A Synopsis of Wittgenstein's Logic of Language, Chapters 11-13
XI. 'Nonsense' and Contradiction
The distinction between sense and nonsense is a foundation of Wittgenstein's logic of language. But what does it mean -- to say that a sign (e.g. ink marks on paper, spoken sounds) is nonsense?
When a sentence is called senseless, it is not as it were its sense that is senseless. But a combination of words is being excluded from the language, withdrawn from circulation. (Philosophical Investigations § 500)
... it's nonsensical to say that the colors green and red could be in a single place at the same time. But if what gives a sentence sense is its agreement with grammatical rules then let's make just this rule, to permit the sentence 'red and green are both at this point at the same time'. Very well; but that doesn't fix the grammar of the expression. Further stipulations have yet to be made about how such a sentence is to be used; e.g. how it is to be verified. (Philosophical Grammar p. 127)
If a sign is meaningless, it is only because we have not given it a meaning, a grammar, a use -- a role in our language; it is only because we have left the sign undefined. It is for us to stipulate how a sentence is to be verified; and if a sentence is unverifiable, it is only because we ourselves have made it unverifiable -- by failing or refusing to stipulate how it is to be verified (Zettel § 259). Language is our tool; we alone make the rules of the game.
Philosophers are often like little children who scribble some marks on a piece of paper and then ask the grown-up, "What does this mean?" (cf. Culture and Value p. 17 [MS 112 114: 27.10.1931 § 2]; PI § 194c)
The sentence 'There is a square circle' (or 'There is a round square') is meaningless. And yet, if we describe how people actually speak, we shall not call that sentence meaningless -- we shall call it false. In a sense, the sentence is not meaningless: it is composed of English words, each of which we know how to do something with; in this it is not like the sign 'bu bu bu'. But we don't know how to do anything with the combination of words 'square circle', and in that sense it is meaningless. And the sentence 'There is a square circle' is false -- but only in the sense that it is a false account of our grammar.
But we may want to say that the sign 'square circle' is not arbitrarily excluded from our language: i.e. that it is excluded because it is a contradiction. The sign 'This is a chair and this is not a chair' is also a contradiction; -- but it has a use.
Or should we say that that sentence is not a contradiction -- because the word 'this' does not have the same meaning in both instances?
No; the two words 'this' have the same meaning. 'Today' has the same meaning today as it had yesterday, 'here' the same meaning here and there. It is not here as with the sentence 'Mr. White turned white'. (Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology i § 37)
But then, what is the meaning of 'this' here? Its meaning is not given by pointing to the chair that 'this' was used to point to; for if it were, then 'this' would be the name of that chair. [Note 10]
... the word 'name' is used to characterize many different kinds of use of a word, related to one another in many different ways; -- but the kind of use 'this' has is not among them.
... it is precisely characteristic of a name that it is defined by means of the demonstrative expression 'That is N' (or 'That is called 'N'').
But do we also give the definitions: 'That is called 'this'' or 'This is called 'this''? (PI § 38)
The part of speech of the word 'this' may be said to be pointing-to word, or, pointing-out word. That is its grammar; and so, that is its meaning. Period. Full stop.
In school grammar the part of speech of 'this' is demonstrative-pronoun. -- But note that a "pronoun" is not a name; e.g. 'he' is not another name for Mr. N.N., even if I use that word to refer to him. The unclear antecedent of a pronoun: we ask: whom did you mean by 'him'? But if I answer: 'By 'him' I meant Mr. N.N.' -- I am not giving a definition of the word 'him'. Just as, if I say: 'This is Mr. N.N.' -- I am not giving a definition of the word 'this'. Otherwise, 'him' and 'this' would be proper names.
Break with the notion that the meaning of a word is "the object the word stands for"; because that is not the meaning of any word. And break with the notion that the meaning of a name is the bearer of the name.
When Mr. N.N. dies one says that the bearer of the name dies, not that the meaning dies. And it would be nonsense to say that, for if the name ceased to have meaning it would make no sense to say 'Mr. N.N. is dead.' (ibid. § 40)
A contradictory form does not preclude a sign's having a meaning. But if we have no use -- or if we stipulate no use -- for a sign, then the sign is meaningless. If we leave the combination of words 'square circle' undefined, we exclude it from our language. We ourselves make it nonsensical (i.e. without a sense).
Trafalgar Square can be called a square circle. "But by 'circle' here you only mean that traffic goes around this public square." What we want to say is that my use for 'square circle' is not the sense of 'square circle' that is excluded from the language. And so we describe this "sense": we draw a circle on the blackboard and then we draw a square next to it; and then we ask: well, how can a single figure be both this way and that way? But what use of the word 'can' is this? What we are pointing out is a grammatical impossibility -- i.e. the absence of a definition; and the only way to remove this impossibility is to invent some use for the combination of words 'square circle' or 'round square', e.g. "Suppose we round off the edges of the square but leave the sides somewhat straight --."
We may want to say: you have given the contradiction-sign a new (different) meaning. But then what was the old (original) meaning? The "senseless sense"? A sense that cannot be described is no sense.
Again, you must not forget that 'A contradiction doesn't make sense' does not mean that the sense of a contradiction is nonsense. -- We exclude contradictions from language; we have no clear-cut use for them, and we don't want to use them. (RPP ii § 290)
That we would reject any suggested use shows how deeply the blackboard picture is embedded in our imagination. But nothing can be x if 'x' is undefined; and if 'x' is undefined it is only because we have not defined it.
Well, have come through? Now think.
1. A symbol in a universal regard must be understood immediately by all. This is the power of a universal symbol: sun for life, grave for death, flag for country etc. A need of interpretation destroys the power of a symbol. Therefore personal symbols cannot serve as universal symbols. This is always the big question to symbol people like Raphael: where do you know the symbol pattern you perceive is able to be seen in general as universal symbols by everyone?
2. Even a personal claim needs self justification and self sense. In order to share it with others there must be an invention of language signs giving them sense and meaning. Simply to expect others to understand will never work.
3. Personal experiences regarding religious beliefs or aliens or personal convictions regarding any conspiration complexes have only emerged after self justification and self sense making being done. Of course that does not mean an emergence of sense being able to share with others nevertheless giving it a try. In order to give universal sense no personal sense is able to fulfill it completely.
4. It belongs to the freedom an unfolding Being is offering to deny sense another one is finding and claiming. This freedom of finding and denying sense and of creating meaning in both ways personal and universal is the top of humanity: I CAN CLAIM AND I CAN DENY AND I SEE AS I CAN...
5. So finally consider the F scale as a tool understanding what it means to be human (try-the-f-scale-test-and-come-back-to-the-ground-t33178.html)...
- Related topics
- Last post
- Invention Fail: Man Tests Pepper Spray Neutralizer
by muchtyman » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:05 am
- 7 Replies
- 778 Views
- Last post by dlslith
Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:18 pm
- Invention Fail: Man Tests Pepper Spray Neutralizer