Belgrade Philosophical Annual
Institute for Philosophy, University of Belgrade
PERSPECTIVES ON WITTGENSTEIN
Guest Editors: James R. Connelly, Andrej Jandrić, Ljiljana Radenović
The paper attempts a novel defense of the main claim of Wittgenstein’s Private Language Argument, i.e. that ‘inner’ ostensive definition is impossible. Part 1 traces Wittgenstein’s target to the idea that ‘ostensive definition’ is a mental act, an idea that makes it tempting to think that its objects might just as well be private as public. Part 2 discusses a recent interpretation and defence of Wittgenstein’s position due to Stroud and McGinn. On their view, private ostensive definition establishes no pattern of use because it fails to specify the type of inner episode that is being ostended. But not explicitly specifying a type is harmless so long as the ostension in fact brings it about that the subject’s usage is sensitive to it. Part 3 proposes a new argument. Private ostensive definition does sustain a pattern of use, but that use is semantically indeterminate: nothing in it (or in the subject’s mind) settles which of two alternative schemes of reference applies. The conclusion discusses Wittgenstein’s best-known remarks on the subject from the perspective of this new argument.
Wittgenstein’s ‘plan for the treatment of psychological concepts’ in the second volume of his Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology (§§63, 148) is often understood as motivated by purely classificatory concerns that have little philosophical significance. I argue that this is a misinterpretation of Wittgenstein and that his planned and partly realized ‘treatment of psychological concepts’ deserves a better fate. In the first part of the paper I attempt to show that Wittgenstein’s interest in psychological concepts in RPPII, far from being merely an interest in their classification, is in fact closely connected to one important element of his conception of philosophy in the Philosophical Investigations, the requirement that ‘all explanation must disappear, and description alone must take its place’ (PI §109). In the second part of the paper I present the broad outlines of Wittgenstein’s new, post-Investigations treatment of psychological concepts, as they are seen both in the account of the concepts directly addressed in RPPII §§63, 148 (those of seeing and other sense-impressions, of sensations, mental images and emotions), and also elsewhere in that volume where other important psychological concepts are discussed, e.g., those of thinking, intention and states of mind (Seelenzustände). Although it represents work in progress that was never brought to completion, I suggest that the account of psychological concepts in RPPII is an original, insufficiently appreciated strand of thought within Wittgenstein’s œuvre, and also that it is an account worth exploring for anyone not convinced by the scientism accepted by so much of the recent philosophy of mind.
According to Wittgenstein, mathematical propositions are rules of grammar, that is, conventions, or implications of conventions. So his position can be regarded as a form of conventionalism. However, mathematical conventionalism is widely thought to be untenable due to objections presented by Quine, Dummett and Crispin Wright. It has also been argued that only an implausibly radical form of conventionalism could withstand the critical implications of Wittgenstein’s rule-following considerations. In this article I discuss those objections to conventionalism and argue that none of them is convincing.
In this paper, I enrich the context of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus given over a decade ago in my book Witttgenstein Flies A Kite (and related earlier works dating from 2000). I’ve since located a sketch reprinted from a 1914 Paris magazine showing a lawyer using a model bus and dolls to depict a traffi c accident; I present it here along with a discussion of the modelmaker movement of that time. The modelmaker movement was a movement at the intersection of popular culture and technical expertise that really needs to be understood and recognized in discussing Wittgenstein’s use of Modell and Bild. I discuss its role in relation to experimental models used in scientific research. Other new aspects presented here include: the very special role of model-flying clubs (known in Germany as Modell-Flugverein); the use of scientific forensics in courts of law, really just beginning then (c. 1914), and a part of popular culture as well; the significance of more recent work by others on Boltzmann’s personal interest in flight, and on the widespread but now-forgotten discussion of dimensional analysis in the history of physics. I conclude that all these lend support to the views on the Tractatus I laid out in my book, and summarize and elaborate on some of them here, inasmuch as space permits. More generally, I argue that the philosophical community interested in interpreting Wittgenstein’s early works stands to gain from becoming better acquainted with the scientific and technological developments of the milieu in which they were conceived.
According to the received view, the Tractatus would present a realistic conception of the meaning of a declarative sentence: that meaning would be explained in terms of evidence-transcending, not epistemically-constrained, truth-conditions. In this paper, I make a case against such a contention. If states of affairs are identified with possible combinations of phenomenal objects, the truth-conditions of an elementary proposition inevitably collapse onto its assertability-conditions: the existence of the state of affairs depicted by the proposition would be both the condition for its being true and, at the same time, the condition for our recognition of its being true. Moreover, the finiteness of logical space (the set of all phenomenal states of affairs) would ensure the decidability, in principle, of all meaningful propositions, and hence would preserve the general validity of the laws of classical logic. Lastly, the problem of the relationship between the overt verificationism of Wittgenstein’s 1929–1933 writings and the Tractatus’s ontological and semantic views, is dealt with.
In this paper, I aim to shed light on the use of transcendental deductions, within demonstrations of aspects of Wittgenstein’s early semantics, metaphysics, and philosophy of mathematics. I focus on two crucial claims introduced by Wittgenstein within these transcendental deductions, each identified in conversation with Desmond Lee in 1930–31. Specifically, the claims are of the logical independence of elementary propositions, and that infinity is a number. I show how these two, crucial claims are both demonstrated and subsequently deployed by Wittgenstein within a series of transcendental deductions, a series which begins with extensionalism as a generalized condition of sense on propositions, and in the context of which are then derived various, further, significant and unobvious presuppositions generated by that generalized condition of sense. In addition to clearing up deductions of these two, aforementioned claims, I also elucidate deductions of the subsistence of objects, and of logical space as an infinite totality.
William James was one of the most frequently cited authors in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, but the attention paid to James’s Principles of Psychology in that work is typically explained in terms of James having ‘committed in a clear, exemplary manner, fundamental errors in the philosophy of mind.’ (Goodman 2002, p. viii.) The most notable of these ‘errors’ was James’s purported commitment to a conception of language as ‘private’. Commentators standardly treat James as committed to a conception of language as private, and the most notorious instance of this commitment can purportedly be found in his discussion of the feelings associated with logical terms like ‘and’, ‘if ’ and ‘but’ in the Principles’s chapter, ‘The Stream of Thought’. However, the received view stands in need of serious re-evaluation. In particular, there is little reason to think that James’s notorious discussion of the ‘if-feeling’ should be understood as an attempt to give an account of the meaning of ‘if ’ (indeed, there is little reason to even think that Wittgenstein interpreted him this way). The picture of our ideas developed in ‘The Stream of Thought’ sits badly with any theory that identifies meanings with ideas in this way, and while James’s chapter on ‘Conception’ (as well as some portions of Some Problems of Philosophy) has also been portrayed as committing James to the in principle privacy of language, it will be argued here that James’s account of our ‘conceptions’ is radically different from that of the private linguist.
I’ve been teaching Wittgenstein’s On Certainty lately, and coming again to the question of Wittgenstein’s relation to pragmatism.1 This is of course a question Wittgenstein raises himself when he writes in the middle of that work: ‘So I am trying to say something that sounds like pragmatism’.2 He adds to this sentence the claim that ‘Here I am being thwarted by a kind of Weltanschauung’, but in the remarks to follow I want to focus not on Wittgenstein’s differences from or antipathy to pragmatism, nor on the world view that he felt thwarted him, but on those elements of his philosophy that sound like pragmatism—as he says. I will work primarily from On Certainty but also from the Philosophical Investigations, which intersects with that late, unfinished work at various places, and which also, at times, sounds like pragmatism.
In the book Remarks on Colors, Wittgenstein has claimed that transparent white objects do not and cannot exist, and that they cannot even be imagined. He had also claimed that luminous gray does not exist and cannot even be conceived. However, his arguments which aim to identify contradictory features of hypothetical transparent white media rely on incorrect assumptions about their properties and effects. Furthermore, some real objects and atmospheric phenomena can have features of transparent white media. As concrete examples of Wittgenstein’s ‘impossible’ colors, this paper contains two simple computer-generated graphical displays, one depicting a scene that includes a transparent white sheet, and another which conveys the impression of luminous gray.
The essay begins by briefly reviewing the complex history of the collaborative long-distance editing work that led to the publication of Wittgenstein: Lectures, Cambridge 1930-1933 (Cambridge UP, 2016). It then turns to a discussion of the rationale for the innovative editorial policies we ultimately developed and implemented, and some of the broader methodological issues that they raise.
The main goal of this paper is to develop further a quasi-fideistic Wittgensteinian view on the nature of religious beliefs proposed by Duncan Pritchard (Pritchard, 2000; Pritchard, 2012a; Pritchard, 2012b; Pritchard, 2015; Pritchard forthcoming). According to Pritchard, Wittgenstein’s thoughts on religion may be connected with the epistemological perspective developed in his final notebooks On Certainty (Wittgenstein, 1969), where Wittgenstein argues that our empirical beliefs rest upon grounds (i.e., hinge commitments) that cannot be rationally defended, but that we nonetheless find certain. Pritchard proposes that the idea of hinge commitments may be extended to religious beliefs as well, and argues that if this is done, religious beliefs may turn out to be no less defensible than our nonreligious, empirical beliefs. Pritchard provides a preliminary analysis of the kinds of hinge commitments as well as of their characteristics. In this paper our main concern is to engage in further analysis of these commitments. Such analysis seems to be necessary if we are to grasp the way faith relates to the rest of human knowledge. Moreover, we suggest that the best way to approach this task is by asking how we acquire basic hinge commitments. In order to answer this question we need to consult not only philosophers but also developmental and social psychologists, and see how children acquire knowledge of religious as well as nonreligious beliefs.