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Two Theories

User Thread
 35yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that wittgensteins is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Two Theories
The only thing worse than an affront to our common sense is finding some common sense to our affront. Which category the following tract falls into is for the reader to decide. I hope it will not be considered either humdrum or hubris to suggest that philosophy casts its net rather more widely than orthodox academic opinion determines. And while this is not the place to enter into a detailed discussion on the philosophy of education, it seems to me that the intellectual division of labour that we preside over in the modern world, where no man dares to venture an opinion on a field not his own for fear of making a fool of himself, is, if pushed too far, downright dangerous. Specialisation, as a principle, is good; for a scholar it is both becoming and beneficent to direct his energies to a given problem; and, of course, it is better to master a discipline than to be a dilettante of them all. But we must mindful at all turns that reality is not carved up into ready-made domains, discrete, discontinuous and wholly at variance. All scholars, of whatever persuasion, perceive the same landscape: they all concern themselves, if in different ways, with the kingdom of truth. I say this lest the reader accuse of me sophistry, charlatanry, the sins of the crank, of being a monkey in shining armour. That the theory I am about to propound straddles various fields, then, does not automatically make it a waste of time automatically being the key word here. If you are going to condemn me, condemn me for my sins.

Entering the discussion at hand with misapprehensions manifold, I can only counsel patience on the part of the reader. In my opinion what I will present is fundamentally correct, and if it tells us anything, it is only what can be achieved with little or no talent. Simone Weil expressed the view that everyone, no matter how small their intelligence, can breathe the rarefied air of truth if they apply themselves. I hold to that.

What I want to do is combine two theories: the representational theory of truth to be found in Wittgenstein and Tarski, and the multiverse theory, or modal realism as it is sometimes called, the key progenitor of which is David Kellog Lewis. A compound is mutually strengthening; if one theory is vindicated by another, we have reason to place more faith in that theory. So how are they related?

First, I must define my terms. The representational theory is essentially a theory about language, and it is pretty much the default position in everyday as much as philosophical thought. It asserts that a sentence derives its meaning by dint of a determinate representation of reality. Words combine to map out a structure which mirrors the reality it describes. Language must share something with the reality it represents, or it would not be able to represent in any meaningful sense; but, by contrast, it must also differ from it, or would it simply be the thing in question.

This theory, it must be admitted, is prima facie coherent, and perhaps even cogent. It seems natural to say that the words we use vouchsafe an essence which is shared in the outside world, and it encodes the logocentric conceit that nouns correspond not simply to things-in-the-world, but to abstract categories which subsist in some ideal, extra-temporal realm. The reader, though, will not be surprised to hear that this theory is problematic. Criticism is two-fold.

The first strand was advanced by the linguist De Saussure over a century ago. It goes something like this: we assume, at least in everyday usage, that the logic of our language consists of a subject-predicate form. So meaning is ostensively determined: certain words pick out bits of reality and we can arrange them as we please to describe that reality. But how do we know what objects or qualities words are picking out? If I point to a tree and say 'tree', how does a child learning the language know whether I'm referring to the tree or the colour of tree? Isn't it merely a matter of convention, socially delivered, imbibed and preserved? Indeed, even the practice of pointing is a convention. The categories by which we think and talk, then, are not given in nature. As De Saussure would say, they are arbitrary. According to Wittgenstein, in his later work, this model conflates the acquisition of language by a child with that of an adult who already has a language. For what its worth, this is where Empiricism falls down, making an assumption it is not entitled to make, namely, that reality as it is presented to the senses comes pre-packaged, partitioned into categories that logically precede the sense-data which they claim is epistemologically sovereign.

The second objection convinced Wittgenstein that the representation theory was wrong-headed. It is that it fails to account for, and classes as meaningless, certain kinds of statement which seem, on balance, to have some linguistic force. Take a wave. It can easily be seen that it has no logical structure - it does not represent anything in the outside world but surely it communicates something. Surely it has meaning. Similarly, there are what J.L Austin called performative utterances, which announce or bring into being a reality rather than describing it. 'I now pronounce you man and wife', for example, brings about the fact that two people are married. Finally, there are commands: insofar as they direct actions, it would be silly to bracket them as meaningless.

How to account for this anomaly? Wittgenstein responded by producing another overarching philosophy, reversing his dogmatic realism and stressing that meaning is determined by the function of words in language. But this approach lacks explanatory power. For some purposes, it makes sense to say that language is a sort of tool that can only be understood by reference to the myriad tasks it can perform. Words, it is argued, are embedded in a context, composed of equal parts social, cultural and semantic, from which, at the risk of hypostatising, they cannot be decoupled. But consider the way in which it is possible to translate one language into another. And what about mathematics? What about the fact that it is even possible to understand each other? In Wittgenstein's theory it is difficult to see how this is possible. Perhaps language is in fact much simpler than he imagined.

More to follow.

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 43yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Ziltoid is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
IMO language is subjective and comes from causality, which comes from induction. Math is objective and comes from reasoning, which comes from deduction.
The problem with trying to understand language is that it is based so much on each individuals own personal experience.
The problem with trying to understand math is that it is based on principals of theory(until proven wrong). Some folks are good at math some are good linguists and some are geniuses.
They compliment each other and it would be impossible to have one without the other.
All words get their meaning from your own understanding which requires awareness on your part. Without being aware of yourself in the phenomenon, words would just accumulate into empty knowledge.The destructive power of science is a good example of how math without awareness can lead to disasters, and the thousands of years of war shows how words without understanding leads to conflicting ideas of truth. The best approach to the truth is with a balance through symbols both in language and math . It is impossible to describe reality in words because words always represent thoughts formed from experience in the past or dreamed about in the future. Reality is a phenomenon which can only be experienced here and now. Questions and answers will come forever but to hold onto one theory is to cling to a dead one.
I believe everyone is ultimately here to experience the mystery that is and reach their own understanding alone.

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Two Theories
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