wittgenstein's beetle

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Reply Sun 9 May, 2010 09:18 am
If I have understood it correctly Wittgenstein argues that if we all have different sense impressions for the same word we cannot communicate meaningfully - this is because we must mean different things even when we say the same word, i.e. there is no non-linguistic similarity between my sense impressions and yours

However, could it not be argued that we can still communicate practically through categorisation? so long as I call what I perceive to be white objects white and you call what you perceive to be white objects white, we can communicate practically by describing objects that have this 'white-ness' in common, as white. It's not a logical impossibility, just perhaps an undesirable consequence of Hume's 'object-->sense impression -->concept' chain of how we gain our concepts (I'm not saying Hume's argument is right, just questioning whether Wittgenstein's criticism severely undermines it).

Thanks
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 9 May, 2010 10:55 am
@treasureisland,
treasureisland;162152 wrote:
If I have understood it correctly Wittgenstein argues that if we all have different sense impressions for the same word we cannot communicate meaningfully - this is because we must mean different things even when we say the same word, i.e. there is no non-linguistic similarity between my sense impressions and yours

However, could it not be argued that we can still communicate practically through categorisation? so long as I call what I perceive to be white objects white and you call what you perceive to be white objects white, we can communicate practically by describing objects that have this 'white-ness' in common, as white. It's not a logical impossibility, just perhaps an undesirable consequence of Hume's 'object-->sense impression -->concept' chain of how we gain our concepts (I'm not saying Hume's argument is right, just questioning whether Wittgenstein's criticism severely undermines it).

Thanks


What Wittgenstein argues is that if our subjective sense-impressions were the meanings of our sense-impression terms (as appears to be believed by some philosophers-the theory is called by Wittenstein, the theory that all of us speak a private language when it comes to sensation-terms) then we could not communicate, since we could easily imagine that the subjective sense-impressions were different for everyone, so that we each be meaning something different by the sense-impression terms. In fact, even the individual himself would have no way of knowing he meant the same thing by a sense-impression term each time he used the sense-impression term, if the private language theory were true.

We can categorize objects only if we can have reason to think we are categorizing the objects correctly. But the private language argument concludes that we can have no reason to think that we are categorizing correctly if our sense-impression terms refer to private objects (private sensations). Therefore, we cannot categorize private objects.

If Wittgentein's "beetle in the box" (or private language) argument is sound, then one of its implications is that the theory of representative perception is refuted, and the problem of our knowledge of the external world is exposed as a pseudo-problem. No small thing.
 
treasureisland
 
Reply Sun 9 May, 2010 12:46 pm
@kennethamy,
sorry I think I'm still missing the point - my private sense impression of a computer may be different to your private sense impression of a computer, so long as we both agree to call this thing we experience a computer, surely we can communicate practically? how can this refute representative realism?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 9 May, 2010 02:49 pm
@treasureisland,
treasureisland;162178 wrote:
sorry I think I'm still missing the point - my private sense impression of a computer may be different to your private sense impression of a computer, so long as we both agree to call this thing we experience a computer, surely we can communicate practically? how can this refute representative realism?


Wittgenstein's answer to your question is that we can communicate successfully exactly because it does not matter whether your private sensation of the computer is different from mine (if it is) because since when I we use the term "computer" neither one of us is referring to his private sensation of the computer (if there is such a private sensation) but rather we both are using the publicly shared meaning of the term "computer". In fact, that is why in his discussion of the "beetle" Wittgenstein holds that it does not even matter whether there is a beetle in the box each one of us has. Since neither one of us is referring to his private beetle. For if we did, we could not communicate. I think you miss Wittgenstein's argument which is a reductio ad absurdum argument of the position that terms like "pain" refer to private sensations, much less that terms like, "computer" refer to private sensations. For the argument is that if those terms did refer to private sensations, then we could not communicate. But since we can communicate, they do not refer to private sensations. You seem to be arguing that since our terms refer to private sensations, it must be possible to communicate if they do. But that is exactly wrong. Wittgenstein's argument (as I said) is that since we do communicate, and we could not communicate if terms referred to private sensations, it follow that terms do not refer to private sensations. That, in other words, there can be no private language, since if there were, we could not communicate using it. Do you see the difference between your position and Wittgenstein's?

As for Representative Realism, that view argues that our private sensations represent (or resemble) public objects (your example of your private sensation of the computer and the public computer). But Wittgenstein holds that if there were such a thing as our private sensation of the computer such a thing would be useless, since we could not communicate if such a private sensation were the meaning of (say) "computer". Like the beetle in the box, the computer in my head (rather than the computer my desk) "drops out" There are not two computers: one the private one in my head, and the other, the public one on my desk. And the view that there are these two computers (not just the one on my desk) underlies representative realism.
 
jack phil
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 06:03 pm
@treasureisland,
I always thought he was, with the beetle in a box, showing how talk of a soul or God can not be objective... sorta like everything else he says. And what is in the box could actualy be directional or changing or whatever.

Whether or not your monotheistic religion really worships the same God as my monotheistic religion or whatever. It's ridiculous talk. And the philosophers of old and the scientific philosophers of new don't really escape this criticism.

metaphysical statements, tautologies and contradictions, cannot be (to quote Deckard, iirc) 'empirically verifiable or logically differentiable'.

Treasureisland asks whether or not we can use categories, then; which seems intuitive, no doubt. Wittgenstein says no, though. Basically, that assumes that variables can be defined-- that is, definite variables. A contradiction, if you will. Again, not solid ground.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 06:18 pm
@jack phil,
jack;162573 wrote:
I always thought he was, with the beetle in a box, showing how talk of a soul or God can not be objective...


Well, if you thought that (and it is hard to see how you could, since that has nothing to do with what he is talking about) then now you can see you were mistaken. Wittgenstein was presenting a specific argument about the meaning of sensation terms. The argument is well-known, as the argument that there cannot be a private language with private meanings. It is known as the private language argument.
 
jack phil
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 06:53 pm
@treasureisland,
Yes, sensation terms, including those that religious folk speak, or have historically spoken of, or that are spoken of in the Bible. See: Lecture on Ethics by Wittgenstein.

Wittgenstein claims that propositions must have a new sense for us(TLP), and that he would also call the acquiring of a new sense a revelation(PR), and he often starts off a lecture saying that he is going to avoid questions which are answered by experience(lecture on philosophy, philosophy for mathematicians). That is the induction, the significant proposition. That is why he wrote a book (apparently) on logic and said it was really about ethics. And that is why when he speaks of beetles and red and language games, I hear God and Salvation and Church.

The point is, he is using metaphors. Don't tell me what a metaphor can refer to and what it cannot. I was only sharing what I found in it, afterall.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 06:58 pm
@jack phil,
jack;162605 wrote:
. And that is why when he speaks of beetles and red and language games, I hear God and Salvation and Church.

.


Yes. And that is you, not Wittgenstein. Just as when Joan of Arc hears voices, that is Joan, not voices. You are not (unfortunately) alone in reading philosophers as if they were ink-blot tests. As if they say whatever you like to believe they say.
 
jack phil
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 07:22 pm
@treasureisland,
And Jesus was really speaking about farming, everyone just misunderstood him.

;P

On Topic

The point can be summed up in a joke: Two men walk into a bar, the third one ducks.

What does representational realism have to say about the 'bar' in this sentence?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 07:51 pm
@jack phil,
jack;162625 wrote:
And Jesus was really speaking about farming, everyone just misunderstood him.

;P

On Topic

The point can be summed up in a joke: Two men walk into a bar, the third one ducks.

What does representational realism have to say about the 'bar' in this sentence?


No idea what your point is in this post. Have you a point, subtle as it might be? The fact is that Wittgenstein makes his private language argument in terms of a particular context. And it is in terms of this context that his argument is to be, and can be, understood. End of story. If you do not believe me, I suggest you look it up. Try Google or Bing.

Here is a step up:

Private Language (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
 
jack phil
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 08:00 pm
@treasureisland,
What is a 'bar' in my sentence?

Is it a place where men drink even though they are not thirsty? Or is it a metal pole?

As for what the gentiles think of Wittgenstein I have no patience. He has been historically called a positivist, which is roughly the opposite of that which is expressed in the TLP. So, no, screw Google. It is wrong.

The point is, he is using metaphors. Don't tell me what a metaphor can refer to and what it cannot. I was only sharing what I found in it, afterall.

How can the TLP be about Ethics when Ethics is not its context?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 08:13 pm
@jack phil,
jack;162646 wrote:
What is a 'bar' in my sentence?

Is it a place where men drink even though they are not thirsty? Or is it a metal pole?

As for what the gentiles think of Wittgenstein I have no patience. He has been historically called a positivist, which is roughly the opposite of that which is expressed in the TLP. So, no, screw Google. It is wrong.

The point is, he is using metaphors. Don't tell me what a metaphor can refer to and what it cannot. I was only sharing what I found in it, afterall.

How can the TLP be about Ethics when Ethics is not its context?


What the hell has the private language argument to to with TLP? The private language argument is in the Philosophical Investigations. What are you talking about? Have you even read his private language argument? Have you any idea what it is all about? It has nothing to do with ethics. It has to do with linguistic meaning. It was produced 30 years after the TLP, and after the TLP had been repudiated by Wittgenstein himself. Aren't you the least embarrassed to be caught blatantly talking out of your hat (and I am putting that politely)? And shouldn't those who thank you for talking out of your hat (again a euphemism) also be embarrassed?
 
jack phil
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 08:31 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;162652 wrote:
What the hell has the private language argument to to with TLP?


Wittgenstein.

Quote:
The private language argument is in the Philosophical Investigations. What are you talking about? Have you even read his private language argument? Have you any idea what it is all about? It has nothing to do with ethics. It has to do with linguistic meaning.
You avoided my question. If the TLP is filled with logic and is supposedly about ethics, then whatever the PI is filled with may not be what it is about. if/then

Quote:
It was produced 30 years after the TLP, and after the TLP had been repudiated by Wittgenstein himself.
:rollseyes:
What does that have to do with the private language argument?

Quote:
Aren't you the least embarrassed to be caught blatantly talking out of your hat (and I am putting that politely)? And shouldn't those who thank you for talking out of your hat (again a euphemism) also be embarrassed?
Again with the strictness of metaphor. You do understand that metaphors are incredibly loose and can be applied to all sorts of things(especially when they are not dealing with real world issues). Of course you are welcome to disagree with whether certain metaphors attain, such as whether the beetle in a box metaphor can be applied to metaphysical language in general-- metaphysical being tautological. In the case of the unseen beetle that could be constantly changing, which cannot be empirically verified or logically differentiated, I think it is pretty clear cut.

But, no, I am not embarrassed for bringing real world examples into philosophical speculation. Besides, there is plenty of literature comparing language games to religions.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 05:03 pm
@jack phil,
jack;162573 wrote:
I always thought he was, with the beetle in a box, showing how talk of a soul or God can not be objective..


I think this is an important point. Thanks.

---------- Post added 05-20-2010 at 06:05 PM ----------

jack;162573 wrote:

Whether or not your monotheistic religion really worships the same God as my monotheistic religion or whatever. It's ridiculous talk. And the philosophers of old and the scientific philosophers of new don't really escape this criticism.

metaphysical statements, tautologies and contradictions, cannot be (to quote Deckard, iirc) 'empirically verifiable or logically differentiable'.

Treasureisland asks whether or not we can use categories, then; which seems intuitive, no doubt. Wittgenstein says no, though. Basically, that assumes that variables can be defined-- that is, definite variables. A contradiction, if you will. Again, not solid ground.


Ah yes, doesn't he really drive it home that our claims to solid ground are...not so solid? He's a logical earthquake, I sometimes think. And when I fully fell in love with the TLP, which I admit is to rich to claim some sort of mastery of, I was struck forcefully by the beauty and the strangeness of the world I only thought was explained.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 05:53 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;166626 wrote:
I think this is an important point. Thanks.

---------- Post added 05-20-2010 at 06:05 PM ----------





Maybe it is an important point, I would not know. But I do know that there is no evidence whatever that Wittgenstein was talking about God and the soul in the beetle in the box example. If you think he was, then you simply made it up that he did.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 06:02 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166641 wrote:
Maybe it is an important point, I would not know. But I do know that there is no evidence whatever that Wittgenstein was talking about God and the soul in the beetle in the box example. If you think he was, then you simply made it up that he did.


Well, let's say I did. Or let's say I'm taking Wittgenstein for what he's worth to me. Can anyone really claim to possess his "official" meaning? It's just like the Bible. You can find what you look for. And it's not worth fighting about. For me, the Tractatus is destructive in a good way.

For instance, his discussion of the self and causality. I tried to talk to your about that once and I felt like it didn't interest you. And yet those are some of my favorite parts of the TLP.

I relinquish all claims on the official meaning of Mr. Wittgenstein. I don't agree with every line, and some lines have no particular meaning for me. Others, however, I find quite valuable. Perhaps we can just accept one another's particularity. The world is wide and life is short.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 06:57 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;166645 wrote:
Well, let's say I did. Or let's say I'm taking Wittgenstein for what he's worth to me.



Apparently you do adhere to the Italian, se non vero, ben trovato. (Even if it is not true it should be). Not my cup of tea. We already know where that sort of view leads people.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 20 May, 2010 07:19 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166680 wrote:
Apparently you do adhere to the Italian, se non vero, ben trovato. (Even if it is not true it should be). Not my cup of tea. We already know where that sort of view leads people.


I'm alright with that. There are many cups of tea hereabouts. I wish you well.
 
 

 
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