Wittgenstein’s Three Living Principles

More of the fruits of cleaning–an old essay I forgot that I wrote.  I gave it at a Pacific APA, I think; anyway, I likely forgot it because it got anaphora’d (carried up) into my Concept ‘Horse’ Book.  But it now strikes me as usefully revealing the topography of that book.


A. C. Ewing’s F. H. Bradley

I have been on a Bradley kick of late, obviously. Yesterday, I received a used copy of his Principles of Logic in the mail. The volumes were clearly much handled and carefully annotated. There were a occasional words in the margins and frequent slim vertical lines alongside passages. I flipped to the inside of the cover and, lo!, it turns out that I have A. C. Ewing’s copy. Funny thing. I immediately recalled several lovely mornings with my teacher, Lewis White Beck, talking over coffee about Ewing’s* Idealism: A Critical Survey*.

A small event, admittedly, the finding of Ewing’s name, but one that brought me considerable pleasure.

Kelly Dean Jolley's photo.

What Does Husserl Want?

I am preparing for a seminar on Plato, the Sophists, and psychologism this Fall.  Among the texts we will read is (sections of) Husserl’s Logical Investigations.  I have been working on the early sections on logic this morning.  Husserl complains of the incompleteness of all the sciences; none have that “inner clarity and rationality”:  as theories, they are not “crystal-clear”, the functions of all their concepts and propositions are not fully intelligible, not all of their propositions have been exactly analyzed.  –My question is this:  is this crystalline clarity Husserl demands itself crystal-clear, fully intelligible?  If not even mathematics (to take the crucial case) exhibits this crystalline clarity, then what grasp of what Husserl wants do we have?  Do we want a more mathematical mathematics?  Hard to see how that would help, since it would presumably only apply the lack of inner clarity and rationality to itself.  (And presumably not in a “fight fire with fire”-ish way.)

Now it is true that, in an important sense, Husserl attempts to explain what he wants across much of the rest of the book, often enough by the example of his phenomenological practice.  But it remains necessary to be aware that we do not really know what Husserl wants in the early sections:  clarity is something about which we have to become clear.  (Consider how distant Wittgenstein’s desiderated clarity is from Husserl’s.)

Frege Betraying Frege

“We speak not only of the relation of a city to a country of which it is the capital or of a man to a child of which he is the father, but of the relation of an object to a function of which it is the argument.  But whereas the first relation finds expression in sentences that have in common the expression ‘capital of’ and the second have in common the expression ‘father of’, the function-argument relation finds expression in complex designations such as ‘the capital of Holland’ and ‘Rembrant’s father’, which have no expression in common.  For this relation is not one that can be put into words at all.  We might say, echoing Tractatus 4.121, that it is not something we can express by means of language, but something which expresses itself in language…

“Frege’s thesis that a concept is a particular case of a function embodies the fundamental insight that the sense in which we speak of the relation of an object to a concept it falls under is the same as that in which we speak of the relation of an object to a function of which it is an argument.  As there is no expression for the latter, so there is none for the former.  If therefore we use the locution ‘a falls under the concept F‘ and write ‘Gold falls under the concept malleable‘ in place of ‘Gold is malleable’, we do not express in words a relation that is expressed in the shorter sentence without words.  Frege thus betrays his own insight when we allows himself to be persuaded that because ‘falls under’ is a transitive verb, it stands for a relation…

“Since ‘falls under’ is not a relational expression, it follows that phrases of the form ‘the concept F‘ are not singular terms.  Unlike ‘the city of Leeds’, which designates a certain city, ‘the concept malleable‘ does not designate a certain concept.  Hence we cannot regard the verb and accusative of ‘Gold falls under the concept malleable‘ as signs in their own right.  In combination they form an expression for a concept, but in themselves are not expressions for anything.  Frege of course recognized that phrases of the form ‘the concept F’ are not concept-words, but if you take ‘falls under’ to be a genuine Beziehungswort, as Frege did in “On Concept and Object”, you have in consistency to construe such phrases as singular terms.  Frege was thus forced to equivocate:  as a singular term a phrase of this form must stand for an object, so by parity with ‘the city of Leeds’ it should stand for an object that (somehow) represents a concept.  –And yet how easy it is to go astray here!  For in our sentence there is expressed a relation between gold and the concept malleable.  So what is more natural than to assume that ‘falls under’ is an expression for that relation?  And yet the right conception is so close at hand!  For if ‘the concept malleable‘ is not an expression for a concept, it cannot stand for the second term of the relation of an object’s falling under a concept.  And so ‘falls under’ cannot itself be an expression for that relation.  We thus reach the conclusion that the relation expressed in our sentence is not expressed by it.”   (Peter Long, “Formal Relations”)

Philosophical Questions 1

I’ve been thinking lately about questions, philosophical questions.  It seems to me–although I admit to being unable to take this thought very far yet–that one useful way of gaining insight into a philosopher’s work is by working delicately to typify the relationship between the philosopher’s questions and her answers to them.  Perhaps, so stated, that seems obvious.  But what I mean is typifying the relationship as such (if that can be done), independent of the particular erototetic content or declarative content of the question and answer, respectively.  There are, I submit, a vast number of different typifying relationships to be discovered.  Part of the reason I began to think about this was re-reading a comment of mine on G. E. Moore:

Moore insists that we often ask a philosophical question without knowing quite what question our interrogatory words express.  But Moore does not ever seriously doubt that there is a philosophical question that the words express.  We can rightly say that Moore doubted the clarity of the questions that philosophers asked, and we can rightly say that he often doubted whether philosophers really believed the answers they gave to the questions; but we cannot rightly say that he doubted whether there were philosophical questions to be asked and answers to be given to them.  That Moore took this view of philosophical questions is shown by his deep unease with his own answers to them.  Moore, I think, believed his answers; but he also did not believe his answers.  (“I believe; help thou my unbelief.”)  His deep unease was the result of the mismatch between his understanding of the questions and the believability of his answers to them:  given his view of the questions, the very believability of his answers to them made the answers hard to believe.

Socrates’ questions and answers bear one sort of relationship to each other.   Augustine’s another.  Aquinas’ another.  Kant’s another–and so on.  Consider Heidegger, at least late:  he so absolutizes the question over the answer that it is no longer clear that there is, that there could be, even that there should be any answer to the question or even an attempt at an answer.  Such an attempt would violate the absoluteness of the question, allow us at least the hope of being able to end, at least for a moment, enduring the interrogative rack,  to stop bearing the question mark, to finish the forever-rising inflection–to scramble off the heath and into shelter, no longer exposed as mad Lear.  But Heidegger would have us stay.

(Ok, so I got a little carried away there.  Apologies.  But I plan to return–soberly–to this line of thought in coming days.)

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