• Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    If language doesn't refer to things that are real, or accurate, then how is it that any one can talk about language itself? What does it mean to talk about, or communicate things about, language, like it's rules and symbols? What was W. doing when he talked on and on about language? What was he referring to? What was he getting at?

    It seems that no matter how hard we try, when we use language, we are making some claim about some objective state of affairs in the world. Even saying things like, "We can never know anything." is a claim of some objective state-of-affairs. Even though it contradicts itself and becomes meaningless once you parse it correctly, it is still a claim of some state-of-affairs. It is meaningless because it is a claim of knowledge while claiming at the same time that one has no knowledge.

    Things like this and metaphors are only possible because we have so many different words that share the same meaning, or have some arbitrarily loaded meaning that is created via communicating something other than what is being said. When someone says, "the computer is a dinosaur." Why is it that most adults know what they mean? Would a child know what they mean? If not, then doesn't that mean that the child needs to learn how language is used, and by learning how something is used is learning about how something is. They would be learning something - language - the thing that all the scribbles in this entire thread are referring to - that and some dude with a silly name that begins with the letter W. If not, then who are we referring to, and what did he actually say about what?
  • Sam26
    2.6k
    If language doesn't refer to things that are real, or accurate, then how is it that any one can talk about language itself? What does it mean to talk about, or communicate things about, language, like it's rules and symbols? What was W. doing when he talked on and on about language? What was he referring to? What was he getting at?Harry Hindu

    Where did you get the idea that "...language doesn't refer to things that are real, or accurate..." - Wittgenstein sure isn't saying this.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    Are you reading your own thread? I'm responding to the conversation that was happening in this thread, not your constant posting of W.'s writings and your interpretation of them.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    Language games are merely artful ways of using words, but it is also a logical use of words. When we learn things, we establish connections between many concepts that are related. For instance, when we learn about dinosaurs, we learn about how big they were, how they are extinct, and how long ago they lived. So when someone says, "Your computer is a dinosaur.", they are really saying "Your computer is outdated." This is because there is a property of the computer (it's age) that coincides with a concept connected to "dinosaur" in the mind - "ancient". This is why the phrase, "Your computer is a tree.", or "Your computer is water." doesn't make any sense. These phrases aren't any kind of language game. It's just nonsense because there is no property of the computer that is related to some concept connected to the concepts of trees or water - at least not any that are easily observable and understandable by others. Language games are artful ways of using words, but they also mean something about some state-of-affairs independent of the knowledge of these things.

    "Knowledge" is simply some set of instructions for interpreting sensory information. We have all had the experience of believing that we know something and then realize that we didn't know it at all, or were mistaken. "Knowledge" can be wrong. This is because we were using the wrong set of instructions for interpreting some sensory experience. Any explanation of knowledge needs to include how it can be wrong, or inaccurate. It needs to explain how it is that we think we possess knowledge, but sometimes don't. It also needs to explain how every use of our knowledge is what determines whether or not our knowledge is sufficient, and how subsequent uses of our knowledge that allow us to make accurate predictions lends more weight to the accuracy of our knowledge.

    When we acquire knowledge, we are learning. Learning is simply acquiring some set of instructions for interpreting sensory information. When I say that I know how to speak English, I am saying that I have learned the set of instructions for interpreting the visual and audio impressions in a particular way. I don't know how to speak Chinese because I don't have the instructions for interpreting the visual and audio impressions when I see or hear Chinese written or spoken.

    Would W. say that I'm misusing the term, "know"? Why, or why not?
  • Shawn
    12.9k
    "But now it may come to look as if there were something like a final analysis of our forms of language, and so a single completely resolved form of every expression. It is as if our usual forms of expression were, essentially, unanalysed; as if there were something hidden in them that had to be brought to light. When this is done the expression is completely clarified and our problem solved.

    "It can also be put like this: we eliminate misunderstandings by making our expressions more exact; but now it may look as if we were moving towards a particular state, a state of complete exactness; and as if this were the real goal the of our investigations (PI, para. 91)."
    Sam26


    Is it me or does this paragraph of the Investigations sound very Buddhist or Eastern?

    I put the italicized portion of emphasis.
  • Sam26
    2.6k
    "Knowledge" is simply some set of instructions for interpreting sensory information. We have all had the experience of believing that we know something and then realize that we didn't know it at all, or were mistaken. "Knowledge" can be wrong.Harry Hindu
    When we talk about knowledge we are talking about language, and how we go about making a claim that we know something. If I say that "I know X," then presumably I have the evidence, or I have good reasons for making the claim to knowledge. However, knowledge by definition is true, as opposed to someone making a claim to knowledge. One's claim can always turn out false, i.e., saying one knows is different from how we define knowledge. We have all experienced making a claim to knowledge, but later we find out that the claim was false.

    There are rules for saying that one "knows," and Wittgenstein shows us in On Certainty how we can unlock the rules by examining the many uses of the word know. Knowing though goes beyond simply sensory information, however, it also includes sensory information. For example, I can know the orange juice is sweet by tasting it, but knowing that triangles have three sides, is something that can be known apart from sensory experience. By definition triangles have three sides. This is not to say that I can't have a sensory experience of a triangle, but that my knowledge of what a triangle is not limited to sensory experience.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    When we talk about knowledge we are talking about language, and how we go about making a claim that we know something. If I say that "I know X," then presumably I have the evidence, or I have good reasons for making the claim to knowledge. However, knowledge by definition is true, as opposed to someone making a claim to knowledge. One's claim can always turn out false, i.e., saying one knows is different from how we define knowledge. We have all experienced making a claim to knowledge, but later we find out that the claim was false.Sam26
    What you seem to be saying is that we never possess knowledge. We only possess claims of knowledge. Does that make any sense? If we don't possess knowledge, then how is it that we are claiming it? If we don't possess knowledge, and never can, then we are misusing the word knowledge when we claim we have it, as knowledge is something unattainable, or imaginary. So, if we don't have knowledge, then what do we have? What is it that makes us claim that we have "knowledge"?

    This is the problem that philosophers have created in defining "knowledge" in such a way that creates these paradoxes. Using your definition, one eventually arrives at the claim, "We can never know anything." As I already stated, this is a contradiction. If we can never know anything, how is it that we know that we can never know anything? and doesn't that contradict the phrase itself?

    I surely know some things. I know that something exists, rather than nothing. I also know that I know this. I also have the experience of knowing something and then realizing that my knowledge was inaccurate. This is easier and less contradictory than defining knowledge as something unattainable or imaginary. It's not that we think we possess knowledge and then find out we don't which ends up relegating "knowledge" into meaninglessness, or nothingness. It is that knowledge is an interpretation, which means that it can be accurate, or inaccurate depending on the relationship between some state-of-affairs and your interpretation of your sensory model of that state-of-affairs.

    There are rules for saying that one "knows," and Wittgenstein shows us in On Certainty how we can unlock the rules by examining the many uses of the word know. Knowing though goes beyond simply sensory information, however, it also includes sensory information. For example, I can know the orange juice is sweet by tasting it, but knowing that triangles have three sides, is something that can be known apart from sensory experience. By definition triangles have three sides. This is not to say that I can't have a sensory experience of a triangle, but that my knowledge of what a triangle is not limited to sensory experience.Sam26
    But I can know the orange juice is sweet by looking at the sugar content on the label of the orange juice carton, or know that orange juice is sweet simply by referring to my memory of tasting it, not by experiencing the sweetness by tasting it now.

    As for triangles, are you saying that you know what a triangle is simply by reading a definition of a triangle and not having ever looked at one? When reading the definition, what are "sides", and what is "three"? You can keep using words to define things, but eventually you have to get at the root sensory experience of seeing a triangle. Words themselves have shape and an audio quality and you must be able to see and hear in order to learn and use language. You must have had some prior experience with words, or triangles, in order to know what they are, and how to use them.
  • mcdoodle
    1.1k
    What you seem to be saying is that we never possess knowledge.Harry Hindu

    Sam is seguing from a reading of 'On Certainty' to his own understanding. 'On Certainty' is not a long book, it helps to read the source material to follow the drift.
  • mcdoodle
    1.1k
    The way we gesticulate will often show our convictions.Sam26

    If we raise a poker for instance, in a way that another might interpret as threatening. :)
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    Reading philosophy by dead philosophers that didn't have access to the findings of modern science is like reading a science book written by some dead scientist who didn't have access to the findings of modern science. It's nice if you are interested in a history lesson, but not if you are interested in modern ideas involving modern knowledge.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
    -W.

    There is no "my" world. There is the world and the limits of my language mean the limits of me being able to communicate my knowledge and understanding of the world. I can still experience the world without language. The world is still there even if I never learned a language.
  • Pierre-Normand
    2.3k
    Reading philosophy by dead philosophers that didn't have access to the findings of modern science is like reading a science book written by some dead scientist who didn't have access to the findings of modern science. It's nice if you are interested in a history lesson, but not if you are interested in modern ideas involving modern knowledge.Harry Hindu

    What about older insights, scientific or philosophical, that have *not* been rendered obsolete by modern knowledge? Do ideas all come labeled with a expiration date? I would be hard pressed, myself, to think of a single Wittgensteinian insight that has been rendered obsolete by a recent scientific discovery. On the other hand, reading some philosophical musings produced by philosophically illiterate modern scientists, it often seems to me that what they are saying had already been rendered obsolete by Aristotle more than twenty-three centuries ago!
  • Shawn
    12.9k
    There is no "my" world. There is the world and the limits of my language mean the limits of me being able to communicate my knowledge and understanding of the world. I can still experience the world without language. The world is still there even if I never learned a language.Harry Hindu

    Yeah, so that's the tinge of solipsism in the Tractatus. It's no big deal if one acknowledges that the world represents logical space, with every person being some point on the origin, perceiving reality relativistically. Wittgenstein doesn't go into detail; but, I assume he would say that some external world exists apart from the one perceived by an observer.
  • Jamal
    9.3k
    What about older insights, scientific or philosophical, that have *not* been rendered obsolete by modern knowledge? Do ideas all come labeled with a expiration date? I would be hard pressed, myself, to think of a single Wittgensteinian insight that has been rendered obsolete by a recent scientific discovery. On the other hand, reading some philosophical musings produced by philosophically illiterate modern scientists, it often seems to me that what they are saying had already been rendered obsolete by Aristotle more than twenty-three centuries ago!Pierre-Normand

    (Y)
  • Shawn
    12.9k


    There is no mathematical substitute for philosophy.
    Kripke, 1976, Logic
  • Sam26
    2.6k
    What you seem to be saying is that we never possess knowledge. We only possess claims of knowledge. Does that make any sense?Harry Hindu
    No, I'm not saying that we never possess knowledge. I'm simply pointing out that there is a difference between the definition of knowledge (justified true belief), and one's claim to knowledge. Just because one claims to have knowledge it doesn't follow that they do. By definition knowledge is a true belief, but knowledge claims are not by definition true. You seem to be conflating the two.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    What about older insights, scientific or philosophical, that have *not* been rendered obsolete by modern knowledge? Do ideas all come labeled with a expiration date? I would be hard pressed, myself, to think of a single Wittgensteinian insight that has been rendered obsolete by a recent scientific discovery. On the other hand, reading some philosophical musings produced by philosophically illiterate modern scientists, it often seems to me that what they are saying had already been rendered obsolete by Aristotle more than twenty-three centuries ago!Pierre-Normand
    I never said ideas come with an expiration date. That would be committing a genetic fallacy. My point was that old ideas without the new is only telling half the story. We can find what Steven Pinker thinks about W., but we will never know what W. thinks about Pinker. Studying W. without studying Pinker is limiting yourself and prevents you from seeing the bigger picture.

    Since philosophy and science are the same - they are both methods of seeking knowledge AND the conclusions in domain of investigation cannot contradict those found in another - so by sticking to just one means you aren't really seeking truth, you're simply cherry-picking.

    I'd be interested in your examples of "philosophically illiterate modern scientists" whose ideas have been rendered obsolete by Aristotle.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    Yeah, so that's the tinge of solipsism in the Tractatus. It's no big deal if one acknowledges that the world represents logical space, with every person being some point on the origin, perceiving reality relativistically. Wittgenstein doesn't go into detail; but, I assume he would say that some external world exists apart from the one perceived by an observer.Question

    It would be no big deal if he didn't use the qualifier, "my". By using this term he seems to imply that there are other worlds. If there are other worlds, then I would apply the same argument I have made before in regards to there being "other" minds, and that is that there must be some medium that separates these other things, and that medium must be the objective world.

    If solipsism is the case then there is no "my" world. There is simply a world, or the world, that, if there was an external world to this one, then it would be called a "mind". But if there is nothing external to the mind, then there is no mind, only a world.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    No, I'm not saying that we never possess knowledge. I'm simply pointing out that there is a difference between the definition of knowledge (justified true belief), and one's claim to knowledge. Just because one claims to have knowledge it doesn't follow that they do. By definition knowledge is a true belief, but knowledge claims are not by definition true. You seem to be conflating the two.Sam26
    Sure, one can claim that they have a set of instructions for interpreting some sensory impression, and then there is the true interpretation of that sensory impression. But how do you, or anyone else, know when your claim represents true knowledge, or the accurate interpretation?
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5ljEBkCeMQ

    Pinker makes two great points in this video:

    1) the fact that there can be two ideas underlying one word like "stud", or "tires", shows that words and thoughts (what the words refer to) can't be the same thing.

    2) the fact that you can translate at all shows that there has to be something other that words because what would it mean for two sentences in different languages to be translations of each other if not for the fact that both of them have the same meaning?
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    To define language as a game means that language must be a game, no? In other words, you can never escape using words to refer to some state-of-affairs, like language being a game.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.