• StreetlightX
    3.3k
    It’s been a bit since I posted in here last, but I’d like to pick up where I’ve left off and try to catch up! Brief recap: we’re in a section where Witty is inveighing against the idea of analysing things into component parts. In particular, Witty has turned his attention to the notion of similarity, and exactly how - if at all - one is able to specify the similar.

    §73

    §73 can be read as something like an ‘application’ of Witty’s argument so far. If §71 tired to show that ‘blurred concepts’ like ‘stay roughly here’ did not resolve into any further specificity upon analysis (where ‘analysis’ ought to be taken as the the opposite of synthesis: breaking apart into pieces, as opposed to putting together), §73 turns its attention to the ‘ideas in our head’ when we think of certain things. The question, as with §71, is something like: how specific does such an ‘idea' have to be? Witty answer is basically that it doesn’t have to be specific at all: it can be a ‘general’ leaf, a 'schematic’ leaf without all the details ‘filled in’ as it were. Just as ‘stay roughly here’ can also be understood as something like a general schema without 'in-built’ particularity.

    The second half of §73 brings back the question of roles, although the word is not uttered as such: Witty speaks instead of 'understanding as’ (as in, to understand X as Y), which can be read as ‘to understand X playing the role of Y’ (in a language-game Z)'. The series of rhetorical questions which close off the section -

    “What shape must the sample of the colour green be? Should it be rectangular? Or would it then be the sample of green rectangles?- So should it be ‘irregular’ in shape? And what is then to prevent us from viewing it a that is, from using it a only as a sample of irregularity of shape?”

    - attests again to the fact that the 'same thing' can play different roles, and that there definitive answers to these questions can only be sought in relation to particular language-games: there is no 'general theory’ that would satisfy these questions in advance. One must ‘look and see’, ‘up close’ to get answers to these question. So rigorous is this that for Witty, even to understand a schema as as schema (and not as the shape of a particular leaf) ‘resides in the way the samples are used’. i.e. their role in a game.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    I see that he has now moved from describing ostensive definition as a demonstration of how words are used (at the beginning of the book), to this point (73), where ostensive definition is now described in terms of how the objects, samples are used. He performs this inversion with the principle stated at 50. The sample is "the means of representation". Ostensive definition is not a case of using words, and demonstrating how one ought to use words through the use of words, it is a case of using objects, samples, to demonstrate the meaning of words.
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    §74

    §74 expands on the theme of understanding-as, this time tying it to the question of perception: the question of 'seeing-as'. In fact, part of what's at stake in §74 is drawing a certain kind of equivalence between seeing-as and understanding-as. A puzzle I'd like to draw out is: why this equivalence? And the clue is in the fact that Witty says that seeing-as does not imply seeing differently; [re-ordering slightly]:

    §74: "It is not so ... that someone who views this leaf as a sample of ‘leaf shape in general’ will see it differently from someone who views it as, say, a sample of this particular shape".

    By which I understand that the leaf will not look different, in terms of specular quality, to two different people who see the leaf-as-X in different ways [sample or general schema]. So if seeing-as differently does not mean that the leaf looks different, what does it mean? Witty's answer, as ever, turns upon how different roles imply different uses:

    §74: "someone who sees the leaf in a particular way will then use it in such-and-such a way or according to such-and-such rules".

    To which we might add something like: someone who sees the leaf in a different particular way will use in a different such-and-such way, etc. Note that by emphasizing use in this way - the fact that the same thing, seen-as differently, will in turn be used differently in corresponding games - Witty ends up doing something really interesting with perception: he makes it less about the sensorial, qualitative/raw 'feeling' aspect of it ('qualia', etc), so much as incorporates perception as having a part to play in intelligibility. The role of the perceived in Witty's account of intelligibility has less to do with the sensory than the grammatical(!), of all things.

    This is something Witty will expand upon at length in later sections, but here I just want to note that this helps us answer the 'puzzle' I set out at the beginning - the equivalence of understanding and perception. By modelling, as it were, the latter on the former, Witty aims to once again 'de-interiorize' perception - just as he did with the memory-image in §56/57. Just as, in §56/57, the importance of the memory-image had to do with its role in a langauge-game, so too does perception's importance come out in the role it also plays in an economy of use:

    §74: "Whoever sees a sample like this will in general use it in this way, and whoever sees it otherwise in another way."
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    And the clue is in the fact that Witty says the seeing-as does not imply seeing differently;StreetlightX

    I believe that what is said here, is that to "see" a sample as a sample of a universal, rather than as a particular, might be said to "see" the sample differently, but it is not really a matter of seeing the sample differently, it is really a matter of using the sample differently. So if we say that the person sees the sample differently, "this might well be so—though it is not so—for it would only be to say that, as a
    matter of experience, if you see the leaf in a particular way, you use it in such-and-such a way or according to such-and-such rules." I.e., when you see the leaf in this or that way, you are using the image of it, in your mind, in this or that way. The sample is understood as...

    Witty aims to once again 'de-interiorize' perception - just as he did with the memory-image in §56/57. Just as, in §56/57, the importance of the memory-image had to do with its role in a langauge-game, so too does perception's importance come out in the role it also plays in an economy of use:StreetlightX

    Here's a brief note on this subject. I do not agree with this characterization of a "de-interiorizing" at this point. There is no warrant for an exterior/interior dichotomy here. And this is the same as at 56/57, the division of internal/external is shown to be irrelevant. There are internal and external aspects implicated, but to create such a division is of no advantage to the inquiry. Witty is describing the way that one "sees" the sample in ostensive definition (73), as a consequence of the way that the sample is used in demonstration. (You might call this an external using of the sample.) Further, the way that one "sees" the sample (74), "the sample is understood as...", is itself a using of the sample by the learner. (You might call this an internal using of the sample within one's mind.) So talking in these terms, of how the sample is used, does not immediately necessitate an internal/external division, the sample is used internally and externally. "How the sample is seen", or more appropriately, 'the sample is understood as...", is a description of the use of the sample, whether it's using the sample externally in demonstration, or using the sample internally in understanding.
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    I do not agree with this characterization of a "de-interiorizing" at this point. There is no warrant for an exterior/interior dichotomy here. And this is the same as at 56/57, the division of internal/external is shown to be irrelevant.Metaphysician Undercover

    That's my point too.
  • Luke
    288
    §73. Explaining the names of colours by pointing to samples is comparable to giving someone a colour chart. "Though this comparison may mislead in various ways." One of the various ways it could mislead is by incorrectly assuming that to have an understanding of the explanation means "to have in one's mind an idea of the thing explained, and that is a sample or picture." What does this paradigmatic picture of what is common to all samples - e.g. "the sample of what is common to all shades of green" - look like?

    W then asks: "Might there not be such 'general' samples?" - i.e. physical instances of the paradigmatic picture? "Certainly!" he says, but whether this 'general' sample is to be understood as a paradigmatic type or instead as a particular token depends on how the sample is used, or "the way the samples are applied".

    What shape should a sample of "pure green" be? If it were, e.g., a rectangular or an irregular shape, then we might mistake it for a sample of shape instead of colour. This demonstrates that it depends on how the samples are used, and that we cannot just assume that it will play the role of a colour sample regardless of any context of use.

    §74. W raises the idea that someone who views a leaf as a sample of a paradigmatic type sees it differently from someone who views the same leaf as a sample of a particular token. He quickly dismisses this idea insofar as seeing it differently amounts only to using it differently. He does not deny that people can see things differently, but this is exhibited by their use of those things, and by their use of language in relation to those things.
  • Luke
    288
    §75. "What does it mean to know what a game is...and not be able to say it?"

    Wittgenstein answers in the form of a question that could be rewritten as: "my knowledge, my concept of a game, [is] completely expressed in the explanations that I could give".
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k

    Notice that at 75 he asks the following question concerning knowing what a game is without being able to say what it is:
    "Is this knowledge somehow equivalent to an unformulated definition?"
  • Luke
    288


    An "unformulated definition" suggests that there is something of my knowledge (i.e. something mental) which is left unexpressed in the "mere" giving of explanations (e.g. by providing a list of typical examples). If this missing something were able to be formulated, then maybe "I’d be able to recognize it as the expression of my knowledge". But this picture is inaccurate. Instead: "my knowledge...[is] completely expressed in the explanations that I could give".
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k

    He's saying, that if his knowledge of what a game is, is equivalent to an unformulated definition, then he ought to be able to formulate that definition, and this description, or explanation, which he ought to be able to produce, if his knowledge is like that, would completely express his knowledge of what a game is.

    He's going to show at 76-77, that his knowledge of what a game is, is not like this. It is not the case that he could produce an explanation, description, or definition, which could express his knowledge of what a game is, because it would be extremely difficult to make that explanation, description, or definition "correspond" with the knowledge that he has of what a game is. This would be a hopeless task.
  • Luke
    288
    He's saying, that if his knowledge of what a game is, is equivalent to an unformulated definition, then he ought to be able to formulate that definition, and this description, or explanation, which he ought to be able to produce, if his knowledge is like that, would completely express his knowledge of what a game is.Metaphysician Undercover

    Then why does he ask whether his knowledge is not completely expressed in the explanations that he could give? Your account is inconsistent with the preceding passages:

    When I give the description “The ground was quite covered with plants”, do you want to say that I don’t know what I’m talking about until I can give a definition of a plant?
    An explanation of what I meant would be, say, a drawing and the words “The ground looked roughly like this”.
    — PI §70

    And this is just how one might explain what a game is. One gives examples and intends them to be taken in a particular way. - I do not mean by this expression, however, that he is supposed to see in those examples that common feature which I - for some reason - was unable to formulate, but that he is now to employ those examples in a particular way. Here giving examples is not an indirect way of explaining - in default of a better one. — PI §71

    Though this comparison may mislead in various ways. - [e.g.] One is now inclined to extend the comparison: to have understood the explanation means to have in one’s mind an idea of the thing explained, and that is a sample or picture. — PI §73

    Isn’t my knowledge, my concept of a game, completely expressed in the explanations that I could give? That is, in my describing examples of various kinds of game, showing how all sorts of other games can be constructed on the analogy of these, saying that I would hardly call this or that a game, and so on. — PI §75
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k

    Keep in my, that at 75 he is asking those questions. He provides no answer to them at 75. To answer these questions he draws the analogy of two pictures at 76. Another person wants sharp boundaries to the concept "game" (definition), Wittgenstein does not want such boundaries. Wittgenstein's "picture" is one of colour patches with vague contours, the other person's "picture" has similarly distributed colours, with sharp contours. There are similarities between them, and there are differences. He proceeds to investigate the correlation at 77.

    Last week, in my post: https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/246986 I said this is analogous to comparing what a person with poor vision sees, to what one with 20/20 vision sees. and Isaac did not like my analogy. But really it's Wittgenstein's own analogy of "seeing", and we do judge whether a person sees better or worse.

    In any case, Wittgenstein proceeds with the two pictures analogy at 77, to investigate whether a picture with clearly defined colour contours can be made to correspond with the one with vague colour patches. As I said in the post referenced above, I see this a s a rejection of Platonic dialectics.
  • Luke
    288
    §76. Bounded and unbounded concepts differ conceptually but share a family resemblance. Their resemblance is like that of two "similarly shaped and distributed" colour patches, one with a sharp boundary and the other a blurred boundary.

    §77. The degree of resemblance between the sharp and blurred colour patches (at §76) "depends on the degree to which the latter lacks sharpness". W asks us to imagine drawing a sharp rectangle which 'corresponds' to a blurred one, before noting that this is a "hopeless task".

    Won’t you then have to say: “Here I might just as well draw a circle as a rectangle or a heart, for all the colours merge. Anything - and nothing - is right.”

    W indicates that the concepts of ethics and aesthetics contain a high degree of blurriness, and that (e.g.) philosophers have a similarly hopeless task of trying to find "definitions that correspond to our concepts".
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    W indicates that the concepts of ethics and aesthetics contain a high degree of blurriness, and that (e.g.) philosophers have a similarly hopeless task of trying to find "definitions that correspond to our concepts".Luke

    I think he goes even further than this, suggesting that since it is a hopeless task, we ought not even try to define ethical words like "good", instead, recognizing that such words just naturally have a "family of meanings". That is why I said he is rejecting Platonic dialectics, which is a method that analyzes different sorts of usage in an attempt to produce the ideal definition which all usage partakes of; as exemplified by "the good".
  • unenlightened
    3.1k
    Some local colour - the taste of the zeitgeist -

    A third Cambridge philosopher Virginia Woolf was acquainted with has become the object of much attention and analysis. She did not read Ludwig Wittgenstein, though he read her. Even if she had not met him, Virginia would have known of Wittgenstein from Leonard, from Keynes, and particularly from her nephew Julian Bell, and Julian’s satirical poem “An Epistle on the Subject of the Ethical and Aesthetic Beliefs of Herr Ludwig Wittgenstein (Doctor of Philosophy)”. Despite the distance between Wittgenstein’s misogyny and Virginia Woolf’s feminism, one could speculate on the applicability of some of Wittgenstein’s ideas in both his earlier and later thought to her fiction — his later conception of philosophy as description rather than explanation, for example. It is an idea he applied to aesthetics and criticism and is useful for an account of the philosophers Virginia Woolf knew.

    http://letourcritique.u-paris10.fr/index.php/letourcritique/article/view/27/html
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k

    From what I understand, Wittgenstein was not impressed by the philosophical discussions of the "Apostles". Probably their skepticism was too institutionalized and not radical enough for him. He seems to have had within him the Karl Marx attitude --- strip the Idea of all formal aspects, leaving exposed its material basis.
  • I like sushi
    113
    Sorry guys I dropped the ball here! Life happens :)

    How’s the discussion going? Where we all at (roughly speaking?)

    Oh ... unenlightened ... referring to your post about 20 pages back! Language doesn’t need “sound”. And “pointing out” doesn’t need vision either ;)
  • unenlightened
    3.1k
    Oh ... unenlightened ... referring to your post about 20 pages back! Language doesn’t need “sound”. And “pointing out” doesn’t need vision either ;)I like sushi

    On the one hand I am not going to disagree with you, and on the other I am not going to search back to find out why that is an apparent inconsistency on my part. Instead I will assume that such an obvious comment is only inconsistent with an uncharitably literal reading of whatever I said, or else that i was having a senior moment that no one else was so disrespectful as to mention to me. :joke:
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    §75

    §75 continues Witty’s expression of skepticism regarding the exhaustion of a concept by its definition. So to the pair of rhetorical questions: “Is this knowledge [of a game] somehow equivalent to an unformulated definition? So that if it were formulated, I’d be able to recognize it as the expression of my knowledge?”, I can only imagine Witty answering both in the negative. The formulation of the next question is somewhat more interesting though:

    "Isn’t my knowledge, my concept of a game, completely expressed in the explanations that I could give? That is, in my describing examples of various kinds of game, showing how all sorts of other games can be constructed on the analogy of these, saying that I would hardly call this or that a game, and so on”. (my bolding)

    The juxtaposition of ‘completely expressed” - which suggests a sense of exhaustiveness - along with “could” and ‘and so on’ - which suggest open-endedness and in-exhaustion - strikes me as notable. That the 'completely expressed’ is, qua 'complete', nonetheless open-ended suggests to me that Witty wants to gives a different sense to the very idea of ‘completion’, that ‘completion’ or ‘the completely expressed’ does not need to be ‘closed’ in the sense of having an exact intensional definition, but can itself be subject to elaboration, variety, and context.

    §76

    §76 riffs again on how concepts do not need to be exactly bounded, and that, even if one were to supply a boundary (read: definition), this would not make the two concepts - one unbounded, the other not - the same. There would bb affinities, with still with differences.

    §77

    §77 seems to want to ‘apply’ the preceding remarks to what happens when we employ concepts in the sphere of aesthetics and ethics, the implication presumably being that the concepts involved in both are inherently fuzzy, and attempts to employ definitions here are doomed to failure. There isn’t really an argument here, it ought to be noted, so much as an assertion of ‘where Witty stands on this’.

    §77 also begins to address a point that will come up in detail later: that of skepticism, and how to address it. For, if Witty is right that fuzzy concepts cannot be subject to definitions (by definition?), then one implication might simply be that 'anything goes’ - “Anything - and nothing - is right”. As an antidote to this kind of ‘definitional skepticism’, as one might term it, Witty offers the following panacea: “

    §77: "In this sort of predicament, always ask yourself: How did we learn the meaning of this word (“good”, for instance)? From what sort of examples? In what language-games? Then it will be easier for you to see that the word must have a family of meanings”.

    In other words, if one has lost one’s bearings on a concept, look to the language-game in which that concept is employed: that language-game - and not a definition - will (help) provide those lost bearings.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    §77: "In this sort of predicament, always ask yourself: How did we learn the meaning of this word (“good”, for instance)? From what sort of examples? In what language-games? Then it will be easier for you to see that the word must have a family of meanings”.

    In other words, if one has lost one’s bearings on a concept, look to the language-game in which that concept is employed: that language-game - and not a definition - will (help) provide those lost bearings.
    StreetlightX

    There's a discrepancy here between your use of "language-game" and Wittgenstein's use of "language-games". The "family of meanings" is associated with a multitude of "language-games". To find one's bearings on a concept (as you say) requires identifying the appropriate language-game. But this is a type of comparison, as to a sample or a paradigm, and it is what Wittgenstein is trying to avoid.

    So he doesn't exactly choose this route. Choosing the appropriate language-game would be like choosing a definition. Wittgenstein appears to me, to be advocating restraint from even making such a choice, and this would leave "the meaning" if there was such a thing, as ambiguous. Instead, there is a family of "meanings". It's like a matter of possibilities, and to understand this requires understanding the very nature of "possibility". Choosing one possibility, as the correct one, negates the others as possibilities. They are no longer possibilities if another has been selected. To leave them in their true state as "possibilities" requires not choosing. Therefore there is no "meaning", only the possibility of meaning, which is intelligible as a family of possible "meanings", represented by numerous related language-games.
  • Banno
    4.7k
    Bump.
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    Yesh I should get back into this.
  • StreetlightX
    3.3k
    Just as a side comment - I've been reading Witty's Remarks and Lectures on math, and doing this excercise in this thread has been super useful in getting on handle on them. It's also made me solidify, in a way I wasn't doing before, my conceptualization of the link between use and roles. To use is to use-as, in an intensional manner. That intensional aspect of use is a point of emphasis I've never quite grasped so concretely before.
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