Thursday, January 3, 2008

Wittgenstein's Mature Philosophy of Language

(Seminar Paper, Ateneo Philosophy Symposium, Xavier University, 2002)

1. Analytic philosophy began as a reaction to F.H. Bradley. Bradley’s monistic idealism essentially destroys all contentions of multiplicity. For Bradley, all of reality is the content of one mind, the Absolute. The absolute is the reality. All objects belong to one and only one substance, the Absolute.Bertrand Russell rejected F.H. Bradley’s ideas, henceforth, the birth of logical atomism. Russell, in reaction against F.H. Bradley, says that the world consists of objects. Generally, the following illustrate the claims of logical atomism: first, that objects truly exist apart from the mind (extra-mental); secondly, that only objects exist; ideas exist in the mind (intra-mental); and lastly, that real objects are to be determined logically. (PA)Language, according to atomists, is truth-functional. A compound proposition is the truth-function of its constituent parts.
For instance, the statement that “Mr. Dumlao is old and happy” has two constituent statements, that “Mr. Dumlao is old” and that “Mr. Dumlao is happy”. Both are the truth-functions of the original statement. The truth or falsity of the original statement is determined by the truth or falsity of its constituent statements. So if P is true, not-P is consequently false, and if R is false, not-R is consequently true. Hence,When the truth or falsity of a complex statement can be determined from the truth or falsity of its constituent statements it is called the truth-function of its constituent statements. (PA)For them, every statement about complexes can be resolved into a statement about their constituents and into the propositions that describe the complexes completely. (TLP) A complex statement can only have sense if it is truth-functional, that is, if it can be broken down into distinct and clear atomic propositions. For instance, if we say, "The house on the hill is old and dangerous," this compound proposition must be broken into its atomic constituent propositions, which are "The house on the hill is old." and "The house on the hill is dangerous." Breaking the complex proposition enables one to understand each set of constituent atomic facts, a requirement that satisfies the task of reducing all propositions ultimately into the most basic, the atomic proposition.

2. Propositions show what they say, tautologies and contradictions that they say nothing. (TLP) Propositions inform us about the state affairs of the world. Propositions reveal the factual content of reality. On the other hand, a tautology is “a statement that is true to all of its possibilities”(PA), hence, non-informative. For example, the statement, “All bodies are extended” is tautological because the idea of a body already contains the thought of extension. A tautology is true because of the necessary meaning of terms and it does not, therefore, add any knowledge about the world. On the other hand, contradictions are statements that are false to all of its possibilities. For example, “A square is a circle.” A contradiction is a logical impossibility, henceforth, meaningless. If we examine the two, both do not provide any thought about the state of affairs of the world. They provide no data about experience, and are only formally meaningful.Generally, for atomists, “the world divides into facts. (TLP) The hard data of reality can be divided ultimately into simple and elementary propositions. Following chemistry’s principle that an atom is the smallest unit of matter, an atomic proposition is the smallest unit of any language. Reality is divided into atomic facts and the multiple units of atomic propositions should correspond to the multiple numbers of atomic facts. For atomists, there are three types of facts: the atomic, the general, and the negative fact.First, let us define the atomic proposition. According to Russell, an atomic proposition refers to a statement that expresses one and only one fact. Examples of which are: “This table is red”, “My car is blue”, and “Jose is 20 years old”. The first proposition explains the fact that “There is one and only one table, and that this one and only one table is red”. In this statement, the logically proper name “table” is assigned one fact, “that it is red”. The atomic proposition represents the attribute of “being red” attached to the object, “table”. Ultimately, all of language will have to be reduced to atomic propositions in order to uncover their factual content. Analysis therefore requires breaking all statements into atomic statements.If we adhere to the tenets of logical atomism, classes like “man”, “animal”, “plant”, etc will have to be questioned since they do not represent an atomic fact. We do not experience “man”, we know and interact with a “particular man”. We do not see an “animal”, we see “our neighbor’s dog”, the “dog owned by the police”, etc. So what are classes really? They are, atomists assert, nothing but incomplete symbols. They are there simply for linguistic conveniences. They don’t actually exist. So if X is the symbol for “animal”, X’s refer to the different animals belonging to such class, which we may name as X1, X2, X3, so on and so forth.

3. Now, it can be said that not all statements are atomistically distinct. There are, as logical atomists would later admit, general facts. General facts consist of two or more atomic facts. For instance, the statement “All men are mortal”. It is quite impossible to reduce the statement into its atomic constituents for that would require knowing all men. And so, the proposal of logical atomists is that the statement is a logical sum; it is no more than an enumeration of the constituent facts that it represents, expressed in the symbol, “for all x, fx”. Thus, for every x, there is an fx1, fx2, fx3, so on and so forth. Another alternative view provided later by F. Ramsey is that a general fact does not refer to a proposition, but it refers to something that guides human behavior. It acts as a sort of rule or prescription. For instance, the proposition, “All arsenic is poisonous.” Let “p” be arsenic. Since “p” is poisonous, and since this thing I see is a “p”, this thing therefore is poisonous.General facts were a real problem for logical atomists. For instance, what does one understand by the word “school”? If we are to divide it, we can come up with students, teachers, administrators, etc. But what precisely is a school? To say that general facts do not exist is intellectual laziness. The concept of general facts was unresolved during Russell’s time. However, analytic philosophers later admitted that reality could never be ultimately atomic.The third type of fact is the negative fact. A negative fact denotes that “there is some proposition q which is true and incompatible (or excludes) p”. (PA) To state “p is not q” means that my statement is incompatible with the fact that “p is q”. We may wonder about statements such as “Einstein is not here” or “The sun is not shining.” These are examples of negative facts. If we take into consideration the correspondence theory of truth, this means that a negative fact is that which is seen to be incompatible with whatever is the case. According to F. Ramsey, the“not” does not name anything at all (PA). In this sense, it is not a fact, but an assertion of disbelief, meaning “not-p” is a disbelief in p.Normally, facts inform us about the states of affairs of things. A negative fact, which is called as such because of its negative copula, states something other than what is the case. And so, does it tell us something? Yes, it does, and what it reveals is the sense that there is something that is not the case. It informs us that something is not the case, making us look for what really is the case. For example, if one states, “Moby Dick is not a dog”, one attains the insight that Moby Dick is not a dog, but something else. In that sense, a negative fact may also function as something directional.Moving on, we shall now explain the structure of a proposition. According to Wittgenstein, “a proposition has the structure: this is how things are”. (PI) Each fact has one and only one analytic meaning. This meaning is the truth-condition of every atomic statement. A statement is atomistically distinct if it pictures one and only one atomic fact. We say, for x to be x, there has to be "one and only one x" and if that x is in a certain relation to y, we say, "there is one and only one x, and one and only one y in such a way that x is related to y" or, simply, xRy. This we can translate into an atomic fact: "roasted pig is expensive"; x being the sign "roasted pig," and y being the sign "expensive." This shows the truth about how things are, which implies that, things have a logical order, and that this order can be known. A thing is what it is, logically.The only requirement for thought to be valid, according to atomists, is that “all thought requires the presence of its object before the mind”. (PA) A proposition is true if it pictures a fact, false if it does not. If I say that "My sister was born in 1975," and documents prove the existence of such state of affairs, then my statement has factual content. If the proven state of affairs says otherwise, then my statement consequently is false. This means that every proposition that we can understand must be composed wholly of constituents with which we are acquainted. (PA) Presence as a requirement here refers to factual evidence. Without such, a statement cannot claim any validity. A proof is necessary to make our thoughts clear and valid.In a sense, according to atomists, “there is nothing to be said beyond propositions”. (PA)

4. In a perfectly logical language, every word in a proposition must have a one-to-one correspondence with facts. Propositions show the existence or non-existence of atomic facts. Thus, "a proposition," being a picture of a fact, "is a model of reality" (TLP). Our thoughts, according to Wittgenstein, can only have sense if it pictures a fact. For example, if we consider one statistical data on the average number of children a couple may have in a place, say if there are 12 couples in a community and that there are 35 children, the result would be a statement that, "a couple in this community has an average of 2.91 children." In this example, the ".91" does not make sense. A ".91 child" does not picture a real fact. There is no such thing as a “.91” child. A “.91 child” is an incomplete symbol, not a real picture. Since there is no such fact as a .91 child, to say that there is such a child is absurd. A “.91 child” is not a fact. Imagine other examples like the unicorn, a square-circle, a dancing god, a happy frog, etc. Reality, for atomists, is a clear picture. Any statement that is not faithful to such requirement is nonsensical.Meaning as Use: Transition to the later WittgensteinAsserting that philosophy is a linguistic neurosis, Wittgenstein suggests in the Tractatus that, “most propositions and questions that have been written about philosophical matters are not false but nonsensical”. (TLP) The source of a philosophical problem is the confusion one finds in the use of language. Philosophy is not about the discovery of what is true or false, or of what is factual, for such belongs to the sciences. Philosophy, in this regard, cannot have a claim to new facts. However, metaphysicians use philosophy as if they are advancing theses that purport to express some sense, when in fact, what they are doing is simply exploit the uses of words like “being”, “existence”, “God”, to name a few. Thus, philosophical problems are, in this regard, a kind of a linguistic neurosis.

5. Metaphysical assertions produce no more than nonsensical claims for they find no basis in the state of affairs of man. We shall see here how Wittgenstein’s thoughts evolved.The Blue and Brown Books of Wittgenstein is the transition to his later philosophy. Wittgenstein’s mature philosophy rejected the tenets of logical atomism, citing its inadequacy and impossibility. Meaning, Wittgenstein asserts, cannot be limited to picturing. Language performs other functions, not just picturing facts. Thus, he states,There are countless kinds: countless different kinds of use of what we call “symbols”, “words”, “sentences”. (PI)Language can never be reduced to logical propositions. The language of everyday life does not come in the form of propositions, but they make sense. When a baby cries, and utters a sound, that sound is already an articulation of meaning, although the baby is not declaring a fact. This sound is not a proposition, but it makes sense. The sound may connote discomfort or hunger. Meaning moves beyond the horizon of pure logical thinking. While it is true that propositions picture facts, meaning is not and can never be confined to propositions. Propositions are our first step into the ladder of meaning, and after we climb beyond them, we move on to the more difficult aspects of reality, to the more complicated language games.The statement “I love you”, for instance, is in the form of a proposition, but it is not just a proposition; it is about a person, his life, and his proposal of life and love. To mean the words “I love you” then is to enter into a deeper realm of meaning, a realm that may never be appreciated by the person to whom the words are being directed to because there may not be a common ground for understanding to take place.

6. Henceforth, it can be said that there is futility in constructing a logically perfect language. Wittgenstein says, “the requirement is now in danger of becoming empty”. (PI) It seems absurd to reduce the world into objective and formal translations. There are things that do not fit the criterion of strict logic. Thus, the requirement of reducing language into atomic propositions is untenable. It is an impossible project.Let us take as an example the familiar adage, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Logic would require the production of observation-statements in order to substantiate such claim. But of course, the realm of faith is beyond the limits of pure logical reasoning. There is no way to verify the end-result of prayers, but that does not make them absurd. Why? Because it is a religious language, and hence, it is not a matter that one must subject to the tenets of logical investigations. It is an activity in language that is not supposed to be decided by analytic logical thinking. This is because its special character comes from the special character of religious experience itself. God, for instance, cannot be subjected to the rules of science, because he is ex-hypothesi, unique.Why is the picture-theory of meaning limited? In the Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein asserts that the Tractatus views language as a “naming game”. Let us examine this. A word is a sign for something. That something we label with a name. Naming, then, is marking with a sign. The object is known through this sign. This naming game is learned ostensively. Ostensive meaning is the meaning that we apprehend directly. In order to know the meaning of an object, we utter its name, and point to the object that the name represents. If I say "blue," I must find a color sample blue and point to it. The child learns language this way. Now, a sentence us no more than a jumble of words, and sentences must have correct grammatical form to be able to represent a state of affairs, which is a combination of objects. The structure of the sentence is a guide to the structure of the world. This structure is a logical one.But the naming game cannot be the adequate description of the phenomenon of language. Language is meant to serve for communication. (PI) Thus, when we say something, it is more than naming something. We don’t name but mean. For instance, if a father tells his beautiful daughter during a visit by a suitor, "Anne, it is already eleven in the evening ”, the father is not acting as a timekeeper. It is not time that he wants to convey. He is simply telling his daughter that “it’s late” and that “it is not proper”. It is in the use of the statement where meaning comes from. If it is said with a higher tone, it may mean that “I am angry” or that “This should not happen again.” This means that there is not one specific way of speaking. There are no definite rules for communicating. What is important is that a message is clear, that a statement points to something that one wishes to say. It is not in the saying; it is in what is said.

7. Wittgenstein sums up his later philosophizing about the function of language in this sense, comparing language to a toolbox:Think of the tools in the toolbox: there is a hammer, pliers, a screwdriver, a rule, a glue-pot, glue, nails, and screws. (PI)The metaphor of the tools in the toolbox emphasizes the fact that language has many uses, not only naming. We have seen, for example, the function of the word “eleven”. The fact is that "eleven" in the example above is not a mere name. It even does not have a meaning if it is not put into a particular context. “Twelve”, for instance, besides the fact that it signifies “noontime”, implies that “It is time to eat”, “It is too hot outside”, etc. It is nonsensical to ask for the meaning of words, for meaning is revealed only in use. We must, as Wittgenstein claims, not ask for the meaning, but ask for the use.To answer the question of function, Wittgenstein advises us: "don't think, but look" (PI). Looking here signifies something very relevant. It is in seeing things that we learn to do things. Allow me borrow one of Aesop’s fables, “The Crab and Its Mother” to make this point clear: “Why do you walk so crooked, child?” said an old crab to her young one. “Walk straight!” “Mother,” the young crab replied, “show me the way, and when I see you moving straight ahead, I’ll try to follow.” We understand human action when they are actually performed. Looking then is seeing how an action is done, and in doing so, one learns the meaning of such. By learning this meaning, one is inclined to follow. Language behaves in the same manner.The different uses of language reflect the different types of language games. Imagine the first few words of a baby like "da-da" or "ma-mam." For an atomist, these words are devoid of any sensible fact. But look, it means something. It tells us something. For someone who knows the experience, it may mean that the child needs some water, etc. Language, in this regard, is not only informative. It does not only picture facts. It can also be directive. The meaning is in the action that needs to be done, not in the statement. Consider an early morning experience when siblings shout to each other, "we're late!" The primary function of the statement is not only to state the fact that they are late; it asks someone to "hurry up", it expresses anger that one is “too slow”, etc.

8. The reason for the above conditions is that we use words connotatively. If we examine the words "politician," "public servant," and "government official," we will find out that these words function differently though they signify one reality. We use the word "politician" when we are critical of the government. The word "politician" has a negative connotation. It implies corruption, search for personal gain, and partisanship. If we want to praise a person in authority, we use the word "public servant." The word is used in a positive sense, connoting sincerity and commitment to public service. "Government official" is rather neutral. It is used when we need not be critical or appreciative. Even the manner we call our parents speak of the kind of relationships we have. “Daddy” may be appropriate for the elite, not for peasants. “Tatay” and “Nanay” speaks of simplicity in life. There is a particular language for a particular purpose. When one is being sweet, one can call his partner as “sweetheart” or “honey”. When a wife has an animosity towards her husband, she can call him his surname.Thus, it can be stated that “a word is not a name” and that “though it can be used as a name, it can also be used in numerous other ways”. (PI) This we can illustrate by way of the word “disabled”. One issue would be when one has a “disabled” brother who cannot avoid quarrels in school because he is oftentimes humiliated. Now, to avoid this unwanted prejudice and to emphasize the fact that persons with physical handicaps also possess skills, the government, through the prodding of NGOs, introduced the use of "differently-abled," instead of the infamous "disabled." The term "differently-abled" goes beyond merely naming the condition of persons with physical handicaps; it also points to what they can do. The term transcends the negativity of disability.

10. Why is such the case? Why is meaning beyond the purely logical? Justus Hartnack suggests,The ideal of a purely logical and mathematical language is only an illusion. Language is not a name for a single phenomenon; it is the name of the class of an indefinite number of language games. (WMP)If the Tractatus were right, there would only be one language-game, as if there is only one game. "Different language-games show a family resemblance, and the number of different language-games is indefinite, indefinite because a language-game is blurred and indistinct-there is no hard edge" (WMP). A word has numerous uses. Using words means playing different games. In each game played, a different function is shown.A statement does not have one single task. If a statement is to have some sense, its sense must be shown. Its sense can be exhibited by showing its use. If someone tells you, "you look stupid," he is not really telling you what your outside appearance is. In a deeper sense, the expression is used to irritate. The requirement of the Tractatus to break statements into constituent acts shows its limitation in its view of sense and non-sense.Not all words are as simple as the word “red” or “chair”. For instance, if one hears that, "The Dela Cruz family hates Juan," what does one precisely mean by the subject "Dela Cruz family"? Does one mean the father of the family, the siblings, their whole generation, including those who are dead, or their living members, including their three-year old child? There seems to be an ambiguity here, but such ambiguity is eliminated when we move beyond truth-functional language. One has to see the context of the statement so that one is not mistaken. The statement might be a sweeping one making it avoid the nuances of language. There is a necessity to appreciate these nuances, for in the margins lie deeper meanings that need to be uncovered. Wittgenstein says, “if we want to walk, we need friction … back to rough ground!” (PI)

12. The rigid requirement of a purely logical language must be discarded. The idea of a rough ground above is the arena of ordinary language. Nuances can always be allowed for that is the essence of everyday language. According to Wittgenstein, "language is in order as it is" (PI). The purpose of language is conversation, and as long as a language enables one to communicate, then there is nothing wrong with that language.Ordinary language philosophyEarly atomism, we may recall, has expressed that “language is a picture of reality; language depicts the logical structure of facts”. (WMP) The whole of the Tratatus is the assertion that language is a picture of reality. But it cannot be just any picture for that matter; it must be a logical picture. Language must conform to the laws of logic, or else, it can be dismissed as nonsense. Thus, any word has a meaning in being the name of something. A word represents or refers to something. (WMP)The symbolism that we find in the Tractatus is this: Symbol P represents a certain fact Q, so that P means Q, and only has a meaning in so far as Q exists as its truth function. A word in this regard is a symbol for something, that something being a fact. A word is a representative of one and only one fact, and this is necessary so that there may be no two sets of symbols representing one particular fact.The rejection of such symbolism is clearly manifested in the meaning of the word “five”. Hartnack argues,If one asks what the word five names, the question is based on a misunderstanding; the appropriate question is to ask how the word five is used. (WMP)The word five does not represent anything whatsoever, not unless one attaches it to a particular mode of action, say counting apples. The meaning of the word five is not inherent to the symbol five; it only acquires meaning when the word is applied to a particular activity. It is wrong then to presuppose that words have inherent meanings. They have none. They only become meaningful when they are used. So we do not ask what five means, but how five is used. For instance, a biscuit may cost “five cents”, an office may have the announcement, “limited to five applicants only”, or a medicine may have a prescription, “five ml daily”. As one may notice, the word five in the examples have different connotations coming from the different instances to which it has been applied. Thus, there is strictly not one source of meaning.Sources of meaning are what one calls a life form.

13. Language expresses a form of life. Since language shows the limits of my world, language also reveals the limits of my life. This is shown when our backgrounds affect the way we understand things. For instance, the influence of our backgrounds is even evident when we are told to spell out abbreviated words. A teacher-husband might ask his wife to spell out the word "prop." Someone who has some training in commerce will think that this word is "property." On the other hand, someone who is logically inclined will think that this word is "proposition." There is no point to quarrel about this, for this is not a matter of testing one’s mental aptitude.Consider for instance the sense of a joke. The possibility of joking reveals the fact that language has many functions, each function showing its particular sense. If this were untrue, there would be no way to examine the sense of a joke. Language cannot be a mere picture of reality. It would be absurd to reduce every joke into a proposition, for it need not be a proposition. The meaning of a joke comes from the context of the participants in a discussion. The context of the discussion determines the sense of a joke. It involves a particular life form. Conservative parents do not appreciate green jokes. This is because if one does not live in that particular life form, one always fails to see the context. This is why a sense of humor is always difficult to grasp. It must, so to speak, be understood.How does one discover a life form? Or more exactly, how does one learn how to use language? According to Hartnack,Just as learning the names of playing cards or the pieces in a chess set is not learning to play bridge or to play chess, so to know the names in a language is less than learning how to speak. (WMP)One can invent a word, say TQ13, and say that it corresponds to a particular tree. The purpose can be personal. It is a password that enables one to identify that particular entity. But if it is a purely private act, with no connection whatsoever to something conventional, then one is mistaken in thinking that his act makes some sense. Even if one knows all the pieces in chess, one cannot play chess if he does not know the rules. Rules imply an agreement. Two parties are in agreement, and so, there is a meaning being communicated. In the case of a private password, or a private formula, one cannot make sense if one cannot communicate what he intends to say. To say something is already to mean something, that is, it means that one intends to do something. If nothing could be done about what I know, and if I say something that only possesses a private meaning, there is really nothing in what I know and in what I am saying.Language is the repository of human action. If in a language one cannot make requests, describe or ask questions, it means that these human activities do not exist there. (WMP)

14. Language contains our intentions, plans, activities, ideas, actuations, behavior patterns, cultural norms, predicaments, moral sentiments, etc. Different generations play different language games. Different generations listen to different types of music. “Rap” is absent from the language of older generations, and “Elvis” may not be accommodated as a nice music genre twenty years from now. The words “po” and “opo” are absent in American culture. Japanese vow their heads as a sign of respect; we don’t. Politicians use the handshake as a vital tool in public relations, academicians don’t do that much. Young lovers hold their hands; sweet couples kiss each other before saying goodbye. Such is a medium not available to less intimate partners. Thus, to be able to say “I love you” means that there is already something in doing so. When one means what one says, one intends to do something about it.Words have meanings, and these meanings are carried by the particular entities to which they have been assigned. The word “building”, since it already has clearly defined limits as to its logical structure as a fact, remains the same symbol for that particular fact, although one particular structure, say “The building on F Street” to which that symbol has been assigned may have collapsed. With respect to proper names, Jose Rizal remains to be Jose Rizal although he has become non-existent. The physical reality to which the meaning has been assigned may have been gone, but the sense of who Jose Rizal was to the Malayan race remains.The picture theory of meaning was an imprisonment of language. The reason is that, “picturing or depicting the world is a meaningless notion; there are many different language games; some of which serve to describe, to assert, to report”. (WMP) Picturing held language captive. Creativity is inherent to the human spirit. This creativity could also be made available to language because language is a human reality. Analysis is so limited that it also limits the sense of everyday experience. To say that there are different language games means that there are so many human activities. These activities represent the different ways we apprehend reality.

15. Our ways of apprehending reality are always expressed linguistically. But it is expressed in a way that cannot be confined to the difficult requirement of a logical ideal by way of atomic propositions, since to do something is already to express some meaning, though that meaning may not have the logical form of a proposition.A word is and will always be a tool. It cannot be confined to one specific function, that is, to naming facts. Wittgenstein adds, “a word is not a name; a word can be used as a name, but it can be used in numerous other ways as well”. (PI) In the Tractatus, there is a one to one correspondence between words and facts. To say that P is Q means that a sign P represents a fact Q. P here names Q, Q being the fact that needs to be apprehended. The name P then is contained in the fact P. It cannot name another fact, for doing so would entail some confusion.Although there is a point to what has been stated above, it is important to realize that a word cannot be limited to its function as a sign. To illustrate this point, let us examine the word “trees”. “Trees”, of course, correspond to a physical reality, and to pronounce the word enables one to think of such physical reality. But to the mind of an environmentalist, “trees” mean something else. It may mean man’s disregard for nature, the selfishness of loggers, the ineptness of the government, etc. To a poet, the word reminds him of a poem, not of a physical entity. This disproves the claim that a word is a name, for a word may be used for some other purpose. It can even be a call to action. To shout “Cory, Cory” during the Edsa Revolution of 1986 does not mean that one is reciting the name of a particular individual; it is a call for change. The different functions of a word manifest the different kinds of language games.Language games refer to the different activities that we perform. We perform something when we understand it. To state that language games have nothing in common is to say that a specific activity requires a specific understanding of it. Each language game is of a different kind, just as a particular ballgame is different from all the others. This is because each game has its particular rules. Praying, dancing, making some noise, cracking a joke, etc require different contexts.

16. There cannot be a single language game. The word language is not a single phenomenon; it is the name of the class of an indefinite number of language games. (WMP) Just as there is an indefinite number of human activities, there is also an indefinite number of language games. This means then that there is an indefinite number of ways of making sense. To make sense, however, means to be in a language. This is because to make some sense means to make some understanding about something, and understanding happens linguistically. There is no other way available. In as much as every human activity is a particular instance of some kind of an understanding, each human activity is a particular language game. One can only play a game when one understands that game.Recalling the Tractatus, language in Wittgenstein’s early philosophy performs only one game, and that is picturing reality. Language is a picture of a fact, and it does nothing else. For language to be a valid picture of reality, it must conform to the rules of logic. This ideal is achieved by means of atomic propositions. Language in this regard is reduced to a collection of atomistically distinct propositions. The ideal is to free language of its nuances, to get rid of bumps along the way, in order to make clear the meaning of words. But this rigid requirement, this “regularization” of language, proves to be too difficult to achieve, for although physical entities can be reduced to atoms, human activities are irreducible to such due to their complexities. To say that there is just one language means that there is one and only one way of understanding reality.The metaphor of language as a toolbox emphasizes the countless function of language. It cannot be limited to one particular use. The reason for this is the fact that human reality cannot be limited to picturing reality. We always do something about reality, and in doing so, there is already a kind of understanding, an understanding which involves language all of the time. Why? It is because understanding can only be transmitted through language. I learn playing bridge by knowing the rules, and rules are known through words, meaningful words.Moreover, we always discuss certain matters from a particular point of view, from a specific context, from a standpoint. The context of the discussion comes from the language game the participants in a discussion are into. To say something means to adopt a particular stance, that position becomes the source of meaning for the speaker. This implies the fact that language games provide us with the rules in any conversation.

17. Misunderstanding occurs when two speakers talk from a different context. The context is the arena where a particular game is played. It is the board in a game of chess, the hard court in basketball, the pool in swimming. Just as chess can never be played in a basketball court, one cannot play bridge while doing some gymnastics.So we may ask – what is it that makes sense? A proposition, of course, always makes sense. But to say that language must be in the form of a proposition in order to make sense does not make sense. The analysis of propositions to set out their correct logical form is no longer relevant, if there is no longer any correct form. (WMP) There is no such thing as a correct logical form of language, for language, according to Wittgenstein, “is in order as it is”(PI).In view of this, what is therefore is the task of a philosopher? It is not the task of the philosopher to find the correct syntactical form of a statement. Philosophy cannot be limited to the syntax of logical propositions. To state that, “There is one and only one X known as the Rubicon and one and only one Y known as Caesar and that Y crossed X” is no longer necessary. To say that Caesar crossed the Rubicon is enough, and by this we understand the fact that a particular person known as Caesar crossed a particular river known as the Rubicon. We therefore say that,The philosopher’s task is not to correct the proposition, but to understand it…A proposition has neither a correct or an incorrect form – it can only be understood or not understood. (WMP)Let us re-examine the proposition in view of what we have stated. A proposition is anything whatsoever that affirms or denies. It states a truth or a falsity. It can only have a yes or a no answer. A proposition, in this sense, states a fact or denies the same. But any sentence, be it complete or not, already states something as long as it is used to communicate something. For example, builder A can simply say “Slab” and builder B can interpret this to mean, “Bring me a slab”, “There is a problem with this slab”, etc. It is not necessary to have the S – C – P form of the proposition. The context of the discussion will set the tone for whatever is supposed to be grasped. Obviously, a person who does not live the context of carpenters may not easily acknowledge what builder A means. This does not mean, however, that one can’t enter such context.

18. What gives value to philosophy, according to Hartnack, “is this very fact that propositions and other utterances can be misunderstood. If there were no such possibility of misunderstanding, there would be no philosophy”. (WMP) Philosophy aims at the logical clarity of our thoughts. In this regard, its nature is linguistic. Misunderstandings occur because there seems to be a misconception with respect to the way language functions. Misunderstandings happen when we are out of context.The task of the philosopher then is to put into proper context the point of every discussion. Let us take the proposition “Mickey Mouse is a millionaire”. From the context of a rigid logical analysis, the propositions seems unclear for it may be equal to the statement “Mickey Mouse rides a Ferrari” or that “Mickey Mouse owns a mansion”. As a matter of fact, the statements are devoid of any sense. But putting it into a greater context, say, from the point of view of a child or of a cartoonist, it may mean that “Mickey Mouse is a great character” or that “I can think of many things about Mickey Mouse”. It can be said, therefore, that logical misunderstandings that lead us into philosophical problems can arise from confusing one language game with another, from supposing that different language games are one and the same language game, or from regarding some games as the only legitimate kind. (WMP)What is clear above is that to place a certain language into its proper context means that we have to situate language to the proper language game to which a particular language belongs. Oftentimes, we dismiss religion because it is not scientific, and we at times say that scientists are non-believers because they argue that the existence of God cannot be established experimentally. Science is experimental and it cannot deal with God since God is beyond science. But on the one hand, one cannot simply dismiss the existence of God because it has no scientific basis. If one does, one is implying that our only source of knowledge and understanding is science. Blurring a context results to a philosophical problem.But what is a philosophical problem? Hartnack says that, “the presence of a philosophical problem is symptomatic of a misunderstanding of the logic of language”. (WMP)

19. A philosophical problem is always linguistic in nature. If we consider the language about God, and how it can be meaningful, it is necessary to separate our views on God from the world of the experimental sciences. To assert that God does not exist because there is no scientific evidence for his existence is a linguistic nonsense. Why? It is because science cannot be confused with religion and religion cannot be an experimental thing. Religion works on the rudiments of faith; science on the tenets of cognition. To understand the reality of God properly, man must situate any language about God to where it belongs – the context of faith. This only proves the point that the philosophical problem on God’s existence or non-existence is nonsensical. If the language of science and religion are clarified, then there is no more confusion. The solution to a philosophical problem, as Wittgenstein asserts, is its dissolution. Once we make clear all that we mean to say, there wouldn’t be any need for philosophy.The logic of language in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy is the context of language, the perspective that participants are into in order to form an understanding. This context is a “form of life”, a category that implies a basic recognition of certain aspects about a particular thing or event making one understand the context. Meaning emanates from this form of life, for if one does not belong to a particular life form, one cannot effectively say something about something. Having the right to say something about something means belonging to a particular life form.

20. To say something means to understand something. What we understand always has a claim to truth. A truth-claim can only be valid when one is in the right context. This truth-claim comes from one’s understanding. Misunderstanding occurs when we are out of context, when we say something about something though we know nothing about that thing. Knowing here refers to the fact that I recognize basic things about a particular reality. Knowing means erasing the confusion. Knowing means making things clear. But it is this – “clarity does not lead to the solution of the problem, but to its disappearance”. (WMP)To make things clear means that we do not confuse a particular language game with another language game. It also means we do not mix up different life forms. This also implies that when we discuss certain matters, we must discuss from the same context. If this is done, then the problem disappears. But what kind of a problem is this? It is the problem of misunderstanding. We misunderstand a particular aspect of reality if we do not play the same language game. The rules of soccer if for soccer; the rules of basketball is for basketball. That’s how we are supposed to talk to each other.As we have stated above, philosophical problems are in a way nonsensical. For instance, if we ask, “what is truth?”, “what is virtue?”, or “what is freedom?”, the emergence of such questions simply come from the lack of clarity with respect to one’s definition of truth, of virtue, or of freedom. When one understands the definition of these terms, and I mean definitions in use, one does not need to ask, since the sense of each of these terms have been clarified.

21. There is no solution to the problems of philosophy; the task is to dissolve them. This dissolution happens when language, the sense of the terms we use, are clarified. Once the logic of our language is clarified, one will have a clear view of reality. Clarity, in this regard, is the task at hand.The ultimate task of philosophy, according to Wittgenstein, is “to show the fly the way out of the fly bottle”. (PI) The fly here is the confusion that results from misunderstanding language. To end the problem, we do not prescribe rules, like the way logical atomism does. We do not give the fly a definite direction, for obviously, it cannot apprehend such. We simply lead it to the very way it entered the bottle; we open the bottle. This is to say that we let language be; we open it to its possibilities. We let language take its natural course. There is no need for an ideal; language is just fine! This is exactly what Wittgenstein meant in the latter part of the Tractatus. We quote,My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: any one who understands them eventually recognizes them as non-sense. He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it. (TLP 6.54)The important task of philosophy remains to be the logical clarification of thought. (PA) Wittgenstein’s early philosophy adheres to the idea that propositions are the raw materials that philosophers work on in order to make sense. (PA) Philosophy analyzes propositions to make them attain a level of clarity. But after that has been done, one should move on beyond analysis and begin to understand.Philosophy, Wittgenstein asserts, “is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language”. (PI) The emergence of a philosophical problem is result of misunderstanding the grammar of language. Philosophy in this regard is a certain kind of therapy. It corrects our misunderstandings by making language clear. The later Wittgenstein introduced us to the reality of language as a multi-faceted entity. Language can never be confined to a perfectionist form of logic. But the logic still remains to be there. Language is only meaningful if it remains faithful to what the states of affairs of things reveal. It’s just that these different truth-conditions cannot be captured as a picture.Although according to Wittgenstein, philosophy is limited to the analysis of terms, analysis cannot be absolutely equated with picturing. Thus, rejecting his early philosophy, he adds, “ a picture held us captive”. (PI)

22. Picturing is just one type of philosophizing, and there are other types. The picture-theory of meaning is an imprisonment of language. But it can be asserted though that reductive analysis is not wrong; it is inadequate. Philosophical analysis concerns itself with the clarification of terms and linguistic concepts, and to the elimination of what seems to be non-sensible, on what is meaningless. But it cannot be totally tied to the demands of logic. The value of reductive analysis, putting in mind, of course, the rigidity of its logic, resides in the fact that it enables us to eliminate nonsensical assertions. Through reductive analysis, the statements “All Filipinos are lazy”, “All women are weak”, etc. are rendered meaningless. Without logical analysis, there is no way to eliminate such non-sense.We have to remain steadfast to the idea that philosophy concerns itself with language and the clarification of such. This is because it is only through language where we get to discuss and know the affairs of the world, and so language displays the sense of the world, and to use language is already to deal with the world, with man’s states of affairs. As we have said above, understanding is always a matter of language. For Wittgenstein, to do philosophy is to think in terms of meanings, meanings that come in linguistic form. Philosophy can only be a linguistic activity, though the content of this activity may vary in view of the many concerns of the person who philosophizes.A philosopher, thus, always expresses a linguistic thought, and this linguistic thought has reality as its substance or content. We can claim, therefore, that philosophy deals with all the things that we say. Thus, it is said, “there are no philosophical problems, only linguistic puzzles”.

23. A philosophical problem has the form: I don’t know my way about. (PI) The idea above can be made evident in Walter Gallie’s discussion of essentially contested concepts. If we are to analyze the meaning of words, it seems clear that there are certain parameters to consider. These parameters reflect the way how a word may evolve, or acquire meaning. These parameters enable one to understand the use of a term, although, in a manner that is not always clear. This lack of clarity makes a term highly contested.The word “championship” (PL) can be a good example. “Championship” can mean being a “better sportsman”, which also means, playing by the rules honestly. It also means that “championship” is not a physical or a tangible thing, like medals and trophies, but that it is all about character. Being a champion in this sense may mean being defeated in the game, but winning still by being able to “capture the purpose of the game” which is the development of one’s “personal character.”It can be said, however, that the statements above are mere alibis, empty notions, and meaningless connotations of the word “champion”. A team becomes a champion by winning games, and you do not win games if you do not have the skill and talent, notwithstanding all the hard practices necessary to prepare for the game. The true gauge of championship, in this sense, is winning. For if one wins, this means that one has prepared better than the other team. Whatever is meant it is important to note that to assert a meaning is to assert a claim to truth. A truth-claim must always be grounded. This grounding is always experiential, for it is in experience where truth, and its meaning, ultimately resides.The puzzle about the word “championship” is due to the fact that the notion of value, it seems to me, is not a clear concept. If it is clarified, then it can have its formality as a term, and its proper use. But this brings us to a second parameter, which is conformity. If we conform to the same understanding about the meaning of value, then we reach a level of connection, and we may share the same with respect to the way we look at things. If one conforms to the meaning of “championship” as character building, then one follows the norm set therein. There is no disagreement here, for we simply abide by the principles set thereunto.

24. By norm, we refer to the very way by which things are done in a context deemed proper by a community of individuals, reaching a commonality of understanding. To conform to a certain norm means to acknowledge the propriety of certain rules towards the achievement of a purpose.The contestability of meaning comes from the term itself. Since we consider the internal structure of a term as evolving, the conflicting contexts upon which a term may be applied makes a term puzzling, always puzzling. This statement can be explained by the fact that such terms, the philosophically puzzling ones, are persistently vague because it is put against the background of a community whose values and ways of perceiving things change from time to time. There seems to be no clear cut way of determining the meaning of a term, for indeed, if a meaning can be determined at all, it is the shared experiences of a linguistic community that sets the tone of such. In the end, philosophy can only describe, and not prescribe. Wittgenstein advises, “philosophy must simply do away with explanation”, and as such, “it leaves everything as it is” (PI).Finally, as Wittgenstein suggests, “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”. (TLP) This, to my mind, is the last word for philosophy, for philosophy seems to venture into a discourse that sees no end, simply because the ground or logic of the discussion is not clarified. Every statement has its own logic; each statement possesses its own sense. Where one cannot make any sense in what one says, one must not say at all, for to say something is already to mean something. This has been the failure of all metaphysicians who claim that they are dealing with first principles. But in examining the things that they say in greater detail, they are not saying anything at all. Sense cannot be said; it can only be shown. And metaphysics misses this point.

25. The last statement in the Tractatus is a signpost that prescribed certain signals with respect to the direction that philosophy must take. The direction still is linguistic, though it may not be confined to what is strictly logical. A statement can be analyzed in different ways, and it is the task of philosophy to clarify the grounds for such analysis. Although there is no longer one single ground (logic), there is still the need to understand the sense of each statement and its relation to the world, and that world is not only factually meaningful, but meaningful in many other ways too.