This log was inspired by "How to Read Wittgenstein" and "Ludwig Wittgenstein: the duty of genius" by Ray Monk. It is based on reading Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein translated by D. F. Pears & B. F. McGuinness (Routledge and Kegan Paul:1963)

Monday, March 31, 2008

What signs do not say, their application shows.

It is possible to use a sentence to express a thought in such a way that the elements of the propositional sign correspond to objects of consideration. Wittgenstein calls these elements 'simple signs' and such sentences 'completely analyzed'. When employed in sentences, simple signs are called names. A name refers to an object and that object is its meaning ("A" is the same sign as "A").

The configuration of the simple signs in the propositional sign corresponds to the configuration of the objects in the situation. The name stands in for the object in the sentence. So I can only name objects of consideration; signs stand in for them. I can only speak about them, I cannot speak them. A sentence can only say how a thing is, it cannot say the thing itself.

Requiring that simple signs be possible amounts to requiring that sense be determinate. When a sentence deals with a complex, it stands in an internal relation to the sentence that deals with the constituent of the complex.

A complex can only be given by its description, which will be right or wrong. A sentence that mentions a complex which does not exist will still make sense, it will just be false. One can tell that an element of a sentence signifies a complex because it introduces an indeterminacy. We know that the sentence in which it occurs has not determined everything yet. (The notation for generality contains a prototype, after all.) The synopsis of a symbol for a complex into a simple symbol can be expressed by a definition.

The complete analysis of a sentence is unique. A sentence expresses what it does in a definite, explicit manner: the sentence is articulated. A name cannot be further analyzed by a definition: it is a primitive symbol. Every defined sign symbolizes via the signs that defined it; and those definitions show how. Two signs, one primitive and the other defined by means of primitive signs, cannot signify in the same manner. Names cannot be analyzed by means of definitions because no sign has a meaning on its own.

What is not expressed in signs, their application shows. What signs slur over, their application enunciates. The meaning of primitive signs can be made explicit by means of elucidations, which are sentences that contain them. Thus they can only be understood if the meanings of those symbols are already kown.

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