Tuesday, July 07, 2009

You Can't Whistle It Either

From Ray Monk's 'How To Read Wittgenstein' - no, I haven't - discussing the later Wittgenstein's abandonment of the idea of "a single 'logical form' shared by thought, language and the world, which a philosopher might uncover and reveal":

During his first six months back in Cambridge in 1929... [Wittgenstein] fairly quickly came to the conclusion that the very notion of logical form had to be abandoned. In this, he was helped by conversations with Ramsey and, still more, by conversations with the Italian economist Piero Sraffa. In the preface to Philosophical Investigations that he wrote in 1945, Wittgenstein says that he is indebted to Sraffa for 'the most consequential ideas of this book'... Wittgenstein, soon after his return to Cambridge, was explaining his ideas to Sraffa and insisting - as he had insisted in Tractatus - that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same 'logical form'. To this, Sraffa made a Neapolitan gesture of brushing his chin with his fingertips, asking: 'What is the logical form of that?'

I'd describe the relevant gesture as more of a flick than a brush, but still; attention to life as it is lived, and in a wholly appropriate medium. In other news, I handed in two copies of my D.Phil to be sent off to examiners this afternoon; let us not ask about its logical form.

4 comments:

rachele said...

I love that! And I'd never thought about this - the relationship between logical forms and meaningful/expressive gestures. It's interesting. Though maybe if one thought about it long enough, one could come up with some sort of LF - but I won't attempt it here, too scared of all the philosophically inclined readers you have.

Rob Jubb said...

Well, one obvious problem would be that whatever gestures describe would have to be unexpressed, or at least, not expressed in the manner that they expressed it, since otherwise they would describing themselves, which wouldn't make sense. I should add here that Sraffa, disappointingly, was actually from Turin.

rachele said...

But couldn't one argue that the gestures represent an event of some sort, so if you can find a LF for events, then you could apply it to the gestures? Or do we have a different understanding of LFs?

That is disappointing.

Rob Jubb said...

But the event they'd 'represent' would be themselves, and you can't represent yourself, in that sense at least. It's not technically that there couldn't be a logical form, but that there can't be a logical form shared by an expression and the thing it expresses, where the expression describes the thing, because part of the thing it would have to describe is itself.