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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ludwig Wittgenstein and the philosophy of language


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Clara Sjogren


Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was a philosopher best known for his analysis of language. Philosopher Bertrand Russell said,


"[Wittgenstein] is very excitable: he has more passion about philosophy than I have; his avalanches make mine seem mere snowballs. He has the pure intellectual passion in the highest degree; it makes me love him. His disposition is that of an artist, intuitive and moody." (Quoted in Young Wittgenstein by Brian McGuinness)


Anthropologist Peter Farb said,


"This inseparabeness of everything in the world from language has intrigued modern thinkers, most notably Ludwig Wittgenstein... If its limits - that is, the precise point at which sense becomes nonsense - could somehow be defined, then speakers would not attempt to express the inexpressible. Therefore, said Wittgenstein, do not put too great a burden upon language." (Word Play, 1974)


The rest of this post is some quotes form Wittgenstein.




"Don't get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one." (Notebooks, 1914-1916)


"The child learns to believe a host of things, i.e. it learns to act according to those beliefs. Bit by bit there forms a system of what is believed, an in that system , some things stand unshakably fast and some are more or less liable to shift. What stands fast does so, not because it is intrinsically obvious or convincing; it is rather held fast by what lies around it." (On Certainty, 1969 posthumous)


"What I hold fast to is not one proposition but a nest of propositions." (On Certainty, 1969 posthumous)


"To convince someone of the truth, it is not enough to state it, but rather one must find the path from error to truth." (Philosophical Occasions, 1993 posthumous)


"If a false thought is so much as expressed boldly and clearly, a great deal has already been gained." (Culture and Value, 1980 posthumous)




"For remember that in general we don't use language according to strict rules; it hasn't been taught to us by means of strict rules either." (The Blue Book, posthumous 1958)


"Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of imagination." (Philosophical Investigations, 1953 posthumous)


"The idea that in order to get clear about the meaning of a general term one had to find the common element in all its applications has shackled philosophical investigation; for it has not only led to no result, but also made the philosopher dismiss as irrelevant the concrete cases, which alone could have helped him understand the usage of the general term." (The Blue Book, 1965 posthumous)


"Without philosophy thoughts are, as it were, cloudy and indistinct: its task is to make them clear and to give them sharp boundaries." (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1922)