• schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    This inquiry is a split off from the Philosophical Investigations discussion. There are basically two questions inter-related here to better understand Wittgenstein's philosophy, its implications, and possible opposing views to those implications.

    1) What was Wittgenstein's stated ideas about science? I know he disliked scientism, but I always read scientism to be an approach to philosophical problems that make value-statements, and/or metaphysical statements of "reality" to have some rigorous logical proof, when in fact most of the problems presented are simply knotted, tied-up language games.

    However, that is more to do with philosophy proper, and less to say on the scientific method/science proper itself. What were his ideas on the verity of scientific "truths" about the world?

    2) Did Wittgenstein believe an ontology of the world was possible, or was everything language-games? In other words, is all epistemology or is there ever room for accounting for an ontology?

    3) If Wittgenstein did believe the foundations for any human endeavor is only wrapped up in language games, forms-of-life, hinge-propositions, etc. and the knotty problems that arise from them, then it may be the case he did not have much patience for realism, the idea that there is some underlying ontology outside the human schema. Perhaps he was a realist, but maybe more of a skeptic, there was an ontology, but it can never be conceived. Epistemology always comes first here. Speculative Realists might then consider Witt very much in the influence of the Kantian "counter-revolution" of maintaining epistemology above all else in philosophy.

    Speculative Realism tries to counter the epistemological turn that they see in represented by Kant's transcendental philosophy. One of the main ideas is science cannot help but prove something is going on beyond humans, that humans can roughly grasp what is the case, and that it is showing something that is beyond human conception, though human conception is always a factor in understanding this ontology.

    What are some of your opinions on how Wittgenstein's philosophy fits in relation with Speculative Realism?

    @Sam26 @Fooloso4 @Metaphysician Undercover @fdrake You may have some ideas here.
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    I cannot speak to Speculative Realism. I am not familiar with it. But I think the following from Wittgenstein's Zettel addresses some of your concerns:

    Do I want to say, then, that certain facts are favorable to the formation of certain concepts; or again unfavorable? And does experience teach us this? It is a fact of experience that human beings alter their concepts, exchange them for others when they learn new facts; when in this way what was formerly important to them becomes unimportant, and vice versa. (It is discovered e.g. that what formerly counted as a difference in kind, is really only a difference in degree. (352)

    He accepts that there are facts, but facts do not determine concepts. We do not have the concepts we have because the facts are as they are, but if the facts were not as they are our concepts would not be as they are.

    The closing remark refers to Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Elsewhere he says:

    What a Copernicus or a Darwin really achieved was not the discovery of a true theory, but of a fertile new point of view. (CV 18)

    If we look at species as kinds then we construct our picture of the world, or some aspect of it, in accordance to it, and attend to those facts that conform to this way of looking at things. But if we regard the differences between species as a matter of degree or variation then we begin to take into account facts that were previously overlooked or disregarded. We begin to see not only species but a great many other things differently. There is no fixed, unchanging order to life.

    What are we to make of the following?:

    Essence is expressed in grammar … Grammar tells what kind of object anything is. (Theology as grammar)” (PI 371, 373).

    Is this an ontology? Yes and no. Grammar does not reveal the being of things as they are, but as they are for us, that is, how we regard them, what they mean for us. This is not the noumenal-phenomenal distinction. It is not metaphysical. Wittgenstein is not concerned with the question of how things are in themselves, but rather with what we say and do. The essence of something, what it is to be what is it, means it's place in our form of life. It is in that sense not fixed and unchanging.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.2k
    Is this an ontology? Yes and no. Grammar does not reveal the being of things as they are, but as they are for us, that is, how we regard them, what they mean for us. This is not the noumenal-phenomenal distinction. It is not metaphysical. Wittgenstein is not concerned with the question of how things are in themselves, but rather with what we say and do. The essence of something, what it is to be what is it, means it's place in our form of life. It is in that sense not fixed and unchanging.Fooloso4

    Why do you say that this is "not metaphysical"? To make a distinction between "things as they are", and "as they are for us", is to make a metaphysical assumption. If the point of interest is "as they are for us", this makes the assumption no less metaphysical.
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    Why do you say that this is "not metaphysical"? To make a distinction between "things as they are", and "as they are for us", is to make a metaphysical assumption. If the point of interest is "as they are for us", this makes the assumption no less metaphysical.Metaphysician Undercover

    The point is, he is not making the distinction between "things as they are", and "as they are for us" nor investigating that distinction.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.2k

    But isn't the principle of "as they are for us" rather than "as they are for me" for example, a metaphysical principle?
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    The point is, he is not making the distinction between "things as they are", and "as they are for us" nor investigating that distinction.Fooloso4



    I do not want to be too black and white thinking with Wittgenstein. His approach is an interesting tool to look at meaning and language, but it is easy for it to consume all other approaches. For example, this thread right now can be considered a language game. In fact, forums like this and the internet in general are really good examples of language games being played out in real time, very quickly. This thread set out some questions, that I hoped some other philosophy language-game users might participate in and play. We might come in with slightly different terms for the same thing, we might start talking passed each other. Eventually, there may be an evening out, where we start generating rule-following patterns such that meaning becomes more useful for our conversation, etc. etc.

    This idea is interesting if played out across all forms of life, many areas of human interactions. The science language-game is certainly something where let's say Leibniz and Newton were both going at a problem with a different perspective, but eventually, they can be seen as the same thing. Science in general has come to use certain terms in certain community-minded ways that are agreed upon. Violations of this wold take terms out of context, sense, and put person at risk of being considered not playing the language-game correctly of that community.

    However, how far does this conception of epistemology go in understanding scientific facts? Clearly there are principles that have better predictive powers and more complex/powerful technological usage than other language-games and forms of life. What does that say about the actual results of the science, and the fact that the very results informs the community on how to change perspectives/terms accordingly? It seems a truism that language-games amongst participants are "useful" for the context of a community. But that may lead to a metaphysical relativism. I know secondary literature tries to show that Wittgenstein isn't just a mere "pragmatist" or "relativist", but some of the ideas seem to indeed indicate this.

    So yes, Wittgenstein, does seem to have a metaphysical stance of the "for us". But what happens when the "for us" bumps against patterns of nature that seem indicate the "not for us"?
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    But isn't the principle of "as they are for us" rather than "as they are for me" for example, a metaphysical principle?Metaphysician Undercover

    I did not say anything about a principle. I do not recall anywhere where he discusses the distinction. If you can cite where he does then perhaps we can discuss it.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.2k
    So yes, Wittgenstein, does seem to have a metaphysical stance of the "for us". But what happens when the "for us" bumps against patterns of nature that seem indicate the "not for us"?schopenhauer1

    Well, there is the bigger issue of how is the "for us" even a real perspective, when everything I apprehend is "for me". Language-games appear to me, to create the "for us". But maybe it's the case that there must already be such a thing as "for-us" in order for a language-game to even come into existence. If it's the former which is the case, then language-games are completely directed by purpose. If it's the latter which is the case, then the underlying "for us" is what directs the language-games rather than the "for me" (purpose).
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    But what happens when the "for us" bumps against patterns of nature that seem indicate the "not for us"?schopenhauer1

    As he says in the first quote above:

    It is a fact of experience that human beings alter their concepts, exchange them for others when they learn new facts ...

    When it becomes evident that our conceptual framework excludes important facts then we change the framework. Recognition of patterns of nature does not indicate something "not for us". It is, after all, "us" who have become aware of it.

    From Culture and Value:

    Man has to awaken to wonder - and so perhaps do peoples. Science is a way of sending him to sleep again.

    And:

    Perhaps what is inexpressible (what I find mysterious and am not able to express) is the background against which whatever I could express has its meaning.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.2k
    I did not say anything about a principle. I do not recall anywhere where he discusses the distinction. If you can cite where he does then perhaps we can discuss it.Fooloso4

    You imply that Wittgenstein takes "for us" for granted. He does not, he recognizes a relationship between the existence of "for us" and the existence of language, and investigates this. Though it may not be classical metaphysics, this is metaphysics.
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k


    I do not have any idea how you got from anything I said that he takes for us for granted. The relationship between us and language is that language is our language. It does not exist independently of us.

    He says:

    Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language (PG, 12)

    This, of course, is an age old question. Neither the question itself nor Wittgenstein's response is framed in terms of Kant's distinction. The question of the harmony between thought and reality may be metaphysical, but Wittgenstein's answer is not. It is a matter of human practice. We do not discover connections we draw them.

    The quote is consonant with the earlier one about grammar and essence.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.5k
    Speculative Realism tries to counter the epistemological turn that they see in represented by Kant's transcendental philosophy. One of the main ideas is science cannot help but prove something is going on beyond humans, that humans can roughly grasp what is the case, and that it is showing something that is beyond human conception, though human conception is always a factor in understanding this ontology.schopenhauer1
    How can one be skeptical of what goes on beyond humans if other humans are part of the epistimological language game that one plays in their own mind? How can someone be skeptical of the world but not other humans when other humans are part of that world?

    It would make more sense to say that science cannot help but try to prove something is going on beyond the mind. It isnt logically consistent to be skeptical of the ontology of the world but take the ontology of other humans as a given.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    Well, there is the bigger issue of how is the "for us" even a real perspective, when everything I apprehend is "for me". Language-games appear to me, to create the "for us". But maybe it's the case that there must already be such a thing as "for-us" in order for a language-game to even come into existence. If it's the former which is the case, then language-games are completely directed by purpose. If it's the latter which is the case, then the underlying "for us" is what directs the language-games rather than the "for me" (purpose).Metaphysician Undercover

    Can you explain what you mean by "directed by purpose" vs. the "for us"?
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    Recognition of patterns of nature does not indicate something "not for us". It is, after all, "us" who have become aware of it.Fooloso4

    But then what are these "learn new facts". Witty's Tractatus has a picture theory. There is something regarding "states of affairs". But what are these scientific "facts" that are presenting to us, as opposed to "social facts" of conventions and ways of doing things? Sure, we can conflate the science with the social, but then we are looking the other way in terms of what the scientific facts describe and do.

    Perhaps what is inexpressible (what I find mysterious and am not able to express) is the background against which whatever I could express has its meaning.

    What do you think that means?
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    It would make more sense to say that science cannot help but try to prove something is going on beyond the mind. It isnt logically consistent to be skeptical of the ontology of the world but take the ontology of other humans as a given.Harry Hindu

    So what do you think would make more sense?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.2k
    I do not have any idea how you got from anything I said that he takes for us for granted. The relationship between us and language is that language is our language. It does not exist independently of us.Fooloso4

    The issue is, as I described to Schop, how one gets from how things appear to me, to how things are "for us". This is a metaphysical issue, so being concerned with how things are "for us", is metaphysics. And Wittgenstein makes no attempt to skip the metaphysics to make it an epistemological issue.

    Can you explain what you mean by "directed by purpose" vs. the "for us"?schopenhauer1

    We all act for purposes, this is will and intention. My acts are not your acts, nor are my intentions your intentions. To say that there is something "for us" implies a common intention between us. Where does this notion of a common purpose come from?
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    Is this an ontology? Yes and no. Grammar does not reveal the being of things as they are, but as they are for us, that is, how we regard them, what they mean for us. This is not the noumenal-phenomenal distinction. It is not metaphysical. Wittgenstein is not concerned with the question of how things are in themselves, but rather with what we say and do. The essence of something, what it is to be what is it, means it's place in our form of life. It is in that sense not fixed and unchanging.Fooloso4

    But can some empirical facts be different in regards to being part of the language game? Is there something science is showing us? Certainly we recognize patterns of nature. We contingently hit upon the Westernized formal science we have now. But is that just a language game we hit upon or something else? What are facts to Wittgenstein? Are there social facts vs. scientific facts, or is it all the same kind of conventionalism all the way down?
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    We all act for purposes, this is will and intention. My acts are not your acts, nor are my intentions your intentions. To say that there is something "for us" implies a common intention between us. Where does this notion of a common purpose come from?Metaphysician Undercover

    Yes, I think Witty implies with language-games that we have rule-following that forms by interacting and an interrelated, overlapping group of behaviors or ways of being in a community. So it organically arises out of the interaction process. Thus, a classroom and a workplace have ways of being, ways of doing things, norms, etc. It becomes a "for us".

    But this goes much deeper and broader. We have actual language which arises from various language uses by a community, with various uses of that language by the community. If the whole Private Language thing is correct, then language itself isn't even really private, but an internalized "for us" directed at the self as if it was only "for me". That's my interpretation of it anyways. At the least, your intentions and goals, are originate in a language that is necessarily "for us". So you have individualized goals, they they are intrinsically caught up in the community. It is part of the language-game perhaps.
  • Valentinus
    589
    One question I come away with from reading Wittgenstein is what is the ontology that is outside of language as a limit of what can be expressed?
    There are many examples of this question being shown to actually be about other problems. But I don't recall him blowing off the question as such.
    Correct me if I am wrong.
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    The issue is, as I described to Schop, how one gets from how things appear to me, to how things are "for us".Metaphysician Undercover

    The point I was addressing is the noumenal-phenomenal distinction, the distinction between things as they are in themselves and things as they are for us. According to Kant, the categories of the understanding are universal. Whatever distinction you are making between things as they appear to you and how they are for us is another issue.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.2k
    But can some empirical facts be different in regards to being part of the language game? Is there something science is showing us? Certainly we recognize patterns of nature. We contingently hit upon the Westernized formal science we have now. But is that just a language game we hit upon or something else? What are facts to Wittgenstein? Are there social facts vs. scientific facts, or is it all the same kind of conventionalism all the way down?schopenhauer1

    Have you read "On Certainty"? We can say "it is certain" about some things, and I suppose that this is as close as Wittgenstein gets to saying what a fact is. These are things which it would be unreasonable to doubt.

    The point I was addressing is the noumenal-phenomenal distinction, the distinction between things as they are in themselves and things as they are for us. According to Kant, the categories of the understanding are universal. Whatever distinction you are making between things as they appear to you and how they are for us is another issue.Fooloso4

    OK, now suppose we take this Kantian position, and attempt to justify this notion you put forward about "how things are for us". This would require that something would have to appear the same to you, me, and everyone else included in "us". Then we could say that there is such a thing as how this thing appears to "us". So why is it that different people use different words to describe the very same situation? Or is it the case that since my perspective is different from yours, it really isn't the very same situation? There is no such thing as "how things are for us", and Wittgenstein points to this with his description of language-games.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.5k
    go back and read the part of the post you quoted.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.5k
    Where are language games played - out in the world, or on one's mind? Is the internet posts and the forum out in the world or in your mind?
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    .
    Recognition of patterns of nature does not indicate something "not for us". It is, after all, "us" who have become aware of it.
    — Fooloso4

    But then what are these "learn new facts".
    schopenhauer1

    You miss the point (or perhaps I do). The patterns are phenomenal or in some cases extrapolated from what can be observed. If the patterns were noumenal we have have no access to them according to Kant.

    But what are these scientific "facts" that are presenting to us, as opposed to "social facts" of conventions and ways of doing things?schopenhauer1

    I am not sure what you are asking. The sciences have their language games and ways of doing things. Biology does not deal with the facts of astrophysics or astrophysics the facts of biology. There are, however, interdisciplinary endeavors. If one wants to converse across disciplines one must learn the language of the other disciplines.

    Perhaps what is inexpressible (what I find mysterious and am not able to express) is the background against which whatever I could express has its meaning.

    What do you think that means?
    schopenhauer1

    In the spirit of his work, I will let you think about that for yourself.

    But can some empirical facts be different in regards to being part of the language game?schopenhauer1

    Language games do not change the facts, but may represent or describe the facts differently or describe different facts. We may say that the floor is solid - we do not fall through, but a physicist will say that it is not.

    Is there something science is showing us?schopenhauer1

    There is a great deal that science shows us. Have you seen the pictures from the Hubble telescope?

    But is that just a language game we hit upon or something else?schopenhauer1

    No, it is not just a language game and Wittgenstein never suggested that it is. It does, however, involve language games. The language games are not something we hit upon.The language-games of the sciences continue to develop. We have reached a point, where the language that developed in line with ordinary life and events is no longer adequate. Physics is largely mathematical.

    What are facts to Wittgenstein?schopenhauer1

    He does not have a theory of facts if that is what you are asking.

    Are there social facts vs. scientific facts, or is it all the same kind of conventionalism all the way down?schopenhauer1

    The behavior of sub-atomic particles is not a social fact. The behavior of people is not a fact of particle physics. There are conventions in both but they are not of the same kind because they deal with very different matters, that is to say, very different facts. Perhaps someday there will be a unified theory that accounts for both, but for now they are very different.

    Some may argue that facts are conventions, but as far as I can see, Wittgenstein does not.
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    OK, now suppose we take this Kantian position, and attempt to justify this notion you put forward about "how things are for us".Metaphysician Undercover

    schopenhauer1 introduced Kant into the discussion. I have no interest in justifying his position. I think the noumenal-phenomenal distinction is problematic. I also think the universality of mind is problematic.

    As I said:

    The point is, he [Wittgenstein] is not making the distinction between "things as they are", and "as they are for us" nor investigating that distinction.Fooloso4
  • Wallows
    9.2k
    The issue kind of dissolves if you assume a pragmatic attitude. Doesn't get mentioned enough in regards to Witt...
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.2k

    Right, but Wittgenstein does investigate what "how things are for us" means, because "us" implies a communion which is closely related to communication, and this is one of his principal interests.

    As I said already, either there is a "how things are for us" which is prior to language and necessary for the existence of language, or "how things are for us" is something which emerges from language. Which position do you think Wittgenstein supports?
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    Where are language games played - out in the world, or on one's mind? Is the internet posts and the forum out in the world or in your mind?Harry Hindu

    Both :D.

    The behavior of sub-atomic particles is not a social fact. The behavior of people is not a fact of particle physics. There are conventions in both but they are not of the same kind because they deal with very different matters, that is to say, very different facts. Perhaps someday there will be a unified theory that accounts for both, but for now they are very different.

    Some may argue that facts are conventions, but as far as I can see, Wittgenstein does not.
    Fooloso4

    But is it just a difference in matters? Why do scientific facts obtain so well? You can say that it is similar to how a carpenter creates a masterpiece furniture, but is that the same? A man-made object created by someone, or a social convention, can be arbitrarily changed, and is contingent, varied. Any decision on it would be the freedom of the carpenter, or the architect. Perhaps the language of the woordworker is real in that community, but they are contingent conventions. This is not so with the science language game. There are constraints that nature is imposing, making the findings a necessity. It is nature forcing our hand. It moves away from contingency and hits on necessity. Wittgenstein's "forms of life" and "use" may not fit this scenario of science. You, in a really superficial way, can make an argument that humans are interested in pursuing scientific ideas, so in that sense is "for us", but the evidence gets more refined over time, more precise, more accurate, and leads to powerful results.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    To put further explain: There is either something "for us", in our language-game that is hitting upon necessity about the world, or the "for us" way of hitting upon something "not for us" but can be gleaned at by way of how useful it is to us.
    @Fooloso4 @Metaphysician Undercover @Valentinus
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    @Fooloso4 @Metaphysician Undercover @Valentinus

    Probably a quote that would lean towards the Wittgenstein side would be:

    Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about the physical world, but because we know so little; it is only its mathematical properties that we can discover. — Bertrand Russell

    This is almost a putting ontological realism on its head or mashing it with epistemological concerns. What is a truism about human capacity, is our inferencing ability. Mathematical and scientific exegesis and computation is just this ability refined over time in a certain place. As I've argued earlier, other animals follow patterns that lead to survival while humans recognize patterns that lead to survival through inference-making and accumulated social learning.

    Can humans see anything "real" about the universe in the patterns, rules, regularities, and even the contingencies that come about through these regularities [dynamics of particles and forces (or their stand-in be they strings or what not) across time, increased complexity and interactions, and biological contingency]? Or is it just what we find useful for the human animal? I think here the context of useful is different than other language-games. Everything else can be conventionalized and gone a different way. Perhaps there are constraints on human nature though, that make things less free- constraints of survival, constraints of comfort-seeking, constraints of boredom in the human psyche. Perhaps, there are constraints of what are deemed desirable, etc. These can perhaps shape language-games to only form a certain way, and thus be necessitated in some way. I guess this could be a realism in a sort too. A realism of "human nature". It would be an epistemological constraint, necessitated by natural processes such as evolution on the human animal and human cognition specifically.

    But I still think that is fundamentally different than how the observable evidence and technological gains fostered by modern science dictates certain understanding of reality. Both are related, and share family resemblences, but are not the same. One is a constraint on epistemology itself, our ability to go beyond our own language-games. The other is a constraint on how we can interact and conceive of the universe itself. The latter is a constraint that perhaps indicates something about the universe, outside human interpretations of it. Of course the default is that the mathematically-informed science is just an interpretation. But the interpretation corresponds with a greater predictive ability and technology which gives it a different characteristic far beyond other language-games and their heuristics, even accounting for other heuristics getting refined over time with accumulated knowledge.
  • Luke
    533
    Why do scientific facts obtain so well?schopenhauer1

    I don't understand the meaning of your question.

    191. Well, if everything speaks for an hypothesis and nothing against it – is it then certainly true? One may designate it as such. — But does it certainly agree with reality, with the facts? — With this question you are already going round in a circle. — On Certainty
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