• Banno
    19.2k
    It's not easy to talk about something that can't be expressed in words. Good luck.jgill
    Perhaps it's the denizens of philosophy forums, as opposed to philosophers, who perform such wonders.

    The problem with claiming that something is ineffable is, of course, the liar-paradox-like consequence that one has thereby said something about it.

    There are a few possible responses. The one apparently advocated by Wittgenstein was to simply remain silent about the ineffable. Folk are not very good at doing this. A second possibility is simply to say that ascribing ineffability to something is to say that it has no referent. Another is to treat "ineffable" as a second-order predicate, somewhat like existence, such that ascribing ineffability is not ascribing a property but saying something (what, exactly?) about those properties. A fourth possibility is that to say that something is ineffable is to say that it can only be understood by listing the attributes that do not apply to it. Or it might be that the ineffable cannot be said, only experienced. Or perhaps it can only understood by metaphors. Or it might be an honorific, just a way of marking certain language as sacrosanct, or certain subjects as not available for further comment.

    Or it might demark where nonsense and irrationality begins.

    Or each of the above.

    How long is a thread about what cannot be said?
  • Paine
    862
    If one takes your last question seriously, then it brings into question what you want to learn beyond what you wish to demonstrate.
  • Moliere
    2.4k
    Attempting to compete with the thread on truth, eh? :) -- I'll admit this has been a thought in the back of my mind...

    The ineffable can't be said, by definition -- but we reach all the same. I guess in reaching, the question is -- do we grasp what was there, or do we not? And as odd as it sounds I think that both answers are right?

    Another is to treat "ineffable" as a second-order predicate, somewhat like existence, such that ascribing ineffability is not ascribing a property but saying something (what, exactly?) about those properties.Banno

    I think the "what, exactly?" would be explicable, but only within a tradition. Mostly, though, I'd say the ineffable is either moral or aesthetic, so a judgment on statements about good/bad. But I'd quickly add that this is merely a best guess, that it is wrong -- because here we are articulating it.

    (Tempted to go into a Levinas diatribe here ;) )

    How long is a thread about what cannot be said?Banno

    Infinite. Isn't the ineffable, in its own way, the inspiration for these questions?
  • frank
    11.4k
    The one apparently advocated by Wittgenstein was to simply remain silent about the ineffableBanno

    Was it? Or was he warning that language is sometimes misused?

    Was there an argument that shows that speech never falls short of expressing what we know?
  • Joshs
    4k
    The one apparently advocated by Wittgenstein was to simply remain silent about the ineffable
    — Banno

    Was it? Or was he warning that language is sometimes misused?

    Was there an argument that shows that speech never falls short of expressing what we know?
    frank

    Good point. The ineffable is not a patented product with a tag warning not to speak of it. If it were, the lawyers would have a field day arguing over whether the defendant was actually speaking of the ineffable. The meaning of the ineffable is nothing outside of how it is used in actual contexts, and since these contexts are never identical but only share a family resemblance (which does not mean that they are subsumed within an overarching definition of ineffability), there is no single generic sense of ineffability. What we can say is that to use to the word is to provide it with a sense, even when we are inclined to be bewitched by our ordinary use ( or misuse) of language into convincing ourselves that we can somehow understand a sense of a word like ‘ineffable’ and yet hold it to be outside all meaning. This apparent paradox , like the liar paradox, is only an illusion or confusion resulting from our misunderstanding of how language works.
  • javra
    1.9k
    It's not easy to talk about something that can't be expressed in words. Good luck. — jgill

    Perhaps it's the denizens of philosophy forums, as opposed to philosophers, who perform such wonders.

    The problem with claiming that something is ineffable is, of course, the liar-paradox-like consequence that one has thereby said something about it.
    Banno

    On a hunch, are you trying to distill the semantic difference between “God” (effable by one and all) and “G-d” (written so as to not be effable) via analysis of ineffability?

    If so, my best hunch so far is that “God” presumes the rational human intelligibility of the referent specified via certain qualifications; whereas “G-d” presumes that the referent intended is beyond rational human intelligibility despite being endowed with same said qualifications. One can describe its qualifications - but not that referenced as endowed with these qualifications, other than by saying that it is beyond intelligibility, hence indescribable, hence inexpressible.

    It’s not that one can’t say “Gd” or describe the referent by asserting that it’s not a rock or dog; it’s the human unintelligibility of the referent as specified by its descriptions that the term “ineffable” intends to those who use it. At least as I so far best interpret the term’s use in this context.

    But maybe this thread has nothing to do with the context in which the term is tmk most often employed … In which case, never mind then.

    Instead, to change subjects: Any instantiation of beauty as direct experience is ineffable in its emotive particulars, but can only be described indirectly via conceptual generalities and perceptual details of that to which the beauty applies - which of themselves do not ever identify the instantiated experience of the aesthetic. One can say the words “this is beautiful”, but without a commonly shared experience - which can only be verified via back-and-forth interactions regarding that referenced as beautiful - the word “beautiful” is utterly meaningless. (When a certain Trump declares that “coal is beautiful” I for one don’t have any idea as to what he’s referring to. And it’s not too hard for me to presume that neither does he – other than that the term can hold some instrumental value or other.)

    But instantiated experiences of the aesthetic - though impossible to accurately articulate (other than by poetic language such as metaphor to so indirectly describe) - are not nonsense. Else no one would sense their reality, instead being a beetle in the box that no box contains. Nor are they irrational. Beyond the scope of reason, sure, but not irrational. Those concrete instantiations from which the abstraction of “beauty/the aesthetic” is formed are nevertheless ineffable. And quite clearly dwell beyond the rational intelligibility of humans … with over two millennia of ineffective investigations into the matter as evidence.

    Making this more concrete, Faith No More had a song, Epic, which addresses something ineffable.

    The ineffable which the song addresses is described in myriad ways but not linguistically identified, other than by the nonspecific statement, “it’s it”.

    But, judging by the song’s former popularity, a ton of people were able to relate to - to get - what the song was about. Which goes to show that not everything needs to be articulated - nor be rationally intelligible to us - in order for a sensible, shared cognizance of it to occur.

    But then, “What is it?”

    “It’s it.”

  • Metaphysician Undercover
    10.6k
    Infinite. Isn't the ineffable, in its own way, the inspiration for these questions?Moliere

    "infinite" is a curious case. What we cannot express with words, mathematics has proven to have the ways and means for understanding. So the ineffable is not a problem, mathematics is there for us. But then there are places where mathematics cannot go, and here we use words, like "infinite". Interesting, ineffable is not a problem unless you think it is, but then it's something personal. There's really just a matter of needing to know the limits of words, and the limits of math.
  • Tom Storm
    5.4k
    A second possibility is simply to say that ascribing ineffability to something is to say that it has no referent. Another is to treat "ineffable" as a second-order predicate, somewhat like existence, such that ascribing ineffability is not ascribing a property but saying something (what, exactly?) about those properties. A fourth possibility is that to say that something is ineffable is to say that it can only be understood by listing the attributes that do not apply to it. Or it might be that the ineffable cannot be said, only experienced. Or perhaps it can only understood by metaphors. Or it might be an honorific, just a way of marking certain language as sacrosanct, or certain subjects as not available for further comment.Banno

    Nice set of possibilities. I mainly hear the word in spiritual/religious circles, where, as most of us are aware, ineffable is used to describe a 'spiritual' experience which cannot be put into words. On this Wittgenstein's 'silence' may be entirely apropos. I generally think ineffable refers to an emotional experience people find hard or impossible to choose words for. I think a spiritual experience is an intense emotional experience - of loss, recognition, solidarity, joy...

    The nearest I get to such an experience would be listening to orchestral music. Sometimes the music leaves me with feelings I can't access linguistically - is the experience powerful; sad; euphoric; joyful? Is it catharsis - a journey through tension and resolution? Perhaps it's a melange of all of the above. Some people might dub such an experience 'numinous' - another delightfully ambiguous term which lacks linguistic and perhaps conceptual precision.

    I often regard words as inadequate, crude building blocks. We do our best to assemble them in meaningful ways to clarify our thoughts for others. The results may be inadequate or even wrong. In some cases it might just be easier to describe something as ineffable - as a way to avoiding the need to assemble a set of coherent ideas.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    10.6k
    Some people might dub such an experience 'numinous'Tom Storm

    The aesthetically beautiful can only be accounted for in terms of numeral. This why we have numerology.
  • RussellA
    556
    I can put the form of something into words even though I may not be able to put its content into words

    Private feelings cannot be expressed in words: pain, anger, the colour red, the sound of a screech, an aesthetic experience, etc.

    It is true that I cannot observe someone and experience their private pain, their anger, their experience of the colour red, etc, but I can observe their public interaction with the world.

    Every different private feeling results in a different public interaction with the world: fear causes flight, anger causes attack, pain causes flinching, awe causes stillness, etc. Although I cannot observe someone's private feelings, I can observe their public interaction with the world, and I can infer that different public interactions with the world have been caused by different private feelings.

    I can observe a particular effect and can infer a particular cause. I can observe someone flinching, infer that something particular caused the flinching, and name the cause "pain". The word "pain" is a label attached to the inferred cause of a particular effect, not a description of "pain". I can talk about "pain" as the inferred cause of a particular effect, although I cannot talk about what caused the effect.

    The content of "pain" cannot be put into words, as the private feelings of another person, but the form of "pain" can be put into words, as the inferred cause of an observable effect in the world. I can put into words the public form of something even though I cannot put its private content into words.

    Expressible form and ineffable contents are not mutually exclusive.
  • Benj96
    1.3k
    bravo Russell A. I agree. We can only observe the workings of another's mind through how they react to the world around them. We cannot feel what they feel, but we can infer from their behaviour why they behaved thus. Such is the basis of empathy.
  • Janus
    13k
    I can put the form of something into words even though I may not be able to put its content into wordsRussellA

    Right! Collectively, the 'identity' world of entities, things or objects, has been abstracted and formalized; abstracted from the determinably in-common human perceptual experiences. These identities are empty, changeless, in contrast to the individual experiences they are abstracted from, which are loaded with content, dynamic and ever-changing. Our language can only discursively reference the abstracted forms of human experience; the content is best dealt with allusively, via metaphor and poetic language. Heraclitus versus Parmenides is the seminal philosophical misunderstanding, if they are taken to be speaking about the same "worlds".
  • Banno
    19.2k
    The ineffable can't be said, by definition -- but we reach all the same. I guess in reaching, the question is -- do we grasp what was there, or do we not?Moliere

    The taste of coffee is given as ineffable; that is, that one cannot explain that taste to someone who hasn't tasted it. But contra that, we do talk about the tase of coffee, comparing roasts and blends and so on, as well as the skills of various baristas (baristi? baristasi?)), so the taste of coffee is not ineffable. We do put the colour red into words, along with pain and the workings of the minds of others and all sorts of things that some folk call ineffable. Fumbling anachronistically with form and content doesn't look productive.

    Others talk of the infinite is ineffable, but that's not right; it's clearly defied in terms of correspondence, and there are volumes on the topic.

    I can go some way with ethics and aesthetics being somewhat based on the ineffable, at least in so far as I go along with Moore in seeing the good as un-analysable. I suppose that will be the case for any un-analysable elemental concept - truth, for example. But that it cannot be explained in terms of its parts does not of course mean that it cannot be explained, nor that it cannot be discussed. Worth further consideration, perhaps.

    'numinous' - another delightfully ambiguous term which lacks linguistic and perhaps conceptual precision.Tom Storm

    Nothing to do with number, it means "to nod". Delightful, indeed, since one might well nod at what cannot be said.

    Was there an argument that shows that speech never falls short of expressing what we know?frank

    If what we know is believed, justified and true, it is propositional, and hence statable. But can one put into words how one rides a bike or play guitar? Tacit knowledge is a candidate for the ineffable.

    are you trying to distill the semantic difference between “God”and “G-d” (written so as to not be effable) via analysis of ineffability?javra

    No.
  • Jack Cummins
    4.4k

    Some have viewed Wittgenstein as being a mystic for his understanding of the importance of silence in relation to what one cannot speak about. Of course, his view was about the limitations of language, and this was in conjunction with the logical positivists. There is the whole area of people going into pointless speculation on aspects which cannot be known with certainty, like ideas about the invisible and life after death.

    As far as the idea of the ineffable itself it can be seen as an attitude of wonder as opposed to trying to pin down understanding to specific theories and models. So, there may be some aspect of contemplation of known unknown. Nevertheless, in philosophy as opposed to some other forms of writing, it does seem that the art is to find words to try to develop rational arguments and clarity of thinking about concepts. So, even though both Socrates and Wittgenstein spoke of the limitations of their knowledge there may be an underlying paradox in which, despite the limits, there is a need to try to develop the best possible understanding of ideas.
  • RussellA
    556
    One puzzle is how can we talk about something that cannot be put into words. Another puzzle is how can we talk about something that can be put into words.

    Words exist as physical objects in the world, otherwise we wouldn't be able to talk about them, ie "word objects".

    641318h0t13h4a2j.jpg

    We can talk about concrete things such as apples, tables, mountains, books, and we can talk about abstract things, such as beauty, wisdom, truth, sadness. Abstract things exist in the mind, not the world. But even concrete things exist more in the mind than the world. For example, my concept of an apple has evolved over a lifetime of particular experiences, and with new knowledge is constantly changing. The concept of a city-dweller will be different to that of a farmer. The concept of a South African will be different to that of an Icelander. Our concept of the same object may be similar, but it can never be the same.

    Therefore, everything we talk about, all our concepts, whether abstract or concrete, are more private than public. My concept of an aesthetic may be different to yours, but then again your concept of apple is more than likely to be different to mine.

    Because word objects such as "love" and "apple" exist in the world and are simple and unchanging, I can be certain that other observers of the same word object will experience the same private concept. This is not the case with objects such as love and apple, which are complex and changing, meaning that I can be certain that other observers of the same object will not experience the same private concept.

    Language is powerful because the words it uses are public. The fact that members of a society share the same private concept of public word objects, even if they don't share the private concept of the meaning of these public words, allows communication within a social group.

    A word object in the world is only given meaning when linked to another object in the world. The word object "maison" has no meaning until linked to the object house. Within society such linkages are undertaken by either common usage over a long period of time or performative christenings by those accepted as authorities by the society.

    Once a linkage has been made in the world between a word object such as "maison" and an object such as house, even though different individuals may probably have different private concepts of the object house, they will probably have the same private concept of the public word object "maison". Communication is then not about different private concepts of public objects but is about the same private concepts of public word objects.

    For example, five apples may be labelled "red". I may in fact have the private experience of a green colour when looking at them. You may have the private experience of a blue colour. If I am asked to pass over the "red" apples, I will pass over the same apples as you, even though we have different private experiences of the colour "red". Successful communication is possible even if our private concepts of an object are different as long as the object in the world has been given a public label, ie, society has formally linked an object in the world to a word object in the world.
  • frank
    11.4k
    But can one put into words how one rides a bike or play guitar? Tacit knowledge is a candidate for the ineffable.Banno

    Even if we could, that wouldn't convey to the naive how to ride or play. Some things you have to learn on your own.
  • Hanover
    9.1k
    perhaps it can only understood by metaphors.Banno

    I subscribe to the notion that all language is metaphorical to the extent it can only to better or worse extents describe one's internal states to tell the listener what that internal state "is like" (thus implicating a metaphor or simile). This assumes a similarity in our experiences which is purely assumed, which may or may not present to you some feeling of what I was experiencing based upon what I assume you have previously experienced. Even in the most non-abstract of sentences where I tell you what my dog experience is by pointing to a dog, what I am telling you is that I expect your experience will be like my experience.

    What this assumes, which I understand you disagree with, is that my descriptions are of phenomenal states, not of things, which I hold to be very distinct (this is the direct realism versus indirect realism issue).

    The point to this whole preface is to say that all thoughts are ineffable. The best we can do is share our experiences by reducing them to symbols and uttering them, but the picture we paint with our words is a rough sketch, only partially revealing the actual thought.
  • sime
    807
    Here's a type-theory inspired suggestion for explaining or dissolving ineffability: Identify the meaning of a word with it's effects in relation to a given stimulus. This idea is a generalisation of "meaning-of-use" known as causal semantics.

    E.g take the integer 2, which in Haskell can be written

    2 :: Integer

    where 2 is by definition the result of 1 + 1

    On the other hand, if we identify 2 with it's effects, this means interpreting 2 :: Integer to be equivalent to the following type

    2 :: (Integer --> r) -> r, where r is of arbitrary type (not necessarily a Nat).

    In other words, here the meaning of 2 is the effect that 2 has on every function of type (Integer -> r) that takes an integer and returns an object of type r, where r is arbitrary and refers to any type. In functional programming, the latter representation of 2 is known as a continuation'.

    In Haskell, 2 can be converted to a continuation by writing ($ 2), i.e.

    2 :: Integer

    whereas

    ($ 2) :: (Integer --> r) -> r,

    Example applications of the latter type include

    ($ 2) (+3) = 5
    ($2) print = "2" as the display output of a computer monitor.

    i.e r isn't necessarily an abstract type, but can refer to physical events.

    in Haskell, the form 2 :: Integer is considered to be fundamental and the meaning of it's continuation is derived from this consideration. But in general there is nothing stopping us from treating the continuation as semantically fundamental. This stance has the benefit of allowing the meaning of a type to be generalised so that it is always incomplete, evolving and contingent upon the affairs of the physical world, e.g. effect r could refer to a physical or psychological response to a symbolic instance of integer 2, such as sense-data created by the mind of a human in response to a 2, or to the operations of a physical machine reading 2 as input.
    "
    In terms of continuations, the public meaning of "coffee" is of type

    Coffee :: (Coffee-stimulus -> r) -> r

    where 'coffee-stimulus' is the type of a perspective-relative hidden variable that isn't publicly shared (since only reactions to stimuli are publicly available). So if a person's reaction to a coffee-stimulus is of type (Coffee-stimulus -> r), then the effect of 'coffee' on that person is by definition implicitly included in the public definition of "coffee", in spite of the fact the public definition of coffee does not know about or explicitly include that person reaction.

    Edit : I realise the last paragraph is technically problematic. For instance does 'sense-data' refer to r or to 'Coffee-stimulus' ?
  • Ciceronianus
    2.5k
    The one apparently advocated by Wittgenstein was to simply remain silent about the ineffable.Banno

    My belief is that he was telling philosophers to remain silent about it. If only they would. He was too clever to think that the clergy or theologians would stop their hooting and honking.

    Another of my (presumptively wise) beliefs is that where communication with others is concerned, art is the only means by which we may describe what we call the ineffable, however uncertainly. That would include poetry, but the use of words in poetry for that purpose is to imply, to suggest, to evoke.
  • RussellA
    556
    So if a person's reaction to a coffee-stimulus is of type (stimulus -> r), then the effect of coffee on that person is by definition implicitly included in the public definition of "coffee", in spite of the fact the public definition of coffee does not know about or explicitly include that person reactionsime

    Meaning is use
    If people had no use for coffee, then there wouldn't be a word for coffee, and the word "coffee" wouldn't be used in language. However, as people do have a use for coffee, there is a word for coffee, and the word "coffee" is used in language.

    Definitions
    The fact that people have a use for coffee means that the presence of coffee causes things to happen. However, coffee is not defined by what it may cause to happen, coffee is defined by what it is, a dark brown powder with a strong flavour.

    Causation
    "Coffee" would still be coffee even if it didn't cause anything to happen. But if that were the case, "coffee" would not be a word in language. It is not the coffee that is causing the person to act, it is the person's desire to drink coffee that is causing the person to act, such as getting out a cafetière.

    Meaning
    "Coffee" means coffee, a dark brown powder with a strong flavour. "Coffee" doesn't mean that a person will act, the desire to drink coffee means that a person will act.
  • sime
    807
    The fact that people have a use for coffee means that the presence of coffee causes things to happen. However, coffee is not defined by what it may cause to happen, coffee is defined by what it is, a dark brown powder with a strong flavour.RussellA

    So in your opinion, 'dark brown' and 'strong' are observer independent properties of coffee that everyone can point at? Recall that the taste and colour of coffee is relative to perspective. Different organisms and processes react differently to coffee. From my perspective, how can i understand your use of "dark brown" and "strong" except as an observable effect of you drinking coffee?
  • RussellA
    556
    So in your opinion, 'dark brown' and 'strong' are observer independent properties of coffee that everyone can point at?sime

    Definitions don't need to be observer independent. For example, the Cambridge Dictionary defines beauty as "the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially when you look at it"

    I agree that one only knows that coffee has a strong flavour after drinking it, in that the drinker reacts to the taste of the coffee. But even so, is it still not the case that the coffee has a strong flavour, not that the coffee causes a strong flavour? The drinker of the coffee discovers a property of the coffee.
  • sime
    807
    Definitions don't need to be observer independent. For example, the Cambridge Dictionary defines beauty as "the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially when you look at it"

    I agree that one only knows that coffee has a strong flavour after drinking it, in that the drinker reacts to the taste of the coffee. But even so, is it still not the case that the coffee has a strong flavour, not that the coffee causes a strong flavour? The drinker of the coffee discovers a property of the coffee.
    RussellA

    I would say that it depends on perspective, and more generally how the given term is used.

    It is certainly the case that one often uses language tautologically, as for example in the case of private perceptual judgements. For example, ordinarily I might judge my socks to be 'white'. In this situation I am using 'whiteness' to mean my experience of my socks - I am not estimating their colour as being the effect of a hidden-variable that is a theoretical term of public discourse, e.g. 'optical whiteness' as referred to by Physics - rather i am defining what "whiteness" is in my judgemental context.

    The interesting thing about continuations, is that they seem to accommodate such private analytic judgements. Take the continuation

    Whiteness :: For all r, (whiteStimulus -> r) -> r

    The intended meaning is that the public meaning of 'whiteness' is the hypothetical set of outcomes that might occur in response to anything acting upon a particular class of stimuli called "whiteStimuli'", in any conceivable fashion.

    Then take the function (whiteStimulus -> r) to mean Bob's private interpretation of a 'whiteStimulus'. From Bob's perspective, it is tautologically the case that a 'whiteStimulus' is indeed a 'whiteStimulus'

    By inserting the identity function id :: white-stimulus -> white-stimulus into the previous continuation, we get

    Whiteness id :: white-stimulus

    We can think of the term (Whiteness id) as representing Bob's private understanding or use of the public definition of Whiteness, which as shown, is indeed is of type 'white-stimulus'.

    So the public definition of whiteness as a continuation isn't in contradiction with the subjective 'private language' use-cases of whiteness by each speaker of the linguistic community, but accommodates them in the same way that it accommodates the objective physical definition of 'whiteness' in terms of the physical responses of optical estimators,.

    However, continuations seem to present the problem of infinite regress; for what exactly is the definition of the type called 'white stimulus' here? presumably in some use-cases, such as in physics it is taken to be another hidden variable that is another continuation.

    White-Stimulus :: For all r , ( someType -> r) -> r

    Whilst in other use-cases, such as Bob's perceptual judgements, it refers to a 'given' of experience that is decided by tautological judgement.


    Continuations obviously aren't the whole story, nor even necessarily part of the story for there are problems, but they seem useful in conveying the open-ended, counterfactual and inferential semantics of terms as well as accommodating the differing perspectival semantics of individual speakers.
  • T Clark
    10.3k
    Another of my (presumptively wise) beliefs is that where communication with others is concerned, art is the only means by which we may describe what we call the ineffable, however uncertainly. That would include poetry, but the use of words in poetry for that purpose is to imply, to suggest, to evoke.Ciceronianus

    This makes sense to me. Poetry doesn't explain, it paints pictures.
  • Joshs
    4k


    If what we know is believed, justified and true, it is propositional, and hence statable. But can one put into words how one rides a bike or play guitar? Tacit knowledge is a candidate for the ineffable.Banno

    Can one put into words the way in which one knows something as believe, justified and true, that is, the tacit sense of its truth?
  • T Clark
    10.3k
    Which brings us, as all things do for me, to the Tao. As Lao Tzu wrote, "The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao." He also wrote "Naming is the beginning of all particular things." The multiplicity of things, i.e. the world we see and interact with, is brought into being by naming, i.e. putting it into words.

    So, you can't talk about the Tao because if you do, you turn it into something else. More generally, if you talk about anything you turn it into something different. For me, ineffable means that; if you put it into words, something valuable, fundamental, perhaps even sacred, is lost.
  • Joshs
    4k
    " coffee is not defined by what it may cause to happen, coffee is defined by what it is, a dark brown powder with a strong flavour."Coffee" doesn't mean that a person will act, the desire to drink coffee means that a person will act.RussellA

    What something ‘is’ defines a use. ‘Dark brown powder’ represents the anticipation of ways of interacting perceptually with something, and these are guided by a background context of aims and purposes. What we notice about things is what matters to us. There is always a motivated reason why we find ourselves paying attention to something as being a dark brown powder. It is this particular instance of a powder, seen in these particular circumstances, and noticed for specific reasons in relation to our ongoing activities. All of these factors are part and parcel of the very meaning of coffee as ‘dark brown powder’.
  • Banno
    19.2k
    Interesting. So continuity models how the beetle drops out of the discussion... :grin: That's actually pretty cool.

    But the conclusion with regard to the ineffable is that what is ineffable cannot be set out in λ-calculus. We kinda knew that. Is there something more?
  • Banno
    19.2k
    Even if we could, that wouldn't convey to the naive how to ride or play. Some things you have to learn on your own.frank

    I think we can take a slightly odd turn here, related to @Sime's post.

    Consider the following puerly gramatical points. "I can ride a bike" will be true only if the one making the utterance can ride a bike. Someone else riding a bike does not make "I can ride a bike" true. The same goes for "I learned to ride a bike"; Someone else learning does not make that utterance true for the utterer.

    And the same goes for "You have to learn on your own". Of course you do, since anyone else learning would not count as you learning.

    But that makes "You have to learn on your own" just another grammatical point.

    And if that is the case then nothing has been conveyed to the naive rider.

    That is, "Some things you have to learn on your own" looks like it is about an ineffable entity we might call "knowing how to ride a bike", but then there is no difference between "knowing how to ride a bike" and "riding a bike"; we don't have two things here, one being bike riding and the other being knowing how to ride a bike.

    Or, suppose we had a list of the instructions for riding a bike, to whatever detail we desire. Would we then know how to ride a bike? Well, no. So what is missing? Just, and only, the riding of the bike. But that's not something it makes sense to add to the list!

    And so back to PI §201, the way of working with a set of instructions that is not adding to the list but implementing it.

    And if this is right, then there is nothing here that is ineffable. Or if you prefer, what appeared to be the ineffable bit is just the doing, the getting on the bike and riding it.
  • Banno
    19.2k
    I subscribe to the notion that all language is metaphorical to the extent it can only to better or worse extents describe one's internal states to tell the listener what that internal state "is like"Hanover

    And that as we have hashed out previously, is a path to solipsism. Happily, if is right then your internal state is irrelevant.
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