Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Conjuring teleology


At The Philosophers’ Magazine online, Massimo Pigliucci discusses teleology and teleonomy.  His position has the virtues of being simple and clear.  Unfortunately, it also has the vices of being simplistic and wrong.  His remarks can be summarized fairly briefly.  Explaining what is wrong with them takes a little more doing.

Teleology, as Pigliucci says, is actual purposefulness, whereas teleonomy is the mere appearance of purposefulness.  The former, he claims, always involves either divine or human agency.  The sciences can in Piglucci’s view be distinguished by their relationships to teleology and teleonomy.  “[P]hysics, chemistry, astronomy and geology,” he says, “are neither teleonomic nor teleologic.”  At the other extreme, with psychology, sociology and economics it is “mandatory” that we understand the phenomena they study in teleological terms.  In the middle stands biology, which he says is not teleological but is teleonomic.  Why is teleonomy “indispensible” to biology?  Because, Pigliucci says, “natural selection… truly does mimic goals and purposes” whereas the phenomena studied by physics, chemistry, etc. do not.  And what accounts for the difference between merely teleonomic phenomena and truly teleological ones?  In Pigliucci’s view it is consciousness, the science of which “is still waiting for its Darwin.”

Pigliucci is a smart and interesting guy, but as we’ve seen before (here and here), like too many other contemporary philosophers he often seems unable or unwilling to think outside the box of what everyone “knows.”  In this case, like most people who comment on the subject these days (whether naturalists, ID theorists, or whoever), he overlooks several crucial distinctions where teleology is concerned -- distinctions I spelled out in my article “Teleology: A Shopper’s Guide” (with further, more recent relevant discussion at pp. 88-105 of Scholastic Metaphysics).  Though these are distinctions which come naturally to us Thomists, they are also (as I discuss in the writings just referred to and have discussed in many other places as well) distinctions some of which you will find recapitulated by some contemporary non-Thomist and even naturalistic philosophers.

I won’t repeat here everything I’ve said in those earlier writings.  Suffice it to note that there are at least five approaches one could take to the question of whether teleology is (or is not) real, and at least five levels in nature at which one might (or might not) identify a distinct sort of teleology. 

As I’ve noted before, the first set of distinctions roughly corresponds to the five sorts of position one could take on the problem of universals: nominalism, conceptualism, and the three brands of realism (Platonic, Aristotelian, and Scholastic).  Teleological eliminativism (which roughly parallels nominalism) holds that there is no teleology at all in the natural world.  Teleological reductionism holds that there is teleology in the natural world, but that it is entirely reducible to non-teleological phenomena.  Platonic teleological realism holds that teleology is real and irreducible but that it does not exist in natural, non-mental phenomena in any intrinsic way.  Rather, it exists only relative to some mind (say, human or divine) which imparts teleology to otherwise purposeless phenomena.  Aristotelian teleological realism holds that teleology is real and irreducible and that it does exist in natural, non-mental phenomena in an intrinsic way, without having to be derived from any mind.  Scholastic teleological realism is something of a middle ground position between Platonic and Aristotelian teleological realism.  It holds that teleology is real and irreducible, and that it has a proximate ground in the intrinsic natures of things (as the Aristotelian view holds) but that it also has its ultimate source in the divine intellect (as the Platonic view holds).  Platonic teleological realism is the view reflected in arguments like Paley’s design argument and ID theory.  Scholastic teleological realism is the view one finds in Aquinas’s Fifth Way.  (See my article “Between Aristotle and William Paley: Aquinas’s Fifth Way.”  Both that article and “Teleology: A Shopper’s Guide” are reprinted in Neo-Scholastic Essays.  The distinction between Platonic and Aristotelian teleological realism has been emphasized in recent analytic philosophy by writers like Christopher Shields and Andre Ariew.)

The second set of distinctions, between levels in nature at which teleology may or may not exist, goes as follows.  First, teleology might exist (indeed, as everyone but eliminative materialists agrees, does exist) at the level of human thought and action, where the ends toward which thought and action are directed are grasped conceptually.  Second, teleology exists in non-human animals in a way that does not involve conceptualization, but is still conscious.  Third, teleology exists in merely vegetative forms of life (in the technical, Aristotelian sense of “vegetative”) in a way that is completely unconscious, but still involves processes which are directed toward the flourishing of the whole organism.  (Scholastics call this “immanent causation,” as opposed to the “transeunt causation” to which non-living things are confined.)  Fourth, teleology might be claimed to exist in inorganic phenomena in a way that does not involve the flourishing of a whole substance (as in living things) but still involves complex causal processes.  David Oderberg proposes the rock cycle and the water cycle as examples.  Fifth, teleology might exist at the simplest level in the form of an efficient cause’s mere “directedness” toward its characteristic effect or range of effects.  Contemporary philosopher Paul Hoffman has called this last kind the “stripped-down core notion” of teleology, and it is essentially what contemporary metaphysicians like John Heil, George Molnar, and U.T. Place have in mind when they attribute “physical intentionality” or “natural intentionality” to causal powers. 

Now, the first mistake Pigliucci makes is matter-of-factly to suppose that teleology, if it is real, must “either [be] the result of a supernatural cause (‘god’) or, more obviously, of human activity.”  This essentially assumes that the only options are either teleological eliminativism or Platonic teleological realism.  Yet surely Pigliucci is familiar with versions of teleological reductionism (for example, attempts in the philosophy of biology to analyze the notion of biological function in “naturalistic” terms), which makes it odd that he doesn’t even mention these in passing.  Perhaps he supposes (rightly, in my view) that such reductionism inevitably collapses into some other view about teleology.  But Pigliucci seems completely unaware that there is such a thing as the Aristotelian teleological realist position -- which is also a bit odd, since Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos brought some attention to it recently (nor is Nagel the only naturalist to take such a view).  Naturally, someone unaware of the Aristotelian teleological realist position would also be unfamiliar with the Scholastic teleological realist position (which can really only be understood by contrast to the Aristotelian and Platonist positions).  Perhaps Pigliucci would say that all of these views end up collapsing into the Platonic position.  But justifying such a claim would require argument.  Pigliucci not only gives no argument, he shows no awareness that there is even a dispute here.

Pigliucci’s second mistake is in assimilating all teleology to the sort exhibited (or apparently exhibited) either in human action or in biological phenomena.  This is a very common assimilation, but it is wrong, and manifests Pigliucci’s tendency (which we have seen before) to take the metaphysical conventional wisdom for granted.  Again, teleology of a sort that is much more rudimentary than the sort one finds in biological and specifically human phenomena might arguably be found in inorganic cyclical phenomena (as in Oderberg’s examples) or in basic causal relations (as in the phenomena that writers like Hoffman, Heil, Molnar, Place, et al. have in mind).  And in that case, even if one denies that “physics, chemistry, astronomy and geology” are concerned with truly teleological phenomena, they would still be teleonomic phenomena -- which would undermine Pigliucci’s proposed way of classifying the sciences, and also undermine his claim that it is natural selection that accounts for teleonomy (since natural selection does not exist at the level of the inorganic phenomena in question). 

Pigliucci says: “It makes no sense to ask what is the purpose or goal of an electron, a molecule, a planet or a mountain.”  But the remark is either aimed at a straw man or begs the question.  If by “the purpose of an electron etc.” Pigliucci has in mind something like the kind of purposes that a heart or an eyeball has (which can only be understood by reference to the flourishing of the organism of which these organs are parts), or the kind that an artifact has (which can only be understood by reference to the human purposes for which the artifact was made), then he is of course correct that electrons, molecules, planets and mountains lack such purposes.  But not all teleology need in the first place involve the kinds of purposes we see in bodily organs and artifacts, and those who attribute teleology to inorganic phenomena are not attributing to them those specific kinds of teleology.  What they have in mind instead is mere directedness toward an end. 

Now, anything with irreducible causal powers arguably has that sort of mere directedness -- what Hoffman calls the “stripped-down core notion” of teleology -- insofar as it has a typical sort of effect or range of effects.  Contemporary “new essentialist” powers theorists willing to countenance something like “physical intentionality” would attribute this sort of teleology to physical particles.  Planets and mountains (to cite Pigliucci’s other examples) are trickier, since it might be argued that their causal powers are reducible to those of their parts.  If so, then they would have what the Scholastic would call mere “accidental forms” rather than “substantial forms,” and thus not be true substances, and thus not be candidates for the sorts of thing having irreducible teleology in the first place.  I don’t intend to get into all that here.  Suffice it to say that Pigliucci is not only ignoring distinctions between kinds of teleology, but also running together examples of very different sorts which would require careful case-by-case treatment in the application of the relevant metaphysical notions.  (See Scholastic Metaphysics for exposition and defense of all the relevant notions.)

It is also surprising that a philosopher of science like Pigliucci should overlook a famous example of purported teleology within physics, viz. least action principles.  (See Hawthorne and Nolan’s paper “What Would Teleological Causation Be?” for a recent brief discussion by philosophers.)  Of course, whether such principles ought really to be regarded as teleological is a matter of controversy, but that is irrelevant to the present point.  What is relevant is, first, that if they are teleological, they would not have the kind of teleology that bodily organs and artifacts have.  Hence they would be good examples of the more rudimentary, sub-organic kind of purported teleology that Pigliucci entirely overlooks.  Second, the very fact that least action principles at least seem to many people to be teleological is another good illustration of how even physics is arguably teleonomic even if one were to concede to Pigliucci that it is not teleological.  Once again, that would undermine Pigliucci’s attempt to explain teleonomy in terms of natural selection.

A further problem with Pigliucci’s remarks is that he supposes that a reference to natural selection suffices to show that teleology has been banished from biology.  But that is not the case.  As various thinkers with no ID theoretic or otherwise theological ax to grind (e.g. Marjorie Grene, Andre Ariew, J. Scott Turner) have pointed out, natural selection by itself only casts doubt on teleology where questions of adaptation are concerned.  Whether some sort of teleology is necessary to make sense of developmental processes within an organism is another question.  (Keep in mind that whether such teleology would require reference to some sort of designer is, contrary to what Pigliucci seems to suppose, a yet further question -- and one which would require settling the dispute between Platonic teleological realism, Aristotelian teleological realism, Scholastic teleological realism, and teleological reductionism.)

Finally, Pigliucci overlooks some obvious problems with his remarks about consciousness.  By his own admission, apparently, phenomena that involve consciousness are irreducibly teleological and not merely teleonomic.  So far so good; I think that is certainly true.  But in that case it is quite silly to pretend (as Pigliucci rather glibly does) that explaining consciousness merely requires that cognitive science find its own Darwin.  The way Darwin accounts for adaptation is precisely by arguing that it is not really teleological at all but merely teleonomic.  Naturally, then, if consciousness is irreducibly teleological, it is not even in principle going to be susceptible of that kind of reductionist or eliminativist explanation. 

Of course, Pigliucci might respond that he didn’t mean to imply that consciousness would ever be explained in exactly the kind of manner Darwin employed, but only that it would require a scientist of Darwin’s stature to account for it.  Fair enough, but even on this interpretation his remark is still much too glib.  Darwin, and the other great names in modern science, are considered great largely because they are thought to have found ways to eliminate teleology from the phenomena they dealt with.  In particular, they’ve treated teleology as a mere projection of the mind rather than a real feature of nature.  Obviously you can’t apply that approach to conscious teleological processes without implicitly denying the existence of the thing you’re supposed to be explaining rather than actually explaining it.  (And into the bargain, taking an incoherent position, since scientific theorizing, weighing evidence, etc. are themselves all teleological conscious processes.)

So, a “Darwin” of the science of consciousness would have to be as unlike Darwin, Newton, and Co. as they were unlike Aristotle.  In particular, he’d have to reverse the anti-teleological trend of modern scientific theorizing.  Or at any rate, he’d have to do so for all Pigliucci has said, or all he plausibly could say given what he’s willing to concede vis-à-vis the centrality of genuine teleology (not just teleonomy) to the understanding of human phenomena.

Hence to write many paragraphs about the scientific banishment of teleology from everywhere else in nature while insisting that teleology is real in the case of human beings, and then casually to insinuate that the history of that banishment gives hope that someday a scientific explanation of the teleology of human consciousness will also be possible… to do that is something of a conjuring trick, a bit of sleight of hand.  To appeal to an analogy I’ve used many times before, it’s like someone who has gotten rid of all the dirt in every room in the house by sweeping it under a particular rug, when asked how he’s now going to get rid of the dirt under the rug, responding: “Why, I’ll get rid of it the same way I got rid of the dirt in all the rooms, of course!  That method worked in all those other cases -- why wouldn’t it work in the one case of the dirt under the rug?”  This only sounds plausible if you don’t think very carefully about what has just been said.  The minute you do think about it, you see that in fact it’s absurd.  Naturally, the past success of the sweep-it-under-the-rug method gives no reason whatsoever to think that that method offers hope of getting rid of the dirt under the rug itself.  And by the same token, the past success of the treat-teleology-as-a-mere-projection-of-consciousness method gives no reason whatsoever to think that people using essentially the same method will succeed in explaining the teleology of consciousness itself.

(For more detailed discussion of these and related issues, see my series of posts on Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos and on Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality.)

180 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Pigliucci will actually engage with you this time. Every other time he seems to just ignore you when you criticize him.

Timocrates said...

I don't think Darwin succeeded in banishing teleology from biology. Organisms simply do not develop in just any old way. They go through very distinct and often necessary stages in the process of becoming or realizing an adult specimen. Too much deviation from this results in deformity and is often lethal. Logically at least, organisms develop in a similar way to human goal realization: In order for X to be, Y must first be; and for Y to be, Z must be. Z is in my power, so accomplish Z. Of course, the process isn't conscious in the developing organism but intrinsic or innate.

Similarly, in the broader and inanimate physical world, things wont do or become just anything in any old situation. They will act or react in highly determinate ways according to their nature in any given situation. This is why we constantly are trying to find ways to trick, manipulate or exploit the natural tendencies and capacities of things for our own purposes; e.g., in using water's natural tendency to seek the lowest point to generate hydroelectric power or using the properties of steam in a similar way to also generate electricity.

Curio said...

Ditto what Anonymous said. I'd love to see Pigliucci respond in a substantial, meaningful way to this critique. I used to hold out for Pigliucci to become some sort of neo-Aristotelian, if not full blown Thomist, due to his affinity for virtue ethics, recognition of the banality of the New Atheism, interest in mathematical Platonism (at one point at least), and occasional penchant for nuance. I used to frequent his Rationally Speaking blog and always enjoyed his take-downs of pseudoscience, creationism, etc. Been much less interested in his recent writing. Hopefully your blog post sparks something good in Pigliucci!

Paul Hamilton said...

Dr. Feser,

Francis Slade makes a very useful distinction between ends and purposes. Here is an article where he argues for the distinction.

https://www3.nd.edu/~maritain/ama/Ramos/Ramos05.pdf

I haven't changed any minds through this distinction, but I have found it helpful when trying to explain teleology to the uninitiated.

Tim Lambert said...

Question about “purposefulness” as Feser uses in his 2nd paragraph… does that mean that something came into being for a purpose? Or that there is a purpose that it serves?

Mikael said...

Hi,guys.Here I am again with an off-toppic issue.With respect to causal series,it is obvious why in an essential ordered causal series,even if it's infinite,there must be a cause which imparts causal powers to the rest.But why do we call it the Ultimately First Cause?It would be the first cause for that series,but what if the first cause of an essentially ordered causal series is the product of a accidentally ordered causal series?It won't be the Ultimately First Cause,only the first cause of an accidentally ordered causal series.

Mikael said...

Sorry,I meant essentially not accidentally in the last phrase.

TomD said...

This is slightly off topic, but I want to know if anyone has any thoughts on the Scholastic view of Teleology specifically in Aquinas's 5th way:

First of all, it seems to me that teleology is a necessary feature of the world as it seems to follow from the principle of sufficient reason. If causes were not directed towards certain effects but merely produced effects at random, it would be strange to even call this a cause and effect relationship. In fact, it would seem to be a violation of the PSR and a brute fact that B followed upon A. In that case, it is odd to me to say that the existence of final causes requires an ordering intelligence. Rather, it seems more appropriate to say that they are necessary features of the world given the PSR.

Second, even if that is not the case (or if it is the case but we still need to ground this necessity), I am unclear on why we must posit an intelligence behind it all. Professor Feser in his presentation of the argument has always pointed to the fact that a final cause does not exist yet in time and therefore must exist in a mind in order to be a final cause at all (e.g. final cause of an acorn is an oak tree. But the oak tree doesn't exist at the time of an acorn, therefore, it must exist somewhere, viz. a mind). But this reasoning doesn't make sense to me for two reasons. First of all, if eternalism about time is true, the final cause does exist in actuality at a later time so there is no mystery here. Even so, why is it the case that a final cause must "exist" at all? Couldn't it exist virtually in the acorn rather than formally in the mind of God?

Thanks for answers
Tom

Dennis said...

Hi Mikael,

Here's Dr. Feser on the different types of causal series, http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/06/cross-on-scotus-on-causal-series.html

I'm pretty sure you have an account on the classical theism forum, and if you don't know, the place is bustling with activity, so if this reply doesn't help you, I suggest you make a thread on this over there. In fact, even if this reply does indeed help you, start this thread over there.

Consider a musician playing a flute, or a star which gives a set of moons {x,y,z,a} their light. The flute is only efficacious, insofar as there is something already actual which passess down actuality to it. Moon 'a' is only efficacious, insofar as there is some moon, 'z' which passes down what it has already received from the previous moon. Why must this terminate into a first cause? First of all, let me say that I'm not convinced that there is a physical example that is properly able to demonstrate the validity of an essentially ordered causal series.

Once moon 'x' has been lit by the star, the star can then go and cease to exist, but the moon will still retain the causal power of emitting the light it received, and so, pass it on to 'y'. The point of concern here doesn't deal with physical minutiae, it is making a metaphysical point that a set of objects, if they do not possess a feature or property 'L' (L=light) in act, they are at best in potency to it. A infinite set of moons will only be potentially bright, an infinite set of potential beings cannot produce what they don't already have, which in this case would be light in actuality. Positing an infinite set of moons which are potentially bright to require no source would only be to beg the question against the reality of an essentially ordered causal series. For the ones who argue for the reality of an E-series(E for essentially) claim that positing an infinite set of objects which do not possesses property F in act, are only potentially directed towards it. It follows, then, that if they are only ever always potentially F and only actual when something other than itself acts on it, that none of the members of the infinite series are able to be causally efficacious of property F, unless we appeal to something above and beyond that object which actually has the property F underived, as a power of their substance.

These don't make the examples superfluous, the only point I'm making is that such examples help us demonstrate a point about existence and causality. When we talk of infinities and and E-series or an A-series(accidentally ordered), we're talking about metaphysical facts, not physical ones. I think this answers your question, because for St. Thomas Aquinas, it is existence which is of primary importance, where the illustration of the stone moving the stick, the musician playing the flute or the piano, or the star causing the moon to shine is only served to illustrate the point I've made above.


Since, even if an essentially ordered series is traced back to something which has the property F, underived, such as the stars. It cannot be the case for the star to be there, without deriving its existence from something which possesses in Act and is never potentially in act, but just always is, underived.

It's also worth looking into another Medieval Scholastic and an all-time great, John Duns Scotus.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/duns-scotus/#ProExiGod

His proof is fabulous!

When someone questions these things about E-series, A-series, derived and underived causal power, existence, the best thing to do is obviously to argue, not from the physical but from the metaphysical. For only a metaphysic can go against metaphysic.

Craig Payne said...

Tim Lambert, you wrote: "Question about “purposefulness” as Feser uses in his 2nd paragraph… does that mean that something came into being for a purpose? Or that there is a purpose that it serves?"

Generally it means the latter, but ultimately it does not matter. "Purposes" in the Scholastic teleological realist sense require a purposing intellect. If that with no intellect actually does serve a purpose in relation to the whole of which it is a part, it is an indication of the intellect/Intellect behind it. However, some things can be "purposeful" in the sense of "directedness toward an end," as Ed Feser puts it above. The question at this level would not then be "Is there an Intellect behind nature?" but rather "Does nature exhibit teleology?" The former question would then follow from the latter.

Dennis said...

Dr. Feser, with regard to Tim Lambert's question about final causes being present virtually in the acorn, I understand that God cannot change the final cause of a substance 'x,' for God does change that, then it is no longer 'x.' The final cause of 'x' is part of its identity. The Divine Intellect would play part, insofar as it actualizes 'x' and thus the formal and final properties which flow from what 'x' is.

So, my question is, what does it mean to say that God has to 'direct' 'x' to its final cause, in order for something to be causally efficacious on it? I understand this to mean that God needs to actualize 'x,' from which the final causes follow, but if that's the case, why do we say that God needs to 'direct' it, rather than to actualize it? Is this wrong? Please correct me if it is.

Thanks.

Dennis said...

"with regard to Tim Lambert's question..."

should read, "with regard to TomD's question...".

Timocrates said...

Hello Mikael,

I will repeat the suggestion given above by Dennis to consider starting a thread at the classical theism forum (http://classicaltheism.boardhost.com/). That being said, both TomD and Dennis raise interesting points that I think are relevant to your question.

First Principles have a tendency (heh) to be so basic or primitive that it is difficult for us to in a sense see them insofar as we are always assuming their validity or truth. It is difficult for the mind to even entertain their denial, certainly at least when they apply especially (e.g. the principle of causality when talking about effects). We can see something of the consequences of denying, say, PSR (which arguably implies the principles of causality and finality) in TomD's post:

"If causes were not directed towards certain effects but merely produced effects at random, it would be strange to even call this a cause and effect relationship."

Everything would end up totally random and unrelated even to the point of out-and-out absurdity and contradiction. Any and every science would be impossible; indeed, quite false without PSR, for then nothing would or could have in principle an explanation.

Dennis said...

"stone moving the stick"

should read, "stick moving the stone. . ."

Oh typos. How I hate thee.

DNW said...

"Curio said...

Ditto what Anonymous said. I'd love to see Pigliucci respond in a substantial, meaningful way to this critique. "


After having read his original article I don't think that he could. And the reason is as I see it, that Pigliucci cannot commit to enough of a genuine realist standpoint to allow him to talk of teleology per se, rather than talking of (pragmatics driven or justified) the need for talking "in teleology" as a matter of convenience.

My guess is that he views it as an inescapable at present (without great trouble) artifact or side-effect of our psychology, the way in which we go forward blindly into the future and see retrospectively only what has already happened. I know it's a kind of an odd thing to say that we don't really see even the present, but only the just or long past, but I think that that feeling is what is behind the surmise of those who think that all teleology is a projective illusion (and I do not mean an anthropomorphizing psychological "projection" but a brain processing "screening" type).


Now it would be interesting to see what would happen if people tried to consistently banish all teleological language from biological description; and it could probably be done pretty extensively, by using phrases such as " X state of affairs has the effect of producing such a further effect (given certain more global physical conditions)".

So I would guess that the biological/life/teleology question could probably be largely sidestepped with the shrugging reply that it is all (life) just particular kinds of "spreading ink-stains, or crystal-like growth processes".

But then what of the underlying laws and processes? I don't know. It does seem that it isn't just all process first and then law, but that potential structure is there right from the first.

You can imagine sledding down hill after the world gets started and then misinterpreting the track of the effects behind as a path; but it is hard to conceptualize how this would apply to primordial stages.

Of course the practical problem for anti-teleologists in stripping teleological language from biology in favor of process and sheer effect descriptions, is that it effectively undermines all our legal assumptions and ways of speaking. What sense does it makes to speak of an effect as having "rights" or even meaningful interests?

So while the Churchlands may gleefully epater le bougeois with their talking stunts, the moment a third party seriously looked at them as if they were a kind of fungus spreading at the base of a damp wall, is the moment that they would become alarmed and indignant.

Though on their own terms, it is hard to see why.

Timocrates said...

@ DNW,

I would just point out that teleology is necessary for change. State of affairs A and state of affairs B does not imply a change. But from being X to being Y does. In this way they are related as beginning ("from X") and end ("to Y").

So if atomic arrangement and state of affairs A is necessary and the cause of this chair's existing (B) and is its explanation, then producing that state of affairs causes a chair (B) to exist. That state of affairs would be the end of the process of production for a chair. Here the atoms would be the material principle while the arrangement would be the formal principle and also the end of the change (for producing the chair; that the chair should be).

Local motions are changes from rest to movement or movement to rest or from moving in one way to moving in a different way (say a change of direction or speed); on, in other words, from moving in X direction to Y or at X speed to Y speed.

When looked at this way "escaping" teleology is much more difficult.

John Jensen said...

jj

DNW said...

Timocrates said...

@ DNW,

I would just point out that teleology is necessary for change. State of affairs A and state of affairs B does not imply a change. But from being X to being Y does. In this way they are related as beginning ("from X") and end ("to Y").

So if atomic arrangement and state of affairs A is necessary and the cause of this chair's existing (B) and is its explanation, then producing that state of affairs causes a chair (B) to exist. That state of affairs would be the end of the process of production for a chair. Here the atoms would be the material principle while the arrangement would be the formal principle and also the end of the change (for producing the chair; that the chair should be).

Local motions are changes from rest to movement or movement to rest or from moving in one way to moving in a different way (say a change of direction or speed); on, in other words, from moving in X direction to Y or at X speed to Y speed.

When looked at this way "escaping" teleology is much more difficult.

March 10, 2016 at 1:04 PM





Act and potency seems to presume, or indicate, a surrounding teleological framework, or to be a manifestation of it, I suppose you might say.

If the potential is to do anything particular or definite, then there necessarily seems to be a the concept of rule informed structure involved.

But because of the monism which informs so much contrary thinking, the anti-teleologist can, he imagines, tactically retreat to a kind of radically skeptical metaphysical stance in which he neither affirms nor denies anything specific regarding the nature of reality out there, but merely asserts he is performing effective operations of some kind. He refrains from posting directionalities in anything but a provisional sense, and shrugs at the nature of the stuff in which he is immersed and which both operates on him and is operated on by him ... if "operate" is not too teleologically freighted a word.

I think what we have seen historically is that even the notion of causes and effects have fallen under siege as bastions of dualistic thinking.

Now I am not saying any practicing scientist habitually dispenses with the concepts of potential, and causes and effects, [I think they just bracket the status of these questions) but I think that the polemicists are so psychologically steeped in monistic presuppositions and stances that they are prepared to write off much of our common conceptual analysis kit, in order to avoid granting political points which they find temperamentally uncongenial.

Again, my view is that Pigliucci is not so much concerned with the real status of these concepts in the world out there, as he is with the practical matter of using convenient language as he pursues his pointless, or not, activities.

He probably simply isn't interested in the question in the same was Feser is.

DNW said...

I guess what I am saying is that if someone tells you that they really believe that physics tells them that time has no arrow, and that they themselves assume that "shit happens" is a good description of how reality works and not just an flippant admonition to shrug off petty annoyances in your life, then, I don't think that you will ever be able to talk to them about this in the first place.

That doesn't go for Pigliucci in quite the same way, but my guess is that his commitment is to pragmatics, not to "truth" with a capital T or understanding the nature of reality, or even any aspect of it, in some sense approaching Feser's philosophy of nature sense.

DNW said...

read

" in the same was Feser is."

as

" in the same way Feser is."

How the hell did I strike the "s" key, instead of the "y" key, when the "y" is way over there and the "s" way over here??

Mr. Green said...

DNW:How the hell did I strike the "s" key, instead of the "y" key, when the "y" is way over there and the "s" way over here??

You probably didn't; but if your computer employs some sort of automatic spelling-correction, you may very well have accidentally struck a nearby "T", for example, which was helpfully metamorphosed into an "S" to make a real word.

Automation is great when it automatically does what you want, but it's a double-edged sword. In the olden days, typographical errors could often be puzzled out by analysing nearby keys for potential substitutions. Now, an unrelated word can show up in the middle of a sentence with little clue as to how it got there. I wonder if anyone's done a study on whether spelling-correctors actually increase legibility or decrease it?

Curio said...

DNW

Teleological language can't be abolished if we want to continue teaching med students anatomy and physiology.

Brian said...

Off-topic, I know, but I hope a quick question will be permitted: moderate realism seems pretty strict about rejecting uninstantiated universals. These, however, seem to be essential for mathematics. What does moderate realism have to say about mathematical objects?

JohnD said...

Brian, you may find this exchange interesting. It is my understanding that professor Bridges is a moderate realist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFU1BKxJf1k

DNW said...

Curio said...

DNW

Teleological language can't be abolished if we want to continue teaching med students anatomy and physiology.

March 10, 2016 at 7:03 PM"



You are probably right in principle, and I believe even an anti-teleologist would certainly provisionally agree that you are as things stand now.

The open question is whether or not that hypothetical opponent of all intending concepts would view that teaching imperative as a peculiarity of our psychological lenses, and separable from the question of how that which is out there really ... I don't know .... "flows", maybe.

Thus you would wind up arguing over the concept of the utility of mechanical analogies as modeling tool for a cognitively crippled species.

I guess my only real point is that there is a difference between on the one hand blithely granting that you must, more or less, talk in teleology, or even in marveling how well it seems to work when you do so; and on the other hand being convinced that this way of talking launches off real insights into the way the world, or even a slice of it, actually works.


It has been my personal observation, based on years of arguing with the kind, that for whatever reason or combination of reasons, the anti-teleologists are so committed to what I guess I will call a spreading ink-blot monism view of reality, that no matter what concepts they employ in their daily lives in order to deal with their personal environment, the grip of their (often highly desired) fall into the mindless is so strong and appealing that they cannot be argued out of it.

It is as if they have taken a drug which they find psychologically liberating in some sense. The result is especially disastrous as you might imagine when it comes to trying to make sense of their concept of law and rights.

machinephilosophy said...

Always ignore, is the primary ongoing operational rule of just about everything these days.

Academic philosophy itself is now mostly a fixed system of selective ignoring, avoiding, evading, and dismissing. Kind of like the general culture, but filled with grateful graduate as well as undergraduate suck-ups.

Makes you sick. But then, are there any really super-rational doctors in the house any more?

Brian said...

JohnD,

Huh, Craig is an anti-realist. Who knew.

So, the thing is, I am writing a paper on mathematical objects - if they exist or not. Being sympathetic to Aristotelianism/Thomism, my first inclination is to seek the wisdom of that tradition on this question. I may be wrong about this, but the problem of universals seems like it is very much related to the problem of mathematical objects. Anyway, this question about uninstantiated universals is a tricky one - there are mathematical objects that are not instantiated in the world, yet our maths has a lot to say about them. So presumably they are real, but uninstantiated.

But Aristotelian realism seems to say that there are no universals which are not instantiated. So I hit a roadblock very early on! If anyone has any thoughts on them, please share them!

TheOFloinn said...

Regarding mathematical objects, this may be of assistance:
http://www.academia.edu/886258/Aristotelianism_in_the_philosophy_of_mathematics

Brian said...

^I am reading that right now, thank you. He definitely seems to be thinking along the same lines as me, that mathematics seems to study universals. And uninstantiated universals are necessary... let's see how he reconciles that with Aristotelianism.

pck said...

@Brian

You might also want to consider Wittgenstein's view on universals, which rejects both realism and nominalism:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_resemblance
http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1392890.files/Bambrough.pdf

"There is no limit to the number of possible classifications of objects. (The nominalist is right about this.) There is no classification of any set of objects which is not objectively based on genuine similarities and differences. (The realist is right about this.)
The nominalist is so impressed by the infinite diversity of possible classifications that he is blinded to their objectivity. The realist is so impressed by the objectivity of all genuine classifications that he underestimates their diversity."


With regard to the reality of mathematical objects, there are two thoughts in particular that strike me as pertinent:

1) In pre-formal, pre-axiomatic arithmetic we do not learn what "2" means independently of what "1" means. Thus we cannot discover that 1+1=2, since this relation is partly constitutive of the meaning of "1" and "2". It is a rule of language (which only looks like a fact). "1" and "2" are not independent "objects", but syntactic elements within rules of transformation. "1" and "2" only have meaning within a system of such transformations.[1] The system is learned holistically, but not given as a complete and finished whole, it is instead gradually and continually expanded and thus changes all the time. Wittgensten: "I want to get away from the formulation: 'I now know more about the calculus', and replace it with 'I now have a different calculus'." This is pretty tough to swallow if you approach math axiomatically and imagine all possible derivations from the axioms to spring into existence immediately after you have completed writing down all the rules. But one has to remember that the rules of the game are not identical with the game: the game still has to be played before it can be said to exist -- which is in accord with Aristotle's moderate realism/immanent idealism -- and that it only exists as far as it has been played. ("But Aristotelian realism seems to say that there are no universals which are not instantiated.")

[1] Just as quantities are only intelligible in relation to others, i.e. in relation to what they are not: "He is 6 feet tall" means nothing without any additional knowledge of, say, 5 or 7 foot tall people, trees, rocks, etc.

2) We apply arithmetic (rules of transformation) selectively. Two clouds merging into one do not force me to say that 1+1=1 (although I could adopt and use such a "calculus of clouds"). Thus mathematics is not "the language of nature". Arithmetic by itself has no meaning until I apply it. Since I apply it selectively (perhaps according to what seems useful to me), it cannot be "the language of nature". (If it was, there would have to be correct and incorrect applications in a sense that does not depend on my personal whims and interests.)

A further problem to consider in this context would be the concept of (actual) infinity (infinite sets), which is extremely hard (in my opinion impossible) to justify philosophically.

TheOFloinn said...

But you cannot say 1 cloud plus 1 cloud equals 1 cloud because a cloud is not a thing. It is rather a heap of things. A cloud is actually n water molecules and a water molecule is a well-defined thing. If two clouds merge, we have n molecules plus m molecules = (n+m) molecules.

pck said...

(Apologies for this being totally off-topic with regard to teleology, I promise no more lengthy replies about math after this.)

TOF:
But you cannot say 1 cloud plus 1 cloud equals 1 cloud because a cloud is not a thing. It is rather a heap of things.

That is true. The question is, what does "you cannot say" amount to? Why are we committed to using arithmetic on things and not on heaps? We do use numbers to enumerate heaps. We talk about two piles of sand. If I take a shovel and transform two piles of sand into one big pile, what is it that prevents me from formalizing this "addition" as 1+1=1? I can think of nothing in nature that forces me not to do this. The application of arithmetic is independent of the inner workings of the formal calculus. Our commitment to using arithmetic on things and not on heaps is a rule of language which is (partly) constitutive of the notions of "thing" and "heap". (I'm not dismissing Aristotle here, but you could accuse me of running Wittgensteinian circles around the way I suppose Aristotle himself would want to be read.)

I could go out of my way to avoid the heap/thing objection by introducing a "bucket calculus": One bucket of water + another bucket of water = one big bucket of water. I would simply ignore the amounts of water, the size of the buckets, and so on. Then I could have my calculus of things in which 1 bucket + 1 bucket = 1 bucket. Not very appealing, not very useful, but possible. However, this bucket arithmetic would, if anything, feel even more "off" than the cloud calculus, and it's not because it's not useful enough. So why do we reject it?

Adopting the cloud or the bucket arithmetic would leave us with a practice which would produce great tensions (to say the least) with other notions, some of them as elementary as "thing". The ways in which we use mathematics are held in place by so many other concepts, practices, and abilities, that we are highly unlikely to change them in radical ways. Changing concepts and their applications in ways that tug on the strings which connect them and hold them in their places produces irritation. (That's why I think the thing/heap objection is entirely valid.)

One of Wittgenstein's examples is of a society of people who calculate the price of stacks of wood independently of how high the stacks are (only the area on the ground taken up by a stack matters). Nothing prevents such a practice in principle, but it would jar with many aspects of the form(s) of life we (humanity as it exists on this planet right now) have adopted or been given throughout our "natural history" (W.'s term).

If we changed our use of arithmetic regardless of the troubles this would invariably invite, would we go against nature itself, or would we go against the use of our concepts of nature? I can read Aristotle as talking about nature (which I guess is how he would want to be read) or I can read him as analysing and recommending conceptual frameworks, that is, ways to talk about nature.

pck said...

Connection to teleology:

One might object to the above that it amounts to a plea for conventionalism: Nothing in nature necessitates the ways we apply logic, math, or arithmetic, so presumably we can do whatever we want. But we do not "convene", that is, come together and decide on how we want to apply arithmetic. Rather, we have natural abilities which have ends that draw us towards it (as well as its specific uses), such as the ability to make distinctions, which is the basis for counting.

Another contributing factor to arithmetic and our use of it originates in the "external": the relative stability of the environments we live in. If, for example, nature was more capricious, with macroscopic objects appearing and disappearing spontaneously all the time, we would not have the same drive towards our arithmetical practices that we have now.

DNW said...

" I can read Aristotle as talking about nature (which I guess is how he would want to be read) or I can read him as analysing and recommending conceptual frameworks, that is, ways to talk about nature.
March 12, 2016 at 6:54 AM "


Well, that's the big issue in basic Aristotelianism, isn't it. What are the categories and predicables?


" But we do not "convene", that is, come together and decide on how we want to apply arithmetic. Rather, we have natural abilities which have ends that draw us towards it (as well as its specific uses), such as the ability to make distinctions, which is the basis for counting."


Yes. If radical conventionalism were true in some thoroughgoing sense, then all sorts of impossible, reality reshaping consequences should follow from the simple act of naming or drawing up rules. But calling red stones cherries too, won't do much for your dental health.

Well there is a social philosophy that attempts it; it's called modern l-i-b-e-r-a-l-i-s-m.


"You might also want to consider Wittgenstein's view on universals, which rejects both realism and nominalism "

Be careful when invoking that name! It provokes a certain bat-like visitor to emerge from the shadows of his Temple of Onan, and to appear here.

Seriously, I wonder whether Wittgenstein's project was even concerned with ontology now that I think back on it. It seemed to me, in class, to be a kind of behaviorism project applied to utterances.

pck said...

DNW:
Well, that's the big issue in basic Aristotelianism, isn't it. What are the categories and predicables?

That's definitely true, but my concern was more about the issue whether concepts, categories, properties, etc. can actually be said or shown to correspond to facts in or of nature. I have always been dissatisfied with the idea that a proposition P="snow is white" is true if and only if a fact (F) obtains that snow is white, because the relation between P and F is not analysable without using P to talk about F in the analysis.

Be careful when invoking that name! It provokes a certain bat-like visitor to emerge from the shadows of his Temple of Onan, and to appear here.

Damn, I think I've already said "that name" five times, so I guess we can expect the bat to appear any minute now. Got only myself to blame...

It seemed to me, in class, to be a kind of behaviorism project applied to utterances.

This is one of the most common misconceptions about W. He is actually quite far away from behaviourism (but some of his remarks do lend themselves to misinterpretation). See for example here (page 8, 1., bold emphases mine):

Wittgenstein clarified his position with regard to behaviourism. He agreed with
logical behaviourists that behaviour is internally related to the mental, and with behaviourists in general that language learning is founded on brute training, that it presupposes natural behaviour and behavioural reaction, and that avowals of experience are themselves a form of behaviour. Unlike the behaviourists, however, he denied that the mental is a fiction (as Watson had insisted), or that the mental is reducible to behaviour (as logical behaviourists such as Carnap in the early 1930s and Hempel in the 1940s had suggested). Above all, he denied that behaviour is 'bare bodily movement' – a residual half of a false Cartesian duality. On the contrary, human behaviour is grasped as animate – as the behaviour of a living animal. It is perceived as a manifestation or expression of cognitive, cogitative, affective and volitional powers, and is so described.

Timocrates said...

Experience is a form of behavior?

Please excuse me while I experience a laugh, which is necessarily a part of my animal instinct (even tough the suggestion is laughable by a intellect - pass it off as a fluke). That of course follows on W's philosophy (as you represent it), such as (conveniently) when an idiot says something idiotic it necessarily means the objection was raised by someone who is not human.

Such thinkers can't win with ideas or words and they as well we know it will come down to force, "pck". Now we get religious. Now it comes down to the Cross. Now it comes to nails, flesh, wood and blood.

Glenn said...

Timocrates,

One can experience a laugh, and one can laugh at something (e.g., at something he thinks is absurd). Experiencing a laugh, and laughing at something, however, are two different, i.e., separate, things. And while the former -- experiencing a laugh -- is not a form of behavior, the latter -- laughing at something -- is. When it is said that "avowals of experience are themselves a form of behaviour", it is not being said that experience itself is a form of behavior, but that avowals of experience are themselves a form of behavior. An avowal is an act of affirmation, and even though such an act might not involve bodily movement, it does qualify as a form of behavior. Anyway, I'd be surprised if you didn't know this already, and it seems likely that you probably just read though the quotation a little too quickly.

Timocrates said...

@ Glenn,

Thank you, Glenn. You are quite right (and I hope you enjoyed a laugh at least from my premature response). I understand from your post that both human actions and reactions are a form of behavior, though we experience them all (including my avowal of an experience).

pck said...

Timocrates:
Experience is a form of behavior? [...] I experience a laugh, which is necessarily a part of my animal instinct [...] That of course follows on W's philosophy (as you represent it)

Glenn has already said everything necessary to dispel this confusion. Perhaps I should have boldened the final sentence of the quoted text as well. The quote (which is Peter Hacker's, not mine), says that W. held that human natural behaviour is a precondition of the ability to experience laughing, not that the experience of laughing is a necessary part of human natural behaviour.

when an idiot says something idiotic it necessarily means the objection was raised by someone who is not human

It really pays to read the full text of the quote instead of just scanning for keywords: "human behaviour is [...] a manifestation or expression of cognitive, cogitative, affective and volitional powers". It doesn't get any more human than that. Idiots included.

Such thinkers can't win with ideas or words and they as well we know it will come down to force, "pck". Now we get religious. Now it comes down to the Cross. Now it comes to nails, flesh, wood and blood.

I was going to say "all right then, Mr. Gibson, let's go outside and settle this like men", until I realized that all of this is talk at Cross purposes. But I do appreciate the pathos.

"Words are deeds." (W., Culture and Value, p. 50e)

DNW said...



" ... my concern was more about the issue whether concepts, categories, properties, etc. can actually be said or shown to correspond to facts in or of nature. I have always been dissatisfied with the idea that a proposition P="snow is white" is true if and only if a fact (F) obtains that snow is white, because the relation between P and F is not analysable without using P to talk about F in the analysis."


Well, how would you propose to establish existential import? By stepping outside the frame of reference somehow?

pck said...

DNW:
Well, how would you propose to establish existential import? By stepping outside the frame of reference somehow?

That's the big question. We'd like to get a bird's eye view of the world, but we are a part of it, so existence per se is a blind spot to systems which try to represent it, if they adhere to the notions of "meaning", "truth" and "fact" as being based on correspondences between propositions P and truths/facts F "out there". Because we need P to reference -- talk about -- F, we cannot be sure that we are not simply "talking F into existence". If we find that it is necessary to believe P, how do we know that P's necessity is a feature of the world and not a feature of the way our representation works?

Wittgenstein's answer was to abolish metaphysics. Sort of. It's hard to do the whole story justice in a combox, I'll try to outline some crucial parts of it. The paper linked to below has more details.

After taking the correspondence-with-reality view as far as possible in the Tractatus (and being content with it for a while), Wittgenstein realized that "not all logical relations are consequences of truth-functional composition" (see part 6 of this paper by Peter Hacker). For example the proposition S="this staff is 5 feet long" logically implies infinitely many other propositions about how long it is not. Hacker: "But this logical relation is not a consequence of any inner complexity or truth-functional compositionality of ['the staff is 5 feet long']." To establish the length of the staff, we follow a regular (and thus normative) practice of measuring. The proposition S references this practice, not the infinite logical conjunction ("truth-functional composition") of all measurements with different results. Hacker: "This undermined the idea that the whole of logic is given with the mere idea of the essence of the elementary proposition as such. Once Wittgenstein pulled at this little dangling thread of determinate exclusion, the whole fabric [of the Tractatus and thus of propositions corresponding with reality] came apart."

Thus the "simple elements" of reality which W. had supposed reside at the non-linguistic end of the correspondence isomorphism could not exist. He renounced (parts of) the Tractatus and no longer thought that facts make up the world. Facts were no longer "out there" and amenable to representation by logic. Rather, so he thought now, logic describes the world using factual statements. These are made possible through rules of language -- norms of representation -- which in turn are fixed by human practices, both linguistic and non-linguistic. Meaning, rather than being made possible by an isomorphic relation between the structure of language and the structure of (hypothesized) essential elements of reality, becomes something that is immanent in our practices.

This leads to the notion of "language-games". Meaning is explained as use of words, employing normative human practices (again, both linguistic and non-linguistic). A language-game is not a game played with words or within language alone, it is tied to ways of coping with the world. This is what connects language to reality -- the idea of the correspondence isomorphism is replaced by a notion of "immanence of meaning". We do not merely "do stuff and name it". Using language consists of acts of speaking, writing, etc. and what we understand, that is, what we know how to do, can be both non-linguistic as well as linguistic. Language is directly woven into our lives, not a watchful eye hovering above, making pictures of what is "really going on".

pck said...

W. now faces accusations of relativism, anti-realism and conventionalism.

I already talked about why conventionalism is not what W.'s later view amounts to, but it is still bad news for metaphysics. Even worse, the roots of the confusions of naturalism (which he vehemently opposed) are the same that lead to metaphysics. This sounds disasterous. But W. did not dismiss metaphysics as useless gibberish. The mistakes metaphysics makes are "great mistakes" (P. Hacker), which are instructive: They are notions to be given up (strictly speaking), but not ones to be simply cast aside and forgetten about, for they expose the limits of language.

If there are no essential features of the world, how does this not amount to relativism? "There are no..." means that "essential features of the world" is a misleading notion, not that "there is nothing out there" (there neither is nor isn't) or that "everything is an illusion". We must give up talking about essential features because correspondence to facts is a mirage, a picture which we have illegitimately imported from other applications where it does make sense (e.g. correspondence between a real airplane and a model airplane). Language has limits, and attempts to do metaphysics bring them out.

I said earlier that I read Aristotle as recommending ways to talk about nature instead of talking about nature itself. "Essence" is then understood as a commitment to use a particular norm of representation to talk about a substance, but not a "real feature" of the substance which is "out there" (it neither is nor isn't -- features are not things or treatable as if they were things, just like the joy in a joyful dance cannot be, object-like, separated from the dance). We use some way T to talk about a substance X which is not determined by X. But for T to have meaning, its use cannot be "idle": It must occur in the context of our concrete actions. Thus our T's are ultimately as deeply connected to reality (the absolute) as anything could ever be. (Our actions are absolute. Which I, strictly speaking, cannot say, since it is a metaphysical statement.) "X" itself ("this tree") is equally not a name, but a way of talking, a type of expression. What gives the term "X" meaning can neither be language itself, nor that the logic of language mirrors the logic of the world (since there is no such mirroring), it is rather our use of "X" in connection with our actions.

W. never made fun of religion. He thought that attempts to ponder existence itself would always amount to running up against an insurmountable barrier. Language and logic alone could never be enough to know God (since, as remarked earlier, existence is a blind spot when it comes to representing it in language).

We have the capacity to conceive of the world in different ways as much as we can live our lives in different ways. Perhaps this is a necessary consequence of the freedom that is given to us. Although if W. is correct, this statement is stricly speaking nonsense and our freedom can be experienced but not said or talked about. Religion then becomes a "thing strictly between you and God". (W. was in favour of a "silent religion".)

As an afterthought, I think that the fact that we are creatures capable of morality, and that morality, just like our intellectual powers, is irreducible, that is, explanatorily basic, shows it to be a built-in feature of existence (which again, is not really sayable if W. is right). This is not contradicted by the fact that different people have different sets of morals. Nor does it rule out that God wants us to differentiate between good and evil and act accordingly.

scbrownlhrm said...


PCK & DNW,

Part 1 of 3:

Here’s three cents, or maybe a penny, FWIW:

PCK makes the following observation, or conclusion, which I agree with,

Quote:

“We have the capacity to conceive of the world in different ways as much as we can live our lives in different ways. Perhaps this is a necessary consequence of the freedom that is given to us. Although if W. is correct, this statement is strictly speaking nonsense and our freedom can be experienced but not said or talked about. Religion then becomes a "thing strictly between you and God". (W. was in favor of a "silent religion".)


As an afterthought, I think that the fact that we are creatures capable of morality, and that morality, just like our intellectual powers, is irreducible, that is, explanatorily basic, shows it to be a built-in feature of existence (which again, is not really sayable if W. is right). This is not contradicted by the fact that different people have different sets of morals. Nor does it rule out that God wants us to differentiate between good and evil and act accordingly.”

End quote.

W. (…Wittgenstein…) offers exceptionally insightful unpacking and this is a sort of different way around to PCK’s insightful afterthought, as it is truly the case that *if* W. is right *then* even W. himself cannot claim this or that “fact” with respect to his supposed untraversable abyss amid Mind / Perception / Epistemology / Ontology / Language (Etc.). The obvious problem is that he (W.) does not apply his own means and ends to his own frame of reference, to his own means and ends – and therefore truth – all truth – becomes, as we follow W. to his ends, entirely deflationary with respect to truth-value.

If embracing, say, Paradigm-X forces us to embrace the ubiquitously deflationary, well then we can stop talking about anything “actual” as even the phrase “coping with reality” is itself the victim of W.’s ends. This includes the interfaces between language, perception, and ontology.

W.’s bet is hinged upon coping with reality but “coping” is reduced, by W.’s means, to what? Repeatable neuronal reflex-firing / output? And “reality” is reduced to, what? Repeatable stimuli / input via particle cascade (or whatever)? The “explanatorily basic” seems to begin and end there for W.

If such is the stopping point (and we’ve seen nothing to hint that W’s epistemic goes beyond such an ontology) well then W. makes a colossal mistake for he assumes, or acts As-If he assumes, that at bottom (to borrow from D.B. Hart) it is the case that …..of [that] material (what other word is there?) order…. we assume we have an immediate knowledge, while of any more transcendental reality we can form only conjectures or fantasies; and what is nature except matter in motion? But this is wrong, both in fact and in principle. For one thing, we do not actually have an immediate knowledge of the material order in itself but know only its phenomenal aspects, by which our minds organize our sensory experiences. Even “matter” is only a general concept and must be imposed upon the data of the senses in order for us to interpret them as experiences of any particular kind of reality (that is, material rather than, say, mental). More to the point, any logical connection we might imagine to exist between empirical experiences of the material order and the ideology of scientific naturalism is entirely illusory. Between our sensory impressions and the abstract concept of a causally closed and autonomous order called “nature” there is no necessary correlation whatsoever. Such a concept may determine how we think about our sensory impressions, but those impressions cannot in turn provide any evidence in favor of that concept. Neither can anything else……… continued……….”

Continued………

scbrownlhrm said...


Part 2 of 3:

……Neither can anything else. We have no immediate experience of pure nature as such, nor any coherent notion of what such a thing might be. The object has never appeared. No such phenomenon has ever been observed or experienced or cogently imagined. Once again: we cannot encounter the world without encountering at the same time the being of the world, which is a mystery that can never be dispelled by any physical explanation of reality, inasmuch as it is a mystery logically prior to and in excess of the physical order. We cannot encounter the world, furthermore, except in the luminous medium of intentional and unified consciousness, which defies every reduction to purely physiological causes, but which also clearly corresponds to an essential intelligibility in being itself. We cannot encounter the world, finally, except through our conscious and intentional orientation toward the absolute, in pursuit of a final bliss that beckons to us from within those transcendental desires that constitute the very structure of rational thought, and that open all of reality to us precisely by bearing us on toward ends that lie beyond the totality of physical things. The whole of nature is something prepared for us, composed for us, given to us, delivered into our care by a “supernatural” dispensation. All this being so one might plausibly say that God – the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality – is evident everywhere, inescapably present to us, while autonomous “nature” is something that has never, even for a moment, come into view. Pure nature is an unnatural concept.”(David Bentley Hart)

It would be nice to know if W. addresses, and embraces, this or that view when it comes to this or that causal paradigm as to what rock-bottom causation(s) he affirms or denies in both mind and in causation.

Feser touches on this:

Quote:

“Talk of “reducing” mind to matter or “explaining” the former in terms of the latter disguises what is really an attempt to eliminate from our conception of the world everything that is essential to mind and to replace it with a materialistic-cum-mechanistic substitute. A “materialist explanation of the mind” is thus like a “secularist explanation of God” or a “mechanistic explanation of formal and final causes.” Secularism doesn’t “explain” God, but denies that He exists; mechanism doesn’t “explain” formal and final causes, but denies that they exist; and materialism ultimately doesn’t “explain” the mind at all, but implicitly denies that it exists. “Eliminative materialism” makes this denial explicit rather than implicit. It is sometimes characterized as an “extreme” form of materialism, but it is more accurately described as an “honest” or “consistent” form of materialism. It is also insane, and a reductio ad absurdum of the entire materialist project.” (E. Feser)

End quote.

The moves which enslave and eliminate mind (pending W.’s affirmation of this or that rock-bottom causation(s) etc., or as PCK noted, the explanatorily basic…) emerge in all Non-Theist attempts in this arena. Eventually. And that's fine. Only, without mind as such, without mind and causation(s) as such, well perhaps W. will need to show – with evidence – what is on the other side of losing our mind.

Feser’s proverbial ontological “chain of IOU’s” weighs in, heavily, as deflationary truth is rationally rejected on the grounds that truth as correspondence does in fact lead to convergence of all things when it comes to Christianity’s metaphysical landscape, necessity, science, and facts.

By that we mean two things.

Continued……..

scbrownlhrm said...


Part 3 of 3:

By that we mean two things:

First:

When it comes to our “respective terminus of explanation” with respect to and when it comes to actuality’s irreducible causation(s) and when it comes to inherent intentionality within said irreducible causation(s) – as opposed to As-If intentionality (and therefore to any intelligible explanatory terminus of the terms “design” / “intelligibility”) within our respective causal paradigms with respect to those same irreducible causations, and when it comes to Final Causes in actuality’s irreducible (rock bottom) causation(s), we find this:

Quote:

“The universe, however physics and scientific cosmology end up describing it – even if it turned out to be a universe without a temporal beginning, even if it is a four-dimensional block universe, even if Hawking’s closed universe model turned out to be correct, even if we should really think in terms of a multiverse rather than a single universe – will, the Aristotelian argues, necessarily exhibit just these features (potentialities needing actualization, composition, contingency, etc.). And thus it will, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, require a cause outside it. And only that which is pure actuality devoid of potentiality, only what is utterly simple or non-composite, only something whose essence or nature just is existence itself, only what is therefore in no way contingent but utterly necessary – only that, the classical theist maintains, could in principle be the ultimate terminus of explanation, whatever the specific scientific details turn out to be.” (E. Feser)

End quote.

Second:

Regarding the landscape of Man, Perception, Intelligibility, and World our ultimate terminus of explanation, whatever the specific scientific details turn out to be within temporal becoming (space-time), finds only two options in a universe such as ours:

[1] It is a universe void of inherent intentionality (as per E. Feser’s discussions of As-If intentionality), it is a universe void of inherent design.

[2] It is a universe constituted of, soaked through with, Final Causes.

As for the Non-Theist’s endless intoxication with the ultimately absurd, well we can grant him whatever cascade of molecules which the ebb and flow of his capricious fancy happens to find inebriating for on the questions within [1] and [2] the Non-Theist must appeal to this or that unavoidable reductio ad absurdum which forces an ultimately deflationary view of truth-value in any causal paradigm constituted as [1] which is just any Non-Theistic paradigm.

E. Feser takes a (brief) look at this very problem of both Mind/Perception and of (actual, not As-If) Intelligibility. From the ground up (literally) we find that reality present us with ends which outdistance the Non-Theist’s meager means as Feser commented in the opening piece to this thread:

Quote:

“Hence to write many paragraphs about the scientific banishment of teleology from everywhere else in nature while insisting that teleology is real in the case of human beings, and then casually to insinuate that the history of that banishment gives hope that someday a scientific explanation of the teleology of human consciousness will also be possible… to do that is something of a conjuring trick, a bit of sleight of hand.”

End quote.

Wittgenstein makes all sorts of claims on the difference between language and ontology, and counts that as a fact, which is fine, only, such abstracts facts are out of his own reach given his own chosen causal paradigm. Reason in his paradigm leads us, ultimately as we pass particle cascade input plus neuronal reflex output, into deflationary truth value on all fronts – which includes (then) W.’s own chosen front.

scbrownlhrm said...



Feser's comment in this opening piece (OP) on teleology with respect to consciousness and mind directly, and necessarily, impacts upon and irreducibly defines any and all claim-making vis-à-vis mind.

scbrownlhrm said...



Perhaps, perhaps not, it is a matter of this:


First Person ontology.


“The grammar for our thinking about the transcendent is given to us in the immanent, in the most humbly ordinary and familiar experiences of reality…” and that is why presenting the unassailable constitutions which sum to the entirety of the first person experience in and through our brutally undeniable motions within being itself strikes a subset of today’s brand of Skeptic as odd and convoluted – it’s just too obvious. Experiencing the irreducible contours of the Divine in and by those undeniable movements force that subset into such responses as it arrives at a “…….curious juncture in the history of materialism, which seems to point toward a terminus that is either tragic or comical (depending on where one’s sympathies lie)."


As noted here:


Quote:


“In any event, my topic is not really the philosophy of mind, though by this point it may seem as if I have forgotten that. I am concerned not simply with the mystery of consciousness but with the significance of that mystery for a proper understanding of the word “God.” I admit that I have taken my time in reaching this point, but I think defensibly so. My claim throughout these pages is that the grammar for our thinking about the transcendent is given to us in the immanent, in the most humbly ordinary and familiar experiences of reality; in the case of our experience of consciousness, however, the familiarity can easily overwhelm our sense of the essential mystery. There is no meaningful distinction between the subject and the object of experience here, and so the mystery is hidden by its own ubiquity. One extremely good way, then, to appreciate the utter strangeness of consciousness — the hither side, so to speak, of that moment of existential wonder that wakens us to the strangeness of all things — is to consider the extraordinary labors required to describe the mind in purely material terms. We have reached a curious juncture in the history of materialism, which seems to point toward a terminus that is either tragic or comical (depending on where one’s sympathies lie). For a number of “naturalist” theorists it has become entirely credible, and even logically inevitable, that the defense of “rationalistic” values should require the denial of the existence of reason. Or, rather, intellectual consistency obliges them to believe that reason is parasitic upon purely irrational physical events, and that it may well be the case that our nonexistent consciousness is only deluded in intentionally believing that there is such a thing as intentional belief. Or they think that what we have mistaken for our rational convictions and ideas are actually only a colony of diverse “memes” that have established themselves in the ecologies of our cerebral cortices. Or whatever. At such a bizarre cultural or intellectual juncture, the word “fanaticism” is not opprobrious, but merely descriptive. We have reached a point of almost mystically fundamentalist absurdism. Even so, what is really astonishing here is not that some extreme proponents of naturalist thought accept such ideas but that any person of a naturalist bent could imagine that his or her beliefs permit any other conclusions. If nature really is what mechanistic metaphysics portrays it as being, then consciousness is, like being itself, super naturam; and that must be intolerable to any true believer in the mechanistic creed. Materialism is, as I have said, the least rationally defensible and most explanatorily impoverished of metaphysical dogmas; but, if materialism is one’s faith, even reason itself may not be too great an offering to place upon its altar. If one is to exclude the supernatural absolutely from one’s picture of reality, one must not only ignore the mystery of being but also refuse to grant that consciousness could possibly be what it self-evidently is.” (David Bentley Hart, “The Experience of God”)

End quote.

pck said...

scbrownlhrm:
The obvious problem is that he (W.) does not apply his own means and ends to his own frame of reference, to his own means and ends – and therefore truth – all truth – becomes, as we follow W. to his ends, entirely deflationary with respect to truth-value.

It's not that W. says that there is no truth, or that truth is relative. The rules of language games are as arbitrary as the rules of chess, but once they are in place, they "really" fix what is true and false. This use of "really" contributes exactly nothing to the meaning of "they fix what is true and false". You can adjudicate whether someone has really followed the rules, but not whether they really do what they do. That they do what they do is not a statement about the rules. (In the paper I linked to, Peter Hacker uses the expression "that's the way the cookie crumbles", which likewise says nothing.) The rules themselves are neither true nor false. They just are what they are. Hacker: "Nevertheless, it would be misleading to say that alternative forms of representation make no difference. They make no difference to the facts, but they make a difference to the way in which we view the facts. The difference between two distinctly tailored suits makes no difference to the form of the body they clothe. But they make a great deal of difference to the way it looks."

What W. denies is that there is one "true truth", fixed by the world, to which all applications of "true" must defer or pay reverence. Thus his later philosophy is indeed deflationary, but only with respect to the traditional metaphysical view of truth as correspondence to facts. But all ordinary truths remain intact, such as me being taller than my brother or the sun coming up every morning. What W. cautions against is the conflation of bipolar statements ("pigs cannot fly" is false, but the opposite is conceivable) with non-bipolar ones ("1+1=2", "the world exists"). The latter do not state any truths about the world ("the world exists" is, if anything, a supernatural fact), but are part of the scaffolding of how we talk, which includes the terms "fact" and "truth". To say that "different representations make no difference to the facts" is itself partly constitutive of the meaning of the term "fact" (= of how we use it). It is a rule of language which shows how we use the term "fact", not a hint that there are correspondence relations between something which has an existence independent of how it is described and its various descriptions. Nor does W. want to say that things change once they are differently described. (This would violate the rules of our use of "thing" and "describe".) What he says is that there is no fact "out there" which is described in different ways, as in the parable of the blind men examining the elephant. What is out there is the elephant, not the fact that there is an elephant, since the latter is not the way we ordinarily use "fact". The propositions "there is an elephant" and "it is a fact/true/the case that there is an elephant" are the same proposition.[1] But we do not conclude this because we have discovered that facts are not out there. Our confusion comes from applying the notion of "being out there" to a concept ("fact") which is not ordinarily used in this way.

[1] But what a proposition says is not the same as what it says to be the case. We differentiate between an elephant being there and a proposition saying that it is there. (Which is easily read as yet another invitation to correpondence relations to which we must resist RSVPing.)

pck said...

W.'s "own frame of reference" is not another system or another -ism which replaces previous systems or -isms. This is what differentiates him from most of his predecessors. Philosophy to W. is not a theory, but an enterprise, an activity, with the goal of gaining more perspicuity about how we use words. (I wouldn't say that W. is the be all end all of philosophy, but he did shift the perspective on the role of language in a much more idiosyncratic way than is often recognized.)

Wittgenstein's resistance to -isms tends to make him appear like everyone's enemy when he should be everyone's friend. Or at least the friend of those who are open to exploring the structure of the tacit assumptions of their own views.

W.’s bet is hinged upon coping with reality but “coping” is reduced, by W.’s means, to what?

Well, to nothing really, since in W.'s philosophy human powers and personal experiences are irreducible preconditions which enable the formation of the background against which we make intellectual judgements and perform analyses. So being human and being able to cope are not the causal result of physical conditions or laws, but the precondition of one's ability to conceive of aspects of the world as physical.

(Even a mundane ability such as walking is not reducible to the movement of one's legs. We learn to walk through experience. The concept of walking is learned by being shown examples of it. Children are inducted into certain linguistic practices: to speak of "walking" in certain situations. The idea that he is able to walk is taught ostensively, not through explanations of the biomechanics of legs or descriptions of patterns of movement. The idea that I am able to walk is not taught at all.)

The meaning (= use) of "coping" is entirely open to view. What puzzles us is the complexity of the web of applications of language. What we lack is an overview of the uses of "coping", not some kind of deeper insight. Thus there is no curtain to be lifted, but only a ruffled bed to be made. We could not explain what "coping" means to someone who does not have the necessary experiences and skills, just like colours are not explainable to a blind man. (Which is why we must use ostensive definitions.)

And “reality” is reduced to, what? Repeatable stimuli / input via particle cascade (or whatever)? The “explanatorily basic” seems to begin and end there for W.

This is actually quite diametrically opposed to W.'s thoughts. Explanatorily basic, for example, would be the ability to hear the same note twice, to see a tennis ball as an a sphere, etc.

For one thing, we do not actually have an immediate knowledge of the material order in itself but know only its phenomenal aspects, by which our minds organize our sensory experiences

But this is exactly the kind of metaphysical conclusion induced by the correspondence view of facts that W. argues against. To say that we know the material order directly or indirectly ("through filters of perception") is equally confused, for both ideas try to our construe perception and knowledge on the notion of some object X and an image of X. But according to W., X and being conscious-of-X do not stand in such a relation (the mind is not an inner stage populated by mental objects), and this can only be brought out by analysing how we use the terms "consciousness", "perception" and "knowledge" (and not by scientific experiment).

Likewise, "the material order" is not an expression W. would recommend to be removed from language, but he would object to the claim that it references anything but a linguistic (conceptual) commitment. This doesn't mean the term is useless or plays no role in our understanding of the world. It just does not have the type of place in our lives which traditional metaphysics assigns to it.

pck said...

It would be nice to know if W. addresses, and embraces, this or that view when it comes to this or that causal paradigm as to what rock-bottom causation(s) he affirms or denies in both mind and in causation.

"Rock-bottom causation" is another metaphysical fiction which confuses certain explanatory schemes with "realities out there". Wittgenstein was as anti-naturalist as it gets. (Which was what I found appealing when I started reading him so many years ago, when I wanted to find a way out of scientism. I knew it could not be true, there simply were too many contradictions, but I could not see which positive account or accounts to replace it with. Wittgenstein gave me important answers by demonstrating the conceptual confusions inherent in scientistic and materialistic views of the world. When I studied math I often came across pseudo problems, we called them "air problems" in my study group, so I was familiar with conceptual analysis, just not on as broad a canvas as W. had painted on.)

The moves which enslave and eliminate mind (pending W.’s affirmation of this or that rock-bottom causation(s) etc., or as PCK noted, the explanatorily basic…) emerge in all Non-Theist attempts in this arena. [...] Only, without mind as such, without mind and causation(s) as such, well perhaps W. will need to show – with evidence – what is on the other side of losing our mind.

W. was definitely not an eliminativist. He was not religious in a traditional sense:

What do I know about God and the purpose of life?
I know that this world exists.
That I am placed in it like my eye in its visual field.
That something about it is problematic, which we call its meaning.
This meaning does not lie in it but outside of it.
That life is the world.
That my will penetrates the world.
That my will is good or evil.
Therefore that good and evil are somehow connected with the meaning of the world.
The meaning of life, i.e. the meaning of the world, we can call God.
And connect with this the comparison of God to a father.
To pray is to think about the meaning of life.


Or with regard to the term "God":

The way you use the word "God" does not show whom you mean — but, rather, what you mean.

We see that he is not so much concerned with the question whether or not God exists (that is, in defending an theistic or atheistic position), but with clearing the ground about what talk about "God" amounts to. Theologians like Ed Feser and David Bentley Hart have repeatedly pointed out that there is currently no real conversation taking place between theists and atheists and I think Wittgenstein would agree unequivocally.

D B Hart: "The grammar for our thinking about the transcendent is given to us in the immanent, in the most humbly ordinary and familiar experiences of reality…” and that is why presenting the unassailable constitutions which sum to the entirety of the first person experience in and through our brutally undeniable motions within being itself strikes a subset of today’s brand of Skeptic as odd and convoluted – it’s just too obvious."

A corresponding notion is found in the Philosophical Investigations:

126. Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. -- Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain. [...]
127. The work of the philosopher consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose.
128. If one tried to advance theses in philosophy, it would never be possible to debate them, because everyone would agree to them.


Hart's use of "immanent" also has a Wittgensteinian ring. Our first person experiences are the bedrock of explanation. Our "brutally undeniable motions within being" remain the ultimate reference point of the intelligibility of all theory, science and whatever other linguistic structures we build on top of ordinary language.

scbrownlhrm said...


PCK,

Very helpful and constructive. Thank you for such a thoughtful reply ;-)

scbrownlhrm said...


FWIW -- the search box here at Feser's blog comes up with several hits when "Wittgenstein" is searched. Echoes of postmodernism here and there. Given physics, neuroscience, the causal paradigm, and first person ontology it doesn't seem that D.B. Hart and W. are actually affirming one another. There is, though, much overlap. Truth-makers and meaning-makers which begin and end in the contingent and mutable state of affairs which we call the Self can only sum to what that necessarily entails -- and cannot sum to something else -- categorically speaking. In that sense it seems that D.B. Hart and W. would disagree, though, again, there is much overlap -- well written and insightful and constructive overlap.

pck said...

scbrownlhrm:
Thank you for such a thoughtful reply

You're very welcome. I noticed I made a mistake in footnote [1]. The first sentence

"But what a proposition says is not the same as what it says to be the case."

is misleading at best and should be replaced with

"A proposition may say that X is the case, but X being the case is not the same as a proposition saying 'X'. Propositions are not identical with the facts they say are the case, even in Wittgenstein's view, in which 'the harmony between language and reality is orchestrated within language, not between language and reality' (Hacker)."

Given physics, neuroscience, the causal paradigm, and first person ontology it doesn't seem that D.B. Hart and W. are actually affirming one another. There is, though, much overlap.

I agree. I've learned from both and it seems to me that Hart has some vaguely Platonic tendencies, for example when he talks about the "mind of God" (The Experience of God, pg. 113), which must produce frictions with Feser's Aristotelian commitments. But in the end I find these differences enriching rather than limiting. And then there is of course the matter of style. Hart's artistry vs Feser's analyticity. (But despite that, it's tough to imagine Hart with a Marvel comic book in hand.)

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

Most of this stems from my own deficit of knowledge when it comes to W., and, I agree there is definitely friction on occasion between Feser and Hart on a few topics.

That said:

I'd go so far as to say that given physics, neuroscience, the causal paradigm, and first person ontology it doesn't seem that Feser and W. actually land on the same location either -- the epistemology of first person ontology being the proverbial "Y" in the road.

Perception and more specifically language "seems" to be in W.'s approach to claim-making, truth-makers, and meaning-makers a brick wall which (truly) blocks us from the category that is first person ontology in that the purely empirical seems (I may be wrong) to be where W. is comfortable claiming actual/real truth (hence he is not total relativist).

Though "beyond" that, over inside of what Feser reduces to "inherent intentionality" it seems to me that first person ontology is no longer beneath W.'s canopy. In fact, ontology of any kind beyond "I'm two inches taller than you" (which isn't really ontic etc.) seems to be, per W.'s claim-making, out of reach with respect to the Mind of Man.

W. does an important work in clearing the field of so much confusion on what is and is not being stated, and, via your comments on W. here and in other threads, I've grown to appreciate the benefits of that. Though, I'm not clear on his justification for that troubling brick wall -- for if the brick wall does in fact reduce all truth-makers and meaning-makers to the mutable and the contingent, well then W. can't be (at the end of the day) on stable ground with respect to his claim-making for his truth-maker is not actually the first person experience per se, but is, factually, the mutable and contingent.

That is fine so long as one appreciates the consequences of stopping at experience rather than ontology with respect to the Mind of Man and with respect to the first person anything, as it were.

W. is not an eliminativist nor favoring theism/atheism. And he does not need to be because he truly stops at the first person **experience** without ever taking that next step into first person **ontology**. That next step, should W. ever take it (perhaps he did?) leads to another "Y" in the road -- with eliminative metaphysics on the one hand, and the immutable Logos on the other. Panpsychism may or may not emerge there, though I don't think that holds at the end of the day.

It's not clear that *anyone* (perhaps even W.) "actually" believes that the terminus of explanation is actually inside our skulls -- not "really". There *seems* to be a brick wall preventing W. from moving his terminus of explanation any further. If that is accurate then (perhaps?) W. is a true Agnostic in the genuine sense of "Man cannot know God (Etc.) / No-God (Etc.)".

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

To clarify:

My "attempt" here is to relate all of this (somehow) into something within the general zip code of this:

“Hence to write many paragraphs about the scientific banishment of teleology from everywhere else in nature while insisting that teleology is real in the case of human beings, and then casually to insinuate that the history of that banishment gives hope that someday a scientific explanation of the teleology of human consciousness will also be possible… to do that is something of a conjuring trick, a bit of sleight of hand.” (E. Feser, this opening piece)

W. seems to be, so far, a truthful and honest (which is rare) Agnostic as his claim-making does seem to affirm that brick wall.

DNW said...



I am going to have to drag out my old copy of the Philosophical Investigations (or just look at the download I have) in order to give this further consideration.

What I need to do in particular, is to determine as best I can, just to what extent his substantive account of language use and meaning is dependent on the validity of his notion of a language-game: that is in a Modus Ponens sense. (or reversing it, in Tollens)

For I suppose that it might be possible that the behaviorist aspects of his account may be illustrative and insightful, while his account of the nature of "games" themselves, and his use of that account in order to describe and illuminate the notion of meaning, is all wrong. As regarding games, it seems to me to be.

Because, to be frank, I have never believed that the idea of games being indefinable except through exemplification based on family resemblances was defensible.

The idea that games can be adequately defined internally and intensionally, seems to me to be un-troubling, and the concept of family resemblances, well, otiose.

I don't think you are confronted with a choice either between evidence table Parcheesi or "anything rule bound and contextual", on the one hand, and the alternative of family resemblance classes, on the other.

Now I guess, one could argue all day long with someone who wished to insist that he was determined to apply the word "game" in a particular way, that had little or nothing to do with our core idea of what was involved in playing a game, and that no one had the right to gainsay him. I suppose that we might argue with people who claimed that "democracy" meant "socialism", as well.

But what is the point of that? It seems clear to me that the natural definition of a game is that of an artificially constituted activity involving some challenge which mimics to some limited degree an aspect of the more open ended demands of natural life activities or processes. Say, war or physical competition for dominance, the development of skill sets, the accumulation of wealth, or even the formation of a household ...

If the stakes become too real or significant, or the construct lacks any fascination it is no longer a game.

The question for me is: to what extent is the validity of W's description of language contingent for its adequacy and utility, dependent on his, I believe, unnecessarily problematical notion of a game?

Glenn said...

pck,

"A proposition may say that X is the case, but X being the case is not the same as a proposition saying 'X'.

True. Likewise, for St. Patrick to say that some people say that the moon is made of green cheese is not for St. Patrick to say that he himself says that the moon is made of green cheese.

Propositions are not identical with the facts they say are the case, even in Wittgenstein's view, in which 'the harmony between language and reality is orchestrated within language, not between language and reality' (Hacker)."

True.

But is it not also true that orchestrating a harmony between language and reality within language can, paradoxically, lead to a distortion -- if not between language and reality, then in the perception of reality which is or might be engendered by the orchestrated harmony?

An old example of this might that of a car race which had but two entrants: a car from the US, and a car from the USSR. The US car won the race, but a Russian newspaper (TASS) reported that the USSR car in an international race came in second, while the US car in the same race finished next to last.

It seems to me that something more may be called for than merely an adjudication of whether the 'rules' of some 'language game' have been properly adhered to. The (potential) consequences of a proper adherence to those 'rules' also might need to be taken into account, no? And, if so, would not a different 'set of standards' or 'table of rules' – a 'set of standards' or 'table of rules' different from those used in the adjudication -- then come into play?

pck said...

Glenn:
But is it not also true that orchestrating a harmony between language and reality within language can, paradoxically, lead to a distortion -- if not between language and reality, then in the perception of reality which is or might be engendered by the orchestrated harmony?

No, because there is no reality to be distorted. (You're using "reality" in a traditional metaphysical sense, which Wittgenstein argues must be given up.) There could be at best non-useful or misleading applications or extensions of existing concepts (as in your car race example). The use of "perception of reality" you employ is also still based on the correspondence-with-facts picture of language and reality relations that Wittgenstein lets go of.

An old example of this might that of a car race which had but two entrants: a car from the US, and a car from the USSR. The US car won the race, but a Russian newspaper (TASS) reported that the USSR car in an international race came in second, while the US car in the same race finished next to last.

But this is not a distortion of reality. The Russian paper "only" lies by omission. One could not logically conclude from the TASS report that the Russians won. The report distorts the truth, not reality. It makes the truth appear in a misleading way. (Sometimes truth and reality are used synonymously, but here they are not.)

pck said...

DNW:
What I need to do in particular, is to determine as best I can, just to what extent his substantive account of language use and meaning is dependent on the validity of his notion of a language-game: that is in a Modus Ponens sense. (or reversing it, in Tollens)

I'm not sure how MP or MT would figure in it, but language games pretty much are the later W.'s account of language use and meaning.

Because, to be frank, I have never believed that the idea of games being indefinable except through exemplification based on family resemblances was defensible.

The problem is that there is not enough which all games have in common that is still identifiable as a "game". So when we learn what a game is, we do not grasp a general rule (*) that lets us decide whether to call something a game or not when we are confronted with new situations. It's like being asked to continue the series 1 2 4... One can come up with any number of "logical extensions". Nevertheless, people often independently extend existing concepts in surprisingly similar ways. Family resemblances try to account for that. (So could universals, but because of (*) their existence is questionable. (*) is also a problem for correspondence theories of truth.)

It seems clear to me that the natural definition of a game is that of an artificially constituted activity involving some challenge which mimics to some limited degree an aspect of the more open ended demands of natural life activities or processes.

But there are activities that match this definition which are not called games. This would be no problem if we just made decisions on a case by case basis: Call X a game, call Y something else. But that would amount to conventionalism, which is not how we use and extend existing concepts. The family resemblance idea is designed to describe how we extend and create concepts in the actual development of language (and how we may hypothesize metaphysical entities such as universals because of it).

The question for me is: to what extent is the validity of W's description of language contingent for its adequacy and utility, dependent on his, I believe, unnecessarily problematical notion of a game?

There is indeed an important relation between his accounts of language/language-games and family resemblances. Language-games are a general account of language and meaning. They consist of "language and the actions into which it is woven" (PI §7). Family resemblances connect language-games (which are always less than the totality of language). If the concept of family resemblances turned out to be in error (of whatever kind), the account of meaning as use which language-games give would still be intact. But there would remain a substantial need to explain how the totality of language is made up out of (then unconnected) bits all called language-games.

(One source of confusion is that the section of the PI which deals with family resemblances has become known under the heading "language games", which illicitly shrinks the scope of language-games.)

Glenn said...

pck,

No, because there is no reality to be distorted.

Then why shoot for a harmony between language and reality?

Is it that, yes, there is reality; but while our so-called perceptions of it, ways of thinking or speaking about it, etc., might be distorted (in the sense of not doing or being able to do proper justice to it), reality itself, as it is in and of itself, cannot be distorted?

But, no, it doesn't seem that that can be right, for it implies that there is something 'out there'; and it was previously said, if I remember it right (or nearly right), that on W's account there is no 'out there'.

So what might that activity be about wherein a harmony between language and reality is orchestrated from within language ,even though there is no reality?

Or am I equivocating, i.e., failing to pay heed to: a) 'reality' being used in one sense when a harmony between langauge and reality is spoken of; and, b) 'reality' being used in another sense when it is said there is no reality to be distorted?

But this is not a distortion of reality.

...Ach, I'm late; gotta run. I'll come back to this one later.

pck said...

Then why shoot for a harmony between language and reality?

Well, that's just what every account of meaning has to accomplish. As you know, words somehow must acquire the ability to mean something, which they cannot do by themselves. Traditional metaphysics solves the problem by positing some isomorphism between the structure of the elements of reality "out there" and the structure of language. Wittgenstein, as you point out, rejected that and put everything into language-games (meaning becomes immanent in language, which is seen as woven into our actions instead of being an arbiter from atop).

This doesn't mean that for Wittgenstein there is no reality, but it means that the term "reality" must be construed differently than before, as being held in place by our linguistic and non-linguistic actions (these are the "undeniable given" which can be experienced and are indubitable but talking about them is never perfectly going to capture the traditional metaphysical notion of the absolute). See my horrendously long posts after this.

So what might that activity be about wherein a harmony between language and reality is orchestrated from within language ,even though there is no reality?

The orchestration occurs through rules of language, the ways we deploy concepts. We talk in certain ways and refrain from talking in others. (Which is not the whole story and makes it sound like conventionalism again.) Thus we establish structures using language, but because language is woven into our lives (and not hovering above them in some detached mind-sphere), we do not merely establish formal structures, but ways of life. (And these are as real as it gets.)

Or am I equivocating, i.e., failing to pay heed to: a) 'reality' being used in one sense when a harmony between langauge and reality is spoken of; and, b) 'reality' being used in another sense when it is said there is no reality to be distorted?

There definitely are mundane and not so mundane uses of "reality", even for W. The use in a) refers to the totality of all language-games while the use in b) refers only to particular ones. But I'm not sure whether that already constitutes an equivocation. It is if my claim that "there is no reality to be distorted" can be only be taken in the sense of b). Currently I can't see that the TASS distorted reality in the sense of a). But I may well be wrong about that.

pck said...

Another set of long posts (in reply to scbrownlhrm).

I'm going to use the abbreviation "TMCR" for the Traditional Metaphysical view of language having meaning because there is a Correspondence Relation between facts out there in the world and the structure of language. ("Facts" and not "things", because "things" is too limited a notion to describe states of affairs ("truths") such as abilities and achievements.) Likewise, "TM" will stand for "Traditional Metaphysics" or "Traditional Metaphysicians".

Also, when I say "Wittgenstein" in what follows, I mean the later (post-Tractatus) Wittgenstein unless explicitly mentioned.

I'm going to do a short recap of the problem which started this discussion, since I think your "brick wall" remarks arise from a commitment to TMCR and it is precisely this commitment that Wittgenstein argues must be given up. If one evaluates W.'s philosophy in the context of TMCR, it will necessarily look incoherent or too limited. At best it will be misunderstood.

(I) TMCR revisited

So to begin let's recall the difference between "ontic" and "ontological". It is one thing to have experiences, another to talk about them (and their associated 1st or 3rd person facts) and yet another to think about how the two are related. I don't hit a brick wall experiencing things. (That's not even an intelligible notion.) Rather, I hit a brick wall trying to say certain things about my experiences. This discussion began when I said to DNW that I hit a brick wall when it comes to talking about the relation (let's call it "~") between facts F and the propositions P that express them. How can I analyse the relation between an F conceived as being "out there" and its P without using P to talk about F? I find that I can not. Kant's thing-in-itself is thus unreachable by P unless we take a metaphysical leap and assert that P does reach its F somehow (with good reason, since obviously, language is an effective tool for coping with the world, even if not always, then at least much of the time). So somehow it is true that P~F and this is the reason why language can have meaning. But no TM has ever satisfactorily explained what the F in P~F is. It's hard to know even where to begin talking about it, because talking is part of the problem -- we cannot but invoke P in an analysis of F, let alone ~.

"So in the end when one is doing philosophy one gets to the point where one would like just to emit an inarticulate sound." (W., PI §261)

(II)

So once we are committed to TMCR, how do we get to an assessment of the F's ontological status? Kant asked how it might be possible to practise TM as a science. But to examine the F scientifically is not possible, as the practitioners of TM will not just admit but point out to be a virtue of TM (necessary truths being harder than empirical ones). So we still face the problem described in (I). Analyses of P~F are either circular or unsatisfactory because they apply terms such as a metaphysical (criterialess) use of "real", which refers to that which is "out there", but what is "out there" is part of what is to be explained. Thus for Wittgenstein, a new analysis of how language works (how meaning is possible) was required. This led not to a different kind of treatment of the TMCR as he had attempted in the Tractatus (where he showed ~ to be ineffable), but

1) to a changed appreciation of the role of propositions in language
2) to meaning being immanent in language via practises instead of being logically due to ~
and thus finally to
3) a changed appreciation of the concept of "reality" and how it is related to language.

pck said...

Perception and more specifically language "seems" to be in W.'s approach to claim-making, truth-makers, and meaning-makers a brick wall which (truly) blocks us from the category that is first person ontology in that the purely empirical seems (I may be wrong) to be where W. is comfortable claiming actual/real truth (hence he is not total relativist).

It's perhaps a bit unfortunate to speak of 1st person experience as "the purely empirical" (if I understand you correctly) since the term "empirical" is usually reserved for sharable experiences, i.e. the third person perspective.

So what is W.'s first person ontology? It's actually more of a non-tology. W. affirms the indubitability of 1st person experiences. But for him this also means that certainty is excluded. Sense for W. is bi-polar: the opposite must be imaginable. First person experiences thus categorically escape the dichotomy of doubt/certainty and consequently that of truth/falsity and reality/non-reality. Thus relativism cannot gain a foothold in the logical space of 1st person experiences, but neither does the term "real" add anything to "I (really) had an experience E". "I thought I experienced pain but actually did not" is a sentence excluded from language. (There are interesting fringe cases though, for example when we become gradually aware of a pain, perhaps after not having immediately noticed to have sustained an injury or having been distracted while sustaining it.)

It's not clear that *anyone* (perhaps even W.) "actually" believes that the terminus of explanation is actually inside our skulls -- not "really".

Right, the terminus is definitely not in our skulls. As you point out, not even materialists really believe that they have perceptions, thoughts, etc., in their skulls. Their behaviour shows that they have no such beliefs.[2] Wittgenstein emphasizes that the only locative notions associated with "mind", "thought", "perception", etc., are of the kind "I thought of the proof in the library" or "I noticed her going down the stairs". We don't say "I thought of the proof 1.5 inches behind my left eye". Thus thoughts have no location, only thinkers have. Materialists might object that so have brains, but brains have no role in ordinary explanations of thought at all. It's a bit different with sensations -- "I have a pain in my shoulder" does involve a physical location -- but even in that case it is not the shoulder that is in pain, but good old non-material me, not my body.

[2] Of course they are going to object that they just act as if they do, but this leads to the collapse of the reliability of first person reports and language as a whole and thus to hyperskepticism and thus to the collapse of the intelligibility of the materialist's claims.

All explanations must have a terminus (by which, a little paradoxically, we mean a beginning), and for logical thought this is the human ability to reason. But our ability to reason, like our thoughts, has no physical location and it is not "physically realized" in brain structures. Rather, brain structures are part of what makes reasoning possible. To assign physical locations to reasoning is simply not how we deploy the concepts of "reason" and "ability".

pck said...

"Actual truth" to W. is simply that which is actually true, according to whatever standards of use of "true" are in play. (In the case of the first person, there are no standards to be had, and thus "truth" falls out of the games of language.) There are different criteria for adjudicating truth depending on where and how we speak of truth. It's like using the same pieces in checkers and backgammon. "He took his opponent's queen with his knight" is made true or false by our use of the rules of chess, not by any further element of reality beyond that use, such as the materials of the chessboard, brains, or other material factors. However, such use is of course, to quote Hart again, a "brutally undeniable motion within being". This aspect is often overlooked by readers of W.'s later philosophy and can mislead them into thinking that W. wants to "make everything about language and language alone".

In the first person case, nothing makes it true that I, for example, am having a visual experience. Nothing can make it true since it is neither true nor false to begin with. (Even though my experience is "brutally undeniable". But it is also brutally unaffirmable, for there are no criteria by which I judge myself to have experiences. I do not examine my own behaviour or "inner space" and conclude that I have a pain in my shoulder. I simply have a pain in my shoulder.

When I say "I have a pain in my shoulder", I do not affirm it, I give expression to my experience. A (derived) case of affirmation may occur in specific contexts, such as when my doctor asks me whether it hurts there.

Thus for Wittgenstein, there are no qualia. Contra Nagel, there is nothing that it is like to be a bat.

For W. as for the traditional metaphysician, the proposition "there is an elephant" is made true by there actually being an elephant.

Wittgenstein does not conceive of anything empirical to causally be at the root of first person experience. (Of course it is undisputed that brains and other things within the purview of the empirical are necessary for experience.) It is quite the other way around. The "I" is outside of the world in the Tractatus, and a grammatical fiction (if conceived as a thing) in the Philosophical Investigations. (There it is part of the ability to refer to oneself.)

In fact, ontology of any kind beyond "I'm two inches taller than you" (which isn't really ontic etc.) seems to be, per W.'s claim-making, out of reach with respect to the Mind of Man.

Correct, if "really ontic" refers to TMCR. But what is "really ontic" is left open by TMCR as well (that was the problem described in (I)). Recall that "two inches taller" ultimately gets its meaning from practices of measuring, which are "brutally undeniable motions within being". So we have to ask ourselves, are concrete actions not ontic enough for us? The TM might reply "they are, but their descriptions aren't", to which Wittgenstein would answer that linguistic actions like making height comparisons are not descriptions of heights but part of the language-game of measuring and using lengths and thus partly constitutive of the concept of "length". All of which is necessary to account for the reality of lengths.

pck said...

I understand that TMCR is incredibly hard to give up. The scientist in me certainly doesn't want to. (It's likewise very convenient to temporarily become a Platonist when doing math.) But in this traditional view, a proposition cannot "reach up to reality" without the assumption of a correspondence-establishing relation between propositions and facts out there. The later Wittgenstein realized that such a relation cannot exist. (I gave the example of the proposition P="the staff is 5 feet long" earlier, the negation of which implies an infinite collection of propositions which are, contrary to the traditional view, not constitutive of P. See Hacker's paper, part 6 for more details.)

So what had to change was how to construe the term "reality" not as a collection of fact-entities, but as a term in language (associated with certain practices), held in place by its relation to certain factual statements (those called "true"). To evaluate this new way of looking at things in the context of the old correspondence view will of course produce contradictions and confusions. The switch is hard to make and even if one has made it, the temptation to fall back into the old ways is always there. (I know it is for me even after many years.)

for if the brick wall does in fact reduce all truth-makers and meaning-makers to the mutable and the contingent, well then W. can't be (at the end of the day) on stable ground with respect to his claim-making for his truth-maker is not actually the first person experience per se

Right, because, as explained above, first person experience occurs outside of truth and falsity. So we get no stable ground in the sense of TMCR but we do not get destabilized either. Stability comes from the relative stability of our environments and our established regular human practices (both in part thanks to final causes), the latter of course having first person experiences as a necessary precondition.

Regarding "experience per se", Wittgenstein would probably reply that you have not given meaning to the expression "per se" -- you have instead silently committed to TMRC.

It's true that the ground of language-games shifts whenever our forms of life change. Thus our conception of "reality" can change as well (as we know it has). But TMCR, while seeming to at least hint at a stable ground, is unable to talk about it in any detail. But a "filled-in" conception of reality needs concepts to divide up our first person sensory impressions into phenomena. Only then can they become experiences of the phenomena.

DNW said...

"I'm not sure how MP or MT would figure in it, but language games pretty much are the later W.'s account of language use and meaning."

Well if they, "games" in general, and language as a game, are granted as substantively the same kind of activity, then no conditional would apply: it's an identity of sorts. There is no hierarchy to the description.

However, if the adequacy of his description of the use of language is contingent on the validity of his informing description of what constitutes a game, that is in seeing language as a sub-type of the more general pattern of activity we must refer to and admit as meaningful games (meaning in that instance perhaps no more than a pattern of contextualized interactive behavior), then it seems an open question, depending on the question's formulation or how it is posed, just what still remains once the game template or paradigm is cast aside as spurious.

Why for example (and I think the answer is implied by his earlier writings) does he first seize upon board games as a launching point for exploring what it is to say something is a "game"? Why not rugby, poker, or ring toss, or a cup and ball game?

These other examples would not take him where he aims to go.

It seems he is introducing the old notion of a referential model in order to try and transcend it.

Is there anything that is definitely not a game?


Of course I see that W. is presumably not really analogizing about games, but somehow speaking more literally; he's not I grant explicitly saying that: "we must understand language in X way, because of an insight I claim into games in general and which applies here; discovering a rubric under which language acts are surprisingly revealed as subsuming", but it looks to me as though it could be reduced to that.

Well, what happens if you impeach his notion of a "game"? Anything at all?

Rejecting that just earlier mooted interpretation, would of course leave certain behaviorist assumptions (if you were willing to grant them as existing in the first place) untouched. But what else might remain after his open model of a game - if you will grant that his project refers to a model of how language is deployed and not a literal description of a game/act - was rejected, I can't myself say at present.

I do have the feeling though, that W has been cut a good deal more slack than he is by rights entitled to.

There is a step, or two, missing from his argument. Which I suppose was from his point of view not really meant to be an argument at all.

And then there is this:

"Review the multiplicity of language-games in the following examples, and in others:
Giving orders, and obeying them—
Describing the appearance of an object, or giving its measurements-
Constructing an object from a description (a drawing)—
Reporting an event—
Speculating about an event—"

These are taken to be different language games?

That remark reminds me of the fellow here who thought he was rebutting essentialism and teleology by claiming that the purpose of legs could not be defined because they could be used for leaping, and dancing, and walking and running.

Several of us pointed out that these were all natural or exaggerated, or ritualized forms of locomotion, which is what legs were for.

He might as well have tried saying that legs were not for walking because they could be used for strolling, and ambling, and parading down 5th avenue in your Easter bonnet.

It's one "game" if you want to call it a game.

Just as communication, of this or that fact or state of moods or affairs or whatever, is what the language he describes is for. Why call them different games; or games at all?

pck said...

There *seems* to be a brick wall preventing W. from moving his terminus of explanation any further. If that is accurate then (perhaps?) W. is a true Agnostic in the genuine sense of "Man cannot know God (Etc.) / No-God (Etc.)".

He probably would say that knowing God cannot be of they same type as knowing the mundane.[+] But that is affirmed by pretty much everyone, including TMs. Equally, that language is bound to fail us in some way when we attempt to talk about the absolute, has also been affirmed or at least suspected by many philosophers through the ages. The Y in the road then occurs with respect to which kind of failure we may face and whether we face it by necessity or due to specifically human limitations. This determines what "knowing or not knowing God" means, even if everyone uses the same words.

[+] It's not perfectly clear, since his remarks on religion, like most of his views, change continuously over the years, and are sparse compared to the other subjects he dealt with.

Feser goes as high up in his metaphysical edifice as he can, Hart emphasizes the presence of the transcendent within the immediacy of the here and now, but both speak of human life as participation in Existence and the Godhead. Wittgenstein would almost certainly affirm at least the latter if I read his comments of religion correctly.

“Hence to write many paragraphs about the scientific banishment of teleology from everywhere else in nature while insisting that teleology is real in the case of human beings, and then casually to insinuate that the history of that banishment gives hope that someday a scientific explanation of the teleology of human consciousness will also be possible… to do that is something of a conjuring trick, a bit of sleight of hand.” (E. Feser, this opening piece)

W. seems to be, so far, a truthful and honest (which is rare) Agnostic as his claim-making does seem to affirm that brick wall.


Wittgenstein never commented on Aristotle, but he is quite compatible with Aristotelian thought. Peter Hacker, W.'s leading interpreter, certainly thinks so. (And FWIW I find no problem with it either, quite the contrary.) So teleology is not a brick wall for the Wittgenstein-influenced thinker.[X] It seems perfectly clear to me that there is teleology in nature. To possess a principle of motion (change) is to have a telos. With no telos, the principle simply could not be a principle. So to acknowledge teleology is actually a precondition of science (and physics in particular). It can therefore not possibly be refuted by science. The difference between W. and TMs is, once again, not a matter of acceptance vs rejection of the concept, or of telos being amenable or not to reduction to more elementary notions or (material) conditions, but is rather to be found in the way facts (or in this case, ends of nature) are construed as existing "out there" or as being immanent in our use of language.

[X] I like to say "Wittgenstein-influenced" because Wittgenstein hated the idea of having disciples parroting him. His attitude about his own work was closer to "take my thoughts and use them in whatever enterprise you want to engage in".

pck said...

DNW:
Well if they, "games" in general, and language as a game, are granted as substantively the same kind of activity, then no conditional would apply: it's an identity of sorts. There is no hierarchy to the description.

I wouldn't make too much of the "game" in "language-game". The "identity" notion must not be taken too far. Wittgenstein would certainly not say that all human activity, linguistic or not, is identical ("of sorts" or not) to playing games. You cannot compress his entire account in the PI into one vocabulary item.

seeing language as a sub-type of the more general pattern of activity we must refer to and admit as meaningful games

I think you may be conflating "meaning" with "meaningful game" here. The idea is that meaning is immanent in the use of words, as opposed to being made possible by an isomorphism between language and a reality "out there". Instead, meaning is made possible because language is woven into our lives. The notion of meaning can not be explained by saying "there are certain games we play with language that are meaningful" (either because we define or recognize them to be). That would be circular. We neither admit nor recognize a language game as meaningful.

meaning in that instance perhaps no more than a pattern of contextualized interactive behavior

No, that would definitely be a radical misunderstanding of W. He never says "meaning is ". That would go against the notion of immanence.

These other examples would not take him where he aims to go.

But they would. Simply because they are rule-governed practices. He often uses chess because it is formally close to mathematics (rules which very precisely define the possible moves), about which he wanted to say rather a great deal as well. But that has less to do with language-games and more with his thoughts on rules and rule-following.

Is there anything that is definitely not a game?

Of course. Everything we do not call "a game". Opening my fridge is not a game. Nor is feeding my turtle. Nor is going to bed. The language-game of the notion of "game" is not all-pervasive just because the term "language-game" has the term "game" in it. As I said, you mustn't make too much of that. It's a common mistake, but a pervasive one.

he's not I grant explicitly saying that: "we must understand language in X way, because of an insight I claim into games in general and which applies here; discovering a rubric under which language acts are surprisingly revealed as subsuming", but it looks to me as though it could be reduced to that.

Right, he does indeed not say that "we must understand language in this or that way". What he talks about in the PI are the different functions language has in our lives. But there is no final conclusion where he gives you the way language works or is used. Quite the contrary, he emphasizes that language works in many different ways (he begins the PI with saying that it occasionally works by naming things, but not all words are names). Wittgenstein is always about differences way more than about unification. Think about the role of propositions ("the moon is not made of green cheese") vs the role of greetings ("hello!") vs the role of orders ("don't go there!"). What do these have in common that, if taken on its own, essentially characterizes all applications of language? They all have meaning, but different types of meaning. Now you don't always have to pay attention to differences. But an account of language, meaning, etc. cannot afford to ride roughshod over those.

pck said...

DNW:
would of course leave certain behaviorist assumptions (if you were willing to grant them as existing in the first place) untouched. But what else might remain after his open model of a game

On this interpretation how would you account for his opposition to scientism? Or his account of first person experience?

Again, don't take the essence or non-essence of games and extend that to encompass or cover the entirety of Wittgenstein's thought.

I do have the feeling though, that W has been cut a good deal more slack than he is by rights entitled to.

I think he has been misinterpreted more than almost any other philosopher.

Well, what happens if you impeach his notion of a "game"? Anything at all?

If I understand your use of "impeach" correctly, that would tear a hole into the landscape of the conceptual connections that the notion of "game" has with other concepts. This would manifest itself in your life as a sudden inability to know your way around in a number of situations which you previously were quite familiar with. (The same would happen with any other concept you might "impeach".)

These are taken to be different language games?

But of course. Reporting and speculating about an event are not treated in the same way, not in language and not in life. They are associated with different actions, reactions, purposes, hopes, etc. How is this even a question? (Of course there are similarities as well.)

That remark reminds me of the fellow here who thought he was rebutting essentialism and teleology by claiming that the purpose of legs could not be defined because they could be used for leaping, and dancing, and walking and running.

But in your example Wittgenstein isn't saying anything about not being able to define anything. He's merely listing a bunch of different activities in order to show the diversity of the functions of language. Language is not a homogeneous affair. (Legs are. But the uses and purposes of legs are not. To say that because legs have more than one purpose, they have no purpose at all, is of course nonsense. But the same goes for language.)

Several of us pointed out that these were all natural or exaggerated, or ritualized forms of locomotion, which is what legs were for.

Yes, you can almost always find common features too. Wittgenstein would not deny that. But as with games, you cannot characterize legs by what all leg-activities have in common, because that gives you too impoverished a notion to single out legs and legs only from everything else: There are lots of forms of locomotion which fit your description which are not leg-movements. You're thinking too much like a scientist here.

Just as communication, of this or that fact or state of moods or affairs or whatever, is what the language he describes is for. Why call them different games; or games at all?

Again, don't get hung up too much on the term "game". He could have called them "language-activities" or "doing stuff with language", it wouldn't make a difference to his account of meaning.

pck said...

pck: No, that would definitely be a radical misunderstanding of W. He never says "meaning is ". That would go against the notion of immanence.

Part of the text disappeared because I stupidly put it between angle brackets. This was supposed to read:

No, that would definitely be a radical misunderstanding of W. He never says "meaning is [some pattern in the world]". That would go against the notion of immanence.

pck said...

Btw, if you're just worried about Wittgenstein's alleged anti-essentialism, here is a paper recently linked to by someone else on this blog (I can't right now remember who, so I'm unable to give proper credit, apologies).

A small excerpt:
Wittgenstein does not ask “How to define a game?”, or “Can we give the essence of games?”. He is examining the question to know how can we explain to someone what is a game. He does not say that we cannot give a definition, but that a definition would not be of efficient use.

scbrownlhrm said...


PCK,

You seem to have it that, per W., reason is not physically located, and hence is not material based, and the "I" isn't either. They include but also transcend the material brain. Thinkers / persons have thoughts. Brains do not have thoughts.

To what, if anything, does W. ascribe the [1] causation within reason and [2] the source of, ontological teleology of, the I? Apples falling (motion, change, as you noted) isn't teleological in any helpful way unless one means that reason too, like falling apples, is void of inherent intentionality. It only *appears* to have it.

In Man's case, in the I's case, that is, Man being a contingent being.

Is it a hard stop as in a self-caused-self, is it left unaddressed, or is the I, the thinker, the reasoning, considered, on his view, at all contingent and hence (if so) contingent on what?

"First person ontology = the first person" seems as far as we've gotten so far.

Various forms (degrees) of idealism are fine, but there too we find Man, the I (in Man's case) to be contingent. If contingent, well then on what?

Perhaps this:

These are not questions which W. [1] ever attempted to answer and/or [2] even considers the I capable of answering.

scbrownlhrm said...


PCK,

"Wittgenstein reflected the age’s climate of thought, and he has unquestion- ably a personal style of thinking. He rediscovered, sometimes chaotically and in his own style, old truths. The equilibrium he tries to find between linguistic idealism and naïve realism is, I think, the same than the one proposed by Aristotle in Categories, chapter 2. If everything does not depend to our linguistic scheme, it does not mean that we are committed to the contrary proposition that nothing depends on it. So it is both possible to insist on language games and practices, and to say that things have essences. It means that one can say: “essence is expressed by grammar”.

Logos, Word, is of course a *coherent* explanatory terminus and essence is indeed (truly) "reference-able".

Though -- should such Word be perpetually mutable and contingent ad infinitum well then we are back to nothing "better" than the thorough going materialist's reductio ad absurdums.

Which forces the questions I asked in my previous post.

scbrownlhrm said...



Another approach to a semantic theory of truth is in the link at propositional truth – who needs it? which looks at semantic ascent and descent.

Glenn said...

pck,

But this is not a distortion of reality.

(At long last I'm able to get back to this. (There are a number of subsequent comments which I've not had time to go through yet, so it may be that what I was going to say, and am now about to say, is no longer relevant.))

I had said, "But is it not also true that orchestrating a harmony between language and reality within language can, paradoxically, lead to a distortion -- if not between language and reality, then in the perception of reality which is or might be engendered by the orchestrated harmony?" I then continued with, "An old example of this might be..."

The example was not meant to be an example of a distortion of reality, but an example of a distortion in either an orchestrated harmony between language and reality (a), or in the perception of reality engendered by that orchestration (b).

(a) Everything explicitly reported by TASS (which is a news agency, and not the newspaper I had earlier mistakenly said it was) was true. OTOH, it wasn't a complete reporting of the reality of the matter. The omission of a salient fact -- the fact that there were just two cars in the race -- means that the report was only a kind of subset of the reality of the matter, and that the reality of the matter was actually a kind of a superset of the report. So, although the language of the report was in harmony with the reality of the matter being reported -- in the sense that everything in the report was true, and nothing in the report was false -- there also was a distortion in that apparent harmony (since a salient fact had been omitted (and once everything which had been reported is stripped from the reality of the matter, a relevant something of that reality of the matter is still standing)).

(b) If a reader is informed that there has been an international car race, it is likely that that reader would think there were at least a few more than two cars in that race. So, when it is reported that one car come in second, and another car finished next to last, the tendency for a reader is to think that the car which came in second placed higher than the car that finished next to last. The reader's perception of the reality of the matter is engendered by the report (though not solely formed by it). But there is a distortion in that perception of the reality of the matter, for it does not conform to the actual reality of the matter -- which is completely opposite, i.e., which is that the car which finished next to last placed higher than the car which came in second.

Anyway, I was responding mainly to a quoted statement from Hacker, that 'the harmony between language and reality is orchestrated within language, not between language and reality'. It seemed to me that that is true, and still does so seem, though only to an extent. For if there is to be a harmony between language and reality, then there must be something outside language which is able to -- or by means of which one is able to -- both determine whether there is an alignment and to help bring an alignment about (when and where an alignment is lacking or called for). In this case, the harmony between language and reality would be as much orchestrated from outside language as it is from within language -- or perhaps even more orchestrated from outside language than it is from within it.

pck said...

scbrownlhrm:
You seem to have it that, per W., reason is not physically located, and hence is not material based, and the "I" isn't either.

More precisely, they are not materially caused. They are materially based in the obvious sense that no brain implies no reason, no I, etc.

is the I, the thinker, the reasoning, considered, on his view, at all contingent and hence (if so) contingent on what?

Certainly the thinker is materially contingent in the obvious sense -- on his brain, his body, the environment, everything that makes experiences possible. If you're looking not just for necessary, but sufficient conditions, it gets more complicated. We'll get to that.

To what, if anything, does W. ascribe the [1] causation within reason and [2] the source of, ontological teleology of, the I?

I'm not aware that W. embarked on any general or larger scale project with regard to [1] or [2], but a project exploring these issues would of course include, and preferably begin with, a conceptual analysis of "reason", "cause", etc., and their connections. He would have opposed the notion of a general account (a theory) of "causation within reason", since different ways of reasoning are unlikely to all be recognizable under the aegis of a single "essence". As an example, I'm thinking of the acceptance of various methods in logic and mathematics. The law of the excluded middle and the proof technique of mathematical induction don't have a common core which makes us recognize them as acceptable logical/mathematical principles. Which doesn't mean they have nothing in common. It would be quite correct to say that they are essentially connected.

W. cautions against the use of expressions such "the I" or "the Self" in philosophy, since those are prone to make us commit the error of reification. The terms "I" and "self" are used to express my ability to refer to myself, but they do not refer to anything.

Peter Hacker (again, from the paper I linked to):

The solipsist, impressed by the use of the first-person pronoun, asserts ‘Only I really exist!’, ‘I am the centre of the world’, or ‘Only my experience exists’. But ‘I’ belongs to the same grammatical system as ‘you’, ‘he’ and ‘she’. If it makes no sense to ascribe experience to others, then it makes no sense to ascribe it to oneself. We can imagine a language in which ‘I’ has no privileged role. It would be a language without any personal pronouns at all. Instead of Jack saying ‘I have a pain’, he would say ‘There is pain’, and instead of ‘Jill has a pain’, one would say ’Jill is behaving as Jack behaves when there is pain’. In such a language, no one could be said to have a pain. But doctors would not go out of business, and people would still need analgesics.

pck said...

Various forms (degrees) of idealism are fine, but there too we find Man, the I (in Man's case) to be contingent. If contingent, well then on what?

If what constitutes consciousness ("the I") is nothing material, then, so it seems, we must look for its constituting elements within "the inner". But Wittgenstein threw a spanner into those works. He identified many terms which seemingly refer to the inner as not doing so at all. For example, we do not adjudicate the presence of pain in others by inspecting their minds or brains. Rather, we inspect their behaviour (facial expressions, utterances, grabbing injured body parts, etc.). In the first person case, when I am in pain, I do not inspect either my "inner space" or my body. To know that I am in pain is the same as being in pain. My "knowledge" is immediate and thus no knowledge at all. In the 3rd person perspective I use (external) criteria to adjudicate the presence of pain in others, in the 1st person I used no criteria at all. So the concept of "pain" does not reference the inner. However, W. does not deny the inner. (This is why he is mistakenly identified as a behaviourist.) He only denies that the inner is actually referenced by every concept we associate with the notion of "mind" (this includes many applications of "mind" itself).

"Pain", as well as many applications of "thought", "consciousness", "reason", etc., similarly turn out to be not related to "the inner" at all. This calls into question the option find out what constitutes the inner. If W. is right, then the inner is not constituted by anything at all. It is a figure of speech used to refer to human capacities. The same goes for "the I". A reified "I" as an object in an inner space or as an inner eye watching that space is a fiction induced by misapplications of grammar. The question what "the I" is contingent on turns out to be a pseudo-question, and thus has no answer. (The only possible answer would be that "the I" is contingent on how we use the word "I". But that is usually not what those who ask the question have in mind.)

Thinkers / persons have thoughts. Brains do not have thoughts.

Exactly.

They [reason and thought] include but also transcend the material brain.

Here it is crucial to note that "transcend" for W. does not refer to something beyond the physical world (to something "out there" -- there is no "there" outside of nature, even if we affirm a First Cause). D. B. Hart's quote, about the grammar for thinking about the transcendent being immanent in mundane reality, strikes the same or at least a similar chord. In Wittgenstein's words, all truths are immanent in the way we use language within the streams of our lives. Practice is crucial and grounds meaning.

Apples falling (motion, change, as you noted) isn't teleological in any helpful way unless one means that reason too, like falling apples, is void of inherent intentionality. It only *appears* to have it.

I'm not sure I understand you here, since it sounds as if you are arguing against reason being directional or the telos of falling apples being a kind of intentionality. I'm sure that's not what you mean.

Is it a hard stop as in a self-caused-self, is it left unaddressed, or is the I, the thinker, the reasoning, considered, on his view, at all contingent and hence (if so) contingent on what?

I assume by "self-caused-self" you mean uncaused self? Then yes, for W. the first person perspective is a terminus of explanation, a "given".

pck said...

"First person ontology = the first person" seems as far as we've gotten so far.

I wouldn't put an equation sign there, since ontology is by definition what we can say about the first person, not the concept of the first person itself. Then again "the first person" is an expression which must not be reified. It is a collective noun signifying a number of human capacities -- perception, sensation, volition, reason, and so on.

These are not questions which W. [1] ever attempted to answer and/or [2] even considers the I capable of answering.

While W. answers many questions about who and what we are, he was mostly concerned with clearing the ground on which we stand conceptually when we approach such questions. In this process, he identified many problems as pseudo problems caused by misapplications of "grammar", that is, by the illicit transfers of uses of words into domains where they can no longer say anything. (For example, and as pointed out before, it leads to a logical contradiction to conceive an object X and consciousness-of-X on the model of X and a picture of X. It's like looking for an image or representation of the sound a cuckoo clock makes on the insides of the clock.)

---

Another approach to a semantic theory of truth is in the link at propositional truth – who needs it? which looks at semantic ascent and descent.

Thanks for the link, this is very interesting. Craig is trying to save truth as correspondence while acknowledging the problems with it I outlined earlier (the unstatability of F and ~). I'll definitely have to study this.

W L Craig: On a deflationary view of truth the truth predicate does not ascribe a property of any explanatory significance to statements. The truth predicate is merely a device of semantic ascent, by means of which we talk about a statement rather than assert that statement.

Wittgenstein would agree that truth is not a property of a statement or an explanation. In this sense he is deflationary. But he would not affirm that truth is merely a way of talking about statements. For W., truth concepts are used in practices(!) of statement-assertion. (Again, it is important to remember that language-games are not merely formal games played with syntactic or semantic structures.)

pck said...

Me: So the concept of "pain" does not reference the inner. However, W. does not deny the inner. [...] "Pain", as well as many applications of "thought", "consciousness", "reason", etc., similarly turn out to be not related to "the inner" at all.

For clarity, I should have added that the expression "experience of pain" does reference the inner. Or put more precisely, to avoid the temptation of reifying "the inner": "Experience of pain" is conceptually related to "the inner".

pck said...

I forgot to paste some text earlier:

Is it a hard stop as in a self-caused-self, is it left unaddressed, or is the I, the thinker, the reasoning, considered, on his view, at all contingent and hence (if so) contingent on what?

I assume by "self-caused-self" you mean uncaused self? Then yes, for W. the first person perspective is a terminus of explanation, a "given". My reasons for going to the cinema tonight and my thoughts about the movie I'm about to see are made possible, but are not necessitated, by the material circumstances of the world. There are material contingencies for my thoughts, but there is no material causation of them. Of course I may explain my thoughts about the movie by referring to material circumstances: "I want to see the film because it takes place in Greece and I like Greece." But my liking Greece is already a non-material contingency. If instead of "and I like Greece" I had said "and I have been to Greece", that would not count as a reason for wanting to see the film, unless one tacitly took having been to Greece as implying some non-material consequence such as having developed an interest in Greece. In explaining our reasons we never end up giving only material accounts. Occasionally it may look like we do, as when we say "I flipped the switch because it turns on the light". But then we are simply omitting the reason for why we wanted the light to be on. Purposes and intentions are the terminus of reasons and neither can be characterized by material circumstances alone.

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

W. considers falling apples as doing so intentionally?

It seems so as W. seems to explain his own existence as contingent on nothing but his own existence.

I am, full stop.

Such a claim from a mutable and contingent being is entirely misguided.

As is an apple willing to fall.

Language so obviously abused to avoid a question's obvious point is indeed a game.

Material does not cause thoughts. Thoughts are then neither material nor enslaved to material (although a falling apple is). But W. seems to equate causation of thought with causation of apples falling.

This too misuses language.

Or am I missing something?

The collection of capacities which sum to the immaterial first person seems, so far, to begin and end within the mutable and contingent.

Which is fine. But:

Logos, or Speak, or Word, thusly committed to the in-here has yet to find or offer us meaning makers that are, at all, at bottom, different than the array of reductios which we find in straight up materialism.

Hence D.Hart disagrees with such a stopping point and finds the source, order, and end of being, consciousness, and bliss within the Logos, or Speak, or Word of the immutable, the irreducible, the underived.

Clearing the field is incredibly helpful, but to find nothing at all other than the in-here within the mutable and contingent leaves us right where we started. If such is the case well then "helpful" is a completely misguided term.

W. is justified to stop at the in-here.

What isn't, and indeed *cannot* be justified is any resistance, at all, to the Christian's claim that W.'s polemic compels reason's relentless demands for lucidity through and through to look outward, even upward.

pck said...

Glenn:
The omission of a salient fact -- the fact that there were just two cars in the race -- means that the report was only a kind of subset of the reality of the matter, and that the reality of the matter was actually a kind of a superset of the report.

But there is a distortion in that perception of the reality of the matter, for it does not conform to the actual reality of the matter -- which is completely opposite, i.e., which is that the car which finished next to last placed higher than the car which came in second.


Agreed. The report did say what really happened, just not all of it. A subset of a reality is still a reality, even if it isn't the reality of "the matter". The Russians redefined what "the matter" is, not what "reality" (in the general metaphysical sense) means. Now there is also a reality of how we ordinarily determine and report the outcome of races. Let's call this "reality_2", a subset of (all) reality. The Russians distorted perception by twisting reality_2.

Nothing in this analysis changes for Wittgenstein. Which means that the words remain the same, even if the meaning of "reality" changes. (See below.)

I was responding mainly to a quoted statement from Hacker, that 'the harmony between language and reality is orchestrated within language, not between language and reality'. It seemed to me that that is true, and still does so seem, though only to an extent. For if there is to be a harmony between language and reality, then there must be something outside language which is able to [...] both determine whether there is an alignment and to help bring an alignment about.

This is the crux (of the matter). In earlier posts I called the alignment-enabler "~", the relation between facts out there and propositions in language. Your remark is (partially) committed to this traditional metaphysical picture and in this light, Hacker's quote can indeed make no sense. For Wittgenstein, the ~ happens within language only, through rules that govern which combinations of words are allowed and which are not.[1] Thus uses of "reality" are held in place by a web of conceptual connections to other terms [2], not by a metaphysical relation (~) of propositions in language and facts "out there". In W.'s view, the terms "proposition" and "fact" are still related -- by certain rules which govern their use (see my post from March 16, 2016 at 10:19 AM).

I know all of this sounds extremely suspicious, as if language could somehow magically bootstrap itself into meaning something. And this criticism would be apt if Wittgenstein didn't ground meaning in the use of language. The alignment-enabler ~ which makes meaning possible in the correspondence view of language is replaced by the notion of the immanence of meaning within human practices -- linguistic and non-linguistic actions woven directly into our lives. This is a genuine "paradigm shift" of meaning in philosophy after 2000 years, which isn't easy to accept or even see (it took me 3 years to get comfortable with it). It's not necessarily the last word on the subject of meaning of course. But I do believe it to be worth knowing about, even if it should one day be found to be lacking or contradictory.

[1] These rules do not exist outside of language, but take the form of pseudo propositions, for example, "no object is red and green all over", which says nothing, but (partly) shows how "red" and "green" are to be used in combination.

[2] This web is large and complicated and is not at all easily surveyable -- hence philosophical work is necessary to untangle it and resolve the confusions its complexity is bound to create.

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

Clarification:

This:

W. is justified to stop at the in-here.

What isn't, and indeed *cannot* be justified is any resistance, at all, to the Christian's claim that W.'s polemic compels reason's relentless demands for lucidity through and through to look outward, even upward.

-----------------

By stating W. is justified to stop at the in-here, I mean simply that given his *goal* of discussing the "in-here" and the "in-language" it is appropriate for him to stop "there".

pck said...

scbrownlhrm:
W. considers falling apples as doing so intentionally?

No, that would violate the meaning of "intentionally", which we reserve for conscious animals.

It seems so as W. seems to explain his own existence as contingent on nothing but his own existence. I am, full stop.

Well, "I am, full stop" is not an explanation of anything, neither for W. nor for anybody else.

Language so obviously abused to avoid a question's obvious point is indeed a game.

Yes, but this use of "game" is metaphorical and not at all what W. means by "language-game".

But W. seems to equate causation of thought with causation of apples falling.

No, not at all. But I can't say more unless you explain how you deduce this.

The collection of capacities which sum to the immaterial first person seems, so far, to begin and end within the mutable and contingent.

There are several, contrary but not contradictory, aspects the expression "first person" is connected with. Thought, perception and consciousness are not granular: A barking dog is not perceived as a superposition of visual and aural experiences. Thoughts are not modular (composed of "subthoughts"). This is one reason why Dawkins's "memes" are complete and utter nonsense. So as far as experience is concerned, there is a unity of the mind. However the abilities associated with the first person are not of a unified nature. Seeing is different from hearing, which is different from thinking, and so on.

Logos, or Speak, or Word, thusly committed to the in-here has yet to find or offer us meaning makers that are, at all, at bottom, different than the array of reductios which we find in straight up materialism.

As I have explained, the Wittgensteinian view of meaning is not at all merely about the in-here. Meaning is immanent in the forms of human life. What makes a proposition p true is the fact-that-p. Facts are immanent in the practices involving the term "fact". ("Immanent" does not mean "internal" or "in-here" in a 1st person sense.) These practices are not limited to linguistic practices. They are part of the web of all human action and thus life. They are out in the world. There are no reductions involved.

W. is justified to stop at the in-here.

But he doesn't. If he did, he would be bootstrapping meaning from pure syntax, which is logically impossible. The "private language arguments" in the Philosophical Investigations make that particularly clear.

Hence D.Hart disagrees with such a stopping point and finds the source, order, and end of being, consciousness, and bliss within the Logos, or Speak, or Word of the immutable, the irreducible, the underived.

W.'s remarks on religion are too sparse to speculate what he would have thought about the Logos, but I find nothing in Hart that violently contradicts W.'s account of meaning. It may well be that notions like the Logos transcend the boundaries of sense as W. construes it, but that did not stop him from writing the Tractatus or on ethics. Sometimes one has to go where one can technically not.

What isn't, and indeed *cannot* be justified is any resistance, at all, to the Christian's claim that W.'s polemic compels reason's relentless demands for lucidity through and through to look outward, even upward.

W. has repeatedly remarked that many concepts we use (for example colour-terms) do not fall on either side of the inner/outer dichotomy. The immanence of meaning within the stream of human life could perhaps be viewed as the culmination of that. He'd also probably give you a stern lecture about how his work is not a "polemic". (Or would the servants have excuse him if you called.)

pck said...

By stating W. is justified to stop at the in-here, I mean simply that given his *goal* of discussing the "in-here" and the "in-language" it is appropriate for him to stop "there".

I understand, but that is not how W.'s account of meaning works. While it does have an "in-language" aspect, that is not the full story and you must not think of the notion of "language" (or "grammar") in his philosophy as if he was doing the work of a linguist. Those are very different enterprises and "grammar" in particular has a very different meaning in either one.

Neither in the Tractatus nor in the Investigations does W. give an "in-language" account of meaning. This misconception of W. is common, and I understand where it originates, but it really is the opposite of what his philosophy of language is about.

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

I said: "The collection of capacities which sum to the immaterial first person seems, so far, to begin and end within the mutable and contingent."


You said: "There are several, contrary but not contradictory, aspects the expression "first person" is connected with. Thought, perception and consciousness are not granular: A barking dog is not perceived as a superposition of visual and aural experiences. Thoughts are not modular (composed of "subthoughts"). This is one reason why Dawkins's "memes" are complete and utter nonsense. So as far as experience is concerned, there is a unity of the mind. However the abilities associated with the first person are not of a unified nature. Seeing is different from hearing, which is different from thinking, and so on."

If thoughts are not composed of sub-thoughts, then where does W. claim thoughts come from? If thoughts are immaterial, then where does W. claim that thoughts come from? If they are not contingent, and are his terminus, then, again, that is a misguided claim for a contingent and mutable being to make.

If W. affirms the immaterial, that is fine, for then he transcends the material order in his accounting. Only, where does W. claim the immaterial comes from? Does it exist necessarily? Contingently? Or does W. disaffirm the category of contingent? (my deficit of knowledge of W. shines through!)?

So far, you're still landing within the perpetually mutable and contingent, ad infinitum.

Which, again, leaves us in no better shape than the thorough going materialist and his ultimate reductio ad absurdum.

As for intentionality, you mentioned falling apples has having a kind of intentionality.

But then you say this: No, that would violate the meaning of "intentionally", which we reserve for conscious animals.

It's unclear because it is you who states that falling rocks have a kind of intentionality, and then it is you who say it is a mistake to call it such for such is reserved for animals.

Therefore, it seems as if you are equating intention both in mind and in falling rocks and simply labeling the rock-bottom causation differently when in A vs. when in B.

If the rock bottom causal paradigm within the state of affairs of falling rocks is different than the rock bottom causal paradigm within the state of affairs of reasoning then we are back again to the immaterial, which is promising. The problem is that, once there, W. seems to again affirm nothing more than the mutable and contingent ad infinitum.

Which, again, lands us right where the thorough going materialist lands as all things suffer the deflationary within that same ad infinitum as the mutable ceaselessly mutates, as the contingent finds no source, no order, no end.

It's not clear that W. has reached any other location -- hence again it's not clear that W. can justifiably reject the Christian's claim that W.'s polemic compels reason to look not only outward, but also upward.

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

That last sentence of, "It's not clear that W. has reached any other location -- hence again it's not clear that W. can justifiably reject the Christian's claim that W.'s polemic compels reason to look not only outward, but also upward" is meant to state the W.'s polemic affirms the Christian accounting "in so far as it goes". It ends by claiming the [explanatorily basic] is the [mutable and contingent being], which painfully breaks down once any wait at all is placed on it. Hence, "as far as W. takes it", his polemic travels with the Christian (for the most part.....). His end or terminus, though, suffers absurdity and therein the difference comes within the explanatory terminus with respect to causal paradigms and with respect to mutable and contingent beings as opposed to Logos, or Speak, or Word, which is neither contingent nor mutable.

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,


.....wait... should be weight.... etc...

scbrownlhrm said...



The thorough going materialist (TGM) makes the same move as W. in that the TGM claims as his [explanatorily basic] that which is this or that [mutable and contingent being] where "being" is neither Person nor Mind nor Logos / Speak / Word.

W. also claims as his [explanatorily basic] that which is a [mutable and contingent being] where "being" is the sum of the first person experience (etc.) of the mutable and contingent being called Man.

The claim that the irreducible and the explanatorily basic that is the rock bottom of meaning, or of reality, or of both is or even can be *any* mutable and contingent "X" forces both the TGM's and W.'s ends to suffer absurdity -- however -- it is W. and not the TGM with whom the Christian is happy to travel for quite some distance.

The difference comes in and through the explanatory termini of our own causal paradigm with respect to mutable and contingent beings / "X's" (on the one hand) and (on the other hand) with respect to the Logos, or Speak, or Word which is neither contingent nor mutable, which is (to borrow from Hart) the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality.

Glenn said...

pck,

1. Language is neither a means nor not a means.

If language is neither a means nor not a means, then we are in neti-neti land, and should be reading Shankara rather than Wittgenstein (or Aristotle (or Aquinas (or etc., etc.))).

2. Language is either not a means or a means.

If language is not a means, then language is not and cannot be useful.

OTOH, if language is a means, then, as is the case with every other means, there is something which is prior to it, and which it is in service to.

If there is not something which is prior to language, and which language is in service to, then language would not be a means (i.e., a something through which, by which or because of which some expectation, end, goal or aim might come to fruition or be realized).

In this case, wherein language is a means, however much it may be the case that language houses its own rules as to what may or may not be said, or how something which may be said is to be said, it doesn't seem likely that language itself, or the rules which it houses, is capable of discerning, determining, judging or evaluating the extent to which it can be rightly said to serve successfully as a means for the expectations, ends, goals or aims which are prior to its use.

pck said...

Glenn:
If language is not a means, then language is not and cannot be useful.

Water, in and of itself, is not a means either, and yet it is useful. Things become useful if and only if we use them as means.

If language is neither a means nor not a means, then we are in neti-neti land, and should be reading Shankara rather than Wittgenstein (or Aristotle (or Aquinas (or etc., etc.))).

Language, or rather language-games (applications of linguistic actions in the stream of life), are the medium in which meaning lives. That's why W. speaks of the immanence of meaning.

(We do say that we use language but we do not use it like we use a hammer to drive in a nail.)

pck said...

scbrownlhrm said:
The thorough going materialist (TGM) makes the same move as W. in that the TGM claims as his [explanatorily basic] that which is this or that [mutable and contingent being]

This is confused, since much of what is immaterial is perfectly mutable and contingent as well. The TGM speaks of material causation as explanatorily basic. W. does not.

W. also claims as his [explanatorily basic] that which is a [mutable and contingent being] where "being" is the sum of the first person experience (etc.) of the mutable and contingent being called Man.

The "also" is false. See the next post(s).

pck said...

scbrownlhrm:
If thoughts are not composed of sub-thoughts, then where does W. claim thoughts come from?

Thoughts have no location. Therefore it makes no sense to ask where they come from. To think is to exercise an ability, not to arrange mental objects in an inner space. (There is no such space and there are no such objects.)

If your question is what makes thoughts possible, then the answer on the material side is brains, behaviour and environments, while on the immaterial side we there is consciousness, experiences, agency and reason. (Of course neither of these lists is exhaustive.)

If thoughts are immaterial, then where does W. claim that thoughts come from? If they are not contingent, and are his terminus, then, again, that is a misguided claim for a contingent and mutable being to make.

It seems to me that you treat thoughts like mental objects, which is a notion we have to give up according to W. Thoughts have no terminus. What has a terminus is an explanation of a concrete thought (or instance of some other mental or intellectual ability, like hearing the same note twice or making a logical deduction).

If W. affirms the immaterial, that is fine, for then he transcends the material order in his accounting. Only, where does W. claim the immaterial comes from? Does it exist necessarily? Contingently? Or does W. disaffirm the category of contingent? (my deficit of knowledge of W. shines through!)?

Again, you seem to be treating abilities and achievements as objects. The immaterial doesn't come from anywhere. To think so is a conceptual mistake. My ability to play backgammon is not material, but of course wholly contingent. I do not have it by necessity. Where does it "come from"? At some point in my life I read about backgammon. Then I saw others play it. Then someone taught me how to play. Then I played it myself and gained experience. I got better. Eventually I played at tourneys.

In short, the answer to your question where the immaterial "comes from" is to be found within our life stories ("our brutally undeniable motions within being itself"), not in the unravelling of the deepest mysteries of existence.

So far, you're still landing within the perpetually mutable and contingent, ad infinitum.

Which is what human life is all about. I participate in Being. I am a small twitching muscle within the face of God. I have a certain degree of autonomy, but I am also limited by my connections to the surrounding tissue. Thus, logically, I cannot look at God face-to-face. While alive, I can, through my experiences, get an intuition of the whole, but it will always be incomplete and remain mysterious in an essential way.

Perhaps you could clarify what exactly you mean by "transcending"? Otherwise I fear we will keep talking past each other.

pck said...

It's unclear because it is you who states that falling rocks have a kind of intentionality, and then it is you who say it is a mistake to call it such for such is reserved for animals.

I said falling rocks have a telos, not that they have intentionality. Intentionality is a kind of telos, but not all telos is intentionality. A falling rock has a principle of motion. In order for that to be possible, it must have a directedness. Human intention is also directed, but in much more intricate ways (by and large rocks fall short of humans with regard to their and our abilities).

Therefore, it seems as if you are equating intention both in mind and in falling rocks and simply labeling the rock-bottom causation differently when in A vs. when in B.

No, see above.

Earlier (March 17, 2016 at 6:40 PM) you said this: "Apples falling (motion, change, as you noted) isn't teleological in any helpful way unless one means that reason too, like falling apples, is void of inherent intentionality. It only *appears* to have it."

This makes no sense to me. How can an apple-telos exist only if reason is "void of inherent intentionality"?

If the rock bottom causal paradigm within the state of affairs of falling rocks is different than the rock bottom causal paradigm within the state of affairs of reasoning [...]

They're not the same. But we mustn't conflate "rock-bottom" principles of nature (final causes of moving rocks) with irreducible explanations of natural phenomena (such as human intentionality). Wittgenstein affirms only the latter. Causation is just another irreducible (but arbitrary) way to explain phenomena.

If you metaphysically reify explanations of regularities as laws/paradigms "out there", then W. will tell you that you have subscribed to an illogical (not: empirically refutable) fiction which treats generalized descriptions of phenomena as immaterial objects. (But no matter whether you subscribe totruth-as-correspondence or not, E=mc^2, because it is a generalization, is a tool, not a fact. So is 1+1=2, but for different reasons.)

pck said...

[...] then we are back again to the immaterial, which is promising. The problem is that, once there, W. seems to again affirm nothing more than the mutable and contingent ad infinitum.

Of course W. does not go beyond the mutable and contingent. He wants to explain how ordinary language and meaning works, he is not a theologian. He did write a little on the subject of ethics, and a little more on religion, but considered much of it to be unsayable. But this doesn't make him a materialist or an atheist.

Which, again, lands us right where the thorough going materialist lands as all things suffer the deflationary within that same ad infinitum as the mutable ceaselessly mutates, as the contingent finds no source, no order, no end.

Again, what is "deflated" in W. is not truth, but the correspondence view of truth. In no way does it follow that materialism and/or relativism are true.

It's not clear that W. has reached any other location -- hence again it's not clear that W. can justifiably reject the Christian's claim that W.'s polemic compels reason to look not only outward, but also upward.

First, traditional metaphysics has not reached any "other location" either. It posits other locations, but as the article by W. L. Craig which you linked to acknowledges, the correspondence view of truth has problems which need to be addressed.

Second, if you expect W. to reach a "place beyond the mundane" in a sense comparable to being taken off of the roof of a skyscraper by a helicopter after you have climbed 300 floors of stairs, then you're out of luck. (At least with the post-Tractatus W. -- but even he was, at the end of the Tractatus, not carried off into the "next sphere", but concludes that the skyscraper was a collection of (instructive) mistakes.)

One could say that part of W.'s point is that you don't have to transcend anything to realize that materialism is an incoherent fiction. The immaterial is with us right here and now. (Which once more recalls D. B. Hart.) To look for the immaterial "outward", "upward" or in whatever direction is a notion based on misconceptions, of which the foremost is the reification of nouns which do not denote substances, but abilities and achievements (thought, perception, mind, etc.).

(And W. is still not a writer of polemics. He writes philosophy, aka conceptual elucidation and clarification. A polemic is a verbal attack written for the purpose of attacking. Nothing could be said of Wittgenstein that was less true.)

pck said...

Me: The TGM speaks of material causation as explanatorily basic. W. does not.

This should be:

The TGM speaks of material causation as exclusively explanatorily basic. W. does not.

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

You state:

"Of course W. does not go beyond the mutable and contingent."

And that is why we're no better off than in the thorough going materialist's rock bottom of meaning.


The claim that the irreducible and the explanatorily basic that is the rock bottom of *meaning*, or of *reality*, or of *both*, just might be, or is, or even can be *any* mutable and contingent "X" forces both the TGM's and W.'s ends to suffer absurdity.

For there is always that which precedes said X, there is always that which passes said X and leaves it behind. *Meaning* which begins and ends in frail, mutable, and contingent beings such as Man / Man's First Person must claim the purely arbitrary as its A and as its Z.

Therein all such Meaning is, at its rock bottom, first mutable -- and thereby contingent -- and thereby arbitrary -- and thereby meaningless.

You allude to the Face of God as the wider canopy but you cannot, for W. cannot do so given his terminus of explanation in that which is frail, mutable, and contingent.

Hence all of W.'s "clearing of the field" is that which the Christian is happy to travel with. But where W. stops, and by stopping he forces absurdity, the Christian is compelled into the underived and immutable processions within Communique, Logos, Speak, Word.

The terminus of explanation sums to the non-contingent, the immutable, the absolute of pure act -- Being Itself -- as anything less just won't do. Not ultimately. Not finally. What we come upon is (per D. Hart) the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality.

The processions within Trinity constitute the ceaseless Speech of that very wellspring. The underived language that is Divine Procession is the Word, the Speech, the Logos and such is in God and such is with God and such is God.

To deny the fatality in both W.'s and TGM's Meaning-Makers is to affirm a kind of game of As-If which cannot, ever, rise above a final reductio ad absurdum.

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

In the Triune God we find all such processions not by local motion nor by transitive action but by the intellectual emanation of all that sums to Intelligible Word from Him who enunciates His continuous Speech. Procession in Trinity finds the actuality of Truth which proceeds – the begotten Logos – by which all things were made – which proceeds from all eternity – ever with God – ever in God – ever God – ever the communique of transposition filling our own mutable and contingent utterances with the explanatorily basic.

Trinity reveals the very wellspring of reality itself wherein that which does not produce its own being instead by continuous incantation communicates all that is Himself.

Such ushers us to the realization that the begotten Logos is not more perfect than the begetter as begetting is not causing. That which is caused does not exist before in Act, whereas that which is communicated exists before in Act.

All that sums to Logos, to Speak, to Word, to Communique, to Procession carries all that is God Himself as begetting in God transcends contingency’s change from non-being to being.

(...a few sub-phrases there are borrowed from Reginald Garrigou-Lagrance's book "Trinity"...)

Glenn said...

pck,

Things become useful if and only if we use them as means.

Yes.

If something is used as a means, then that something is a means -- while it is being used as such. And if something is not being used as a means, then that something is not a means -- during the time it is not being used as such.

So, if language is not a means, it is because it is not being used as such. And during the time it is not being used as such, it is not and cannot be useful.

Language, or rather language-games (applications of linguistic actions in the stream of life), are the medium in which meaning lives.

And without the entities who engage in linguistic actions, there can be no linguistic actions, and thus no medium in which meaning might live.

(We do say that we use language but we do not use it like we use a hammer to drive in a nail.)

We also don't use a hammer to drive in a nail in the same way that we use words to get the operator of a taxi to turn left at the next light.

- - - - -

As far as I know, I'm on board, in an in-principle kind of way, with the idea or notion of language games.

But I'm also aware that: a) there can be no language games without players; b) the players of language games are humans with intellects; and, c) humans with intellects are capable of things which language with rules are not.

This isn't to diminish either language games or inquiry into them; it's just not to forget who is using or playing them.

Glenn said...

("it's just not to forget who is using or playing them" s/b "it's just not to forget who is using or inquiring into them.")

scbrownlhrm said...

Glenn said, "As far as I know, I'm on board, in an in-principle kind of way, with the idea or notion of language games. But...."

I've grown to appreciate W., via PCK here and in other threads. As a Christian it seems quite coherent to travel quite a distance with W., while of course eventually continuing on once he has stopped. The reasons for continuing on past W.'s explanatorily basic is that it can never be, in itself, explanatorily basic. For the many reasons alluded to by Glenn and others in this thread.

pck said...

scbrownlhrm:
And that is why we're no better off than in the thorough going materialist's rock bottom of meaning.

This is incorrect. Meaning is something entirely different for W. than it is for the materialist.

The claim that the irreducible and the explanatorily basic that is the rock bottom of *meaning*, or of *reality*, or of *both*, just might be, or is, or even can be *any* mutable and contingent "X" forces both the TGM's and W.'s ends to suffer absurdity.

And that is why W. does not claim that the explanatorially basic is the "rock bottom" of meaning. The fact that an explanation is irreducible does not imply that it is absolute.

For W., the "rock bottom of meaning", if that term can be made to make sense of at all (since it has materialist notions of causation built into it, which you are rhetorically exploiting and which cause you to see W. in a distorting light), lies in the application of language in the stream of life. This means action, not "just words". This means that meaning is immanent in life. But life is absolute and meaning is thus part of and built into the absolute. That is W.'s account.

You keep referencing the mutable and contingent but you do not address the fact that the immaterial aspects of human life are all mutable and contingent through and through. We are not necessary beings. Instead you drown yourself in an endlessly repeated ascription of a perspective to Wittgenstein the he simply does not hold.

Therein all such Meaning is, at its rock bottom, first mutable -- and thereby contingent -- and thereby arbitrary -- and thereby meaningless.

This is the TMCR speaking again. You cannot understand W. if you keep evaluating what he says in the light of a metaphysical correspondence theory which he rejects. If you want to criticize W., you need to do it using his terms and that means you have to understand him properly first. Otherwise you are behaving like an atheist who puts the non-existence of God as a given truth before all of his arguments.

To deny the fatality in both W.'s and TGM's Meaning-Makers

First of all, the TGM has no meaning makers, since for the TGM meaning does not exist. So this comparison is confused from the start. Meaning does exist for W. (his sole enterprise is to explain how it is possible that there is genuine meaning). Meaning, again, is immanent in the absolute reality of our actions and not just "in-language".

What is a "meaning-maker" in your view? You have never explained. I suppose it is a fact. But for W., meaning-makers are facts just as well. You are committed to TMCR. TMCR's problem is that it cannot talk about facts and thus it cannot talk about meaning. So everything you say winds up being nonsense. As long as you cannot address this problem (like W L Craig does) you have no ground to stand on, no matter how many times you say "Logos". If you don't even understand how ordinary language works, how can you hope to reach the transcendent?

But where W. stops, and by stopping he forces absurdity

He doesn't stop where you think he stops. And, more importantly, he doesn't begin where you think he begins. You keep reading your pattern of rejection of materialism into an account which is already as non-materialist as it gets. The fact that W.'s account is not transcendent (in the traditional sense) does not mean that it is not grounded in the absolute. In fact, that is precisely what makes W.'s account so radically new and different after 2000 years of traditional metaphysics. It is genuinely new philosophy after 2000 years of variations on Plato's and Aristotle's themes. And yet it does not make Plato or Aristotle superfluous or useless. But it does shine genuinely new light on them.

pck said...

You allude to the Face of God as the wider canopy but you cannot, for W. cannot do so given his terminus of explanation in that which is frail, mutable, and contingent.

The Face of God metaphor was my own, not Wittgenstein's. (I do have the occasional thought of my own.) I do not use W. to justify all my ideas, particularly not those about which his philosophy does not even say much.

I have said before that W. is not the be all end all of philosophy.

To deny the fatality in both W.'s and TGM's Meaning-Makers is to affirm a kind of game of As-If

I think you're just barking up the wrong tree. Do you think that explaining where your breakfast milk came from would be greatly aided by invoking a transcendent meaning-maker and that if such a meaning-maker is not invoked, all explanations of the milk's origin are merely "as-if"?

Of course nature is not the end of all things, nobody saw that with more clarity than Wittgenstein, but you seem to want to downgrade nature to some infinitesimally small point of irrelevance in the face of the Logos. Which, ironically, is a similar process which atheists employ when they stress the irrelevance of man in the nature. If we cannot have real meaning in ordinary life, certainly we cannot aspire to find it in the Logos. Wittgenstein gives us this actual ordinary meaning, while TMCR tries, but has a bunch of explanatory holes. (Perhaps some day someone will fix these holes and then I will be the first to sign up.)

The terminus of explanation sums to the non-contingent, the immutable, the absolute of pure act -- Being Itself -- as anything less just won't do. Not ultimately. Not finally.

Who says that "explanation" must always be "ultimate"? We must not take the term "explanation" to only mean one thing. Ordinary explanations have their termini in ordinary facts and experiences. Only when it comes to explaining Existence itself do we arrive at pure Act. Wittgenstein's work is mostly about ordinary explanations. He finds that they often have irreducible, immaterial termini. So we constantly encounter the immaterial in ordinary life. If you do not acknowledge that, you cannot acknowledge Hart's quote about the grammar of the transcendent being found in the mundane. Again, if you do not even understand how ordinary language and explanation works, how can you hope to understand and explain the transcendent? And how much help is the Logos going to be in explaining where the milk you had for breakfast came from?

I've grown to appreciate W., via PCK here and in other threads.

I just wish you'd appreciate him for the right reasons :)

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

W. claims life is absolute and meaning rests on life.

What life is absolute?

The kind that is frail, mutable and contingent?

Is "that" where his *Meaning-Makers* are?

If not, why not?

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

Or is it the case that W. does not exit the frail, mutable, and contingent state of affairs?

pck said...

W. claims life is absolute and meaning rests on life.

Not on life, in life. It's not a causal chain. The key word is "immanent".

What life is absolute?

Yours. Mine. All of it.

The kind that is frail, mutable and contingent?

Yes. It's all part of reality.

Is "that" where his *Meaning-Makers* are?

Meaning-makes are immanent as well. "They" are not immaterial objects. We continually confuse ourselves by using nouns for "things" which are not things. ("My preference for pistacio ice cream amused them." They have a picture of the ice cream, but nobody has a picture of my preference.)

pck said...

Or is it the case that W. does not exit the frail, mutable, and contingent state of affairs?

Well, he's dead. I'm not sure what you're asking.

pck said...

It just occured to me that we may be talking past each other because we are using "the absolute" in different ways. When I say "absolute", I'm referring to what really happens, like walking down the street or drinking a glass of milk. I don't mean the notion of pure Act, which is a logical precondition of what really happens (but also immanent in it).

pck said...

Me:
(We do say that we use language but we do not use it like we use a hammer to drive in a nail.)

Glenn:
And without the entities who engage in linguistic actions, there can be no linguistic actions, and thus no medium in which meaning might live.

True. The point was that the medium is not language itself, but rather consists of actions, which, as opposed to a formal system of syntax, are absolute and in "direct contact with reality". Actually they are reality, there is nothing that stands between my actions and reality.

Also, of course language can be a means, such as in an attempt to persuade someone of something.

So, if language is not a means, it is because it is not being used as such. And during the time it is not being used as such, it is not and cannot be useful.

It can in certain cases, for example when I hit myself with a hammer a say "ouch". I'm not using "ouch" as a reference or description there, it is rather equivalent to a scream (I've learned to say "ouch" instead of screaming), which can have a use (of alerting others to my injury).

We also don't use a hammer to drive in a nail in the same way that we use words to get the operator of a taxi to turn left at the next light.

Right. One might compare "to put water into a bucket to make it heavier" and "to put words into someone's ears to make them understand".

Language has many different uses and not all of them are "means".

"Using language" does not have one single meaning. It can be used to persuade, to teach, to convince, to order, to ask, to reject, to greet, to distract, and so on. In each case "using language" means something different, because the type of use, and thus the type of end achieved by this use, is different.

Not all applications of language need to be a means to some end. There are uses which are simply "good in themselves", because they serve to fulfil our natural ends, such as learning, singing or praying. Fulfilling a natural end with the aid of language is not the same as using language as a means to and end we have set for ourselves.

Often these "fulfilling" uses of language will be involved or included in some mundane means/end business. But that is not their exclusive function. If it was, human nature would, at least on the behavioural side, conform to a materialist/adaptationist account, which we know is not true.

One might say "I pray to be closer to God", but there is a sense in which the zeal expressed in that is precisely what is to be overcome through prayer. If you're proud of your humility, you have not prayed, but merely scratched an itch. Prayer is an open ended activity which is part of the form of your life. There is no gold star waiting at the end. Things may change for you as a result of it, but the "right way" to pray is to realize that there is no right way and just do it.

pck said...

Glenn:
But I'm also aware that: a) there can be no language games without players; b) the players of language games are humans with intellects; and, c) humans with intellects are capable of things which language with rules are not.

This isn't to diminish either language games or inquiry into them; it's just not to forget who is using or playing them.


That's perfectly fine, language-games are supposed to account for the meaning human language carries, not for the meaning of the whole of reality (which, as they say, only God knows).

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

W.'s Meaning-Makers are, then, constituted of frail, mutable, and contingent means and ends.

TGM's Meaning-Makers are too.

Nothing is serving to differentiate ends.

Unless you'd like to take "means and ends" and differentiate the "ends" with respect to the frail, mutable, and contingent mind.

Is the larger reality Mind?

Or does the ultimately mindless constitute the frail, mutable, and contingent mind?

If it's all a seamless whole, that is fine, as TGM, Pantheism, Panpsychism, and so on all agree.

So without more, well, so far all meaning presented suffers the same fate as TGM.

pck said...

Not all applications of language need to be a means to some end.

=> to some human-created end

pck said...

W.'s Meaning-Makers are, then, constituted of frail, mutable, and contingent means and ends.

No. Meaning-makers (facts) are not constituted at all. You're still modelling them on an "immaterial object" notion. But they are no more objects than my preference for ice cream is an immaterial object.

TGM's Meaning-Makers are too.

No. TGM has material causes instead of facts. They call those facts, but they cannot really, because TGM implies eliminativism.

Is the larger reality Mind?

This is another reification. "Mind" is a pseudo-noun which is used in a heterogeneous variety of contexts (sometimes purely metaphorically as in "I've made up my mind") and references different human abilities such as thought and perception. These, as remarked earlier, have internal unity, but are different abilities.

If it's all a seamless whole, that is fine, as TGM, Pantheism, Panpsychism, and so on all agree.

Why would it be a seamless whole? Nobody talks or lives as if it is. And nobody could.

The irony here is that you think like a TGM yourself, except that you reify different kinds of entities.

You think that there is a curtain to be lifted behind which "real reality" lurks. This is false as far as mundane reality is concerned. (Which is W.'s point.) It is also false with respect to pure Act, which is not behind a veil of nature but, to recall Hart again, so obviously present in nature that we no longer notice it, particularly as we get older.

So without more, well, so far all meaning presented suffers the same fate as TGM.

As long as you fail to understand the notion of immanence, you are doomed to repeat this same mistake over and over.

The meaning you present cannot even be presented. (Unsayability of ~ and F.)

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

There is no claim of any object in my rejection of W.'s stopping point, immaterial or material.

It is you who keeps reading that into the words.

What you cannot deny is that the preference for ice cream is, first, itself, a mutable and contingent reality which streams from the mutable and contingent reality of the first person experience (abilities, etc.).

Hence all meaning-makers are equivalent to TGM's end points: the mutable and contingent. There are no Non-Contingent (Necessary) Meaning Makers, no Necessary Meaning Makers in W.'s accounting nor in TGM's accounting.

As for a seamless whole, it is you who seemed to claim such:

Me: What life is absolute?

You: Yours. Mine. All of it.

Me: The kind that is frail, mutable and contingent?

You: Yes. It's all part of reality.

You again: Why would it be a seamless whole? Nobody talks or lives as if it is. And nobody could.

Well what then is the absolute? Is it Life + Reality? Or is it a singularity? Or what? What part of is *not* mutable and contingent?

Or do you or did W. deny contingency? But wait: W. can't possibly deny contingency given that he only deals with the mutable and contingent. But now this business of the Absolute seems to contradict that as it seems to want to take W. farther out, into the immutable, the unchanging, the Non-Contingent (the Necessary) where Meaning-Makers are concerned.

The Absolute emerges but if you didn't mean a singularity (reality) then there is no absolute of which the mutable and contingent are "part of" (your words), rather, there are just parts. Whether immaterial or material makes no difference when it comes to arbitrary, mutable, and contingent meaning makers void of Necessary Meaning -- void of Non-Contingent Meaning Makers.

But either way, whether W. claims a seamless whole or a bunch of parts, the material or the immaterial, the illusive or the immanent, whatever, the problem is that all his Meaning-Makers are still mutable and contingent and void of Necessary (Non-Contingent) Meaning Makers.

There is no Necessary Meaning.

There is only Arbitrary Meaning.

Continued.....

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

Continued.....

You (or W.?) *seem* to think that "being immaterial" and "being immanent" gets one out of this problem, out of the problem of Man -- of Meaning -- being a frail, mutable, and contingent being, as if claiming "immaterial" and/or "immanent" just grants absolute meaning.

But W. or you (there) in claiming immaterial/immanent *seem* to fail to see that that claim of absolute meaning which you *did* make is streaming from a frail and mutable and contingent being and landing on a mutable and contingent reality, which makes that reach for absolute meaning untenable in all directions.

So long as one is stuck with Meaning Makers which are mutable and contingent, which are void of the Non-Contingent (the Necessary), well then all Meaning is no different than the TGM's Meaning for there is no Necessary Meaning in such a universe/world/reality, there is no Non-Continent Meaning.

The TGM calls his Meaning material based and full of parts, while W. seems to call his immaterial based and immanent, but there is no difference with respect to all such Meaning, at their rock bottom, being first mutable -- and thereby contingent -- and thereby arbitrary -- and thereby void of the Non-Contingent -- and thereby void of the absolute.

Necessary Meaning, Necessary Meaning-Makers, are non-existent.

Literally.

Factually.

You alluded earlier to the Face of God as the wider canopy but you cannot get there to salvage the absolute, to salvage Necessary (Non-Contingent) Meaning for W. cannot do so given his terminus of explanation in that which is frail, mutable, and contingent.

So far this all gets us to TGM's runway and landing zone where Meaning and Meaning Makers are concerned.

We find that TGM agrees with language games about milk and cereal and dealing with reality, as material/immaterial changes nothing in any of that with respect to Non-Contingent Meaning Makers and thereby with respect to Necessary Meaning embedded within reality.

There isn't any.

If that is what W. has to offer, and if W. only has frail, mutable, and contingent beings with respect to Meaning-Makers, well then, we've two reasons why we find both W. and TGM unable to reach beyond frail, mutable, and contingent meaning as all meaning suffers a fall into the finally arbitrary, into a universe/reality void of Non-Contingent Meaning Makers and thereby void of Necessary Meaning.

pck said...

So without more, well, so far all meaning presented suffers the same fate as TGM.

Inasfar as the difference between nature and the material aspects of it is concerned, I have pointed out elsewhere that the equation

nature = the material + the immaterial

does not work. In fact, "nature = the material + X", whatever X is (including X = nothing) does not work. The immaterial is woven into the world just like joy is woven into a joyful dance. One cannot additively separate the joy from the joyful dance. Grammar tempts us to reify the emotion, because it is occasionally referenced by a noun, "joy". But of course there is no object, either material or immaterial, to be found anywhere called "joy".[1] (Hacker: "Substantives are substance hungry".)

So there is more to reality than the material, but not additively more. And we can recognize this without recourse to complicated metaphysical deliberations.[2] So even atheists have no excuse to be materialists.

[1] Unless one believes in qualia, but W. rejects those (see pck@March 17, 2016 at 3:09 PM).
[2] No offense to complicated metaphysical deliberations.

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,


Yes.

However, reality is still left without Non-Contingent Meaning-Makers -- without Necessary Meaning embedded in reality.

Just like TGM (thorough going materialists).

pck said...

What you cannot deny is that the preference for ice cream is, first, itself, a mutable and contingent reality which streams from the mutable and contingent reality of the first person experience (abilities, etc.).

It does not stream from them, it is one of them. There is no causal relation between my first person experiences and my preference for ice cream. And yes, it is contingent, like my whole existence.

Well what then is the absolute? Is it Life + Reality?

There you go again, asking a "what is" question and thereby objectifying a noun, this time "the absolute". The totality of the world is of course not a thing, for things are in the world. But neither is the totality a "nothing". It is a figure of speech. When we use it, we act. And when we act, we modify reality. Thus is our use of words grounded in reality. The meaning of the words is immanent in our practices.

Your question has no answer and it cannot have one. Therefore it is not even a question. It just looks like one. Only if you reify "the absolute" can it seem like that there might be an answer, perhaps an "ineffable" one.

But now this business of the Absolute seems to contradict that as it seems to want to take W. farther out

Correct. Strictly speaking, "the absolute" transgresses the boundaries of sense. In the Tractatus, it is a metaphysical fact which cannot be talked about. In the Philosophical Investigations it is part of a language game which is not connected to other language games. It is an idle cog in the machine. "Language taking a vacation", as W. puts it.

the problem is that all his Meaning-Makers are still mutable and contingent and void of Necessary (Non-Contingent) Meaning Makers.

They are neither necessary nor contingent. This distinction is a fiction, because it says nothing. You get no help in understanding anything about the world from it. And beyond the world, all language fails anyway.

Give me one concrete meaning maker according to your account. And don't make it mutable or contingent. What is the meaning maker of your breakfast milk? You always talk in abstract generalities, I'd like to see at least one example, so I can get an impression of what we are really talking about here.

You (or W.?) *seem* to think that "being immaterial" and "being immanent" gets one out of this problem, out of the problem of Man -- of Meaning -- being a frail, mutable, and contingent being, as if claiming "immaterial" and/or "immanent" just grants absolute meaning.

Not quite. W.'s account explains how language can have meaning. The terms "absolute meaning" and "meaning" have the same use. "Absolute" is an unnecessary attribute since the idea of "contingent meaning" is unintelligible. There is no "getting out of this problem" because the is no problem to begin with. The "problem" is a metaphysical fiction why arises from the idea of facts being "out there" and the idea that "reality" is more than the world.

I'm also not sure what "man being frail" has to do with it. Would stronger, more robust men be able to avoid these problems? Presumably not. Only God himself is in a superior position.

streaming from a frail and mutable and contingent being and landing on a mutable and contingent reality

The entirety of nature is clearly and obviously mutable and contingent. Anything we see in nature could be different. So what exactly are we talking about? You cannot say because your own words fail you when you try to reach up beyond the contingent.

pck said...

You alluded earlier to the Face of God as the wider canopy but you cannot get there to salvage the absolute

I know. Nobody can. Talk like this is strictly speaking vacuous. It is an attempt to scale an unscalable wall. But the "injuries" I sustain in the attempt to do (say) the impossible give me a glimpse into what is beyond the sayable. That's why Hart's book is called "The Experience of God", and not "A Description of God". Language can never reach up to the absolute. That's why we have to be silent of it according to the Tractatus (which still uses an account of correspondence to truth).

we've two reasons why we find both W. and TGM unable to reach beyond frail, mutable, and contingent meaning

The TGM has no account of meaning at all. But W. has. Thus W. and the TGM do not have the same problem.

Ordinary meaning is not contingent. Contingent meaning does not exist. Meaning does not reach up to God. Hart starts out TEOG by saying, as Ferser has, that God does not exist in the ordinary sense. But this ordinary sense is the only meaning that there is. What we think to be necessary, more robust existence, is in fact not more robust, but a different type of existence. But since this "more robust" metaphysical talk is contained in and subject to the same limits as all of our speech, it cannot reach beyond it. All concept formation is either associated with concrete, mutable contingent action (which does NOT make meaning "contingent" merely by association) or it is unconnected language taking a vacation, which says nothing. So to say that God is "necessary being" is strictly speaking unintelligible, because you have failed to give meaning (concrete associated actions) to this term. You literally cannot do anything with it.

Should we therefore give up metaphysics? No. The attempt to do the impossible, to come face to face with God in language, must necessarily fail. You will always produce nonsense. But the bumps you get from running into that wall again and again in different ways may yet show you the contours of your limits, even if you cannot know what lies beyond them, just like the twitching bit of muscle in the Face of God.

What we take away from this, ultimately, is humility, not defeat.

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

1 of 3:

I don’t disagree with much there, as we seem to converge on the status of Meaning in W.’s / TGM’s paradigms.

“And yes, it is contingent, like my whole existence.”

Meaning then, as in TGM, also falls short of the Non-Contingent. Perhaps we can say “Non-Concrete”. The First Person / Reality (that is all one reality, and not 1 part plus 1 part adding up etc…) is mutable and non-concrete (contingent) then so also is all Meaning.

“There you go again, asking a "what is" question and thereby objectifying a noun, this time "the absolute". The totality of the world is of course not a thing, for things are *in* the world”

The totality of the world is, as you noted earlier, “…there is more to reality than the material, but not additively more….” which is fine, but nothing there gets Meaning out of the Non-Contingent, or, if you prefer, out of the Mutable and Non-Concrete. Though you later state, “The entirety of nature is clearly and obviously mutable and contingent” which works just as well.

…it is a metaphysical fact which cannot be talked about…

Except that he just talked about it. He even states it is beyond senses. He even states there may be or perhaps are metaphysical facts and that such meaning is beyond our senses. So now he’s twice gone on with his claim-making about that which is beyond claim-making, about that which is beyond the contingent. W. seems to demand that all language, and hence all Meaning, is purely mutable and contingent, or mutable and non-concrete. We find, then, that there is no Necessary Meaning embedded in reality “for all we know”. TGM state the same thing, basing all their claim-making on their senses in a soft-sort-of positivism / empiricism. They and W. stop at the same location – TGM calling stuff material and W. calling stuff material/immaterial.

All Meaning, in both approaches, ends in the same condition.

They are neither necessary nor contingent. This distinction is a fiction

If you and W. want to first assert that the entirety of nature is mutable and contingent, or mutable and non-concrete, and then also assert that nothing is contingent, that is fine.

However that unpacks it is still the case that W. has not justified such a denial of our senses (my laptop exists contingently). Merely claiming X is a fiction just won’t do all by itself. The metaphysical facts which cannot be talked about, which are beyond our senses, must then also be mutable and non-concrete.

Wherever that all leads us to, clearly all Meaning begins and ends within the mutable and contingent, or the mutable and non-concrete. We begin and end with no, none, Necessary Meaning embedded in reality. All Meaning is contingent, mutable, non-concrete, arbitrary.

Regarding the contingent status of my laptop and of my perceptions thereof, if you’re not sure if your milk exists, and exists contingently, and if you’re not sure if your feelings about milk, and how to pour it, exist, and exist contingently, then you’ve simply affirmed the hazy and deflationary and non-concrete status of all Meaning in W.’s paradigm. Blaming it on language does not rescue Necessary Meaning.

The term Non-Concrete works too (since you seem to prefer it) for the failure of any and all Meaning-Makers to rise to the status of Necessary Meaning (Concrete, Non-Contingent, Immutable Meaning embedded in reality).

….the idea of facts being "out there" and the idea that "reality" is more than the world….

Continued………

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

2 of 3:

….the idea of facts being "out there" and the idea that "reality" is more than the world….

There is no spooky shroud between us and reality other than the one W. creates by speaking about that which is beyond the senses and beyond reason and logic – and other than the one W. creates by speaking about those metaphysical facts which we cannot talk about – all while talking to us about that spooky world that we cannot talk about, well, except for when we talk about what those facts are and are not like, demanding that reason, logic, and those spooky facts behind the shroud all line up in a certain way.

The entirety of nature is clearly and obviously mutable and contingent.

Except you just said contingent is a fiction, and presumably mutable is a fiction too? Well not really. It’s obvious that W. and TGM affirm that all Meaning is entirely mutable and contingent and non-concrete.

Hence:

There is no Necessary Meaning embedded in reality.

All Meaning is ultimately arbitrary.

Both in W.’s approach to reality and in TGM’s approach to reality.

Humility is fine. But said humility still leaves all Meaning in that state of affairs.

That is why Hart reaches much farther than pure experience, despite the fact that you keep trying to equate W. and Hart with respect to stopping points. “The infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality” allows Hart to escape the full and final absurdity in all claim-making / meaning which we find, ultimately, in W.’s approach to reality and in TGM’s approach to reality.

The language game here is quite helpful as it clears the field of what W. and TGM cannot assert vis-à-vis language when it comes to Meaning, to Non-Contingent Meaning Makers, and thereby to Necessary Meaning embedded in reality given their demands that reason, logic, and spooky stuff behind the shroud all align in a certain way.

As we chisel away the Not-This from the mass of stone void of any recognizable shape, void of any Necessary Meaning Maker, we, the User of Language, and Language, (the two are not identical, as Glenn pointed out) begin to find an Immutble Face emerging.

Language is quite helpful here in defining, and speaking about, that which language cannot eliminate without entering into:

Continued……

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

3 of 3:

Language is quite helpful here in defining, and speaking about, that which language cannot eliminate without entering into:

[1] Contradictions when it comes to such Meaning Makers, or else
[2] Statements which eliminate all Necessary Meaning Makers, which forces us back into [1]

Both of those lead into final absurdity in all claim-making / meaning-claiming, and, so, language and the Users thereof find that we are otherwise compelled into:

[3] Statements which are left speaking accurately about the Necessary.

It is Immutable. It is Necessary. It is Concrete. It is accessible to Language – to Communique – to Word – to Speak.

It is not I.

I am not It.

Transposition emerges.

If Transposition, then Communique.

If Communique, then Instantiation.

If Instantiation, then Self/Other.

If Self/Other……..

If Knower/Known…….

If the contingent finds itself housing Consciousness, then said Consciousness becomes, necessarily, contingent upon the Transposed, the Instantiated, and such leaves Consciousness either pure fiction (the Necessary X or Being of which we speak is void of Consciousness and hence such cannot instantiate within what W. affirms sums to, “The entirety of nature is clearly and obviously mutable and contingent.”), or else Consciousness is finally sourced to that Necessary X, that Necessary Being of which we are, here, now, using language to speak of.

In all our clearing away of the Not-This on Immutable Meaning we cannot help but to affirm that which remains, which language cannot eliminate but by violating itself as per [1] and [2] earlier – that which is Immutable Meaning.

Again, once language has gone its full distance and chiseled away the mutable and contingent in all its clearing-away, we are left with no place to go but into [1] Contradictions when it comes to such Meaning Makers (absurdity), or else [2] Statements which eliminate all Necessary Meaning Makers (absurdity) (which leads us back to [1]), or else [3] Statements which are left speaking about the Necessary.

The User (as Glenn noted) uses Language and thereby we find that Language only partially houses meaning as such can only be led by the User, for the User is more than “Language Alone”, and, so, again, the User finds himself entering ultimately into either absurdity (all Meaning is hazy, non-concrete, mutable, contingent, arbitrary, including statements about meaning – and let us add the pains of ad infinitum) or else into what is left remaining once the chiseling has done all that it can do: Statements which are left speaking (accurately) about the Necessary.

At the end of the line all language games force us into what is left once all has been cleared – with respect to Meaning Makers. And that “all that is left” forces our hand and compels us to, at such final locations, concede that there is, then, there, nothing but necessary meaning of which we may, then, there, speak.

D. Hart and W. do not agree here.

Despite the attempt to equate their stopping points.

Reason and Logic, and their relentless demand for lucidity “through and through” compel us forward, beyond absurdity, beyond W., beyond TGM (though the Christian finds W. far more lucid for a much farther distance) and into D. Hart’s infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality.

Language carries us into Word and into Necessary Meaning at the end of the line (else contradictions mount as we move more distal down the line) and thereby into something Non-Contingent and comprised of Word, of Communique, of Speak, of Logos.

And such statements, we find, stream from the lips of a frail, mutable, and contingent being.

Man, the contingent being, there, then, begins to speak of Necessary Meaning embedded in reality.

Language, reason, and logic compel him into such stopping points.

scbrownlhrm said...



It’s unavoidable. Language, reason, and logic compel us into it. C.S. Lewis and E. Feser on Transposition. A brief look at that peculiar incantation of the divine contours as such are transposed to the (created) mind’s abstractions. “It is, both philosophically and theologically, very deep, illuminating the relationship between the material and the immaterial, and between the natural and the supernatural. (Note that these are different distinctions, certainly from a Thomistic point of view. For there are phenomena that are immaterial but still natural. For example, the human intellect is immaterial, but still perfectly “natural” insofar as it is in our nature to have intellects. What is “*super*–natural” is what goes beyond a thing’s nature, and it is not beyond a thing’s nature to be immaterial if immateriality just is part of its nature.)"

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,


Walking down the street ~~ Absolute. As in, it happens.

However:

Legs, streets, and perceptions therein are all mutable and contingent contours of a singular (non-additive) reality.

As is all of it.

If you want to DENY that you and your laptop exist contingently, have come into being, and will cease to exist, as all mutable and contingent contours (etc) do, we'll go ahead.

Otherwise, Meaning is not absolute. It comes. It goes. Contingent. Mutable.

Language praising Roman Blood Sports is, also, Absolute: It happens. Yet it too is Contingent and Mutable. As in walking down the street.

Making claims about Meaning is the same: It happens. Hence it's Absolute. Yet it's forever contingent and mutable.

To speak of Pure Act violates W.'s rules.

Hence, again, in all cases, all Meaning-Makers there begin and end in the mutable and contingent, leaving reality void of Necessary Meaning embedded in reality.

Of course, as described earlier, language, reason, and logic justifiably compel us beyond W., beyond, TGM, beyond absurdity.

Language is useful that way.

pck said...

I apologize if this sounds harsh, but since you keep repeating the same (and unfortunately rather gross) mistakes over and over, I want to be as clear as possible:

1.) You are confused about the TGM and W. arriving at the same places with regard to meaning. Nothing could be further from the truth.

2.) The confusion arises from the fact that you don't understand how language and meaning work for W. If you want to critically evaluate the later W., you have to understand the concept of immanence of meaning, and you must stop evaluating W.'s words in a TMCR context, since TMCR is what he rejects. No argument that ignores this has a chance of going anywhere. A criticism has to start at an earlier junction than yours have, by addressing the problems of TMCR (which you have not done). "Language", "meaning" and "reality" have different roles in W.'s account than they have in TMCR accounts. Not to acknowledge that leads to equivocation and thus to ascribing positions to W. which he does not hold.

3.) It follows from W.'s account that there is no such thing as meaning and Meaning. Thus you cannot complain that his account must be defective because it doesn't give you Meaning. You have to argue why his account arrives in the wrong place, not that it does.


Ad 1.)

They and W. stop at the same location – TGM calling stuff material and W. calling stuff material/immaterial.
All Meaning, in both approaches, ends in the same condition.
[...]
Regarding the contingent status of my laptop and of my perceptions thereof, if you’re not sure if your milk exists, and exists contingently, and if you’re not sure if your feelings about milk, and how to pour it, exist, and exist contingently, then you’ve simply affirmed the hazy and deflationary and non-concrete status of all Meaning in W.’s paradigm.
[...]
There is no spooky shroud between us and reality other than the one W. creates


First, just the facts about W.'s view (explanations follow):

a) W. is not merely in the business of calling anything anything.
b) The TGM cannot even call anything anything. (If he is honest. His "position" is self-contradictory.)
c) For W., laptops, milk, etc. exist contingently, but it does not follow that the meaning of "milk", "laptop", etc. is "contingent", i.e. that we are not or cannot be sure what we mean. (There is such a thing as a vague proposition, but not all propositions are vague. The vast majority aren't.)
d) The distinction between ("contingent") meaning and ("necessary") Meaning is a grammatical fiction which arises from projecting the notions of contingency and necessity onto a notion ("meaning") for which they can have no sense.

Ad a) You have to wean yourself off of the idea what W.'s account of meaning amounts to mere "calling things". (If he was, your conclusion would be correct.) Meaning for W. is not a matter of mere naming, i.e. slapping syntax onto material things and immaterial experiences. That would indeed solve nothing and merely extend the TGM account by another "frail, mutable and contingent" notion called "the immaterial".

Ad b) The TGM and W. are completely different. The TGM cannot, if he is honest, even call things, because he doesn't have an account of "calling" (a practice involving actions) which does not depend on action, which is a notion he denies (instead he tries, unsuccessfully, to use mere movement). At the end of that you get Sam Harris who says "even the illusion that free will is illusory is an illusion". (Thanks Sam, for this remarkable enlightenment. With no free will, I guess he cannot be held responsible for this meta-nonsense.)

pck said...

Ad c) The claim that it is "W.'s paradigm" that all meaning and truth is "hazy" and "deflationary" in the sense that we can never be sure of anything is false. (There is a whole book of his remarks about these issues called "On Certainty". It is the among the last things he wrote before his death.) My milk (obviously and clearly) exists contingently, but from that it does not follow that I cannot be sure that it exists (except in the sense that I may be hallucinating). This, btw, is the same in TMCR. Just because you hallucinated the milk, it does not follow that you didn't mean anything when you said "There is milk there." The same is true for W.

There is also nothing hazy in W.'s account of meaning about the existence of the milk. Quite the contrary. As I have said, there is nothing than can come between my experiences and reality, since my experiences are a part of reality. W. often points out that it is a mistake to construe the relation between X and experience-of-X on the model of object and image. (In fact, that would be closer to the traditional metaphysical account of meaning, where meaning comes from words being pictures of "absolute facts" out there.) Hence the relation between X and exp.-of-X must be taken care of within language itself. But: The use of that language is what gives the whole enterprise meaning. So when I call (= practice/action) the milk that I see "milk", I really mean (because I'm doing something) that there is milk there, even if I am hallucinating the milk. The "hardness" of me meaning something is not contingent on the reality of the referent. (If by contrast I randomly and with no reason shouted "milk", then I would indeed not mean anything, because I would not be talking, I would merely be emitting a sound.)

Use is what connects language and reality. Except "conncects" again sounds as if there was a relation of something "out there" and language. Therefore it is better to think of speech-acts, which are woven into the concrete practices of our lives. And our practices are parts of nature, not pictures of it. Hence the notion of "meaning = use of language" and meaning being immanent in our practices.

Ad d)

Me: “The entirety of nature is clearly and obviously mutable and contingent.”

Except you just said contingent is a fiction, and presumably mutable is a fiction too?


Wait, hold your horses. I said that the notion of contingent/necessary meaning is a fiction, not that the notions of contingency and necessity are.

You project the idea of necessary/contingent existence back onto meaning. But this distinction of meaning and Meaning is a fiction. Meaning is always "robust" and needs no help from the supernatural, except in the sense that everything, including meaning, is contingent on Existence (but one cannot really say that, just as the notion of "necessary being" is not sayable either; see below).

pck said...

Wherever that all leads us to, clearly all Meaning begins and ends within the mutable and contingent, or the mutable and non-concrete. We begin and end with no, none, Necessary Meaning embedded in reality.

Right, except that the "necessary" in "necessary meaning" is vacuous. Meaning cannot be contingent. Hence it cannot be necessary either. Think of the game of chess. It is contingent in the sense that nobody had to invent it or call this particular game (this set of rules) "chess". But once we have fixed how to play chess (a practice "occurring within the absolute"[1]), we have fixed what "chess" means. We now use the term "chess" to refer to the practice we have learned. "Using the term 'chess'" is another practice, woven directly into our lives. It is not the mere random utterance of a certain sound in certain situations. Thus there is nothing contingent about the meaning of "chess", even though the game itself is wholly contingent. We could have called something else "chess" (e.g. some other game G). Or we could have called chess something else (e.g. "king-chase"). But the fact that users of "chess" for chess and users of "chess" for G could not understand each other shows that meaning is not "contingent" at all. They would be "crossing grammars" as Peter Hacker puts it. ("Grammar" in the W. sense of applied language, not the linguist's sense of formal structure of language.)

Calling chess "chess", we have not just slapped a label onto a practice. The "calling" part of using the term "chess" is woven into our actions associated with playing chess. It all takes place within life, within human existence. Calling chess "chess" is not merely to name an object.

[1] "Occurring within the absolute" is a nonsensical expression, but it doesn't destroy the rest of the argument, I could have just left it out or said "a practice occurring", but none of that says anything more than "practice" alone.

---

Ad 2.)

Some more remarks about how and why, according to Wittgenstein, the rules which orchestrate the harmony between language and facts do not have to be outside of language.

We cannot settle the issue of meaning within language alone. I cannot just tell you what the meaning of a word is[1], I have to show you. You can look at the pseudo proposition P="no object can be red and green all over" and you see (part of) how "red" and "green" are to be applied. You see part of the relation in which they stand, as opposed to being told about their relation. P is a rule of language, showing how "red" and "green" are to be used. We don't need anything from "outside" of language to define their relation. Their relation is defined by adopting the practice of using P. The use of P is constitutive of its meaning, not what P says (it says nothing). This is the hardest part of Wittgenstein's account of meaning to understand, because it sounds like meaning is bootstrapped ) Now the TM says "this isn't good enough for me, there must be a connection to reality". But what he fails to do is to give the connection to reality that the term "reality" must have according to his own demands.

[1] Unless that word is a technical term, defined on top of "ordinary" language. But ordinary language can obviously not be learned by being read dictionary definitions, for those presuppose the mastery of o.L.

pck said...

This is a problem of all systems of representation. They cannot represent that which makes them possible in the first place. Thus nothing (and noone) in the world can represent Existence/God/Logos or whatever we may call it.

This is true even for the systems of representation we create ourselves. The fundamental axioms of mathematics ("ZF", Zermelo-Fränkel set theory) represent our (pre-formal) notion of "set". ZF is a collection of statements (formulated in 2nd order logic). The statements talk about a domain of objects called "sets" and a relation ∈ between them[1]. ∈'s properties are described by the axioms. It is impossible to use the language of ZF to say (= express with mathematical symbols) what a set is. The rules of ZF cannot represent the formal notion of "set" which they themselves define, because they act as definitions only to the mathematician, not to themselves or the domain of objects they talk about. They talk to us and only to us. The notion of the meaning of mathematical statements is available only to their creator, the mathematician.

[1] The "is-a-member-of" relation. "∈" is the only undefined symbol in mathematics.


Ad 3.)

Correspondingly, the notion of the meaning of Existence, Logos, etc., is unavailable to us, since Logos and Existence are what make us possible in the first place. So Meaning with a capital M (you called if necessary meaning) is a fiction within ordinary human language.

It does NOT follow, however, that there is no "absolute" ordinary meaning (with "absolute" being superfluous and saying nothing) and that what we call meaning in everyday life is preliminary, approximative, "contingent", "frail" or otherwise tainted.

When I say "meaning is absolute", I am, strictly speaking, talking nonsense. The words are supposed to nudge you into a mood of appreciation rather than to convince you of a fact.

Thus the traditional metaphysician both overestimates and underestimated the notion of meaning.

--

Except that he just talked about it. He even states it is beyond senses.

:) This is a misunderstanding about Wittgenstein which is very common (Russell fell prey to it too). W. dealt with it in the Tractatus (where he is still committed to metaphysics and correspondence to truth). He cannot talk about "it" in the Tractatus, because "it" is unsayable. Now the traditional metaphysician responds "But you just did. You said that 'it' is unsayable, so you were talking about 'it'!". But the proposition "'it' is unsayable" is also unsayable. For any expression which contains a nonsensical subexpression is also nonsensical.[2] That is why at the end of the Tractatus, we are reminded that what we have just read is all nonsense (although, as opposed to X, useful nonsense), and that we cannot but have to be silent about "it".

[2] Take for example X="giraffe blue stairs convergent". X is nonsensical. In fact it is gibberish (I could have used a random string of symbols). Thus it is not a proposition. It refers to nothing. What status does the proposition Y="X has no sense" have? It is not a proposition either, since for it to be a proposition, it would have to have reference. But it contains X, which has no referent. So Y does no say anything about X. Rather, Y is a pseudo proposition which acts as a rule of language. It does not say, but show that X is excluded from language. X is nothing anything can be said about, because X is gibberish. Y cannot say anything about X, and thus Y is not a proposition, for propositions say things.

pck said...

In the PI he can talk, but no "about it", since there is no "it" for the words to connect to. To utter words is not the same as to talk. Words like "the absolute" fail to be of use within practices related to the world. Thus they become their own practice, cogs spinning freely and unconnected to the cogs of ordinary language. Hence their "meaning" can only ever refer back to themselves, not to anything inside or outside of nature. What is beyond the senses cannot be given meaning in language, because

If you want to DENY that you and your laptop exist contingently, have come into being, and will cease to exist, as all mutable and contingent contours (etc) do, we'll go ahead.

Is there anyone who denies this? I certainly don't. Nor does W.

Otherwise, Meaning is not absolute. It comes. It goes. Contingent. Mutable.

This does not follow. I doesn't even make sense. Of course meaning comes and goes, since practices come and go. But Meaning (if the notion made sense) could not even be talked about as "coming and going" since it it supposed to be (among other things) the precondition of the possibility of coming and going. And therefore it could not be talked about as "absolute" (= not coming and going) either. If a notion escapes a category, then it is nonsense to apply the category EITHER WAY. The fact that my envy is not literally green does not mean it must have another colour.

To speak of Pure Act violates W.'s rules.

Correct. And everyone else's too.

That is why Hart reaches much farther than pure experience, despite the fact that you keep trying to equate W. and Hart with respect to stopping points.

I'm quite aware that Hart goes further than what W. allows. All metaphysics does.

“The infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality” allows Hart to escape the full and final absurdity in all claim-making / meaning which we find, ultimately, in W.’s approach to reality and in TGM’s approach to reality.

Hart is human like all the rest of us and thus cannot reach farther than human experience. You cannot reason yourself to a position where you are face to face with God. That would imply that could become like Him. "The infinite wellspring..." must be read as ultimately having no sense. But it is an instructive attempt to say the unsayable. I don't know if Hart sees it that way (probably not), since he does not give an account of his metaphysical commitments with respect to language. I don't mind that. I can read him in the W. way and it is inspiring, whether he disagrees with W.'s account of meaning or not. I don't expect to ever be able to reach up to Existence like I can reach for a glass of milk, or explain Existence like I can explain where the milk comes from, or describe Existence like I can describe the milk. The thought that such should be possible strikes me as hubris, and frankly, also a little stupid. Language and reason are fascinating capabilities, but they are no magic tools which will get you anywhere if you just click your heels the right way.

pck said...

I recently wrote my own account of the cosmological argument, to collect and order my thoughts about it (and because a certain D. Jindra had talked so much nonsense about it, again). In this account, I had to use "blind truth ascriptions to statements which we cannot explicitly state" (W L Craig from the article you linked to, thanks again for that). Craig, in his article, tries to solve the TMCR problem of the unsayable ~ and F by freeing himself of the problematic ontological commitments by discarding propositional truth. All we need, he says, is the truth-predicate, that is, truth-ascription. It would be interesting to hear how you feel about that. Craig concludes:

So in answer to our question, “Propositional Truth—Who Needs it?” the answer is: certainly not God! Indeed, we don’t need propositional truth either. All we need to truly describe the world as it is is the truth-predicate, and that will not saddle us with platonistic commitments.

So according to Craig, "truth = ascription of truth". Does that sound like frail, mutable and contingent truth to you?

Craig says that what's good enough for God should be good enough for us. But I doubt it can be, since God is in the superior position. (See my example of mathematicians creating mathematics.)

pck said...

Walking down the street ~~ Absolute. As in, it happens.

Note that "Absolute" (capital A or not) adds nothing to the content of "it happens".

Legs, streets, and perceptions therein are all mutable and contingent contours of a singular (non-additive) reality.

Agreed, but are you saying now that reality is a continuous whole? If so, are the "contours" of human making or are they part of reality? Because you can't have reality being "singular and non-additive" and also have "contours" of its own.

Making claims about Meaning is the same: It happens. Hence it's Absolute. Yet it's forever contingent and mutable.

Careful here.

a) Neither "Meaning", nor "Existence" happen. They are not events. "Meaning" is not a reference to an act of "internal pointing".

b) For W., claims about meaning are pseudo propositions, rules of language showing how to use the term "meaning", not propositions about something out-there or in-here which is a referent of "meaning". The question "What is meaning?" is confused and has no answer. "Meaning" cannot have a meaning-maker, for that meaning-maker would have to have its own meaning-maker, and so on ad infinitum. Meaning is part of how we talk about experience the world, but it is not an experience itself. (Meaning is always meaning-of. It has no life of its own.)

pck said...

"how we talk about experience the world" => how we talk about our experiences in the world

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

Part 1 of 2:

Again, I don’t disagree with much of anything you’ve said.

However, in everything you just stated you are still starting and stopping in sensory perception and the labels we affix to this or that contour of perceived reality by which we either fail or succeed in coping with reality – that reality of which we are a contour of (part, seam, whatever, – man has not always existed, so figure out the obvious) since it (material/immaterial) is not additive but is instead a continuous, non-additive continuum.

W. has not traveled much further than TGM (thorough going materialist) in any of that. Not where meaning's beginning and ending are concerned and not where the singular and seamless continuum (reality) is concerned. The biggest difference is that W. labels his seamless continuum (or whatever) material/immaterial and W. labels thoughts immaterial whereas TGM labels them both material (physics' continuum). That W. has more coherence there is why he succeeds in traveling further than TGM.

Which is great! That is why the Christian finds W. worth traveling with long after both have left TGM behind.

Unfortunately the differences there in W. / TGM hasn't been shown to demonstrate Non-Contingent, Necessary, Immutable Meaning embedded throughout reality – from A to Z.

Why?

Because Milk comes. Milk goes. The particles which make up milk come – and go. The perceptions thereof come – and go. The labels we affix to milk come – and go. Milk used to mean a medicine that you poor in cuts from rocks (not other cuts) and which one does not, ever, drink. Yes, W.’s version of absolute meaning exists in all cases as we learn to cope with reality and as perceptions change. Roman blood sports come. Roman blood sports go. Slavery is good. Slavery is bad. Then good again. Then bad again. Man comes. Man goes. Earth comes. Earth goes. Universes come. Universes go.

Meaning comes and goes with them. One more time: Meaning mutates, gels, and changes yet again right along with them. Just as Meaning exists, and doesn’t exist, right along with them.

Why? Because the existence of meaning in reality is entirely dependent on, entirely contingent upon, those same mutable, changing, contingent contours of reality. A universe void of meaning existed at some time, and will again – on both W.’s and TGM’s approaches to reality. Milk just isn’t what the problem is. That can’t be more obvious. Perhaps W. posits the eternal, timeless mind to salvage his entire project from the pains of a universe void of meaning – from A to Z?

That you (or W., or both) cannot see the difference on and in those two claims about meaning is why you keep making the same mistakes. And it also why you accuse me of mistaking W.’s premises.

His premises are crystal clear. W. is consistent within his own game.

W. has not shown where meaning in his rules gets him out of any of the above final, or ultimate, or cosmic, problems – out of milk meaning milk being a complete category error – or conflation – or equivocation – out of starting and stopping in a contingent being's sensory perceptions and the labels he affixes to this or that contour of perceived reality by which he either fails or succeeds in coping with reality (of which he is a part of / contour of since it is a seamless, non-additive continuum).

Continued……….

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

Part 2 of 2:

That you cannot see the difference on and in those two claims about meaning is why you keep making the same mistakes.

You just keep coming back to the former, to “milk means milk, and absolutely so” and pretend “As-If “that” equates to Non-Contingent, Immutable, Necessary Meaning embedded throughout reality from A to Z.

You keep making that mistake.

If W. or you want “THAT” (the milk thing) as your immutable meaning, well you are welcome to it, right along with TGM. “Absolute” meaning sums to, well, “THAT” in both W.’s unpacking and TGM’s unpacking of reality.

Such is of no relevance whatsoever in establishing Non-Contingent, Necessary, Immutable Meaning embedded throughout reality from A to Z.

Lastly, language games teach us how to deal with reality.

You're not both taller than me and shorter than me. Up is not down. Non-Contingent Meaning cannot be contingent. Reality utterly void of meaning but for the in-passing mutable and contingent sort presents unavoidable consequences to all truth-claims because language rules teach us to avoid contradictions. Language also teaches us to avoid absurdity – and hence to disavow any and all reductio ad absurdums. And so on. All of that is simply to say that language teaches us through, say, a million and more “combinations and permutations of that sort” certain things about contradiction vis-à-vis language, certain things about final, or ultimate, or cosmic absurdity vis-à-vis language, about..... about.... and about……

And so on.

Therein Language Games are helpful in teaching us how to avoid contradictions, how to avoid reductio ad absurdums, how to affirm reason and logic rather than merely hand-waving when they demand lucidity “through and through”. Reasoning ourselves out of final, or ultimate, or cosmic, contradiction/absurdity where Meaning is concerned is enough to leave W. and TGM behind. The fact that doing so leads us into contours which cohere with, converge with, correspond with, descriptions of God is neither here nor there.

Not at all. Hence your choice of hand-waiving at reasoning ourselves out of final, or ultimate, or cosmic contradiction and absurdity is, well, unfortunate. You equate disavowing final, or ultimate, or cosmic, contradiction/absurdity with trying to prove or see God. For no good reason. The *goal* is simply to follow the rules of language games, and reason, and logic wherever they lead us – regardless of the consequences.

That is why W. and TGM are fine as far as they go, and that is why W. gets us further than TGM.

But their rules have not presented an intellectual obligation to start and stop where they start and stop, nor have they presented an intellectual obligation to not disavow final, or ultimate, or cosmic, contradiction and absurdity.

Why?

Because language games, reason, and logic compel the intellect's demand for lucidity from A to Z to continue further, out of such terrain, and into the contours of Non-Contingent, Non-Changing Meaning embedded throughout reality – from A to Z. The fact that doing so leads us into contours which cohere with, converge with, correspond with, descriptions of God is neither here nor there.

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

Claiming "Experiencing the world" as the necessary ingredient changes nothing in W.'s accounting. He's better than TGM, but he still cannot avoid the same "absolute" "ceiling" where meaning is concerned.

Experiencing the world is not the unending status in a universe such as ours. Man has not always existed. Nor birds, or whatever. Mind has not always existed, thus experiencing reality has not, thus meaning has not. Meaning-of needs a mind, so to speak. Nor will Man always exist.

Meaning exists. Then it doesn't. It's entirely contingent on something else. Like brains and creatures and planets which come from dust and return to dust (or whatever). [Well, that is true unless the immaterial / mind precedes and outdistances such contingent and mutable things-in-the-world]

W. affirms, on his terms, that there cannot be any such actuality as Immutable and Non-Contingent (Necessary) Meaning embedded throughout reality - from A to Z. [That is his accounting and hence what he may or may not believe about God is irrelevant to this discussion].

Else the infinite regress (well... we can add "else the Infinite Mind"...). As per your own claim. And W.'s claim. There must be mind if there is to be "meaning-of".

But there is no Immutable and Non-Contingent (Necessary) Mind (Being).

Not in W.'s accounting.

Not in TGM's accounting.

Those looming and pesky infinite regresses are forever embedded in both W.'s and TGM's accounting and get them both into all sorts of trouble where truth-values are concerned. There just never is any long-term equity given said accounting. Nothing holds. There is only, at some seam somewhere, the total evaporation of all meaning in and by the deflationary.

It is Man - Full Stop. There is *no* Immutable and Non-Contingent (Necessary) Mind (Being). That *is* W.'s accounting.


Both W. and TGM have the same start/stop points in their accounting and that is irrespective of what their beliefs may or may not actually be.

W. embraces the immaterial abstractions (etc.) of said Man in said "It is Man - Full Stop", which is great. But the same certified public accountant faithfully, ultimately, finally, cosmically, handles the annual taxes and fees of both W. and TGM. They both have to pay -- and both end up without any equity at all -- but W. holds on much longer.

That's the only difference.

Indeed, either way there is *no* Immutable and Non-Contingent (Necessary) Meaning (Mind) embedded throughout reality from A to Z.

Else infinite regress.

Or:

Else God.

Fortunately the "trio" of Language Games and Reason and Logic compel us out of all such final, or ultimate, or Cosmic contradiction and absurdity.

The rules are not used to find God. They simply teach us how to avoid the pains of this or that painful reductio ad absurdum...... That such leads to language which coheres with, converges with, corresponds with the "epistemology-ontology" of God is neither here nor there.

We simply follow the trio regardless of the consequences.

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

This is not a criticism of W. - it is just an observation of the rules in one narrow slice of reality.

Experiencing the world includes speaking as an action, a behavior. So too with writing. So too with writing laws. The language of "Slavery is good" emerges. All meaning in that is contingent upon man/context and streams from immaterial abstraction to experiencing the world to speaking to writing to doing to acting to the meaning-of / experience-of both slavery and goodness. What is goodness? Well it is goodness - and absolutely so and we relate all of that to one another in our coping with reality and exchanging meaning (and so on in the game). Should such be the last will and testament before Man no longer exists, well then that is the last meaning ever to be.

Why?

Because milk means milk - and absolutely so. And slavery means slavery - and absolutely so. And good means good - and absolutely so.

Unless only *some* "Meaning-of" or only *some* "Experience of" houses meaning.

But ALL language house meaning-of in this context. That is what the game is for, or about.

This is not a criticism. It is simply to affirm rules of the game -- to affirm the "absolute" "ceiling" of "meaning" (or "meaning-of") in the accounting of both W. and TGM. All truth-claims in this particular observation are ultimately deflationary and that is why neither W. nor TGM can speak of slavery or goodness or evil or ought. They can -- but all truth-values therein are deflationary.

That is one reason (there are more) why "milk means milk and absolutely so" is such a catastrophic and misguided attempt at claiming Immutable and Non-Contingent (Necessary) Meaning (Mind). W. and TGM both claim "that" milk-thing as their "absolute" because that is all they can afford to pay for -- all other real estate being far too expensive given their accounting fees.

As for the rest of reality other than this one narrow slice, well, again the trio of language games and reason and logic compel us into the semantics of God, as alluded to earlier.

DNW said...

"Again, don't get hung up too much on the term "game". He could have called them "language-activities" or "doing stuff with language", it wouldn't make a difference to his account of meaning.

March 17, 2016 at 5:27 PM"



As I indicated earlier I was going to withdraw from further comments or exchanges on Wittgenstein until I reviewed the PI along with some other old class materials such as Pitcher's volume of essays, and Ayer's "Wittgenstein".

Since I have a business to run, this obviously is not exactly a priority; but more in the nature of a strong puzzle I wish to resolve to my own satisfaction.

As for the issue of "immanence" that is an aspect that I won't even try to address, since I am not even sure what it means, unless we are to think of what it is we confront when we, as Gilson remarks, advert to the usually neglected fact that we are in a world that is - right in front of us - with all that that implies.

Now as for the remark I quoted above, I would be perfectly happy to reduce all references to "language-games" (spoken, I take it, and have read) to something like "speech-acts", be they indicative or performative or whatever.

But as a number of the edition's commentators have already remarked during the initial stages of my review, Austin (whose old essays I always enjoyed reading) and Wittgenstein, not only were taking substantively different approaches, but Wittgenstein is generally taken as implying something rather more mysterious about life itself than was Austin.


Or maybe not. We'll see.

One thing that I wish I had not done was to write in the margins of my books.

Those remarks often look pretty stupid, if not completely unintelligible, in hindsight.

pck said...

DNW:
As for the issue of "immanence" that is an aspect that I won't even try to address, since I am not even sure what it means, unless we are to think of what it is we confront when we, as Gilson remarks, advert to the usually neglected fact that we are in a world that is - right in front of us - with all that that implies.

This sounds like a good first step towards understanding immanence.

Now as for the remark I quoted above, I would be perfectly happy to reduce all references to "language-games" (spoken, I take it, and have read) to something like "speech-acts", be they indicative or performative or whatever.

That's part of the problem of understanding the later W.: Language games are not indicative of anything. They don't perform, they are embedded in performances. (I'm afraid you do need to address the notion of immanence of meaning to understand language-games.)

Austin (whose old essays I always enjoyed reading) and Wittgenstein, not only were taking substantively different approaches, but Wittgenstein is generally taken as implying something rather more mysterious about life itself than was Austin.

That would be true for the early W. of the Tractatus, but not for the later one. Austin takes an approach closer to linguistics than W. does. But I have not read enough Austin to make any greatly more helpful comparisons than that.

Wikipedia:
"The Meaning of a Word is a polemic against doing philosophy by attempting to pin down the meaning of the words used, arguing that 'there is no simple and handy appendage of a word called "the meaning of the word (x)"'.
Austin warns us to take care when removing words from their ordinary usage, giving numerous examples of how this can lead to error."

This is quite compatible with what the later W. was about. He made many similar remarks.

pck said...

scbrownlhrm:
W. has not traveled much further than TGM (thorough going materialist) in any of that.

Yes he has. The TGM cannot even take the first step towards explanation, let alone meaning. There is not a single phenomenon, including all material ones, which can be explained using only the object language of physics.

The biggest difference is that W. labels his seamless continuum (or whatever) material/immaterial and W. labels thoughts immaterial whereas TGM labels them both material (physics' continuum). That W. has more coherence there is why he succeeds in traveling further than TGM.

No. As I have explained in detail in my previous posts, W. is not in the business of labelling. Also, I don't know what "his seamless continuum" is supposed to be. W. always emphasizes the differences between phenomena.

His premises are crystal clear.

No, they're not. If you think they are, that is the clearest indicator that you have not understood him. They take the average student years to understand, because they require a change from a kind of thinking that is so ingrained in us that it is incredibly hard to even recognize it in ourselves.

W. has not shown where meaning in his rules gets him out of any of the above

Meaning isn't in any rules. That's the exact opposite of what W. argues. That's what he wants to get away from. Language games are not games played with or within language. W.'s account is completely different from what you think it is.

You just keep coming back to the former, to “milk means milk, and absolutely so” and pretend “As-If “that”

No. "Milk means milk and absolutely so" is tautological nonsense and has nothing to do with W.'s later philosophy. There is indeed no "as-if", but not for the reason you state. The meaning of "milk" is immanent in our practices that have to do with milk, both linguistic and non-linguistic.

Lastly, language games teach us how to deal with reality.

Absolutely not. Language games teach us nothing. They are the medium of practices within which we learn, understand, and teach, not the source of learning, understanding, or teaching. Language-games are heterogeneous in nature. They serve many different purposes. (One, but only one, of these diverse purposes is the role of pseudo propositions which supply rules of use for words by showing how to use them instead of saying it.)

pck said...

The *goal* is simply to follow the rules of language games, and reason, and logic wherever they lead us – regardless of the consequences.

Rules of logic by themselves do not lead anywhere. For example, the entire game of mathematics "leads" exactly nowhere, since no mathematical statement says anything (about the world). The same is true for the internal rules of natural language. We come to knowledge only through their connections and immersion in practices. Understanding is to know how to do, not to know how to formally manipulate symbols. Your argument collapses into the TGM's error here. Language and logic alone do not reach or teach anything.

In the Tractatus, W. showed that the limits of language were the (ineffable) limits of the world. In his later philosophy, this changes to the notion that we create bigger and bigger logical spaces for ourselves by extending the range of our linguistic (and non-linguistic) practices. Contrary to his earlier philosophy, linguistic practices owe nothing to the world ("grammar is arbitrary"). Still, the logical spaces of our forms of life can only be known from the inside -- as far as we have furnished them. Their limits or what is "beyond" is still unsayable.

Logic by itself is a formal game devoid of meaning, like chess. It has meaning only within applied practices.

In theology, we must necessarily give up the relation of certain propositions to experiences and "the fields we know". What we do is to take ordinary concepts such as "act", and construct a purely syntactical extrapolation, a metaphorical pseudo-picture, so it can become "pure Act". It is an illusion to believe that int his process we are not breaking the ties of meaning. That is why W L Craig in his article discards propositional truth. He needs to justify "blind truth ascription". He calls this "semantic ascent" but it is really just syntactic ascent. Which is fine by me. I don't think we can do any better. But the language thus created to talk about the supernatural is by necessity not embedded in ordinary human practices and can thus not have the same kind of meaning which our ordinary terms have. In fact, as W. showed, they can have no meaning in the ordinary (and only) sense at all. They are like allegorical stories which hint at something one cannot genuinely describe, but yet "ring true" in the context of our experiences. It is like talking about the truth of a poem. The notion makes no literal (propositional) sense, yet we speak of a poem expressing a truth. (This is how the bible is read as well.)

pck said...

Because language games, reason, and logic compel the intellect's demand for lucidity from A to Z to continue further

The intellect makes no demands. Human beings do. This is another refication of a noun used to refer to human abilities. And it is precisely lucidity which is lacking from concepts like "First Cause", "Logos", "pure Act", and so on. Nobody has any genuine conception of "pure Act". Pure Act is a formal extrapolation of the ordinary concept of actualization which we are familiar and connected with through the practices of our lives. We know what actualization "looks like". What "pure Act" looks like, nobody knows.

he still cannot avoid the same "absolute" "ceiling" where meaning is concerned

That's because there is no such ceiling. You only think there is, because you formally extrapolate the concept of meaning beyond nature. What you're trying to do is equivalent to describing the notion of "set" using the objects of set theory from within the theory. But set theory has no boundary (a ceiling) which you can break through from within to take a peek at it from the outside. Metaphorically speaking, sets cannot see the notion of "set". Only the mathematician -- the creator of set theory -- can. Man is in the same position. To claim that you can see the "Meaning" of the world is to claim to be on the same level as God. There is no way to reason yourself through the boundaries of nature for there are no boundaries which are recognizable from the inside.

W. affirms, on his terms, that there cannot be any such actuality as Immutable and Non-Contingent (Necessary) Meaning

He does not affirm falsity, he affirms nonsensicality. If he affirmed falsity, then "necessary Meaning" would at least be conceivable (only false). But it isn't. It's a formal extrapolation with no ties into human practices and therefore with no ties into human understanding. "Necessary Meaning" is a shadow cast on reality by misguided applications of linguistic pictures.

But there is no Immutable and Non-Contingent (Necessary) Mind (Being).
Not in W.'s accounting.


There neither is nor isn't.

Both W. and TGM have the same start/stop points in their accounting and that is irrespective of what their beliefs may or may not actually be.

No, you're still eminently confused about what W.'s account of meaning is. The TGM and W. have nothing in common.

This is not a criticism of W.

It is not indeed, since it fundamentally misrepresents W.

- it is just an observation of the rules in one narrow slice of reality.

No. This is still the same misconception about W. being a labeller, only that he labels more phenomena than the TGM. But nothing could be less true.

DNW said...

"That's part of the problem of understanding the later W.: Language games are not indicative of anything. They don't perform, they are embedded in performances. (I'm afraid you do need to address the notion of immanence of meaning to understand language-games.)"



I meant indicative and performative to name different functions of, or kinds of speech-acts or the use of words.

Performative use: "I now pronounce you man and wife"; "I knight thee";

Indicative: "The oak tree you asked about is over there."
http://web.stanford.edu/class/ihum54/Austin_on_speech_acts.htm


As I quoted from a link before, Wittgenstein apparently characterizes or exemplifies language games in the following terms:

"Review the multiplicity of language-games in the following examples, and in others:
Giving orders, and obeying them—
Describing the appearance of an object, or giving its measurements-
Constructing an object from a description (a drawing)—
Reporting an event—
Speculating about an event—"

Now just how different these "games" are from what Austin is referring to, I am not sure, since I still cannot understand - and never have been able to - why the notion of a game was dragged in as a paradigm, in the first place; if all he intends to convey is something indistinguishable from what Austin is saying.

And now I'll shut up again ...

DNW said...

Re. "How to Do Things With Words"

I suppose everyone already has this. But in case anyone doesn't.

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

Please stop misrepresenting what I said.

I didn't say W. and TGM label slavery good wrt "slavery is good".

I said:

"Experiencing the world includes speaking as an action, a behavior. So too with writing. So too with writing laws. The language of "Slavery is good" emerges. All meaning in that is contingent upon man/context and streams from immaterial abstraction to experiencing the world to speaking to writing to doing to acting to the meaning-of / experience-of both slavery and goodness. What is goodness? Well it is goodness - and absolutely so and we relate all of that to one another in our coping with reality and exchanging meaning (and so on in the game). Should such be the last will and testament before Man no longer exists, well then that is the last meaning ever to be. 

Why?

Because milk means milk - and absolutely so. And slavery means slavery - and absolutely so. And good means good - and absolutely so...." (all the same movement of doing amid acting and learning within the medium of language).

The language there is the medium of practices within which we learn, understand, and teach, not the source of learning, understanding, or teaching. 

Hence "slavery is good" stands.

As in TGM.

It is Man - Full Stop.

As in TGM.

Also, you're not only mistaken there, but here too:

"Up is not down" is merely an example of where the medium within which we learn and understand (language) does, once it is common practice (conveyed meaning), prevents us from insisting "up is down". It's one of the guardrails in the medium of practices within which we learn, understand, and teach, not the source of learning, understanding, or teaching. If you tell us up IS down, the medium within which we learn (language's up is NOT down) does *absolutely* help us recognize that specific contradiction/collision. In fact, but for the medium of language's common practice we wouldn't recognize the contradiction.

Contradictions, falsities, absurdities, etc.

Language *absolutely* is helpful here. Meaning is conveyed. That you assert that language conveys no meaning wrt contradictions (or absurdity or whatever) is indefensible. The proof of that is to challenge you to convey meaning to me in this blog without entering anything in the comment box.

Good luck.

Language is a guardrail.

Cars hit guardrails and cause problems. Up is down. Red is blue.

It's the medium of practices within which we learn, understand, and teach, not the source of learning, understanding, or teaching. 

Reason, logic, and language all impact us wrt contradictions, absurdities, and so on.

Try showing me where I'm mistaken *WITHOUT* that trio of guardrails.

Good luck.

Then, follow those guardrails into a town named "Final, Ultimate, Cosmic Absurdity" and see what they do to your car. If you want to escape that town alive (sane), you'll have to bounce off of the trio of guardrails as opposed to crashing *through* reason, logic, and conveyed meaning.

Your hand-waving at reasoning ourselves out of ultimate / cosmic absurdity is unfortunate. Sure, avoiding collisions with guardrails forces us into funny words that look a lot like theological semantics but that is neither here nor there.

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

The same problem repeats but from yet another direction in your analysis:

"There is no way to reason yourself through the boundaries of nature for there are no boundaries which are recognizable from the inside."

Crashing *through* reason, logic, and conveyed meaning is irrelevant because one must, to avoid contradictions and absurdities, bounce off of the trio of guardrails.

Your hand-waving at reasoning ourselves out of ultimate / cosmic absurdity is unfortunate. Sure, avoiding collisions with guardrails forces us into funny words that look a lot like theological semantics but that is neither here nor there.

Don Jindra said...

pck,

"Rules of logic by themselves do not lead anywhere. For example, the entire game of mathematics 'leads' exactly nowhere, since no mathematical statement says anything (about the world). ... Understanding is to know how to do, not to know how to formally manipulate symbols."

Yet when I say things like this, I get pilloried. If I read this blog long enough the very ideas I've expressed and which get thoroughly ridiculed are often repeated as gospel truth when a cherished local belief is in the balance.

Glenn said...

Yet when I say things like this, I get pilloried. If I read this blog long enough the very ideas I've expressed and which get thoroughly ridiculed are often repeated as gospel truth when a cherished local belief is in the balance.

Except you don't say things like that. (And if you did start making statements like that, they would have a different meaning coming from you than they do coming from pck.)

And, unlike you have made, pck does not make a public display of indulging in self-pity. (Maybe he never does; this too is good.)

But let's play a game, and pretend, briefly, that it was you, and not pck, who made the statements quoted at the top of your comment. I'll respond to each statement, and each response with have two parts: the first part will be an agreement, and the second part will be constituted of a 'nonetheless' or a 'however'.

"Rules of logic by themselves do not lead anywhere."

True.

Nonetheless, in the hands (so to speak) of a rational human being, the rules of logic can be quite the useful tool when properly applied.

"For example, the entire game of mathematics 'leads' exactly nowhere, since no mathematical statement says anything (about the world)."

True.

A rational human being, however, can employ mathematical statements in his saying something about the world. (And another rational human being can make sense of -- (not will make sense of, but can make sense of, i.e., is capable of making sense of) -- what the first rational human being was thereby saying about the world.)

"Understanding is to know how to do, not to know how to formally manipulate symbols."

Quite true it is that merely knowing how to formally manipulate symbols does not constitute understanding (of anything more than how symbols can be, might be or are to be formally manipulated).

A rational human being, however, can see from this how, similarly, mere physical processes themselves cannot be determinate among incompossible forms or functions.

- - - - -

Now, if you had been saying "things like this", it would follow that you, as a rational human being, can see how mere physical processes themselves cannot be determinate among incompossible forms or functions.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

"Nonetheless, in the hands (so to speak) of a rational human being, the rules of logic can be quite the useful tool when properly applied."

Of course they can. I've never claimed otherwise.

"A rational human being, however, can employ mathematical statements in his saying something about the world."

Of course they can. Mathematics is a great descriptive language. I've never claimed otherwise.

"A rational human being, however, can see from this how, similarly, mere physical processes themselves cannot be determinate among incompossible forms or functions."

First, that statement does not follow from "Understanding is to know how to do, not to know how to formally manipulate symbols."

Nevertheless, a rational human being should have the courage to follow his supposed understanding of the world to its logical conclusion, especially if that human being has great faith in the deductive power of logic. So if physical processes themselves cannot be determinate among incompossible forms or functions, then it follows that final cause (which is nothing more than human interpretation of physical processes) is not determinate. It also follows that the functions that I generate in the form of sentences are incompossible forms or functions.

So:

"And, unlike you have made, pck does not make a public display of indulging in self-pity."

Along with your other insinuations, that would be yet two more sets of physical processes that are indeterminate among incompossible functions. IOW, you just make stuff up so that the world fits your preconceptions. That's the gist of Ross, and that's the gist of what pck is saying. The more you guys defend your positions, the more you undercut the foundations of your philosophies.


Glenn said...

Glenn,

>> "Nonetheless, in the hands (so to speak) of a rational human being, the rules of logic can be quite the useful tool when properly applied."

> Of course they can. I've never claimed otherwise.

My comment doesn't say -- and I didn't say via my comment -- that you have claimed otherwise.

>> "A rational human being, however, can employ mathematical statements in his saying something about the world."

> Of course they can. Mathematics is a great descriptive language. I've never claimed otherwise.

My comment doesn't say -- and I didn't say via my comment -- that you have claimed otherwise.

>> "A rational human being, however, can see from this how, similarly, mere physical processes themselves cannot be determinate among incompossible forms or functions."

> First, that statement does not follow from "Understanding is to know how to do, not to know how to formally manipulate symbols."

1. My comment doesn't say -- and I didn't say via my comment -- that 'that' statement follows from "Understanding is..."

2. What I did say, via my comment, was that, "A rational human being...can see from [X] how, similarly, mere physical processes themselves cannot be determinate among incompossible forms or functions," where [X] is, "merely knowing how to formally manipulate symbols does not constitute understanding (of anything more than how symbols can be, might be or are to be formally manipulated)."

- - - - -

Also, if there really wasn't any bit of self-pity in or behind... "Yet when I say things like this, I get pilloried. If I read this blog long enough the very ideas I've expressed and which get thoroughly ridiculed are often repeated as gospel truth when a cherished local belief is in the balance" ... then I stand corrected.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

Thanks for the clarification. I'll try not to read subtext into your words in the future. But for the record, I kind of enjoy getting pilloried. If I got no reaction at all... well, then I might take to the bottle. :) My comment was meant to note that my positions are not totally out of left field. Those who criticize me occasionally take similar positions. It goes with the territory. I'm reminded of Plato's Protagoras where Socrates and Protagoras start on one side of an argument and find they're on nearly opposite sides at the end. I'm wondering if any philosophy is completely free from that threat, especially in the heat of battle. I know I have to be vigilant on my end.

Glenn said...

DJ,

Well, I don't want to be responsible for you taking to the bottle; but I'll just say, with the importation of a little equivocation, that it's good to be vigilant regarding one's end.

pck said...

DNW:
I meant indicative and performative to name different functions of, or kinds of speech-acts or the use of words.

Performative use: "I now pronounce you man and wife"; "I knight thee";
Indicative: "The oak tree you asked about is over there."


I see, I misunderstood you there. While distinctions like these are emphasized in W.'s philosophy as well, the difference between W. and Austin, and also Gilbert Ryle, is that the latter two engage much more in exposing and classifying the gory details of applications of ordinary language. Their philosophy thus includes more linguistic elements than Wittgenstein's.

For example, in the book you linked to (thanks for that, very helpful), Austin examines different kinds of Misunderstandings and Misexecutions. Wittgenstein did not develop categories like that, but like Austin warns against the confusions that emerge from overlooking differences and conflating diversities in ordinary language (e.g. HTDTWW, pg. 38).

Where do language-games fit into this? Austin, for example, might work out in detail what kinds of infractions can occur in indicative speech, that is, what types of breaches in meaning can occur, while Wittgenstein (in the P.I.) is more concerned with how meaning comes into the world at all.[1] That is what the notion of language-games is meant to clarify. The "games" in "language-games" is a reminder a) that for language to have meaning it needs rules and formal regularities and b) that it needs practice. A game is only a game if it is being played -- something actually needs to happen (and it cannot be speech acts alone).[2]

[1] Austin, as far as I can tell, deals with meaning not in general, but explicitly and individually through the examination of the uses of words.
[2] Which Austin wouldn't deny (see link in [1] above).

The concept of family resemblances is needed to explain what connects different language-games, because the later W. did not think that there is such a thing as a "general form" of language, just as there is no general form of games. Family resemblances explain how we gradually move from one use of a term to another, changing or diversifying our logical spaces, without necessarily sticking to any "core practices". Agreement between humans does not happen in language, it happens in "form of life" (practice).

Practice is paramount for the explanation of how meaning is possible. For W., we understand (or misunderstand) each other when our forms of life overlap (we share forms of life), not because we have the same or similar rules from which we construct what we say. Thus meaning is immanent in our practices (which include speaking), but not in language alone.

As I quoted from a link before, Wittgenstein apparently characterizes or exemplifies language games in the following terms:

[examples]

Now just how different these "games" are from what Austin is referring to, I am not sure


These indeed exemplify the diversity of the functions of language. But they do not characterize the notion of "language-game(s)" itself. (No amount of examples of applications of language could do that.)

since I still cannot understand - and never have been able to - why the notion of a game was dragged in as a paradigm, in the first place; if all he intends to convey is something indistinguishable from what Austin is saying.

I hope it's a little clearer now. Wikipedia says that "Austin disavowed any overt indebtedness to Wittgenstein's later philosophy". And it's true that you don't need the concept of language-games in order to do the work Austin does.

pck said...

scbrownlhrm:
The language of "Slavery is good" emerges. All meaning in that is contingent upon man/context and streams from immaterial abstraction [...]

I don't understand this. What abstraction are we talking about here?

What is goodness? Well it is goodness - and absolutely so and we relate all of that to one another in our coping with reality and exchanging meaning (and so on in the game)

How can we relate anything to anything and/or "exchange meaning" using tautological explanations such as "What is goodness? Well it is goodness"? Is the first "goodness" supposed to refer to the word and the second one to the thing-in-itself? If so, the first one should be in quotes to make this clear.

Hence "slavery is good" stands.
As in TGM.


Actually, in TGM nothing "stands", because in TGM we have no such thing as meaning (or acting, talking, etc.).

In TGM the world is a 3D movie playing in a theater called the universe and its "actors" can "mean" as much as the changing patterns of light on the screen of an ordinary cinema can "mean" anything, namely nothing. When the image of Clark Gable says "Frankly my dear...", the image neither gives a damn nor doesn't.

"Up is not down" is merely an example of where the medium within which we learn and understand (language) does, once it is common practice (conveyed meaning), prevents us from insisting "up is down".

Agreed, if "conveyed" means "established" and not "explained".

It's one of the guardrails in the medium of practices within which we learn, understand, and teach, not the source of learning, understanding, or teaching. If you tell us up IS down, the medium within which we learn (language's up is NOT down) does *absolutely* help us recognize that specific contradiction/collision. In fact, but for the medium of language's common practice we wouldn't recognize the contradiction.

Agreed, if by "recognize" you mean "acknowledge" and not "discover".

Language *absolutely* is helpful here. Meaning is conveyed. That you assert that language conveys no meaning wrt contradictions (or absurdity or whatever) is indefensible.

I think you misunderstood me. I said that logic (the inner rules of language) alone doesn't convey meaning, not that using language cannot. But language by itself cannot convey anything. If you want to teach someone the use of "red", you have to show him something red. You cannot convey the meaning of "red" over the telephone. Language alone isn't enough to establish meaning. (It can occasionally be if the recipient of an explanation has already mastered substantial parts of a language.)

With conceptual truths like P="up is the opposite of down", we don't "discover the truth" about "up" and "down". P is not a fact, but a rule of language which shows how to use "up" and "down". (Of course it is not the only rule, and "up" and "down" can only acquire meaning when they are used within practices.)

The proof of that is to challenge you to convey meaning to me in this blog without entering anything in the comment box.

This is not a proof, just a non sequitur. The reason that we can communicate meaning using words on a blog is that we both already have mastered language and in so doing had to acquaint ourselves with the world via practices.

Language is a guardrail.

Agreed, but what is in question is what type of guardrail it is and how far it can be extended.

Reason, logic, and language all impact us wrt contradictions, absurdities, and so on.

Agreed. But the question was how it is possible for them to have that impact.

pck said...

Then, follow those guardrails into a town named "Final, Ultimate, Cosmic Absurdity" and see what they do to your car.

My point was that you cannot follow our ordinary rails into the transcendent. They cannot possibly lead there, just like you cannot use the objects of set theory to define the notion of "set". The ordinary guardrails available to us are located within the system and cannot lead out of it, because they are part of what defines the system. This is an inescapable fact.

If you want to escape that town alive (sane), you'll have to bounce off of the trio of guardrails as opposed to crashing *through* reason, logic, and conveyed meaning.

There is no such thing as crashing through reason, because you cannot say what is on the other side of reason, as that is by definition unsayable (or unarguable if you prefer). You cannot look at the other side of the fence of understanding. It's like asking what a colour that is outside of the spectrum which humans can see might look like.

If on the other hand you bounce off of the guardrails, then that just shows that you have attempted to say something nonsensical. But it doesn't get you beyond the rails either. And that's where the transcendent "is".

To explore the transcendent, what you can do is to set up a mirror game of logic that already *starts* on the other side (beyond nature), and which is inspired by ordinary experience. The mirror game is still a logical game, but not anchored in meaning. (Keyword: "Blind truth ascriptions." See W L Craig's article.) Thus "existence" becomes "Existence", inspired by the thought of "the whole of nature". It's a formal extrapolation. The two are logically, but not meaningfully connected.

Your hand-waving at reasoning ourselves out of ultimate / cosmic absurdity is unfortunate. Sure, avoiding collisions with guardrails forces us into funny words that look a lot like theological semantics but that is neither here nor there.

I wasn't hand-waving. I said there very clearly that is no such thing as reasoning ourselves out of or beyond nature (in the ordinary sense of "reasoning") and I gave a clear reason why I think so. However, to claim that the proposition "there is necessary meaning" is an existential qualification on the same level as "there is meaning", is hand-waving indeed. Because nobody knows what "necessary meaning" means, including you. If anybody knows, it's God, and even for Him, it's not a propositional truth (if I follow the reasoning in Craig's article).

pck said...

Crashing *through* reason, logic, and conveyed meaning is irrelevant because one must, to avoid contradictions and absurdities, bounce off of the trio of guardrails.

Yes, it is irrelevant, because it's impossible. And you do bounce off the guardrails with concepts like "necessary meaning" if you follow ordinary reason and logic. Reason, logic and language, as we come to know them as we grow up, form the limits of understanding and meaning. They are not enough to access the transcendent. We do indeed take, as D. B. Hart says, our grammar for speaking about the transcendent from our undeniable ordinary experiences. Right at the beginning of "The Experience of God" he says that God does not exist (in the ordinary sense of "to exist"). So we need to come up with another use of "exist". But this new use cannot be rooted in experience in the same way as the ordinary use of "exist" is.[1] It can be formally inspired by it though. As I said before, I'm fine with that. I'm not saying that transcendent metaphysics is useless or should be abolished. And saying that the world came from nothing or that nature itself has necessary existence is still bad metaphysics: They're still both logically self-refuting even if they are "just" formal extensions inspired by the ordinary concepts of "nothing", "creation" and "contingent/necessary existence". But it follows that what you get when you say "God exists" (in the new transcendent sense) is a different kind of truth, whose "meaning" will always escape your sight. It will not be on par with any ordinary propositional truth, just like ethical truths or a truth about the human condition expressed in a Shakespearian sonnet.

It would be extremely surprising if the world's ultimate Existence and Meaning could become available to us just by following the trio of guardrails of reason, logic and language. (Remember the book is called "The Experience of God", not "The Logic, Reason, or Description of God". Being takes precedence over reason and logic and our own Being is a supernatural, transcendent "fact" which is not accessible by ordinary language.)

[1] The ordinary use of "existence" is always understood against the possibility of non-existence, which means that it cannot smoothly lead to the concept of necessary existence. It takes a leap (of faith if you wish) into the transcendent to get there. It's not so much a leap across the guardrails as teleporting into a new, independent, logical space, where the handling of "Existence" is inspired by (but not strictly logically deduced from) "existence", and so on.

scbrownlhrm said...


PCK,

Reasoning within the causal system of materialism (physics -- full stop) is, as Feser and D. Hart both affirm, and as you (or perhaps W.?) inexplicably deny, breaks down into ultimate insanity (Feser) or absurdity (Hart).

Anonymous said...

Distinctions between various teloi, such as teleomatic, teleonomic and teleologic might successfully refer to emergent features in the great chain of being per a phenomenological taxonomy, which takes account of increasing complexity or ontological density.

That phenomenological taxonomy provides conceptual placeholders precisely at those junctures in reality where explanatory adequacy eludes us. That's all an essential emergentist stance gifts us i.e. something novel emerges from something else. It doesn't describe meta/physical primitives or rely on a particular root metaphor.

Supervenience, then, combined with notions of weak and strong emergence, remains, in the former case, question begging, in the later, a trivial distinction.

More concretely, this is to recognize that, regarding field origins - quantum interpretations still compete; cosmic origins - cosmogonies compete; life origins - a/biopoietics compete; consciousness origins - philosophies of mind compete; human origins - anthropoietics compete. Formal and final causations remain indispensable conceptions in any phenomenological taxonomy that aspires to make sense of all of these competing interpretations of realities with their various epistemic and/or ontic states, presenting in varying degrees of in/determinability and/or in/determinedness. Again, concretely, for example, even a nonreductive physicalism "proves" too much. Only an emergentist stance that remains open both epistemologically and ontologically regarding veldopoietics (field origins), cosmopoietics, biopoietics, sentiopoietics (consciousness origins) and sapiopoietics (human & symbolic language origins) can provide authentic heuristic value, using formal and final causations to vaguely refer to effects proper to no known causes and properties proper to no known entities, bookmarking our explanatory gaps.

Such meta-theoretic and meta-physical interpretations don't compete with but are the best friends of science, preventing its premature foreclosure on fruitful avenues of research by arrogant eliminativist claims such as, for example, consciouness explained (or telos banished).

~ L.E.


scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

Your claim of immaterial consciousness, experiences, agency, reason and so on is fine. The problem is: Reasoning within the causal system of materialism (physics -- full stop) is, as Feser and D. Hart both affirm, and as you (or perhaps W.?) inexplicably deny, breaks down into ultimate insanity (Feser) or absurdity (Hart).

[1] Consciousness, reasoning, language, and so on, all converge within the conveyed meaning constituting the anthology of “Physics – Full Stop”.

Just as:

[2] Consciousness, reasoning, language, and so on, all converge within the conveyed meaning constituting the anthology of “Reasoning – Consciousness – Full Stop”.

W.’s blind leap of faith into the immaterial is fine – and he is welcome to whatever version of immaterialism or Panpsychism or soft Idealism or soft Solipsism he wishes.

Consciousness is immaterial?

That’s unhelpful for such leaves W. within the system of “conveyed meaning” over inside of the causally closed system of [1] and [2]. W. (or you etc…) is entitled to blur causation between [1] and [2] to the point of unintelligibility, or to just deny it altogether and land in the explanatory terminus of Reasoning/Consciousness Full Stop – of Mind – Full Stop – with a complete disconnect as to “conveyed meaning” constituting [2] from any and all “conveyed meaning” constituting [1].

Neither you nor W. (etc.) have presented coherent means by which one even has a “system” to move “within”, by which one merges [1] and [2]. If his explanatory terminus just is Reasoning, Consciousness, Language – Full Stop – Mind – Full Stop – well that is fine. The Christian does not disagree with such in principle given the Divine Mind, and so on. That is why the Christian follows W. much farther than he follows the materialist and it is also why W. is so interesting to the Christian in general.

Unfortunately W.’s impressive and final (Cosmic) silence on [1] vis-à-vis [2] is where the Christian leaves W. behind for W. chooses to remain within the system of “conveyed meaning” as per the system (singular) of [1] and [2] which suffers a final absurdity absent a cogent handling of said system.

That impressive (Cosmic) silence continues on inside of slavery’s goodness as when W. or you are presented with such a claim upon reality you both merely shrug at such goodness and claim that there neither is nor isn't any such thing – features are not things or treatable as if they were things, just like the joy in a joyful dance cannot be, object-like, separated from the dance. Hence slavery’s goodness stands unopposed by anything you or W. have offered or even can offer.

This same final (Cosmic) silence is also where all that W. (or you etc…) have presented so far takes us regarding any and all causal interfaces within the system of [1]’s conveyed meaning plus [2]’s conveyed meaning. Perhaps as in slavery’s goodness, so too on brains, material, thoughts, immaterial, reasoning, consciousness, and said causally closed system within which W. is permanently fixed there neither is nor isn't any such thing.

Which is fine as far as it goes as W. and you / W. just keep claiming this or that immaterial contour within reality. Which, again, is an X which the Christian agrees with in principle, and, also, such is an X which cannot help W. (or you etc…) escape Feser’s charge of final (Cosmic) insanity or D. B. Hart’s charge of final (Cosmic) absurdity.

Consciousness as the immaterial, standing in midair, just isn’t helpful, especially given the fact that no such immaterial reality ever existed until Man, skulls, and brains came into existence – unless Consciousness / Immaterial preceded Man, skulls, and brains. W,’s silence on this and on slavery’s goodness just isn’t golden and essentially forces an ice cream cone atop which we find a rounded scoop of soft Panpsychism or soft Idealism. To which W. can only reply with a shrug and state, “There neither isn’t nor is any such thing……”

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

BTW, on slavery's goodness, which particular rock-bottom of reality W. is presented with is irrelevant, for he cannot move, on his own terms, beyond that pesky "neither is nor isn't" in any final (Cosmic) contour of immutable love which precedes, defines, and out-distances Man and Man's reality.

Immaterial consciousness stuck inside of W.'s causally closed system suffers the same Final / Cosmic-Silence as TGM suffers. W1 affirming slavery's goodness and his twin, W2, affirming slavery's evil suffer a stalemate given their shared causally closed system Even worse, the emergence of "neither is nor isn't" equates to TGM's eventual shrug of cosmic indifference and complete silence on the matter.

Goodness and Reasoning suffer the same fatal pains within W.'s causally closed system.

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

Of course, goodness and reasoning need not be thusly unhinged -- for one is free to follow reasoning into something other than the final absurdity and blind shrugs constituting W.'s immaterial leaps of faith into the immaterial.

pck said...

Anonymous/L.E.:
Supervenience, then, combined with notions of weak and strong emergence, remains, in the former case, question begging, in the later, a trivial distinction.

Yes, all that "emergence" can ever give us are further (and therefore unnecessary) affirmations of the phenomena we already recognize. Mind as construed by supervenience or epiphenomenalism cannot possibly render any fruitful insights.

Only an emergentist stance that remains open both epistemologically and ontologically regarding veldopoietics (field origins), cosmopoietics, biopoietics, sentiopoietics (consciousness origins) and sapiopoietics (human & symbolic language origins) can provide authentic heuristic value, using formal and final causations to vaguely refer to effects proper to no known causes and properties proper to no known entities, bookmarking our explanatory gaps.

In many (though not all) cases where we recognize "explanatory gaps" between different ontic and epistemic "layers of reality", it is a tacit and unexamined commitment to reductionism that produces the illusion of gaps to be explained in the first place. These "gaps" cannot be filled by reference to a single, homogeneous notion of "cause". I don't think formal or final causes have anything vague about them, they only appear thus in an epistemology which is overly committed to the subset of efficient causes modern science uses ("effects proper").

pck said...

scbrownlhrm:
Your claim of immaterial consciousness, experiences, agency, reason and so on is fine. The problem is: Reasoning within the causal system of materialism (physics -- full stop) is, as Feser and D. Hart both affirm, and as you (or perhaps W.?) inexplicably deny, breaks down into ultimate insanity (Feser) or absurdity (Hart).

It's perfectly possible to reason "within the causal system of materialism", as physics does, without breaking down into "ultimate insanity" or absurdity. It would be absurd to deny this and neither Feser nor Hart do so. Of course materialism cannot capture all of reality. I don't know why you think that I deny this. My chief reason for developing an interest in philosophy and W. in particular was to break away from a physicalist worldview which I knew couldn't be correct.

W.’s blind leap of faith into the immaterial is fine – and he is welcome to whatever version of immaterialism or Panpsychism or soft Idealism or soft Solipsism he wishes.

Speaking of ultimate absurdity, I suggest you actually read some W. before jumping to such conclusions. There are extensive series of remarks of his which deal with (and reject) all of the -isms you list. W. is not a philosopher of -isms. While a good portion of his work does examine particular -isms and identifies what is useful or salvagable and what is not, the results do not amount to a "Wittgensteinianism", but to something quite different, namely a greater perspicuity with regard to the status and uses of language. Much of what W. wrote is concerned with what the goals of philosophy can or should be, and the production of more and more -isms is not among those goals. This is perhaps the biggest difference between W. and traditional philosophers -- W. does not try to build a new system or theory.[1]

Thus there is no "blind leap into the immaterial" in Wittgenstein. The exact opposite is the case. Wittgenstein examines the actual, concrete uses of words like "material" and "immaterial". His (later) philosophy is always grounded in our actual use of "grammar", not in metaphysical speculations, which, by contrast, do indeed involve leaps, not of faith, but of logic, as discussed earlier (see my remarks about blind truth ascription). See also Tony's post here.

[1] You use the phrase "W.'s causally closed system" a lot. But W. has no system, much less a "causally closed" one. These terms make no sense if applied to W.'s philosophy.

pck said...

Consciousness is immaterial?
That’s unhelpful for such leaves W. within the system of “conveyed meaning” over inside of the causally closed system of [1] and [2].


This makes no sense. It seems to me that you're projecting materialist fallacies onto misunderstood conceptions about Wittgenstein. In fact, the very phrase "causally closed system" would on a Wittgensteinian analysis come out as either incoherent or empty of content.

The phrase "Consciousness is immaterial" reifies consciousness, which violates the philosophies of both Aristotle and Wittgenstein. Neither Aristotle nor Wittgenstein are "immaterialists". "Consciousness" refers to a diversity of human abilities, not to a material or immaterial object or something that can be treated like one. W. is concerned with clarifications of the actual use of terms like "immaterial" and "consciousness", how they are related, what they refer to in actual linguistic practice, and so on. None of this leaves us "inside a causally closed system". On the contrary, since we are free to expand our logical spaces by creating new practices, the philosopher's work is never done, as it has to continuously examine and re-examine the changing forms of human life.

W. (or you etc…) is entitled to blur causation between [1] and [2] to the point of unintelligibility, or to just deny it altogether and land in the explanatory terminus of Reasoning/Consciousness Full Stop – of Mind – Full Stop – with a complete disconnect as to “conveyed meaning” constituting [2] from any and all “conveyed meaning” constituting [1].

There is no such disconnect. There is no need explain any causal relations between "Physics" and "Consciousness". These do not exist. There is no "explanatory gap", because there is nothing to explain in terms of (efficient) causation. Nobody says "my neurons caused my hand to move" and even if they did, it would just be a metaphor for "I moved my hand". If you think that there is something to explain there, you have fallen prey to a metaphysical fiction which construes the workings of the mind as the manipulation of immaterial objects on an inner stage which is mysteriously connected to "the physical". But this is just crypto-Cartesian dualism. An analysis of the use of ordinary language, as conducted by W., reveals this.

Neither you nor W. (etc.) have presented coherent means by which one even has a “system” to move “within”, by which one merges [1] and [2].

True, because such "merging" is a fiction. It does not occur, neither in life, nor in language.

That impressive (Cosmic) silence continues on inside of slavery’s goodness as when W. or you are presented with such a claim upon reality you both merely shrug at such goodness and claim that there neither is nor isn't any such thing – features are not things or treatable as if they were things, just like the joy in a joyful dance cannot be, object-like, separated from the dance. Hence slavery’s goodness stands unopposed by anything you or W. have offered or even can offer.

The silence mentioned at the end of the Tractatus is meant to convey that there are things which cannot be talked about using factual language, not that these things do not exist. Ethical notions are indeed among what one must be silent about according to the early W., but this does not mean that they do not show themselves in language (it's just that they cannot be said) or that one must "shrug off" the notion of slavery being good (or bad).

So even for the early W. it was no question that ethics and morality were part of reality. He did construe them to lie "outside of nature", much like the Christian does.

pck said...

One opposes slavery by acting against it, not by giving a logical proof that "slavery is bad, q.e.d". This shows one's stance concerning slavery. One's actions are part of reality. We must not conflate life/reality and talking-about-life/reality. A Christian is in no better position to say that slavery is bad than an atheist or agnostic. The appeal to a cosmic or divine "Good" pertains to the matter of justification for your actions, not to the question of your actions being capable (or incapable) of being good (or bad). There is indeed no such thing as goodness, but that doesn't mean one cannot be good or that one cannot argue against the claim that slavery is good. By the same standard one could also not argue the opposite, so one would have to conclude that "good" and "bad" have no meaning at all, which is obviously wrong, even for the atheist.

[...] where the Christian leaves W. behind for W. chooses to remain within the system of “conveyed meaning” as per the system (singular) of [1] and [2] which suffers a final absurdity absent a cogent handling of said system.

As I said earlier, W. is not the be-all, end-all of philosophy. But one can (and, as I believe, should) profit from W.'s philosophy in a Christian context. Two important points are:

A) It is wrong to claim that remaining within physics "suffers a final absurdity", as long as one is aware that physics is not the last word on everything; and

B) What is in question for the Christian is the status of the language he uses in his theology. Here we need to acknowledge that "following logic and reason" is not the same as following a trail of breadcrumbs which eventually leaves us at the door of ultimate truth. Two (related) reasons why this is so are:

1) Logic is not exclusively a process of deduction. It also involves acts of creation, which in turn involve decisions that cannot be read off of the world (although they can be inspired by it). This is already true of purely formal systems such as mathematics (for example in the definition of irrational numbers) and is equally apparent in the distinctions we draw in our linguistic practices. These play a big part in our understanding of the world (and whatever may lie beyond). The objection that the world does not change if we change our "syntax" has no bite, despite being, to some extent, correct.

2) The logic used in talking about the transcendent has no meaning in the ordinary sense of the word and is inspired, but not justified, by ordinary notions of meaning and sense (again, see "blind truth ascriptions" by WL Craig or the ontological discussions of analogous uses of "exists" in Feser's "Aquinas", pg. 58, or the opening chapter of "Experience of God" by DB Hart). Neither propositional logic and facts, nor logical reason, can capture our practices and speech involving ethics and aesthetics. There is no system of logical reason or rationality which can justify ethical aspects of reality, even if they are often used together and are interrelated in complicated ways.

So neither Christianity nor Wittgenstein's analyses can tell us, by way of logical proof, what a good life is or could be. What a Wittgensteinian analysis can do is to show how to get more clarity about what (for example) Christianity considers to be a good life (that is, how Christians use the word "good" within Christian life). Christianity is concerned with asking and answering what human life is about. Wittgenstein is concerned with clarifying how language is capable of conveying such convictions in the first place. There is no competition between two world-views there, but the option for the Christian philosopher to get to know more about how his own doctrine works within the stream of human life.

scbrownlhrm said...


PCK,

A comment didn't "take" (show up) yesterday, so I'll repost again, with a few more sentences added:

It seems that we are affirming the same limitations of W. ' s actual and/or intended "reach", though by drawing attention to different explanations of those limitations.

That consciousness and agency are immaterial were your words about W., about this business of reasoning. If, now, there neither is nor isn't material/immaterial, well there it is again. But that business of neither/nor lacks the power to go anywhere -- stalemates emerge in circular patterns.


W1, who affirms slavery's goodness, by word or *act*, or both, and his twin, W2, who affirms slavery's evil, by word or *act*, or both, are still in a stalemate within that system. Good or Evil, it's all still "Man -- Full Stop". 

Just as with the (final) state of affairs within the thorough going materialist's (TGM's) system. Different paths, same ending. Same stalemate.

Reasoning itself ends up in the same state of affairs within both systems (though I agree it is for obviously different "reasons").

There's much to appreciate in W.'s work. Teaching us to retain epistemic humility for one, and, also, the obvious business of meaning conveyed in and by immaterial consciousness (as his stopping point) -- which is heavily laden with what Non-Theists seem to dislike.

But those two facts (there's more to like of course) do not change where he leaves off wrt man, good, and reasoning. 

".....the option for the Christian philosopher to get to know more about how his own doctrine works within the stream of human life...." (via language and conveyed meaning) is beneficial, obviously.

The Christian disagrees that polemics against slavery convey exactly zero meaning as to the Immutable, as per W. Of course W. *must* claim that zero insight into the Immutable is conveyed *given* the fact that, ultimately, W.'s reach ends where TGM's reach ends (though they take different paths) and so too on reasoning.

Love. Reasoning. Mind. Being. Evil. Self/Other. Logic.

While TGM and W. are forced to converge and agree that zero insight into the Immutable exists, the demand of total rationalism for lucidity through and through rejects such a conclusion.

That is why E. Feser and D. Hart follow reason and logic beyond such a stopping point -- and rationally continue into nothing less than what total lucidity demands: God. Or as D. Hart describes it, "Total Rationalism".

pck said...

W.'s reach ends where TGM's reach ends (though they take different paths) and so too on reasoning.

Love. Reasoning. Mind. Being. Evil. Self/Other. Logic.


Pretty much all of W.'s work provides important insights into Reasoning, Mind, Self/Other, Being and Logic. (Love and Evil not so much, since he is not a theologian or philosopher of ethics.)

That is why E. Feser and D. Hart follow reason and logic beyond such a stopping point

The stopping point you imagine for W. does not exist. The problem may be that you have no actual formal training in logic or mathematics. If you knew more about how the sausage (of logic) is actually made, you would not jump to the claim that one can simply follow reason and logic to attain "total lucidity". I don't know about Feser, but D. Hart most certainly denies such a claim. (As all Christians ultimately must, since much of the weight of Christianity relies on revelation and not reason alone. But even if we ignore revelation, the business of "pure reason" depends on human creation of tools of thought as much as it does on our natural orientation/desire towards truth and lucidity.)

pck said...

W1, who affirms slavery's goodness, by word or *act*, or both, and his twin, W2, who affirms slavery's evil, by word or *act*, or both, are still in a stalemate within that system. Good or Evil, it's all still "Man -- Full Stop".

This is bad reasoning. The stalemate exists only in your mind. The man who does good and the man who commits evil acts really do good and/or evil, no matter what they think their justifications are. These things are in the world, they are realities.

To deduce moral relativism from the fact that not all men appeal to the same kind of authority (God, secular laws, personal convictions, etc.) is a fallacy. You conflate justification with ontology. Even in Christianity, good and evil are "man, full stop". It's not God who commits good or evil acts (in the ordinary sense of those terms, which are *ours*, not God's). Again you presume to be able to know the mind of God by climbing the ladder of rationality. This is hubris, and also quite rationally knowably false.

scbrownlhrm said...



PCK,

Your ontology is Man.

Full stop.

Hence:

Ontological stalemate.

Your ontology is this:

W1:

Slavery is good.

And:

W2:

Slavery is evil.

You haven't shown otherwise.

All you've offered is W1 and W2.

Or, simply: Man -- full stop.

Just like the thorough going materialist (TGM).

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

I'll try posting again..... didn't take....

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

A repost tomorrow perhaps.... comments don't seem to be taking today :-)

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK:

Comments haven't been "taking", so I'll try again here with what I think will end up being three comments ([1] / [2] / 3]) etc......

Here's [1],

Your (or W.’s) ontology claims that good and evil exist and yet your ontology fails to distinguish such things as it equates all lines in Man, given them all the ontic-status of Truth.

All you’ve offered us is W1 and W2. And both are Truth. Slavery is simultaneously good and evil.

Yet you claim that good and evil exist in distinction. Does W agree with you? Or have you left W behind here in Ethics?

Ontology:

W1: Slavery is good! (both in word and act)
W2: Slavery is evil! (both word and act)

Full stop.

Or, simply: Man – Full stop.

Just like the TGM (thorough going materialist).

Such a line suffers all the same (ultimate) annihilation of ontological distinctions (Good/Evil/Etc.) as Atheism or Non-Theism (and TGM) in its attempt to assert such actualities, though perhaps by a different “path”. That is to say, the contours of love's reciprocity are – at some ontological seam somewhere – either A) annihilated or else B) of equal metaphysical status as Selfishness, Hate, Amoral, Indifference, or Etc. Therefore “The-Good” vis-à-vis personhood/love once again (as in outright Atheism / TGM) fails as a (metaphysical) ultimate meaning maker, even though they are (the logic goes) “eternal” (though your case is even worse as it offers us not the eternal lines of pantheism or panpsychism but purely the temporal man and the neurons inside his skull).

To borrow from David Hart: Distinction is achieved only by violence among converging equals. Being is in some real sense a “…plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence…” (although you lack even that given that you’ve not yet offered us more than a temporal wad of neurons – full stop).

You’ve not offered us anything other than this:

[Slavery is good] [equals] [Slavery is evil] [equals] [Full Stop].

Your claim that we cannot follow rationality to God is both irrelevant and also laced with hubris. It is the later because it makes Man the measure of all things despite the final (or ultimate, or cosmic) painful intellectual cost of doing so – the stubbornness of hubris writ large across your slavery-dis-mathematic / dis-logic being but one tiny slice of thousands of painful examples – whichever road we travel. It is the former because we need not follow rationality to God. We need only avoid annihilating and expunging our own sanity, our own rationality. From David Bentley Hart’s “The Experience of God”, on reason’s impossibly extravagant appetite:

....continued....

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

Here's [2],

From David Bentley Hart on reason's impossibly extravagant appetite:

“In any event, my topic is not really the philosophy of mind, though by this point it may seem as if I have forgotten that. I am concerned not simply with the mystery of consciousness but with the significance of that mystery for a proper understanding of the word “God.” I admit that I have taken my time in reaching this point, but I think defensibly so. My claim throughout these pages is that the grammar for our thinking about the transcendent is given to us in the immanent, in the most humbly ordinary and familiar experiences of reality; in the case of our experience of consciousness, however, the familiarity can easily overwhelm our sense of the essential mystery. There is no meaningful distinction between the subject and the object of experience here, and so the mystery is hidden by its own ubiquity. One extremely good way, then, to appreciate the utter strangeness of consciousness — the hither side, so to speak, of that moment of existential wonder that wakens us to the strangeness of all things — is to consider the extraordinary labors required to describe the mind in purely material terms. We have reached a curious juncture in the history of materialism, which seems to point toward a terminus that is either tragic or comical (depending on where one’s sympathies lie). For a number of “naturalist” theorists it has become entirely credible, and even logically inevitable, that the defense of “rationalistic” values should require the denial of the existence of reason. Or, rather, intellectual consistency obliges them to believe that reason is parasitic upon purely irrational physical events, and that it may well be the case that our nonexistent consciousness is only deluded in intentionally believing that there is such a thing as intentional belief. Or they think that what we have mistaken for our rational convictions and ideas are actually only a colony of diverse “memes” that have established themselves in the ecologies of our cerebral cortices. Or whatever. At such a bizarre cultural or intellectual juncture, the word “fanaticism” is not opprobrious, but merely descriptive. We have reached a point of almost mystically fundamentalist absurdism. Even so, what is really astonishing here is not that some extreme proponents of naturalist thought accept such ideas but that any person of a naturalist bent could imagine that his or her beliefs permit any other conclusions. If nature really is what mechanistic metaphysics portrays it as being, then consciousness is, like being itself, super naturam; and that must be intolerable to any true believer in the mechanistic creed. Materialism is, as I have said, the least rationally defensible and most explanatorily impoverished of metaphysical dogmas; but, if materialism is one’s faith, even reason itself may not be too great an offering to place upon its altar. If one is to exclude the supernatural absolutely from one’s picture of reality, one must not only ignore the mystery of being but also refuse to grant that consciousness could possibly be what it self-evidently is………..."

continued....

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK,

[3]

"………I suggested above that, in many classical metaphysical traditions, the concept of being is one of power: the power of actuality, the capacity to affect or to be affected. To be is to act. This definition already implies that, in its fullness, being must also be consciousness, because the highest power to act — and hence the most unconditioned and unconstrained reality of being — is rational mind. Absolute being, therefore, must be absolute mind. Or, in simpler terms, the greater the degree of something’s actuality, the greater the degree of its consciousness, and so infinite actuality is necessarily infinite consciousness. That, at least, is one way of trying to describe another essential logical intuition that recurs in various forms throughout the great theistic metaphysical systems. It is the conviction that in God lies at once the deepest truth of mind and the most universal truth of existence, and that for this reason the world can truly be known by us. Whatever else one might call this vision of things, it is most certainly, in a very real sense, a kind of “total rationalism.” Belief in God, properly understood, allows one to see all that exists — both in its own being and in our knowledge of it — as rational. It may be possible to believe in the materialist view of reality, I suppose, and in some kind of mechanical account of consciousness, but it is a belief that precludes any final trust in the power of reason to reflect the objective truths of nature. I happen to think that a coherent materialist model of mind is an impossibility. I think also that the mechanistic picture of nature is self-evidently false, nothing more than an intellectual adherence to a limited empirical method that has been ineptly mistaken for a complete metaphysical description of reality. I believe that nature is rational, that it possesses inherent meaning, that it even exhibits genuine formal and final causes, and that therefore it can be faithfully mirrored in the intentional, abstractive, formal, and final activity of rational consciousness. If I am wrong about all of these things, however, I think it also clear that what lies outside such beliefs is not some alternative rationalism, some other and more rigorous style of logic, some better way of grasping the truth of things, but only an abandonment of firm belief in any kind of reasoning at all. God explains the existence of the universe despite its ontological contingency, which is something that no form of naturalism can do; but God also explains the transparency of the universe to consciousness, despite its apparent difference from consciousness, as well as the coincidence between reason and reality, and the intentional power of the mind, and the reality of truth as a dimension of existence that is at once objective and subjective. Here, just as in the realm of ontology, atheism is simply another name for radical absurdism — which, again, may be a perfectly “correct” view of things, if reason is just a physiological accident after all, and logic an illusion. That is an argument that I shall not revisit just now, however. Instead, I shall simply observe that, if reason’s primordial orientation is indeed toward total intelligibility and perfect truth, then it is essentially a kind of ecstasy of the mind toward an end beyond the limits of nature. It is an impossibly extravagant appetite, a longing that can be sated only by a fullness that can never be reached in the world, but that ceaselessly opens up the world to consciousness. To speak of God, however, as infinite consciousness, which is identical to infinite being, is to say that in Him the ecstasy of mind is also the perfect satiety of achieved knowledge, of perfect wisdom. God is both the knower and the known, infinite intelligence and infinite intelligibility. This is to say that, in Him, rational appetite is perfectly fulfilled, and consciousness perfectly possesses the end it desires. And this, of course, is perfect bliss.” (DBH – The Experience of God)

scbrownlhrm said...

PCK

Well ---- part [4],

Simply to clarify:

This:

To borrow from David Hart: Distinction is achieved only by violence among converging equals. Being is in some real sense a “…plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence…” (although you lack even that given that you’ve not yet offered us more than temporal neurons / Man -- full stop).

That was from DBH pointing out the final / cosmic pitfall of claim-making amid the paradigms of pantheism etc.... all lines end up equal -- and hence the irrational mathematics/logic of [Slavery is good] [equals] [Slavery is evil] [equals] [Full Stop] emerges -- and painfully so.

DBH wasn't claiming that such convergence of equals is true inside of the Christian paradigm -- but that outside of the Christian paradigm such lack of (ontic) distinction finally, or cosmically, emerges. Of course those sorts of paradigms give the same treatment (finally) to reason itself along with ethics, and for all the same "reasons".

scbrownlhrm said...

FWIW:

In an indirect sort of way.....


Segue:


From http://www.strangenotions.com/how-do-you-know-youre-not-in-the-matrix/


"I think solipsism is always an interesting topic because if we start "mid-stream" in our epistemology by rejecting solipsism (as I think most of us probably do), it is then interesting to try to infer what "upstream" structure of our thoughts must have led to this rejection. There is some hope that by swimming upstream in this manner we will discover certain "first principles" that lie unrecognized at the wellspring of our beliefs."(Jim/hillclimber)

scbrownlhrm said...

And, obviously.....

Two items on Wittgenstein:

[1] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/12/goodill-on-scholastic-metaphysics-and.html

[2] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/06/early-wittgenstein-on-scientism.html

scbrownlhrm said...


Speaking of Wittgenstein......


https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/68056-epistemic-angst-radical-skepticism-and-the-groundlessness-of-our-believing/

pck said...

I hadn't seen that you were still posting here. I'll make this brief since we're going in circles and you seem to keep misinterpreting what I've been saying. I cannot really tell since you have never responded to any of my inquiries for clarification. And as I have written about 100k of text already, there is little hope that things will change for the better.

Your ontology is Man.
Full stop.


No. Full stop. (Your "full stops" are getting a bit out of hand, don't you think? They don't help your argument and are starting to make you sound crazy.) See my posting from May 8, 2016 at 3:54 PM.

You are far too obsessed with calling everyone and everything with a different view other than making God the one and only reference point for all meaning a TGM. This is irrational because most of what we say and do is perfectly meaningful without any need to explicitly reference God. And this includes moral judgments. We don't need to invoke God for the purpose of issuing and understanding a statement like "you are a bad man for letting innocents come to harm on purpose" or "slavery is bad".

God only comes into play once we ask for a justification of such judgments, since the source of morality cannot be located within the world. (At least not within its material order, i.e. its "states of affairs" to use W.'s terms from the Tractatus. A state of affairs X can be good or bad, but the reason why X is good or bad cannot be another state of affairs Y, since then we could ask for a justification of Y, and so on ad infinitum. So either the source of morality is transcendental, or there is no morality at all.)

Additionally, for the Christian, it is important that God is referred to in a specific way when it comes to the justification of moral judgments.

Wittgenstein, being first and foremost a philosopher of language, did not say very much on the subject of ethics, but he noted once that whatever the reason for our being in the world may be, he was quite certain that "it is not to amuse ourselves". I read this as a hint that for him too, a) there is a source of morality and b) it is not located within the world. (This isn't too far-fetched considering he was strongly influenced and deeply impressed by Tolstoy's "The Gospel in Brief".)

All you’ve offered us is W1 and W2. And both are Truth. Slavery is simultaneously good and evil.

I haven't offered anything even remotely like this. Quite the contrary. This is a strawman you keep setting up again and again to justify your "TGM" conclusion. It became mere rhetoric long ago.

Obviously certain states of affairs can have opposing moral qualities at the same time. Not everything is perfectly clear cut.

Yet you claim that good and evil exist in distinction.

I don't. I claim that they exist as distinct qualities which often coexist within the same state of affairs. It's called moral ambiguity. The ancient Greeks were masters of telling stories about it.

Does W agree with you? Or have you left W behind here in Ethics?

See above. In his only lecture on ethics he explains that "good" and "bad" are fundamentally different from "true" and "false" (in the sense that facts are), since "good" and "bad" refer to a person or situation in their entirety without any qualifications, not just to what a person did or did not do (or what a situation is or is not like). I.e. compare

"You should not sell this slave at such a low price" (because of reasons X)
=> not a value judgement about slavery or the seller of slaves in question
to
"You should not buy and sell slaves"
=> no qualifying circumstances, no explicit reasons given (and it wouldn't help if there were)

pck said...

I think it's pretty safe to assume that W.'s take on good and bad/evil is not that different from the Christian conception. While W. is silent about the exact nature of the source of morality, it is reasonable to assume that he neither thought of it as illusory nor as being located within the material order (all of which is consistent with his favoured notion of a "silent religion").

Make of this what you want, but to conclude that W. is a "TGM" is simply not plausible at all.

pck said...

DBH: "being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed"

This is pretty much textbook Wittgenstein: Sense is always bi-polar, and any intelligible existing factual state of affairs must therefore, at least in principle, be also conceivable as not obtaining. This is why "1+1=2" is not a factual statement, but "pigs cannot fly" is. ("1+1=2" is instead a conceptual proposition, a rule of language.)

You: "although you lack even that given that you’ve not yet offered us more than a temporal wad of neurons – full stop)."

Again with the neurons I never talked about except when I said that the mind is not the brain. But I guess there is no stopping you from endlessly repeating a false narrative so you can have just one more "full stop".

Your claim that we cannot follow rationality to God is both irrelevant and also laced with hubris. It is the later because it makes Man the measure of all things despite the final (or ultimate, or cosmic) painful intellectual cost of doing so

Another gross distortion of what I actually said. The point was that rationality does not quite reach up to Existence (capital E) because God/Existence by definition has no conceivable opposite. "Existence" is knowable only by analogy with ordinary existence, which means (see DBH) opposition, i.e. being vs not-being. But for Being there is no such distinction. Hence our knowledge of God cannot possibly be of the same type as ordinary knowledge. Thus there is no perfectly rational ladder we can climb up and see God in the same way or sense as we are able to see ordinary existence.

It would indeed be hubris if I concluded from this that "man is the measure of all things". But that would obviously be ridiculous and I have explicitly affirmed the opposite. Nevertheless, an explicit, "positive" account of God must elude us and we can argue only vaguely by analogy. (And this is also the Thomist position.)

The rest of your paragraph reads more like a feverish rant than an argument:

the stubbornness of hubris writ large across your slavery-dis-mathematic / dis-logic being but one tiny slice of thousands of painful examples – whichever road we travel. It is the former because we need not follow rationality to God. We need only avoid annihilating and expunging our own sanity, our own rationality

No idea what this even means, or what this weird "-dis-" infix is supposed to be.

And finally:

DBH: "My claim throughout these pages is that the grammar for our thinking about the transcendent is given to us in the immanent, in the most humbly ordinary and familiar experiences of reality; in the case of our experience of consciousness, however, the familiarity can easily overwhelm our sense of the essential mystery. There is no meaningful distinction between the subject and the object of experience here, and so the mystery is hidden by its own ubiquity"

[emphases mine]

And this is nearly 100% identical to what I have argued. The fact that there is "no meaningful distinction between the subject and the object of experience" when it comes to Existence means precisely that we cannot really talk about it. An "essential mystery" remains and words (and by implication, rationality) must necessarily fail us. Which again is textbook Wittgenstein.