" is extremely ambiguous, just like defining "green" as "a colour" is extremely ambiguous.Metaphysician Undercover

    How is it ambiguous to define green as a colour? Green is a colour.

    The issue concerns what Wittgenstein refers to with "the sensation", at 258, what he has called "a certain sensation".Metaphysician Undercover

    Then the issue is not with the meaning of the word "sensation". That is not in question.

    What is in question is whether the phrase "a certain sensation" refers to a one-off particular instance of a sensation or to a recurrent particular type of sensation. I have given you all the quotes about "recurrent" and "every time" to support that he means the latter.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k
    How is it ambiguous to define green as a colour?Luke

    Red is a colour. Pink is a colour, so are brown and blue, and many more. The definition is very ambiguous because there are many colours and it provides nothing to distinguish the colour green from the others.

    What is in question is whether the phrase "a certain sensation" refers to a one-off particular instance of a sensation or to a recurrent particular type of sensation. I have given you all the quotes about "recurrent" and "every time" to support that he means the latter.Luke

    After discussing this issue for a month or two, with no consensus between us, I came to the conclusion that "a certain sensation" is ambiguous. Further, I gave some reasons why I believe that Wittgenstein practiced a technique of creative writing which employs the intentional use of ambiguity.

    I thought we were making some progress. But obviously you just want to go back and argue the same thing, all over again, so that we can establish once again, that "sensation" is ambiguous.

    You might have an argument for your interpretation of "type", if Wittgenstein hadn't used the definite article "the", four times at 258, when referring to "the sensation". Do you understand the grammar of this definite article?

    It appears to me, that we have established beyond any reasonable doubt, that "a certain sensation" is ambiguous. The question which remains is whether that ambiguity is intentional or not. If it's not intentional, then one or the other interpretation might be the correct one. But if it is intentional, then neither interpretation is the correct one.
  • Luke
    1.8k
    Red is a colour. Pink is a colour, so are brown and blue, and many more. The definition is very ambiguous because there are many colours and it provides nothing to distinguish the colour green from the others.Metaphysician Undercover

    I don't know what you mean by "ambiguous" here.

    After discussing this issue for a month or two, with no consensus between us, I came to the conclusion that "a certain sensation" is ambiguous. Further, I gave some reasons why I believe that Wittgenstein practiced a technique of creative writing which employs the intentional use of ambiguity.

    I thought we were making some progress. But obviously you just want to go back and argue the same thing, all over again, so that we can establish once again, that "sensation" is ambiguous.
    Metaphysician Undercover

    The meaning of the word "sensation" is not ambiguous. It is the meaning of the word "certain" that is ambiguous. Does he mean a certain type of sensation or a certain instance of a sensation? If you also want to question what the word "sensation" means then that is a different matter.

    Take another example: If we were questioning whether he meant a certain type of car or a certain instance of a car, then that is not questioning what the word "car" means. We must already know what the word "car" means in order to discuss whether he is talking about a certain type or a certain instance of a car.

    You might have an argument for your interpretation of "type", if Wittgenstein hadn't used the definite article "the", four times at 258, when referring to "the sensation". Do you understand the grammar of this definite article?Metaphysician Undercover

    Let's take a look at what he says at PI 258 then:

    To this end I associate it with the sign “S” and write this sign in a calendar for every day on which I have the sensation. — PI 258

    He uses the definite article ("the sensation") here twice, but he is also talking about writing "S" for "every day on which I have the sensation". Therefore, he clearly indicates that it is not a once-off instance of the sensation. If he writes "S" for every day that he has the sensation, then this implies that the diarist has the sensation and writes "S" on more than one occasion. Hence, "S" does not refer only to a once-off instance of the sensation.

    But I speak, or write the sign down, and at the same time I concentrate my attention on the sensation — and so, as it were, point to it inwardly. — PI 258
    Well, that is done precisely by concentrating my attention; for in this way I commit to memory the connection between the sign and the sensation. — PI 258

    These third and fourth times that Wittgenstein uses the definite article is to discuss how the diarist is supposed to define the sign "S", or to link the sign with the sensation. We can imagine that the definition of "S" is established on the first occasion of having the sensation and committed to memory, so that on the next day that the sensation occurs, the diarist recognises it as such and writes "S" again. Again, this suggests that the diarising occurs on more than one occasion. Otherwise, there would be no point in committing to memory the link between the sign and the sensation.

    But “I commit it to memory” can only mean: this process brings it about that I remember the connection correctly in the future. But in the present case, I have no criterion of correctness. — PI 258

    I said very early on in the discussion that the diarist ultimately fails to define the sign "S" in this manner. Nonetheless, it is supposed from the outset that "S" refers to a certain type of sensation that is had on more than one occasion.

    And what reason do we have here for calling “S” the name of a sensation? Perhaps the kind of way this sign is employed in this language-game. — And why a “particular sensation”: that is, the same one every time? Well, we’re supposing, aren’t we, that we write “S” every time. — PI 270
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k


    Sorry Luke, I will not go back to where we were two months ago, and pretend that we didn't already discuss this.

    And you do not seem to have any grasp of the reality of ambiguity, or the desire to discuss it. So, I don't see any point in proceeding.
  • Luke
    1.8k
    Sorry Luke, I will not go back to where we were two months agoMetaphysician Undercover

    You brought it up again. It looks like you've now recognised your mistake in claiming that Wittgenstein uses the word "sensation" ambiguously, too. Good.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k
    You brought it up again.Luke

    I brought it up, because our disagreement on interpretation, and the fact that we could not resolve that disagreement with two months of discourse, is very clear evidence that what Wittgenstein said is ambiguous.

    And, I believe that we will never resolve that disagreement because what Wittgenstein wrote actually is ambiguous, as the evidence indicates. So I think that after two months, any further discussion on the particulars of that disagreement is pointless because we will both be reiterating the same points.

    Therefore I think we should both agree to disagree on the interpretation of that passage, and accept the fact that it is ambiguous. It appears like you need more time to maturate. But I will not be your sitter. So I'll leave you to do that on your own time
  • Luke
    1.8k
    And, I believe that we will never resolve that disagreement because what Wittgenstein wrote actually is ambiguous, as the evidence indicates.Metaphysician Undercover

    The only potential ambiguity here, which I identified from the beginning, was Wittgenstein’s use of the word “certain” in the phrase “a certain sensation”. This could possibly mean either a certain type of sensation or a certain token of a sensation. I have identified for you the textual evidence which proves that a certain type of sensation is the only logically possible meaning.

    You erroneously mistook the ambiguity to be located in the word “sensation” instead.

    Apparently, you don’t understand the meaning of the word “ambiguous”. You think that the names of colours are ambiguous, but you refuse to explain what you mean by this. Disagree all you want. Your utter failure to grasp the basics of Wittgenstein’s philosophy or to understand even the most basic English words is abundantly clear. I tried to give you guidance in reading the text but you’re arrogant and think you know better. Trust me, you don’t.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k

    OED: ambiguous 1. "having an obscure or double meaning".

    Maybe you have something else in mind for "ambiguous", or maybe you don't think that Wittgenstein's writing at this part of PI is obscure. But if the latter is the case, I think it's time for you to justify this claim. I already justified my assertion, that the writing is ambiguous, with the evidence that you and I discussed this section for two months without being able to come to any agreement as to the meaning.
  • Luke
    1.8k
    I already justified my assertion, that the writing is ambiguousMetaphysician Undercover

    Your “justification” was that Wittgenstein uses “sensation” ambiguously to mean either “token”, “type” or “ambiguous”. I have pointed out several times now that it makes no sense for the word “sensation” to mean the same as any of these words, and you have not justified this claim at all. Furthermore, I have just told you again, and you have ignored it again, that the ambiguity lies not in the word “sensation” but in the word “certain”. What we discussed for two months was whether Wittgenstein means a certain type of sensation or a certain token of a sensation. What we did not discuss was the meaning of the word “sensation”. There is ample textual evidence that what Wittgenstein means by “sensation” throughout the text is an “inner experience” such as pain. All that your bare assertions to the contrary constitute are evidence of your profound misunderstanding.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k

    You incessantly refuse to acknowledge Wittgenstein's use of the definite article "the". The issue is not strictly concerning the word "sensation". The issue is with the particular referent identified as "the sensation", at 258. This is the thing which the diarist names with "S".

    And, as you admit we spent two months discussing what was meant by "the sensation" with no agreement. Therefore I can conclude that there is ambiguity here. The only question which remains is whether the ambiguity is intentional or not.

    It is my opinion that ambiguity is a prevalent and significant feature of philosophy, which is often simply the result of the nature of language. But I also believe that intentional ambiguity is a feature of bad philosophy.
  • Luke
    1.8k
    The issue is not strictly concerning the word "sensation".Metaphysician Undercover

    You recently made the issue about the meaning of the word “sensation”, with your claim that its meaning was not only ambiguous but that it could also mean “ambiguous” (as well as “token” and “type”). I’ll take the quote above as your retraction of this foolish claim.

    The issue is with the particular referent identified as "the sensation", at 258. This is the thing which the diarist names with "S".Metaphysician Undercover

    I just provided you with a detailed response and reading of 258 here:

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/617672.

    You declined to respond.

    And, as you admit we spent two months discussing what was meant by "the sensation" with no agreement. Therefore I can conclude that there is ambiguity here.Metaphysician Undercover

    Our disagreement does not prove that there’s any ambiguity in the text. It only proves that you’re unreasonable and that you have no genuine interest in attempting to understand Wittgenstein’s philosophy.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k
    You recently made the issue about the meaning of the word “sensation”, with your claim that its meaning was not only ambiguous but that it could also mean “ambiguous” (as well as “token” and “type”). I’ll take the quote above as your retraction of this foolish claim.Luke

    Luke, my issue has always been with Wittgenstein's use of the word "sensation", in particular, his reference to "the sensation" at 258. Our disagreement as to what "the sensation" refers to in this context indicates very clearly that his use is ambiguous.

    I just provided you with a detailed response and reading of 258 here:

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/617672.

    You declined to respond.
    Luke

    You provided nothing that we hadn't already discussed, therefore nothing to resolve the disagreement, and nothing which would alter the judgement of "ambiguous".
  • Luke
    1.8k
    The issue is not strictly concerning the word "sensation". The issue is with the particular referent identified as "the sensation", at 258.Metaphysician Undercover

    Luke, my issue has always been with Wittgenstein's use of the word "sensation", in particular, his reference to "the sensation" at 258.Metaphysician Undercover

    Make up your mind.

    Our disagreement as to what "the sensation" refers to in this context indicates very clearly that his use is ambiguous.Metaphysician Undercover

    Let me try one last time…

    Let’s say that the diarist has a single token of the sensation which lasts for 10 years. The diarist recognises it as the same sensation every day and so they write “S” in their diary every day. After 10 years the diarist does not have any further experience of the sensation until exactly one year later when the diarist recognises the sensation again. Should the diarist now mark “S” in their diary as per Wittgenstein’s instructions, or does “S” refer only to a single token of the sensation?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k
    et’s say that the diarist has a single token of the sensation which lasts for 10 years. The diarist recognises it as the same sensation every day and so they write “S” in their diary every day. After 10 years the diarist does not have any further experience of the sensation until exactly one year later when the diarist recognises the sensation again. Should the diarist now mark “S” in their diary as per Wittgenstein’s instructions, or does “S” refer only to a single token of the sensation?Luke

    I don't know, because as I say, what you call "Wittgenstein's instructions", are ambiguous. Why would the person mark a new "S" every day for ten years, if that time period is only one occurrence of "the sensation"? The person is not keeping track of the temporal duration of "the sensation", only how often "the sensation" occurs. Wouldn't that entire time period just qualify for one S, one occurrence of "the sensation?

    And when "the sensation" (same token in your words) appears a year later, the diarist ought to mark another S. Both occurrences must be "a single token" (as in Wittgenstein's example of the chair), because that's what the definite article "the" signifies, that an identified particular is being referred to, i.e. a single token.
  • Luke
    1.8k
    I don't know, because as I say, what you call "Wittgenstein's instructions", are ambiguous. Why would the person mark a new "S" every day for ten years, if that time period is only one occurrence of "the sensation"? The person is not keeping track of the temporal duration of "the sensation", only how often "the sensation" occurs. Wouldn't that entire time period just qualify for one S, one occurrence of "the sensation?Metaphysician Undercover

    258. Let’s imagine the following case. I want to keep a diary about the recurrence of a certain sensation. To this end I associate it with the sign “S” and write this sign in a calendar for every day on which I have the sensation. — LW

    Yes, it’s very ambiguous :roll:

    You don’t even know what the scenario of 258 says yet you claim to understand it better than all of us. Pull your head in.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k

    I think we all know that it's ambiguous. Only a few, including yourself, refuse to admit it, despite knowing that it is..
  • Luke
    1.8k
    You just asked why the person would mark “S” in their diary every day? Because that’s the scenario Wittgenstein describes at 258. What’s ambiguous about that?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k

    My mistake, but that's not where the ambiguity lies.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k
    Here's where the ambiguity lies:
    And when "the sensation" (same token in your words) appears a year later, the diarist ought to mark another S. Both occurrences must be "a single token" (as in Wittgenstein's example of the chair), because that's what the definite article "the" signifies, that an identified particular is being referred to, i.e. a single token.Metaphysician Undercover
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k

    So the ambiguity is with respect to how that person, or anyone else for that matter, knows that this sensation which occurs at a later time is "the sensation".
  • Luke
    1.8k
    Answer the question I put to you:

    Should the diarist now [after one year] mark “S” in their diary as per Wittgenstein’s instructions, or does “S” refer only to a single token of the sensation?
  • Luke
    1.8k
    So the ambiguity is with respect to how that person, or anyone else for that matter, knows that this sensation which occurs at a later time is "the sensation".Metaphysician Undercover

    How does the person know to write “S” every day for 10 years? Same problem.
  • Luke
    1.8k
    Both occurrences must be "a single token"Metaphysician Undercover

    So if you have a pain and it goes away for one year and then returns, it is still the same instance of the pain? You were just unaware of it for a whole year? Garbage.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.5k
    Should the diarist now [after one year] mark “S” in their diary as per Wittgenstein’s instructions, or does “S” refer only to a single token of the sensation?Luke

    "S" clearly refers to only one token, as is indicated by the definite article, "the" sensation. That's what "the" means, a particular member of the type signified by "sensation" is being talked about.

    We can't say whether or not the diarist should mark "S" because of the ambiguity as to what "the sensation", or "S" is supposed to refer to. We have no criterion of identity. Whether It is, or is not what is called "the sensation", named "S", cannot be answered. There is no such thing as "what should be done" in this context.

    How does the person know to write “S” every day for 10 years? Same problem.Luke

    You're quite right, it's the same problem. We went through this already weeks ago,. It's very clear in Wittgenstein's example, that the person doesn't "know" when to write S. No one knows this. The person decides when to write "S", but this in no way implies that the person "knows" when to write "S".

    So if you have a pain and it goes away for one year and then returns, it is still the same instance of the pain? You were just unaware of it for a whole year? Garbage.Luke

    I would never refer to them both as "the sensation" in the same context of speaking. However, Wittgenstein is talking about "the sensation" when referring to both occurrences, the use of "the" indicating that one particular sensation is being referred to two different times.
    '
  • Luke
    1.8k
    "S" clearly refers to only one token, as is indicated by the definite article, "the" sensation.Metaphysician Undercover

    The definite article can be used for both the type and a token. For example:
    "The blue whale is the largest mammal."
    "The giraffe has a very long neck."
    "The sensation is a tingling in the toes resulting from a lack of oxygen."

    That's what "the" means, a particular member of the type signified by "sensation" is being talked about.Metaphysician Undercover

    The word "sensation" refers to the sensation in question, as does the symbol "S". If the word "sensation" signifies a type (as you say here), then the symbol "S" also signifies a type.

    We can't say whether or not the diarist should mark "S" because of the ambiguity as to what "the sensation", or "S" is supposed to refer to. We have no criterion of identity. Whether It is, or is not what is called "the sensation", named "S", cannot be answered. There is no such thing as "what should be done" in this context.Metaphysician Undercover

    You said in the quote at the top of this post that "S" refers to a single token of the sensation. You have also argued previously that "a certain sensation" refers to a single token of the sensation. You are now arguing that neither the symbol "S" nor the word "sensation" can refer to the sensation. So which is it? Do "S" and/or "sensation" refer to a single token of the sensation or can they not refer to the sensation?

    I would never refer to them both as "the sensation" in the same context of speaking. However, Wittgenstein is talking about "the sensation" when referring to both occurrences, the use of "the" indicating that one particular sensation is being referred to two different times.Metaphysician Undercover

    This is all you could possibly mean by saying that "S" and/or "the sensation" refer to a single token of the sensation. If there are two tokens, then you face the same contradiction that "one particular sensation is being referred to two different times". But let's assume for a moment that "the sensation" does not refer only to a single token of the sensation and that it instead refers to a type of sensation. This may help to explain why Wittgenstein says:

    I want to keep a diary about the recurrence of a certain sensation. To this end I associate it with the sign “S” and write this sign in a calendar for every day on which I have the sensation. — LW

    To associate a "certain sensation" with a name/symbol is (supposedly in this scenario) to establish a type, not merely to name a single token. This has been my point. In the most basic terms, it is not logically possible to have the recurrence of a single token, which has only one instance, so Wittgenstein could only be referring to a type of sensation.
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