• Sam26
    1.2k
    I've been thinking about what Wittgenstein might mean by ordinary use or everyday use. The tendency is for people to think that Wittgenstein means that we need to listen to the man on the street if we really want to know what it means to have knowledge. Ordinary use I believe refers to the ordinary way in which a word is developed. It doesn't mean that the man on the street is using the word correctly and someone who has studied epistemology is using it incorrectly, although this can be the case.

    For example, getting back to religious examples, if I say in ordinary speech, "I know that God speaks to me," is this a correct use of what it means to know? If someone responds with, "How do you know?" and you say, "I just know," is this a proper use of the word know? Isn't it just the case that the person is really talking about their feelings, or their subjective feelings of certainty, which they're expressing in the use of the words I know. What would it mean after all to simply say that you know that something is the case, without any demonstration of how it is that you DO know?

    If one claims to know, then it seems that there should be a some objective way to demonstrate that one knows. I'm not saying it's necessarily incorrect to make a claim to knowledge without demonstrating that you know, but it would seem strange if your claim to know was never demonstrated.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    "What is it like to say something to oneself; what happens here? How am I to explain it? Well, only as you might teach someone the meaning of the expression 'to say something to oneself'. And certainly we learn the meaning of that as children.--Only no one is going to say that the person who teaches it to us tells us 'what takes place' (PI 361).

    "Rather it seems to us as though in this case the instructor imparted the meaning to the pupil--without telling him directly; but in the end the pupil is brought to the point of giving himself the correct ostensive definition. And this is where out illusion is (PI 362)."

    Is the meaning of the words saying something to myself defined by pointing at the goings on in the head? That something happens in the brain is not the question. The question is, "How do we learn to use the words?" And to this the answer is NOT to point to what's happening in the mind/brain.

    "'But when I imagine something, something certainly happens!' Well, something happens--and then I make a noise. What for? Presumably in order to tell what happens.--But how is telling done? When are we said to tell anything?--What is the language-game of telling (PI 363)."

    The answer here is to understand this, viz., "[H]ow is telling done?" To look at the language-game of telling. How is it that we learn to tell someone something? The learning of this is done in the open, not by pointing or focusing one's attention on the mental phenomena.

    Someone might say that when the doctor asks if I'm in pain, and I say yes, am I not giving the words meaning by associating these words with the inner experience of pain? How else would the words "I am in pain," get meaning apart from me imparting to the doctor that I am in pain? Isn't my experience essential to the meaning? The natural inclination is to say yes, the inner process is essential, and again this is a confusion, a confusion based on a misunderstanding. The reason is, we don't learn to use the word pain based on this example, i.e., before we can get to understanding what's taking place between the doctor and patient, we must understand how we learn the words, and how we then go about using the words.

    Thus, there is a lot of background information that's learnt before we can get to the discussion between doctor and patient. If we isolate this conversation, then it seems as though the words, "I am in pain," gets their meaning from the inner experience. However, we forget about how a child learns to use the word. The child wouldn't know how to answer the doctor, if the child had not learnt the proper use of the word, and that is done in social settings where rules of use are learnt. How did the child learn to differentiate one experience from another? How are we able to say that the child is learning to use the word pain correctly.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    "'When I say 'I am in pain' I am at any rate justified before myself.' - What does that mean? Does it mean: 'If someone else could know what I am calling 'pain', he would admit that I was using the word correctly'?

    "To use a word without justification does not mean to use it without right (PI 289)."

    The point of asking "am I at any rate justified before myself," is to point out, or to make us think of how one would be justified "before oneself." Wittgenstein talks about this is On Certainty, i.e., the correct way of expressing this is not "I know I'm in pain," but "I am in pain." It's not a matter of knowledge, or of knowing. One doesn't justify to oneself, one justifies to others in a particular language-game. We learn the use of the word pain in association with others, combined with the rules of the language-game. It's not just social, after all people use words incorrectly all the time in social settings.

    The last sentence seems to point to the idea that one doesn't need a justification for every use of a word. Justification by it's very nature has an end, or else, what would it mean to justify something?
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    "What I do is not, of course, to identify my sensation by criteria: but to repeat an expression. But this is not the end of the language-game: it is the beginning.

    "But isn't the beginning the sensation-which I describe?-Perhaps this word 'describe' tricks us here. I say 'I describe my state of mind' and 'I describe my room'. You need to call to mind the differences between the language-game (PI 290)."

    It seems as though Wittgenstein is pointing out that inner sensations, pain for example, are identified by criteria (the rules of the language-game). However, much of the time we are simply repeating and expression that seems to have meaning. For example, an unconscious thought, or an unconscious bias, we repeat these kinds of expressions as though they have meaning, when they don't.

    One might be tempted to think that the beginning of the language-game is the description of my sensation. Wittgenstein invites us to examine how we look at the use of the word describe, comparing it to a description of a state of mind, as opposed to a description of one's room. We understand the meaning of the words used to describe one's room, chairs, desks, bed, blanket, etc., but how do we describe those things in the mind (the beetle in the box). How does that thing in the mind get described, what is the rule that allows us to create the language-game of description in this case? How do we even share these private sensations, unless of course there is some outward thing that shows itself. For example, we share the cries or moans of pain, but that's not completely private, note the outward sign (crying and moaning). If the sensation is completely private like the beetle in the box, the word is senseless. The grammar fools us, i.e., it seems as though we are saying something that makes sense, but upon closer examination, there is nothing there, viz., no something for the word to latch onto.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    A class by Dr. Duncan Pritchard on Wittgenstein's On Certainty.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndS5MPoH4Zc
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    What follows here is my theory of epistemology based on Wittgenstein's hinge-propositions. I'm simply expanding what I believe follows from On Certainty. This is something I originally started working on back in 2009. I'm going to put forth this theory in much more detail in what follows.

    Post #1

    Hinge-Propositions and Their Epistemic Importance

    In the following philosophical discourse I will try to set out a theory which enunciates a certain set of propositions as the foundation of our epistemic system. I am not claiming anything original in my thesis, except that there are a certain group of propositions that I believe Wittgenstein has identified in his notes; and that these propositions form the substructure of our epistemic system. They provide a kind of backdrop that allows us to form more sophisticated language constructs or language-games. For example, our understanding of knowledge, and how we use phrases like “I know that such and such is the case” and “I doubt that such and such is the case” in certain contexts and not in others; and how not understanding these contexts can cause philosophical confusion.

    The main source of this information will be Wittgenstein’s final work called On Certainty and his response to Moore’s papers, Proof of an External World and A Defense of Common Sense in which Moore lists a number of propositions that he claims to know with certainty. Propositions such as the following: “Here is one hand” and “There exists at present a living human body, which is my body” – Moore continues to enumerate other propositions that he claims to know, with certainty, to be true. These propositions provide for Moore a proof of the external world, and as such, they supposedly form a buttress against the skeptic. However, as we shall see, it is not only Moore’s claim to knowledge that Wittgenstein criticizes, but he also critiques the skeptic, and specifically their use of the word “doubt.”

    One claim of this critique is that Wittgenstein’s response to Moore’s propositions is not entirely unsympathetic, although he argues that Moore’s propositions do not accomplish what Moore thinks they do, namely, to provide a proof of the external world; which in turn is supposed to undermine the doubts of the skeptic.

    On Certainty begins with the following statement:

    “If you do know that here is one hand, we’ll grant you all the rest (OC 1).”

    Wittgenstein grants that if Moore knows what he claims to know, then Moore’s conclusion follows. Nevertheless, Wittgenstein argues throughout his notes that Moore does not know what he thinks he knows. However, I think we are all inclined to agree with Moore. After all, if we do not know this is a hand, then what do we know? It is this inclination to use the word “know” as Moore uses it that causes the dispute.

    “Now, can one enumerate what one knows (like Moore)? Straight off like that, I believe not.—For otherwise the expression “I know” gets misused (OC 6).”

    The disputes with Moore’s propositions are not only problematic, but they are also very subtle disputes, which means that they are difficult to flush out. One of the problems is that we sometimes fail to see the connection between the use of the word “know,” and the use of the word “doubt,” and the logic behind that use. This is a crucial point. It is the kind of logical link that is also seen between rule-following and making a mistake - one cannot happen without the other. They are logically intertwined as we shall see.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Hinge-Propositions and Their Epistemic Importance

    Continuing...

    Post #2

    In the following quote from Wittgenstein we can see some slight differences in the use of the word “know,” and how it accomplishes the purpose of thwarting the misgivings of another.

    “’I know what kind of tree that is.—It is a chestnut.’ ’I know what kind of tree that is.—I know it’s a chestnut.’ The first statement sounds more natural than the second. One will only say ‘I know’ a second time if one wants especially to emphasize certainty; perhaps to anticipate being contradicted. The first ‘I know’ means roughly: I can say.

    “But in the other case one might begin with the observation ’that’s a …’, and then, when this is contradicted, counter by saying: ‘I know what sort of a tree it is’, and by this means lay emphasis on being sure (OC 591).”

    One use of the word “know” is to alleviate doubt, or even to eliminate doubt as we participate in our everyday interactions. For instance, if I say that “I know that George is guilty,” then I am simply saying that I have the proper grounds for my knowledge. Hence, if you agree, you too will acknowledge that “I know that George is guilty.” If you acknowledge that I know what I claim to know, then presumably this lets the air out of the proverbial balloon of doubt. If you disagree with my claim, then the doubt remains. So, if I make a claim to know what DNA is, and I have never studied biology, then it makes sense to have a question about my claim to knowledge. If on the other hand, you know that I have a PhD in biology from MIT, then it is very unlikely that you will doubt my claim to knowledge as it pertains to biology. Is not Moore trying to accomplish this very thing when he makes his claim to knowledge, that is, Moore is trying to negate the doubt of the skeptic by saying that he does have proof of the existence of his hands, which in turn leads to his conclusion that there is an external world. He is claiming to be in a position to know, and of course it is this assertion that Wittgenstein disputes.

    Moore’s proof is supposed to show that the conclusion follows necessarily, and if it does, then the skeptic’s doubts are supposed to vanish. The proof would look something like the following:

    1) Moore has knowledge that he has two hands.
    2) Moore makes the inference from the fact that he has two hands, to the conclusion that there exists an external world.
    3) Hence, Moore knows that an external world exists.

    Wittgenstein is challenging the first premise in the above argument; more specifically, he is challenging Moore’s claim that he has knowledge of his two hands. Having knowledge of something presupposes that there are good reasons to believe it, but exactly what is it that Moore has knowledge of? He claims to have knowledge of the existence of his hands, but what would count as evidence for such a claim? Do I know that I have hands because I check to see if they are there every morning? Do I make a study of my hands, and thereby conclude that I do indeed have hands? I have knowledge of chemistry, physics, history, epistemology, and other subjects, and there are ways to confirm my knowledge. However, in our everyday lives do we need to confirm that we have hands? And do we normally doubt such things?

    “When Moore says he knows such and such, he is really enumerating a lot of empirical propositions which we affirm without special testing; propositions, that is, which have a peculiar role in the system of our empirical propositions.

    “Even if the most trustworthy of men assures me that he knows things are thus and so, this by itself cannot satisfy me that he does know. Only that he believes he knows. That is why Moore’s assurance that he knows…does not interest us. The propositions, however, which Moore retails as examples of such known truths are indeed interesting. Not because anyone knows their truth, or believes he knows them, but because they all have a similar role in the system of our empirical judgments.

    “We don’t, for example, arrive at any of them as a result of investigation (OC 136-138).”
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    We see others in pain and we learn to use the word in connection with the rules of the language-game.Sam26

    This leaves out the part where we also feel the pain and learn to associate our sensation with how other people are talking and behaving. Our ability to do this probably has something to do with being able to empathize with others and infer their mental states. Thus psychopaths exhibit a kind of deficit in not being able to understand why people feel certain ways, only that they can be fooled by faking the emotion.

    There are some rare cases where individuals do lack an ability to feel pain. If you snuck up and pricked one of them with a pin, they wouldn't yell "Ouch, that hurt!". Nor would they go to a doctor to complain about some bodily pain.

    Now imagine a world where we evolved without pain sensation. Harm would still exist as a word, but not pain. Similarly, if we were intelligent cave bats, visual concepts would not form part of our language.

    How do I know when I'm in pain? Because I feel it. Not because I can speak it, but because it hurts.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    Ordinary use I believe refers to the ordinary way in which a word was developed.Sam26

    That makes sense. So going back to your previous posts on Moore's demonstration that he has hands as proof of a physical world, ordinary language supports naive realism. This was fine until people starting reflecting on all the ways our perception can either fool us or is relative. And also how perception is based on the kind of creatures we are.

    That leads itself to the possibility of skepticism. So if I can have a hallucination of a tree, then questions rise about the nature of perception. On a totally naive view of vision, we're just looking out at the world as it is. The tree I see is the external world tree. But humans came to realize perception is a lot more complicated than just looking out at the world.

    So then we see a potential problem with ordinary language. It can be based on naive intuitions. The sun rises and sets. The earth is stationary with four corners. I feel in my heart and courage arises in the intestines. Living things have an animating life force, which could be the blood or the breath. And so on.

    Claiming that philosophy goes wrong by abusing the ordinary use of words is ignoring how the ordinary usage of words often enough starts out wrong.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    For example, getting back to religious examples, if I say in ordinary speech, "I know that God speaks to me," is this a correct use of what it means to know?Sam26

    The thing here is that people have often used subjective criteria for knowledge. The Christian will probably say they know because their experience of God gives them evidence just like perceiving seeing the sun lets us know the sun exists.

    They will probably reject the idea that knowledge is limited to the empirical or the deductive. The gnostics explicitly advocated for a kind of subjective relavatory knowledge.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    This leaves out the part where we also feel the pain and learn to associate our sensation with how other people are talking and behaving.Marchesk

    You're conflating learning to use the word pain with feeling the sensation of pain. We don't learn to use the word pain based on our private sensations, but we learn to use the word in association with others. This is closely related to the idea of rule-following which is not done in private. Learning a language is necessarily social, so in that sense it's not dependent on what you feel. I'm not saying it has no connection with your sensation, I'm saying that how we talk about pain is necessarily social and not private.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    \
    We don't learn to use the word pain based on our private sensations, but we learn to use the word in association with othersSam26

    I'm saying it's necessarily both. Consider that humans wouldn't have developed pain talk if we didn't feel pain, just like we wouldn't have a color vocabulary without eyes.

    I'm saying that how we talk about pain is necessarily social and not private.Sam26

    When I say I feel pain, I'm referring to my private sensation of pain. You might infer that I'm in pain because I'm jumping up and down and screaming. Or not, because I've mastered stoicism.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Hinge-Propositions and Their Epistemic Importance

    Continuing...

    Post #3

    Wittgenstein’s argument is not only with Moore’s use of the word “know,” but also with the use of the word “doubt” by the skeptic. I believe Wittgenstein is not only saying that Moore’s use of the word “know” is senseless, but also that the skeptic’s use of the word “doubt” is senseless. The first question we need to ask ourselves is - “Does it make sense to doubt?” For example, does it make sense to doubt whether the earth is more than 100 years old? What would a doubt here look like? Do we question whether or not our desks still exist when we are not looking? Do people who have known us for years question whether our name really is what we say it is? If one is to doubt, then one needs good reasons to doubt, just as one needs good reasons for knowledge claims. We could understand the doubt of the skeptic if occasionally there were reasons to doubt that we lived on the earth, or that occasionally my hands actually turned out to be someone else’s hands, but we do not observe anything of the kind. And even in cases where we can understand doubting such propositions, the circumstances that give rise to such doubts tend to be very unusual. The point is that we recognize the difference. Both of these activities (knowing and doubting) are rule-governed, and take place within a practice of making empirical judgments. Our system of doubt and knowledge are formed because the world stands fast for us. If it did not, then we would not be able to form a coherent system of knowledge and doubt. One wonders if language would even get off the ground.

    Doubting can only take place against a backdrop of non-doubt, that is, doubting is parasitic on that which stands fast for us. We learn to doubt only after we learn that some things stand fast. Some beliefs are so bedrock that to doubt them is senseless. This is not to say that it is not possible, given some contexts, to doubt propositions that normally stand fast; but what it does say, is that because it is possible, that in itself is no reason to doubt those beliefs which in normal everyday circumstances stand fast. There are more reasons to doubt the doubt, than to doubt the bedrock belief. This is demonstrated in Moore's statement, "Here is one hand," which he claims to know. His proof rests on something that is so fundamental that doubt seems quite incoherent. Although the disagreement that Wittgenstein raises is about the use of the word know in connection with Moore's propositions.

    Another point made by Wittgenstein in relation to Moore’s propositions is the following:

    “Moore’s view really comes down to this: the concept ‘know’ is analogous to the concepts ‘believe’, ‘surmise’, ‘doubt’, ‘be convinced’ in that the statement ‘I know…’ can’t be a mistake. And if that is so, then there can be an inference from such an utterance to the truth of an assertion. And here the form ‘I thought I knew’ is being overlooked.—But if this latter is inadmissible, then a mistake in the assertion must be logically impossible too. And anyone who is acquainted with the language-game must realize this – an assurance from a reliable man that he knows cannot contribute anything (OC 21).”

    What Wittgenstein seems to be asserting is that Moore’s use of the word “know” seems to force us to conclude that he knows based on his assertion that he knows. Wittgenstein continues with:

    “It would surely be remarkable if we had to believe the reliable person who says, ‘I can’t be wrong’; or who says ‘I am not wrong’ (OC 22).”

    Later Wittgenstein states that if one knows that something is the case, then it must be shown objectively. Again, one's claim to knowledge contributes nothing.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    I'm saying it's necessarily both. Consider that humans wouldn't have developed pain talk if we didn't feel pain, just like we wouldn't have a color vocabulary without eyes.Marchesk

    I agree there is a connection between the pain we feel and how we learn to use the word pain. However, note that in order to learn to use the word correctly, both the sensation of pain, and the use of the word are done in social contexts, not privately. So although it's true that without the sensation of pain there would be no talk of pain, that's besides the point. The point is that learning to use the word that is connected with the sensation, again takes place in language-games. This is seen most clearly in Wittgenstein's discussion of having a private language.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    The thing here is that people have often used subjective criteria for knowledge. The Christian will probably say they know because their experience of God gives them evidence just like perceiving seeing the sun lets us know the sun exists.

    They will probably reject the idea that knowledge is limited to the empirical or the deductive. The gnostics explicitly advocated for a kind of subjective relavatory knowledge.
    Marchesk

    It's true that many people make claims to knowledge based on subjective criteria, but that doesn't make it knowledge. If someone claims to know X, you have the right to ask how it is that they know. Surely knowledge isn't simply a claim to know, otherwise any claim to know would be knowing. That would be weird to say the least. If you make a claim that something is true, I may express my doubts by asking how it is that you know, and my doubts will not be satisfied simply because you repeat your subjective claim, that would tell me nothing. This is why it's important to appeal to objective evidence that supports the claim. My doubts about your claim would then be satisfied. Of course sometimes people aren't satisfied even after seeing the objective evidence.

    I would claim that their subjective experience of God is not the same as our sensory experience of seeing the sun. The latter is objectively observed, the former not.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Hinge-Propositions and Their Epistemic Importance

    Continuing...

    Post #4

    It seems that Moore’s propositions come down to a state of knowing – a feeling of certainty, which is subjective; and this needs to be juxtaposed to the kind of certainty that is a result of objective verification. Wittgenstein seems to point this out when he remarks that

    “…’I know’ gets misused. And through this misuse a queer and extremely important mental state is revealed (OC 6).”

    Moore’s propositions appear to be more the result of an inner feeling of certitude, or an inner conviction. For example, my subjective certainty that I have hands, or that I have a body is a certainty that is shown by the way I act, as opposed to having arguments that prove it. One can see this kind of certainty even in animals. For instance, an animal will express its belief or certainty that it is about to be fed by its actions – the wagging of its tail, or the action of jumping up and down as the food is prepared. What is going on is an outer expression (my actions or the dog’s actions) of an inner belief or state. The problem is that we do not normally think of beliefs as states-of-mind reflected in our actions. However, even beliefs that are stated or expressed, are actions of a certain kind, that is, they are linguistic acts.

    The problem is that when we try to express our subjective beliefs with one another in the course of dialogue, the only way to do it is with statements or propositions. I am inclined to say “I know” because of an inner feeling of certainty, and herein lay the crux of the problem, namely, knowing and doubting in this context only occurs in language-games, and language-games only take place between people. The proposition that “I have hands” is not the result of my knowledge, but is the result of an inner certitude out of reach of any objective evidence.

    “One says ‘I know that he is in pain’ although one can produce no convincing grounds for this.—Is this the same as ‘I am sure that he…’?—No. ‘I am sure’ tells you my subjective certainty (OC 563).”

    A further point is that we do not play the language-game of knowing and doubting by ourselves, because knowing and doubting is an activity that happens between people. It is not an activity that you can do alone; I believe this is similar to the idea that Wittgenstein put forward in The Philosophical Investigations, namely, that we cannot have a private language, which goes to the notion of making mistakes and rule-following. Compare this with knowing and doubting, which can only take place where there is resolution. One does not play the language-game of resolution (that is, resolving knowledge claims and doubts) with oneself.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    One does not play the language-game of resolution (that is, resolving knowledge claims and doubts) with oneself.Sam26

    Does this mean that a human being raised by wolves couldn't come up with the game, or does it mean that the last survivor of an apocalypse couldn't play the game?

    Because it seems like I can certainly play the game when I'm alone. I hear footsteps late at night in an old house by myself. I go investigate and realize it's just the house creaking along with my imagination.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Does this mean that a human being raised by wolves couldn't come up with the game, or does it mean that the last survivor of an apocalypse couldn't play the game?Marchesk

    Yes, any language by definition is social due to the nature of rule-following, which is part of the point of Wittgenstein's private language argument. So the correct and incorrect use of a word is something we do together, and this is an important logical point about the nature of language. However, don't confuse this with the idea of the private use of language, i.e., once I've learned a language, then I can use it privately, but that is always subject to the rule-following nature of language, not the other way around. The point is that you cannot develop and language which is completely private. This is difficult for some people to swallow, but I think that's because some people confuse having a private language with using a language privately.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Hinge-Propositions and Their Epistemic Importance

    Continuing...

    Post #5

    If Moore’s propositions are not the kind of propositions that can be known or doubted – what are they? After all, a basic definition of a proposition is that it is a statement that either asserts that something is the case, or that something is not the case; and since Moore’s statements do not seem to fall into the category of being true or false (as Wittgenstein defines them), then they must be something else – but what? We will refer to these propositions as “hinge propositions.” Wittgenstein makes reference to“hinge propositions” in his notes (OC 341, 343, and 655), so we will borrow the phrase from him. We will also refer to these kinds of beliefs as bedrock.

    What are hinge propositions? We already have a clue, because Moore has given us some examples of these kinds of propositions unknowingly. The following is a list taken in part from Wittgenstein’s On Certainty:

    1) I live on the earth.
    2) I am a person.
    3) My name is Bill Smith.
    4) This is a tree.
    5) 2x2=4

    According to Wittgenstein justification comes to an end, however, the point is to say that justification ends with hinge-propositions, which in turn brings us to what is bedrock. Hinge-propositions form part of what is bedrock to our epistemic system of knowing and doubting. The reason is that reality itself plays an important part of what is bedrock. So there is a sense where what is bedrock is deeper than the belief itself.

    We access the world through sensory experiences, and it is through this access that bedrock beliefs are formed. There seems to be a causal connection between the world, sensory experiences, and these kinds of beliefs (the mind). Note that this is not a reasoned process, and as such, they are arational beliefs. These kinds of beliefs form the substrata of all epistemological processes, which is strictly a linguistic process, that is, when speaking of epistemology, we are speaking of particular kinds of language-games.

    Much of our subjective certainty comes from bedrock beliefs, and sometimes we confuse our subjective certainty (there are two kinds of certainty - subjective and objective) as a kind of knowledge, which it is not (again, they are arational beliefs). This seems to be part of what Moore did (demonstrate a subjective certainty) in expressing these beliefs (the examples given above) as something he knows.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Hinge-Propositions and Their Epistemic Importance

    Continuing...

    Post #6

    What makes hinge-propositions bedrock is that they lay outside our epistemic system, and we build our epistemic system on top of them. This seems to be the case based on the idea that these particular beliefs are shown apart from linguistic statements. Wittgenstein points out examples of these beliefs in paragraphs 284 and 285 in On Certainty.

    These beliefs lay outside our epistemic system because they can neither be known nor doubted, which means that they can neither be justified nor disbelieved as part of our epistemology. If they cannot be sensibly justified nor disbelieved, then justification ends with hinge-propositions.

    Another facet to Wittgenstein’s method is to show that when we justify any proposition using evidence, we do so with propositions that are stronger than the propositions we are defending. We do not do it with weaker propositions – weaker propositions do not support stronger propositions. Wittgenstein illustrates this point in the following passage:

    “One says ‘I know’ when one is ready to give compelling grounds. ‘I know’ relates to a possibility of demonstrating the truth. Whether someone knows something can come to light, assuming that he is convinced of it. But if what he believes is of such a kind that the grounds that he can give are no surer than his assertion, then he cannot say that he knows what he believes (OC 243).”

    The foundation is the strongest part of any structure; one does not use 2x4’s to support 10x10’s, which is the point of the passage. What holds up the foundation? Nothing holds up the foundation, that is why it is called the foundation, namely, we have reached bottom. Again, we have come to the end of justifications, and we have arrived at hinge-propositions.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Hinge-Propositions and Their Epistemic Importance

    Continuing...

    Post #7

    In his paper Wittgenstein On Skepticism Duncan Pritchard says that one of the problems with the non-epistemic approach to hinge-propositions has to do with the closure principle. The closure principle simply states the following:

    If S knows that p, and S knows that p entails q, then S knows that q. The problem according to Pritchard and others, is that when we use the closure principle, we can seemingly justify hinge-propositions. Consider the following example based on what Wittgenstein says in the following passage:

    “It is certain that after the battle of Austerlitz Napoleon … Well, in that case it’s surely also certain that the earth existed then (OC 183).”

    So, using the closure principle we can supposedly justify hinge propositions in the following way:

    If John knows that the battle of Austerlitz occurred in 1805, and John knows that the battle of Austerlitz entails that the earth has existed for a long time, then John knows that the earth has existed for a long time.

    And since the proposition that “The earth has existed for a long time” is a hinge-proposition – it follows then that one can know, what one is not supposed to know. Is this really a problem? Are we in fact justifying a proposition that cannot be justified? It certainly seems so.

    However, if it is true that hinge-propositions are not propositions in the traditional sense, then it seems that the closure principle does not apply. Hinge-propositions are neither strengthened nor weakened by the closure principle. Is not this the point Wittgenstein is making, namely, that hinge-propositions are not traditional propositions, but using hinge-propositions in this way, you are assuming they are traditional propositions. You have to assume Wittgenstein is incorrect, but that has not been demonstrated. One also has to demonstrate that Moore has a point in saying that he knows, for example, that he has hands.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    I'm going to continue laying out my theory of epistemology based on Wittgenstein's hinge-propositions, and the implications for epistemology. My theory goes beyond what Wittgenstein is saying, but also uses Wittgenstein's ideas as I interpret them.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Hinge-Propositions and Their Epistemic Importance

    Continuing...

    Post #8

    The argument as presented is that hinge-propositions have nothing to do with reason (in the formal sense), that is, we do not get hinge-beliefs by satisfying ourselves of the correctness of our inherited background. In fact, these beliefs are much of what make up our inherited background, and "...against which [we] distinguish between true and false (OC 94)." Further Wittgenstein points out the following:

    "All testing, all confirmation and disconfirmation of a hypothesis takes place already within a system. And this system is not a more or less arbitrary and doubtful point of departure for all our arguments: no, it belongs to the essence of what we call an argument. The system is not so much the point of departure, as the element in which arguments have their life (OC 105)"

    The system, it seems, is our inherited background. It is for example, that I have two hands, that I live on the Earth, that I have a body separate from other bodies, that things do not disappear when I turn my back, and a million other things we take for granted. It is this system that is foundational or bedrock to hinge-propositions or hinge-beliefs, these beliefs give life to language, and to our epistemological language-games. It means that justification, truth, and knowledge, along with a host of other beliefs arise out of this inherited background. So we act within this system. It is an ungrounded way of acting (OC 110).

    Not only does one need grounds for knowledge, but one needs grounds for doubt. How would doubt get a foothold? That we have two hands, as in Moore's demonstration (raising his hands), is part of our inherited background. Everything speaks in favor of such a belief, and nothing against it, grounds for doubt are lacking. Do not confuse the idea of whether it is possible to doubt in some context, with what is sensible or rational to doubt, that is, because something is possible, this gives us no reason to believe it, or, it gives us no reason to doubt it.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    Do not confuse the idea of whether it is possible to doubt in some context, with what is sensible or rational to doubt, that is, because something is possible, this gives us no reason to believe it, or, it gives us no reason to doubt it.Sam26

    However, I just listened to a podcast on Parmenides, who provided a rational argument for disbelieving the empirical world in favor of the real world of the unchanging sphere.

    It sounds silly, but what Parmenides did was build an argument based on the idea that all differentiation implies not-being, which doesn't exist. Red is not blue, cold is not hot, and so on. And since only being exists, there can be no actual differences, and as such, the world we experience is an illusion.

    This in turn had a big influence on various ancient philosophers, including the Atomists, who said that it was atoms and not-being (the void) which are what really existed, and Plato, who said it was the eternal forms. And in Indian philosophy, you had the notion that only consciousness exists. So again, the idea that the empirical world is somehow an illusion.

    Now we might very well take issue with those positions, but it does show how you can go about disputing the empirical, and thus the hinge propositions.

    The reason for mentioning the above is that although Wittgenstein is pragmatically right in that the hinge propositions form the background for our understanding, they don't necessarily refute skeptical arguments, to the extent one is inclined to listen to skeptical reasoning.

    In everyday life, they dissolve our skeptical worries, but that wouldn't sway someone like Parmenides. You would have to attack his argument directly, instead of pointing out that he's writing his poem with one of his hands.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Now we might very well take issue with those positions, but it does show how you can go about disputing the empirical, and thus the hinge propositions.Marchesk

    There are many different skeptical arguments that find their way into the thinking of people, some are justified, some are not. I don't think many of these arguments have much force.

    In everyday life, they dissolve our skeptical worries, but that wouldn't sway someone like Parmenides. You would have to attack his argument directly, instead of pointing out that he's writing his poem with one of his hands.Marchesk

    Ya, it wouldn't do much good to tell him he can't doubt the proposition because it's an undoubtable empirical proposition that he has hands. His argument can be attacked very easily, but I'm not going to deal with his argument directly. I've already dealt with it indirectly.

    The one question that is important to ask, is if it makes sense to doubt propositions like "I have hands," or other propositions that have already been mentioned. Doubting these kinds of propositions makes no sense, i.e., there aren't good reasons to doubt. I'm not saying that there aren't good reasons to express doubts in some contexts, obviously there are, but in Moore's contexts there aren't.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Hinge-Propositions and Their Epistemic Importance

    Continuing...

    Post #9

    The argument as presented is that hinge-propositions have nothing to do with reason (in the formal sense), and this becomes clear if we consider the following example: Suppose I was the only living person, and also suppose that there was no language - one could still imagine that I would have the subjective certainty or the subjective belief that I have two hands, or that I have a body, etc. This would also be the case without any advanced noetic structure – it would be the case without any formal knowledge. There would be no one to convince. Moreover, I would not conclude by any formal system of logic that something was or was not the case. All of my beliefs, in terms of hinge-propositions, would be subjective certainties. Hence, to conclude that John could infer from some fact, that he knows that the earth has existed for more than 100 years is to not understand the nature of subjective certainties - anymore than a dog’s subjective belief that it is about to be fed could be strengthened by some objective fact. That is not to say that objective facts are not part of what is being observed, it is only to point out that one does not infer from the objective facts, to the conclusion that I have two hands - at least not generally. The nature of these subjective beliefs is not a matter of formal reason. I simply find that I believe hinge-propositions as part of our shared inherited background, and the evidence that I believe them is in my actions, or collectively, our actions.

    The foundation then of our epistemic system is not a set of propositions that are justified, or known to be true or false by any epistemic method. They are not justified by argument, inference, or proof; they are not justified by testimony; they are not justified by sensory experience; they are not justified linguistically; nor are they tautologically justified. They are simply subjective certainties that are shown by our interactions with one another, and our interactions with the world. They form the basis from which we build a language, and from which we form our systems of knowledge and doubt. It is in this sense that they are important to our epistemic considerations, and it is in this sense that they are foundational, or more importantly - bedrock to our language constructs.
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    I'm rewriting much of my exegesis of On Certainty in a blog on Quora. Maybe in a few years I can turn it into a book.

    https://philosophy123.quora.com
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    Prior to writing on my blog on Quora (https://philosophy123.quora.com), I will be writing in this thread, in more detail, my theory of epistemology based on many of the remarks in On Certainty; and what I have extrapolated from On Certainty, that is, what I believe may follow from Wittgenstein's final thoughts.

    There is not much change in this first post.

    Wittgenstein: On Certainty Post #1

    What follows is my own analysis of On Certainty, and this analysis is done with very little input from other philosophers. Hence, some of my thoughts may diverge or converge with others, but they are mine and I take responsibility for them. Hopefully, I will hit the mark from time-to-time, at least that is my goal. Maybe some of you will get something out of this, but I can tell you it takes a lot of work, and even then, it is easy to miss the point of Wittgenstein's thinking. I have read and re-read On Certainty many times, and each time I do, I learn something new.

    Wittgenstein wrote On Certainty in response to Moore's papers, Proof of an External World and A Defense of Common Sense in which Moore lists a number of propositions that he claims to know with certainty. Propositions such as the following: "Here is one hand" and "There exists at present a living human body, which is my body (G.E. Moore, Philosophical Papers (1959), p. 1)." Moore continues to enumerate other propositions that he claims to know, with certainty, to be true. These propositions provide for Moore a proof of the external world, and as such, they supposedly form a buttress against the skeptic.

    As we read On Certainty we note that it is not only Moore's claim to knowledge that Wittgenstein criticizes, but he also critiques the skeptic, and specifically their use of the word doubt. Wittgenstein's response to Moore's propositions is not entirely unsympathetic, although he argues that Moore's propositions do not accomplish what Moore thinks they do, namely, to provide a proof of the external world; which in turn is supposed to undermine the doubts of the skeptic. Moore's proof is supposed to show that the conclusion follows necessarily, and if it does, then the skeptic's doubts are supposed to vanish - at least in theory. The proof would look something like the following:

    1) Moore has knowledge that he has two hands.

    2) Moore makes the inference from the fact that he has two hands, to the conclusion that there exists an external world.

    3) Hence, Moore knows that an external world exists.

    Wittgenstein is challenging the first premise in the above argument; more specifically, he is challenging Moore's claim that he knows that he has hands. Moore demonstrated this by holding up one hand, and then the other. Having knowledge of something presupposes that there are good reasons (at least in many cases), or at least some justification, to believe it, but exactly what is it that Moore has knowledge of? He claims to have knowledge of the existence of his hands, but what would count as evidence for such a claim? Do I know that I have hands because I check to see if they are there every morning? Do I make a study of my hands, and thereby conclude that I do indeed have hands? I have knowledge of chemistry, physics, history, epistemology, and other subjects, and there are ways to confirm my knowledge. However, in our everyday lives do we need to confirm that we have hands? And do we normally doubt such things?
  • Sam26
    1.2k
    "If you do know that here is one hand [G.E. Moore, Proof of an External World], we'll grant you all the rest. When one says that such and such a proposition can't be proved, of course that does not mean that it can't be derived from other propositions; any proposition can be derived from other ones. But they may be no more certain than it is itself (OC, 1)."

    So, Wittgenstein grants that if Moore does indeed know that he has a hand, then Moore's conclusion follows. The skeptic says that such-and-such a proposition cannot be proved. However, that does not mean, according to Wittgenstein, that the proposition cannot be derived from other propositions, as in Moore’s argument. Moore’s conclusion that he knows there is an external world seems to follow from his claim that he knows he has hands. What could be simpler? However, Wittgenstein points out that the conclusion is no stronger than the premise. If the conclusion is no stronger than the premise, then how is this supposed to convince the skeptic? If the skeptic can doubt one, then it is a simple move to doubt the other.

    There seems to be something foundational here, as we shall see.

    "From it seeming to me--or to everyone--to be so, it doesn't follow that it is so. What we can ask is whether it can make sense to doubt it (OC, 2)."

    The skeptic may have a point (although it may not be the point he/she is trying to make), that just because Moore says something is so, it does not follow that it is. Although to be fair to Moore, Moore believes his conclusion follows, so it is not just a statement, but a proof. We need to ask whether the doubt makes sense. According to Wittgenstein how we use words in language tells us much about the logic behind the meaning. Moreover, language is rule-based (implicit and explicit), which puts some constraints on the use of a word. Just as the rules of chess puts constraints on how we use the bishop. So the question naturally arises for Wittgenstein about the use of the word doubt as the skeptic is using it, that is, does it make sense to doubt what the skeptic is doubting? Are there good reasons for the doubt? Later, Wittgenstein will point out that a doubt that doubts everything is not a doubt.
  • Banno
    3.8k
    it seems as though we are saying something that makes sense, but upon closer examination, there is nothing there, viz., no something for the word to latch onto.Sam26

    But despite there not being a something, the game takes place; and has a role. We do things with our talk of pain.
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