« Philosophize This!

Episode #097 ... Wittgenstein ep. 1

2017-03-01 | 🔗

Today we talk about Ludwig Wittgenstein. 

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Steven West, this is philosophies this. Thank you to all the generous people on Patreon that help support the show and thank you to all the vigilant people that click through the Amazon banner anytime you're buying something from there anyway. I really appreciate it. I hope you all love the show today. So I want to start today by talking about a very strange ritual that all of you engage in most of you. Don't even really think about it. You just do it. It's disgusting I've seen you, though, look I'm not shut for a long time, but I am not going to let you destroy this family. I seen you pull out that piece of dead get your little stick with the carbon ink on the front. You just squiggle lines on a piece of paper trying to convey meaning yeah. I was hiding in the closet. That day I saw you look. I've heard you make sounds with your throat and mouth trying to take an idea. That's up in your head and put it into the head of another person. Look as much as I don't like putting labels on things, making people uncomfortable I'm going to need to refer to it as something moving forward with the episode. I think I'm just going to refer to it as language from now on now the good
this year in good company, with all this bizarre behaviour engaging in practically every human being alive, engages in the very same ritual, in fact, every every human being that's been alive for the last hundred thousand years, made made a similar choice and just the sake of the today. There are some noteworthy figures throughout history that also fall into this class of people who have chosen to use language to communicate ideas like say I don't know, every philosoph where we ve ever talked about on the show, just think for a second, how massively important languages, whether your Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Karl Popper, whenever you are conducting philosophy, ultimate
you are a human being that is conducting philosophy from within the confines of a language. Let me think about it. It really is the only tool that we have to be able to communicate these ideas inside of our head now. One thing that actually follows from that: if you're a philosopher is you have to eventually ask yourself the question: what are these languages that we're all using? Where did they come from? Who invented them? Alexander, Graham Bell was that Tesla that did that more, seriously. I guess was it a philosopher, king, who sat around for decades pondering in assigning meaning to each and every word which you ve been compiled into a giant tome that he called Webster's dictionary. Now, that's not how languages form language and this many different theories about the origins of language, which is pretty clear. It wasn't ever a philosopher king generally speaking language. Is this this patchwork of mute
agreed upon names that a group of people sort of stumble upon, mostly to be able to communicate with each other about everyday things. Language is great if you want to order a double quarter, pounder with cheese, it's great. If you want to tell someone like down at the grocery store. No, I would not like to donate a dollar to help starving lizards in the Congo, but if you're, a philosopher and you're, in this business of being as clear and distinct with your ideas as possible in the business of communicating those ideas as effectively as possible, is this language that we use this thing really just created by a bunch of people ordering cheeseburger over the years? It's constantly being tweaked. Is this language necessarily capable of perfectly describing every possible thing that can exist? Any idea, philosopher could ever have seems unlikely seems like language has these sort of built in limitations, limitations that are almost certainly having a drastic effect on every philosophers work.
That had conveyed their ideas to it. Now, in that world of loss was operating, understanding, language becomes incredibly important and philosophers over the years have realised this, and even though we haven't really talk that much about it on the show, there is actually been a lot of work done in this field of analyzing language. People have asked all kinds of questions fun, questions. In fact, you know what I'm gonna be achieved. Here's some good criteria. If you ever want to know whether something so good philosophical question it has to make you instantly and reed and in Hungary to think about it. But simultaneously. It has and asked to make some average and walking down the street with you jump off the nearest bridge, questions like what is a word. What is a sentence? What is a proposition what does it mean to mean something? One? Other one of these questions of philosophers have passed over the years. Trying to get to the bottom of language is: how do words get their definitions who or what
Assigns these definitions. What criteria do they use to know whether something is a complete definition or not? Now, today, we're talking about Stein, Wittgenstein, around the time he's coming of age in the world early. Nineteen hundreds, the prevailing theory when it comes to this question of how we arrive at the definitions of words, is that the definition of a word is discovered when you understand the conditions for what's called both necessity, and sufficiency or when you understand the necessary conditions and sufficient conditions that makes the thing whatever it is that you're talking about, for example, sorry condition is something that needs to be present in order for thing to be whatever. It is, for example, a necessary condition for being a triangle is that you must have three sides didn't got three sides: you're, not a triangle. You're, just a jealous parallelogram get some therapy, that's a necessary condition. A sufficient condition is something that is sufficient for a thing to be whatever it is.
But it's not a mandatory property, for example, having an rss feed that posted to the podcast section of Itunes is a sufficient condition for being upon yes, but it isn't a necessary condition, because so you can imagine, somebody could easily create upon cast uploaded to spot a five google play sound club, just never uploaded to items so again. The prevailing theory around the time that concerns Doing. His work was that, if you understood all of these necessary insufficient sufficient conditions of any one thing you'd be able to provide the definition of that thing or Wittgenstein didn't agree, but to understand why he didn't agree with this. I think it's important important for us to have a little. It's important understand how fascinated he was with the field of mathematics. So If you look at the life of concern very early on in his life, he's fascinated with mechanical engineering actually starts going to school. Thinking that stuff he's going to eventually work in, but then something happens? Bertrand Russell another philosopher publishes a book in nineteen o three called the principles of mathematics that was so influential. It changes it consigns and tire outlook on what
should be doing with his life. That's how big it was. He quits mechanical engineering transfers to Cambridge, so he can study under Bertrand Russell who was teaching there at the time. I guess I'm trying to think of exactly where to start with this like when you think about it. Math is a pretty fascinating thing. Especially if you're philosopher I mean it's not a coincidence that so many of the great philosophers throughout history have also been mathematicians just think about what you're doing there when you're doing math. You have these propositions that you can state, and you can say these things with about it. What certainty is your ever going to get as a human being that's making propositions, for example, one plus one equals too. You can say with pretty much complete certainty that one plus one equals to doubt the validity of that statement.
Is the either be mistaken, or do not understand the definitions of the things that are being questioned. For example, the concept of one or the concept of addition, etc have a thing that so interesting about math living it typically intrigues philosophers about math is that here we have this equation right. This equation that we can state with absolute certainty. Yet when it comes to things that actually exist in the real world, what is the concept of one? What is that? Even I mean? What is the concept of three? Where is that concept of three in the real world is? Is it lost? Is down in that crack on the driver, saudi or car, between the seat in the door? Everything else gets lost. Where is this concept of three in the real world and, of course the answer is the concept of three doesn't exist physically, we can't hold onto it. Or empirically study it, so it ends up happening. Is math becomes a very strange realm or we can arrive at certainty about stuff, but it's all stuff that doesn't actually
in the world? We navigate our lives through, but, as I sure you can imagine, if you're somewhere, That is interested in arriving at certainty about things that do physically exist. Promising place to start might be delete. What people are doing in mathematics to try to apply that process to things that do physically exist. If we get the same level of certainty about things, this is been tried, dozens of times all throughout history, but it's still an intriguing prospect in one thousand nine hundred and three when the concern reads Bertrand Russell's book on the principles of mathematics. Now the problem with mathematics just by itself, is that it's kind of its own institution. It is not really useful and informing decision making or helping us think correctly about things or anything like that. However, it can sign things that they something else. We can look to something else that we do the has to do with human thought and when you put it side by side by mathematics and look at them starts to look like an incredibly similar thing. The thing he's talking about here is formal logic,
Think about it. In the same way, we can arrive at certainty about the notion that one plus one equals too. We can also arrive at certainty about the notion that you know if all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, then Socrates is mortal if all aid, our bees and some bees are sees than some aid must be sees. Logic provides us with parameters for our thinking, so that we can be sure we're thinking clearly, but on the other when it comes to math. Really, when was the last time barring you working in some sort of profession that requires advanced math on a daily basis, which I respect tremendously tremendous amount of respect for those good good people. You can believe how much respect I have for these people. It's incredible Barring that, when was the last time you ever used anything beyond basic arithmetic in your everyday life, when was the last time you try, He laid the position of the oatmeal in the pantry point. Is it may not often be very practically useful to know that the circumference of a circle is pie, our squared just like it may not be very use
to know that some bees are ced and some a's must be seized and logic. May resemble each other in this way, but a key difference between them is that, unlike math at least logic can be applied directly to our thinking and help us determine if we're thinking correctly, naturally follows from this: when you say something like all: men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal the thing that's implied when you say that is that there must be some sort of fundamental logical structure to, thought. Otherwise, what are we referencing when we use formal logic and what follows from that? If you're you're Weinstein, is that if there is a logical structure to all clear thinking, there must be a logical structure to communicating those thoughts. We have a name for this logical structure of communication. It's called language. This is the central task of it can entire body of work to try to understand how languages even possible between human beings understand the function of language to understand errors that
we'll make in communication that inevitably lead to errors in their thinking, but think about in order to fully understand these things, you can't just look at language. Not only do you have to look at the relationship between the language and the things it's describing, but also the relationship between Our thoughts and language Stein has two major works that cover this territory one published after he died called philosophical investigations, one published earlier in his life called the Tractatus by the way, just to give you an idea, despite the fact that his later work tries to refute a lot of the stuff he lay down in the Tractatus, despite the fact that the Tractatus is only seventy five pages If you had a list of the top ten greatest works on the philosophy of language, both of these books would be on that list, that's it can sign for it. So, let's get in what so in the track. Titus thickens, lays out, what's more commonly known as the picture theory of language famous story patently had some kind of Eureka I was reading the paper one day about a court case where they were going to
At the scene of the traffic accident using fake people, in fact cars to give the jury the clearest picture possible of what happened. It was in that, but that he realized, apparently that the function of proper, effective language is descriptive. It scribes state of affairs occurring in the world see practically everybody doesn't. Use language in a way, that's as precise as bit consign thinks as necessary in the Tractatus most of us just sort of cavalierly throw around words- and I guess I'm really think about it beyond that- does the job well enough right like, for example, I could be telling you guys a story about how I was walking through the park the other day and I saw this naked dude where, in a sandwich board, it had captured Nicky Menage painted across it, and he was screamed at the top of his lungs about how she is in ancient shaped shifting mythical creature, that's lived for thousands of years and terrorized every society that's ever existed and out he's doing it to us through music. We gotta stop right picture. That scene now consider the fact that every day,
who just pictured that scene pictured a scene that was similar to others in some ways, but very, very different in others, the reason there's so much variance between the pictures I put in your heads by the way is because I didn't respect the function of language, which is descriptive. Think of how many details I left out there was it nighttime or daytime what was the weather like? How tall was this man. What color was the sandwich board are the police officers that are arresting this man, state patrol or local precinct. I told you a story and the arrangement of words that I use worked well enough to relay to you a fun educational anecdote about Nicky Menage, imagine somebody much more skilled than I am describing things that was capable of using the exact right words in the exact right configuration that could put the exact picture they have in their head into yours in this way, land. When used properly pictures the world into somebody else's head, thickens time thought that if analyze, any sentence closely enough. You could eventually break it down
two primary parts things he called names which our terms DR things in the world, things like the Sandwich board, things like the grass in and the trees in the park, the the police officers, cotton, nine tales with, as he whipped the man into submission, and the second part is how these names specifically configured within the sentence. He thought in the same way there's a logical structure to the world and illogical structure to our thinking. What's the relationship to language, there must be some logical way that we can configure all these names order that directly mirrors the relationships between what actually happened in reality, thereby creating a picture of the scene, but for us it's not enough just to be able to describe reality, how it actually is. We want be able to speak clearly about every possible way that reality can be right. So what follows from this? If you're Weinstein, is that whenever you stayed a proposition anything.
It falls into one of three classes. If the proposition does picture reality is a truly is, then the proposition is true if it doesn't accurately described reality but describes a state of affairs that is theoretically possible, say it was a girl wearing the sandwich board. Then that statement false, but if the proposition describes something that is impossible or goes beyond the limits of language, the proposition is meaningless. Now the consign writes this seventy five page book and does he kick his feet up on the desk and have a keg party like every other philosopher, does no? No, he publishes the book and then proceeds to quit philosophy he quit, because he thought the book solved every philosophical dispute that it ever existed. He thought it was the last philosophical work that would ever have to be made. Let me explain see in his eyes, people all throughout history have been wasting their time from the very beginning. People are asking questions like like what is the meaning of my life.
It is a life, well lived. What is beauty now? They ve talked about this stuff and I argued back and forth and they can't ever seem to come to a consensus on any of it What if the reason this has always been the case is because for are using using the wrong tool for the job asking things like what is beauty. The meaning of my life. These are transcendental questions. Let me get this straight you're trying to use language this thing designed to describe states of affairs in the world this. This thing haphazardly, thrown together by people ordering cheeseburgers over the years, you're trying to use language to contemplate what the meaning of your life is remember, it wasn't created in a lab by a philosopher king, who made sure to include all kinds of neat words to be able to describe anything regardless of how transcendent it is, what if language is just incapable of describing these things? What, if the reason? What is the meaning of my life is such a perplexing question? Do us is because we're always trying to find an answer to it, while using language. Maybe languages is not the right tool for the job. It's it's.
Trying to hammer in some dry wall with a water bottle. It's not gonna work. It should be noted, be noted. Constant does think you can find an answer to this question. What is the meaning of my life is going to be through language If you went up discovering it you're, never gonna build a describe it through language. If it's possible to get an answer, it seems like it something that you have to experience. Einstein, he says this in one of his most famous lines quote: the truth shows itself, it is not said or even expressed in thought. What can be said can be said clearly of one cannot speak. One must remain silent and quote that's his famous line, and in so many people out there here that line contacts and they think he's just saying you know. Well, if you don't know what you're too about. You should probably keep your mouth shut. No, we thought meriting some warmed over truism. Here he sing that language is in efficient at describing these transcendental concepts that all these questions of losses have been agonising over, like What is the meaning of my life? This is just a result of their
thinking being tangled up in confused about the limitations of language? The question: what is the meaning of my life is nonsensical to consign it's completely devoid of meaning to you ask a question like that: doesn't mean that truly understands the limits of language would just confuse them. For example, when I say one plus one equals for People would understand. Basic math instantly know that something is very wrong. They're like us it before for me to say something like one plus one calls for that implies that neither mistaken or I don't, Their stand, the definitions of what I'm talkin about two Wittgenstein asking a quest
like what is the meaning of my life is like asking a question like you know how much red paint would it take to be funnier than sound waves? It just instantly shows the person's hand. Is someone that's confused about the limitations of language and just how? If I asked you that kind of ridiculous question, you wouldn't respond back to me with an answer right, oh boy, it's gonna take at least half a gallon of red paint to do that kind of job. Now you'd be like wait. What what are you talking about now, funnier than sound waves? In other words, you, ask clarifying questions back to try to unpack this very tangled confused view that I have about the limits of language. This is the role of philosophy to it can sign to undo these misconceptions that people have about the limitations of language and what happens at the end of that process, as the famous line goes. Is that you're, like a fly being let out of a fly bottle? Don't worry I had no idea what a fly bottle was either apparently flies have always been a nuisance. It's a really old fashioned way. People used to trap flies and
sit there around it and watch it and its little prisoners, entertainment. What to do. Pushups supposed flies grouped together and inform gangs, and their we're trapped in a metaphorical fly bottle, is what he sang philosophies. Job is to show us the way out through philosophy. We eventually eliza. All these things we used to agonize over, like what is the meaning of my life, are actually problems that need to be solved at all. We arrive at peace so, as I said before, they can Stein rights, attractiveness and then quits philosophy, thinking that he has solved every major philosophical problem now later on in his life, he came to believe that he had drastically oversimplified what languages and attractiveness I heard it said beautifully once that in the beginning of consigns life, he was concerned with the relationship between language in reality and towards you. His life. He was more concerned with the relationship between language and us as human beings, probably one of the biggest changes between Stein and Tractatus and in his book
Topical investigations comes down to how he views the definitions of words and where words derive their meaning. Well, we're going to talk about his brand new theory might as well go back and talk about what people used to do when they're. Looking at a definition, let's go back to our old pal Socrates. What would he do well you'd go into the public square, asking people to give him a definition of the word duty. justice or whatever is interested in that day and he'd have conversations ad nauseam with this fella philosophers trying desperately to get to a perfect definition. That includes any example of beauty. You can come up with if your member so often in these dialogues, a person will try to give an example of a perfect definition but Socrates? Somehow, he's always able to find an example that doesn't fit the definition or an example that fits the definition that nobody would agree should be a part of it. We can stand would see Socrates spending is entire life. Looking for these definitions as yet another example of somebody wasting their life because they didn't understand the nature of language, because I would say that the meaning of words it just doesn't work that way that Socrates could live,
a thousand lifetimes and he'd still always be able to point out these exceptions to these strict definitions that people like to throw out the constant as the example of the word game. What is a game? Let's talk about it. Can we get a strict definition of the word game Is a game. A competition between two or more people will solitaire again is a game just a fun activity that somebody engages in well riding a roller coaster spun. We certainly when That again, though, what criteria do we use to determine what a game is? Liechtenstein would say that the problem with us looking for this sort of strict definition of the word game. We're looking at definitions of words. In the same way, people have for centuries we're trying to find is necessary and sufficient conditions that define every example of a game that we can possibly think of. But what if it doesn't work that way they concerned would say, stop trying to find a perfect set of necessary insufficient conditions, you're, never gonna, do it and instead reflect on the very strange fact that everybody,
knows what a game is me when I said, solitaire right there. Somehow everybody knew it was a game and that it was the exception to the rule. When I said going on a roller coaster, somehow everybody knew that that shouldn't be classified as a game? What does that mean? How is that possible? If we don't have some definition somewhere up in our heads, what it means to vit Einstein? Is it the meaning of a word comes down to how it is being used, particular linguistic community, and that unearthing, the meaning of the words that we use, is a process of observing the way the people use the word The meaning of a word isn't something that can be simplified into necessary and sufficient conditions. No language is a complex, vibrant living organism. That's constantly shifting and change. And that, if literally, everyone literally started using the word literally to just mean the same thing as seriously the mean
of the word literally would change entirely in this sense, it's impossible to ever come up with a dusty tome filmed with the end, all be all definitions of words, a perfect definition for the word game, for instance. But what actually happens in reality is we see things throughout our life like basketball and bowling and call of duty and hop scotch, and we hear the people around us use the word game to classify all these different activities, and our brain at some level recognizes similarities between all these games, and we can sense it somehow. We see it but didn't sign, says it. What we're sensing there are family resemblances things it's kind of like how you might look like your mom, but not really like your dad or your second cousin might look like your uncle, but not your mom or your grandpa may have the same male pattern. Baldness that your sister has there certainly are very distinct. Differences between you guys, but you all share the same family and even if you don't look like you're dead
the look a lot more like them than I do coming from a different family. Same thing goes with the meaning of words to Vickens Tein. It's not that there's a single set of necessary and sufficient conditions that describes every game out there. There are just some games that resemble each other more just like some family members resemble each other, more basketball, football baseball, all very similar, two teams playing against each other and they have a ball, but monopoly is also a game. There's no ball in it, but it certainly share certain characteristics with football right, like millionaires ruthlessly fighting against each other. What VIC, Stan is trying to do is illustrate how crucial culture in people are in the process of forming or developing a language. He thinks Descartes sitting around wondering if anybody else actually exists is absolutely preposterous because they even be able to articulate yourself through language. Is evidence of a giant?
that. You inherited from many people before and around you. He has this famous example called the beetle in the box analogy: do you have any friends or coworkers where you have like inside jokes with them, and you refer to things as code names like anybody from outside. Your group heard you talking about it. They just be confused, but nonetheless it has an established meaning between the two of you. This is a for example, illustrating that concerns point of how meaning is derived from use and that a language can just be created in a vacuum by a single person because words get their meaning from an understanding between speakers. He goes the other with them. He's As imagine everybody in the entire world had a box that they carry around inside of this box is something everyone refers to as a beetle. Problem is no matter what nobody can ever look inside of anybody else's box and see what their referencing as a beetle will in the world no way for you to ever be able to use the word beetle in any sort of meaningful way. You have no idea what they refer to as a beetle
and they have no idea the meaning you attached to the word beetle. So what ends up happening is the word beetle. Just becomes kind of meaningless language is a team effort. You always need at least one other person who knows what you're referencing for a word to ever have meaning anyway. Hopefully some thought provoking stuff you this week. Thank you for your patience regarding the infrequency of the show, and also this completely awkward, abrupt ending to the show no excuses. I just got done moving getting back into a routine. I won't take up any more of your time,
Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.